Things We Learned » End of an era

End of an era

For a while, it looked like the greatest impact that the 2001 Land Rover Bumper would have on the world of National Hunt racing would be through the horse who finished third, Beef Or Salmon – and Michael Hourigan’s horse did have a lasting impact – but it wasn’t.  It was through the horse who finished first, Tuco.  Or, specifically, through the owner of the horse who finished first. 

Tuco had swapped Michael O’Leary’s Westmeath colours for Gigginstown House Stud’s Westmeath colours by the time he raced for the second time – he fell at the last when beaten in Xenophon’s maiden hurdle at Naas – and, under the tutelage of David Wachman, he progressed.  He won his maiden hurdle at Thurles – Hedgehunter finished second that day, although it wasn’t the most noteworthy occasion on which Hedgehunter would finish second to a Gigginstown House Stud horse – and he won the Grade 3 Johnstown Hurdle at Naas, before he fell fatally in the Grade 2 Powers Gold Label Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in 2002.

If Michael O’Leary had drawn stumps then, sickened by the experience, you would have understood it.  He would say later that he probably should have.  On the contrary, he resolved that he wouldn’t be reliant on one horse again.  He bought five or six horses directly afterwards, and War Of Attrition was one of them.

In an interview for The Sunday Times some four years after War Of Attrition’s Gold Cup victory, what struck you was the detail that he recalled and the enthusiasm with which he re-lived the race. 

“It was like I had died and gone to heaven,” he said then.  “I was standing in the parade ring, just in front of Trevor Hemmings, who owned Hedgehunter, all the time watching War … Conor on the outside, took it up going down the hill … He’s gone too early.  Conor, you’re gone too early! … And then you’re tying not to start shouting and screaming like a big lunatic … Last fence, he’s going to fall! … Going up the hill, Jesus he’s going to get caught!  Then, lo an behold, he wins.”

War Of Attrition is more than 13 years ago.  That’s difficult to believe.

Oaks musings

Pink Dogwood battled on gamely to land the Listed Salsabil Stakes at Navan last month, and the form of the race looks even more solid now than it did then.

Third placed Tarnawa came out next time and won the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes at Naas, keeping on well to get the better of the classy older filly Who’s Steph, while fourth-placed Fresnel went to York on Wednesday and ran a big race to finish a close-up fourth behind Nausha in the Musidora Stakes.  Also, Trethias, who didn’t have a lot of luck in-running in the Salsabil Stakes, finished a close-up third behind Hamariyna in the Group 3 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown.

All of which only strengthens the case for Pink Dogwood in the Oaks.  Aidan O’Brien’s filly was strong in the Oaks market before her seasonal debut, and she is obviously a big player in the race.  That said, Tarnawa probably improved to win the Blue Wind Stakes, and Dermot Weld’s filly could get closer to Pink Dogwood at Epsom than she did at Navan. 

Derby musings

The top of the Derby market may be dominated by Ballydoyle colts, but that does not make it any less intriguing a puzzle.

Sir Dragonet surprised lots of people when, sent off at 14/1, he won his maiden on his racecourse debut at Tipperary, and he surprised a few when he won the Chester Vase.  He was a 13/2 shot that day remember, only fifth in of the seven runners, a longer price than the two joint favourites King Ottakar and Technician, a longer price than his stable companion Norway.  Now he is no better than 11/4 for the Derby.

Broome has won his two trials and races like he will improve for stepping up to a mile and a half, and Anthony Van Dyck stayed all right when he won the Lingfield Derby Trial, and Dee Stakes winner Circus Maximus may be under the radar.  Telecaster battled on strongly to win the Dante, and Bangkok beat him in a Doncaster maiden on Lincoln day in March before he went on to win the Sandown Classic Trial.  And don’t forget Madhmoon, who shaped like he would improve for stepping up in trip when he finished fourth in the Guineas.  

We have just about all the pieces now.  We just need to put them together correctly to create the picture.

Derby trials

Here is a Derby trials table. 

Race Recent winners who went on and won the Derby This year’s winner
Ballysax Stakes Galileo 2001, High Chaparral 2002, Harzand 2016 Broome
Sandown Classic Trial Troy 1979, Henbit 1980, Shergar 1981, Shahrastani 1986 Bangkok
Epsom Blue Riband Trial Cape Of Good Hope
2000 Guineas Royal Palace 1967, Sir Ivor 1968, Nijinsky 1970, Nashwan 1989, Sea The Stars 2009, Camelot 2012 Magna Grecia
Newmarket Stakes Shirley Heights 1978, Slip Anchor 1985 UAE Jewel
Prix Greffulhe Pour Moi 2011 Roman Candle
Chester Vase Henbit 1980, Shergar 1981, Ruler Of The World 2013 Sir Dragonet
Dee Stakes Oath 1989, Kris Kin 2003 Circus Maximus
Lingfield Derby Trial Teenoso 1983, Slip Anchor 1985, Kahyasi 1988, High-Rise 1998 Anthony Van Dyck
Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial Golden Fleece 1982, Sinndar 2000, Galileo 2001, High Chaparral 2002 Broome
Dante Shirley Heights 1978, Shahrastani 1986, Reference Point 1987, Erhaab 1994, Benny The Dip 1997, North Light 2004, Motivator 2005, Authorized 2007, Golden Horn 2015 Telecaster
Cocked Hat Stakes Troy 1979 ?
Placed 2-4 in the Guineas Mill Reef 1971, Roberto 1972, Grundy 1975, Generous 1991, Sir Percy 2006, New Approach 2008, Australia 2014, Masar 2018 King Of Change, Skardu, Madhmoon

Thought for the week

You still feel that the Derrinstown Stud 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown, the one that Hamariyna won on Sunday, should be called the Derrinstown Stud Irish 1000 Guineas Trial, given that it is run after the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket has already been run, so it can’t be a trial for that race, and two weeks before the Irish 1000 Guineas, for which it is the perfect trial.   

And there is another 1000 Guineas Trial at Leopardstown, the one that Lady Kaya won this year, the Ballylinch Stud 1000 Guineas Trial, which is run three or four weeks before the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, so it is a legitimate trial for that race, as Lady Kaya proved this year.

  © The Irish Field, 18th May 2019