Things We Learned » Some weekend

Some weekend

Hopefully the weather will comply – and it’s long odds-on that it will – because it’s some weekend of National Hunt racing ahead at Leopardstown as long as it does. 

It feels like the Dublin Racing Festival is more than a year old.  It feels like it isn’t just last year that the three disparate days merged and became one weekend.  It feels like it’s more engrained into the calendar and into the psyche than that.

Again, it’s a pity that there won’t be more overseas raiders than there are, it’s a pity that Waiting Patiently is still living up to his name, but La Bague Au Roi will be there and Knocknanuss will be there and Duke Of Navan will be there and St Calvados will be there and Simply Ned will be there.

Isn’t he always?

And all of the best of the Irish will be there.  Or nearly all of them anyway.

And we know that a big run at the Dublin Racing Festival is not detrimental to a horse’s chance of winning at the Cheltenham Festival.  Delta Work, Relegate, Samcro, Footpad, Farclas, The Storyteller, Rathvinden and Bleu Berry tell us that.  It’s a small sample size, but eight of the 17 Irish-trained winners at last year’s Cheltenham Festival had run at the Dublin Racing Festival.  Turns out, a five-and-a-bit-week break is a long enough break. 

Be sure to wrap up well.

Magic raced Lasix-free

One of the features of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes is that horses who race without Lasix receive a weight allowance.

The latest edition of the Pegasus World Cup was run at Gulfstream Park last Saturday.  You may have missed it, deep in the heart of the National Hunt season, nine hours after Honeysuckle had won the Solerina Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse, just over eight hours after Frodon had won the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.

In the inaugural running of the Pegasus World Cup, the 2017 edition, won by Arrogate, the weight allowance for racing without Lasix was 5lb.  Just one horse took advantage of the allowance that year: Eragon, an 82/1 shot, who finished 12th of the 12 runners, beaten a distance.

In 2018, the weight allowance was increased to 7lb, yet not one of the 12 runners took advantage of it.  None of the 12 horses raced without Lasix, despite the fact that, any horse who did so would have carried 7lb less than his rivals.  

It was a similar story in the third renewal of the race on Saturday.  All 12 runners raced on Lasix, and all 12 carried 8st 12lb.  So, if Lasix is not viewed as a performance-enhancing substance, how come all 12 sets of connections chose Lasix over a 7lb allowance? 

On the plus side, this year, for the first time, a turf edition of the race was staged, the Pegasus World Cup Turf.  Aidan O’Brien sent his Ribblesdale Stakes winner Magic Wand to Gulfstream Park to contest the race on Saturday, and he decided to run her Lasix-free.  The Galileo filly received the 7lb allowance, as well as the 5lb fillies’ allowance, and she ran a cracker to finish second to Bricks And Mortar.  The Bill Mott-trained Channel Maker also raced Lasix-free, as did the Japanese mare, the Takanori Kikuzawa-trained Aerolithe.  

It is a positive step in the States, given that race-day Lasix is permitted: a weight allowance for racing Lasix-free.  Hopefully more trainers will follow the Ballydoyle lead in taking advantage of it.

National Hunt Chase a good plan

If you were thinking that Ballyward could be an ideal horse for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival this year, or that Mall Dini could be a National Hunt Chase horse, a third-season novice, then think again.

Ballyward does not hold an entry in the RSA Chase.  Connections do have the option of a supplementary entry on 7th March, but he is entered in the National Hunt Chase, and that looks like a good target.  Willie Mullins’ horse stayed on well for Ruby Walsh to land the Grade 3 three-mile novices’ chase at Naas on Sunday. 

It is impossible to know how the Flemensfirth gelding would have fared had Discorama not come down at the final fence but, given the manner in which Andrea and Graham Wylie’s horse stayed on up the run-in, it is more likely than not that he would have won anyway.  Discorama ran a cracker, Bryan Cooper did well to get him into a challenging position given that he was niggling him along with a circuit to run, but it is significant that Paul Nolan’s horse didn’t trade at any shorter than 4.9 in-running.

That was just Ballyward’s second run of the season, and his second run over fences, so he has lots of potential for progression as a staying chaser.  And on his only run at Cheltenham, in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle last March, he probably put up the best performance of his career over hurdles in finishing fourth behind Kilbricken Storm.  And he will presumably have Patrick Mullins for company if he runs in the National Hunt Chase.  He deserves his position high in the ante post market.

Mall Dini does not hold an entry either in the RSA Chase.  Nor does he hold an entry in the National Hunt Chase.  And if you were thinking Kim Muir, try to go one place and a half a length better than he did last year, then that one probably won’t work out either, because his Irish handicap rating of 149 is 4lb higher than the Kim Muir ceiling of 145.  And the British handicappers are not apt to drop an Irish handicap chaser by 4lb when he or she crosses the Irish Sea. 

It could be the Grand National for Mall Dini this year, and why not?  A 13-race maiden he may be over fences, but he is talented and he jumps and he stays and he has the right handicap mark and he is the right age.  And if the Grand National is the plan that trainer Pat Kelly and owner Philip Reynolds have hatched, then it would probably be wise to take note.

Nolan’s horses going well

Speaking of Paul Nolan, the Wexford trainer has his horses in tremendous form.

Latest Exhibition was impressive in winning the bumper at Naas on Sunday.  You have to feel for Sean O’Keeffe, who missed out on the ride after being brought down on Gracious Gamble in the maiden hurdle earlier on the day, but Jim Mernagh’s horse was given a fine ride by Max Browne, who was riding his first winner under Rules.

Monotype ran well to finish third behind Poker Party and Stowaway Forever in the two-and-a-half-mile handicap chase at Naas on Sunday, and Nolan won the three-mile handicap chase at Down Royal on Tuesday with Cresus De Grissay, who stayed on strongly for Bryan Cooper to beat School Lane by almost five lengths, the pair of them clear.  Anne Coffey’s horse’s last two runs in staying handicap chases have been good, but this was probably a career-best, his first win in just his fifth chase.  He could do even better in a better race.

Discorama didn’t deserve to fall at the final fence in the Grade 3 Naas Racecourse Business Club Novice Chase at Naas on Sunday.  He would almost certainly have finished second at worst had he not come down.  He probably would have finished in front of Chris’s Dream and Champagne Classic and Shady Operator.  The good news was the he was reportedly sound the following day. 

The Saddler Maker gelding was being niggled along with a circuit to run on Sunday, but he was staying on well on the run to the last, and he left the impression that he might do better with an even sterner stamina test.  He could be another horse for the National Hunt Chase.  And we know that he can handle Cheltenham and Cheltenham Festival conditions, he did well to finish second to Blow By Blow in the Martin Pipe Hurdle at last year’s Festival, coming from the rear in a race that was run at a moderate pace. 

Incidentally, it looks like Discorama’s racing colours are alternating by calendar year.  It looks like he will race in the colours of joint owner Thomas Friel this year, having raced in the colours of his other joint owner Andrew Gemmell last year.  And if you think that you saw last year’s colours somewhere else recently, you did, on Paisley Park, winner of the Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham on Saturday and now ante post favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle.

© The Irish Field, 2nd February 2019