Things We Learned » Another John Durkan Chase

Another John Durkan Chase 

Min joined an elite group when he landed the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Sunday for the second time.   Eight horses have now won the race twice, including Jack Of Trumps, Bobsline, Merry Gale, Native Upmanship and Djakadam.  Min is in good company.

He wasn’t at his best on Sunday, and he looked beaten when Hardline moved ahead of him on the run to the last, but Willie Mullins’ horse dug deep from there, and he stayed on well over the last and up the run-in for Paul Townend to win well. 

No horse has ever won the race three times.  Native Upmanship went closest, he was beaten a short head by Florida Pearl in the 2001 renewal, which was sandwiched between his 2000 win, when he beat the same Florida Pearl by a head, and his 2002 win, when he had Rince Ri and First Gold behind him.  Surely, all going well, a third John Durkan Chase will be on Min’s radar next year.

Some of the beaten connections in Sunday’s race had to have been happy though.  Hardline put up a career-best in finishing second, while Real Steel and Voix Du Reve both ran well in finishing close up in fourth and fifth.  But of all the beaten horses, Pat Kelly and Philip Reynolds had to have been happiest of all.  

The last time we saw Presenting Percy race, he ran poorly in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  He came home lame that day, so there were excuses, but he still had to prove that he could put it behind him, and he did.

It was a fine run.  Onwards now.

Two miles good for Defi 

It has taken a while, but it’s time to start to come around to the realisation that Defi Du Seuil might actually be a two-miler.

True, JP McManus’ horse won the Scilly Isles Chase at Sandown last season over two and a half miles, and he won the JLT Chase at the Cheltenham Festival over the same trip.  And connections resisted the temptation to drop back down to two miles for the Arkle instead after Le Richebourg’s defection, and despite the absence from the race of other high-profile would-be contenders like Dynamite Dollars and Cilaos Emery.

But his two races this season so far have been over two miles, and if you took him on because you thought he was a two-and-a-half-miler, lesson learned.  He was strong in the finish on soft ground in the Shloer Chase at Cheltenham in November, receiving weight from all three rivals.  You could have argued that it was stamina as much as speed that got him home.

But on Saturday in the Tingle Creek Chase, he looked like a two-miler all right.  Philip Hobbs’ horse was fast over his fences.  He got in a little tight to the third of the three Railway Fences, just as the pace was increasing, but he was quick and sharp over it. 

He was fast at the final fence too, and he was fast away from it for Barry Geraghty.  Un De Sceaux ran him all the way to the line, the remarkable 11-near-12-year-old that he is, but the younger horse got there all right.

The Philip Hobbs-trained gelding is a key player in a fascinating division.  Cilaos Emery was impressive in winning the Hilly Way Chase at Cork on Sunday and we are bursting to see Chacun Pour Soi make his seasonal debut, and we still don’t know where Altior is going to go.


It is a week now since Londonnationalgate.  Much has been said and written in the meantime, but here are a couple of observations. 

Who knew that the yellow flag meant race void?  A tiny proportion of the racegoing public probably.  All riders must know it, but how well do they know it?  How deeply engrained into their psyche is it?

The starter has a yellow flag.  Strange that it is the same colour as the Race Void flag.  Is it so that, when he raises it, it means don’t race, and when he drops it, it means race?  Surely the Race Void flag should not be the same colour as the starter’s flag.  And isn’t yellow a strange choice anyway?  Shouldn’t it be red or black or white with a big black X and Rave Void written on it?  There should be no ambiguity.

In Ireland it’s a bright pink and yellow flag.  In Formula 1, a yellow flag means slow down, hazard on the track ahead, no overtaking.  A red flag means session stopped.  No ambiguity.

Once the Race Void flag is waved, the race is void.  It has to be void.  Even if the flag is waved in error, the race has to be voided, otherwise riders would never have confidence in the Race Void flag in the future.  Otherwise, they would be within their rights to ride on regardless, because there would always be a chance in the future that the yellow flag was waved in error.  Therefore, once the yellow flag was waved, the race was void.  A hundred per cent.

Jockeys make mistakes.  To err is human, and jockeys are humans.  Ergo.

The riders should have been informed long before they got back around to the Pond fence that the race had been voided.  Watching the head-on view as the runners raced down the back straight, it looks like a member of staff ran in behind the runners with a yellow flag after they had jumped the first fence in the back straight.  Maybe that was a failed attempt to inform the riders then.  A person waving a yellow flag at the water jump would have sufficed.  Or at the end of the back straight.  Or both.  And whistles.  (Which there were, reportedly.)  And people shouting, Race Void.  The riders should have been left in no doubt.

In Ireland, the track foreman travels in one of the cars that goes just behind the runners with a stop race flag.

The flag should have been waved vigorously, not pointed.  And there was a black and white chequered flag being held out at the entrance to the home straight, before the second last fence, after the Pond fence.  A black and white chequered flag means that there is a hazard ahead.  But there wasn’t.

It was crazy that the void race announcement didn’t come until 4.15pm, about a half an hour after the race had been run.  The yellow flag had been waved, so the stewards knew that the race had to be voided.  At least the fact that there was a possibility of a void race should have been announced immediately. 

And finally, in all the furore, the sad demise of Houblon Des Obeaux went under the radar.  He was an admirable racehorse, who raced 65 times and won 11 times.  He won the Silver Cup at Ascot and the Denman Chase at Newbury and the United House Gold Cup at Ascot, and he finished second to Many Clouds in the 2014 Hennessy.  

Thought for the week

It was Esha Ness all over again.  Philip Donovan was John White. 

© The Irish Field, 14th December 2019