It was fantastic to be back in Dublin last weekend for the first time since I managed a team of developers over at Park Gates on the other side of Phoenix Park, for the geegeez.co.uk Alleged Stakes.
Not only was this my first (and possibly last) foray into race sponsorship, but the race was also blessed with one of the most talked about horses of recent years, St Nicholas Abbey. Champion juvenile after hosing up in the Racing Post Trophy of 2009, St Nicholas Abbey had just the one run last season when sent off the impossibly short even money favourite in the 2000 Guineas.
He ran well enough in sixth, beaten just three and a half lengths by Makfi. But of course he was expected to take the mantle of the amazing Sea The Stars as the greatest race horse for a generation. (That impossible burden is borne by Frankel this year - good luck to him!)
And then.... nothing. St Nicholas Abbey suffered a 'muscle problem' prior to the Derby which led to his being scratched from the race, and then a late attempt to get him back to the track before season end was again scuppered.
So it was to much anticipation that the Ballydoyle A-Lister made his seasonal debut, and he was sent off a red hot 4/11 chance to make it a triumphant opener. He was reportedly 80% fit for this and, as you'll see in the video below, he was blowing through his pipe after the contest. There's no doubt St Nich will come on a ton for this, if he runs again.
But he was up against a very nice sort in the mare who finished second in the Triumph Hurdle a couple of weeks ago, Unaccompanied. She is a beautiful beast, and I had the honour - and straightforward task - of awarding her 'best turned out'. This really was simple. She was head and shoulders the paddock pick to even my untutored eye (and my other, slightly more tutored eye!)
They went down, loaded up and came back in the heavy ground. Unaccompanied ran them ragged and was never in danger of being defeated. She paid 4/1 and will have offered little salvation to bookies who must have taken a caning on the day. St Nicholas Abbey was six and a half lengths back in third, with the unheralded Cillium running a PB to separate them.
After the race, the difference between the winner and the third - in terms of their demeanour and how much they were feeling the prior exertion - was as strong a contrast as you'll see. If you're ever at the races and want to know which horse will improve most from this run to their next, take a look at the example below. Poor St Nich looked like me after I finished in the gym this morning (although I'm not expecting to come on very much for the run!)
Then there was the presentation, and my moment of fame, such as it was. The lady who shared the podium with me was the very lovely Eva Maria Haeftner, head of Moyglare Stud, and heiress to a billion dollar fortune. It's not every day one gets to kiss a billionaire three times! 😉
Incidentally, in an excellent piece by the excellent Nick Mordin, he alluded to Aiden O'Brien's woeful record with seasonal debutantes in big races. Specifically, O'Brien has won with just one of his thirty pattern race runners that he's brought back off a break longer than seven months in March or April over the last fifteen years. That sole winner was in a five runner Listed race by a head.
Moreover, it's Mordin's contention that St Nicholas Abbey was 'tying up', which apparently is akin to getting a stitch only more pronounced. Mordin questions whether St Nich will ever get back to top form again. Personally, whilst I can see the argument, and despite my statements in support in the video (where I question whether St Nich will be retired now), I suspect he will come back a fitter, sharper horse next time.
But I'd be loathe to pile on in a Group 1 or 2 race for now.
The day concluded with me finally breaking a run of bad luck that has stretched out over four weeks, with a decent bet on Samain in the bumper series final, and a more decent bet on Torphichen in the concluding handicap, both of whom won as they wished.
It was a cracking day at the Curragh, and we were very well looked after by Evan, Trish and Collette, so my thanks to them. Whether I'll be able to get the geegeez.co.uk name back up in lights next year remains to be seen. Sponsorship is not cheap, and early indications are that it wasn't hugely effective. Nevertheless, it was great fun and I feel truly lucky and privileged to have been able to represent our little website community on such a grand stage.
Just a couple of quick lines to close today. Firstly, I need your applications by midday tomorrow (Thursday) if you want to be considered for what I'm calling my PEER3 business training.
To remind you, I'm looking to work with a very small group of people who already have a business that is making sales, with the objective of taking things to the next level. If that's not (yet) you, then please hold fire this time, as I might have something more appropriate in the near future.
If that might be you, then do please take a look at the video over at mattbisogno.com and fill out the short no obligation form beneath if you're interested.
Last shout is midday tomorrow if you'd like your business to be considered.
Finally, you'll be aware that the Aintree Festival starts tomorrow. It normally feels a little bit like 'after the Lord Mayor's show', but this time around we're kicked straight into life with Big Buck's vs Grands Crus, followed by the Triumph Hurdle first vs third, then the Denman show, and finally Wishfull Thinking vs Medermit.
It really is a top, top class first day's racing from Aintree, and I'll have much more news and views on the meeting tomorrow. I'll be heading to the track on Friday for Ladies Day (which I'm very much looking forward to - haven't been to Aintree since Rough Quest won way back in 1996, when I was a poor student), but will get my posting out before I go, and be back in good time for some Saturday opinion as well, in case you have access to your computer on weekends.
That's all for now - I'm off to study the form for Aintree!
p.s. who do you like in the big races tomorrow, and of course, THE big race on Saturday? Leave a comment and let us all know where we should put our money. 🙂