Fairyhouse 22-4-19 BURROWS SAINT & Ruby Walsh jump the last to win the Boylesports Irish Grand National from stable companions ISLEOFHOPENDREAMS & NACAPELLA BOURGEOIS. Photo Healy Racing/ "RACINGFOTOS.COM"

Social Discourse: 23rd April 2019

An Irish special this week, as the Emerald Isle’s Easter Festival gave us some amazing action yesterday and Sunday.

 

  1. St Burrows of Fairyhouse

There aren’t many races that Willie Mullins hasn’t won before, but rather surprisingly for a man with his strength in depth and experience, both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Irish Grand National were gaps on his CV – until this year.

 

In an amazing 38 days for the Closutton handler, he took the Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo and, for much of the last circuit, it was never in doubt that he would complete a double and fill what were probably the last two existing gaps in a glittering CV.

Favourite Burrows Saint, who put in a peachy round apart from two errors, was going supremely well coming out of the long back straight and as he faced the final two fences the race was down to a simple matter of whether he’d be able to back up his strong-travelling nature. He was.

He had enough to fend off the remarkable 12-year-old Isleofhopendreams (20/1), who was beaten a head in the 2018 renewal and again had to settle for second, with Acapella Bourgeois (18/1) third, giving the trainer a 1-2-3 on the occasion when he broke his duck.

Snugsborough Benny, a previous course and distance winner, finished best of the rest in fourth, with Mullins snaring fifth for good measure with 25/1 chance Bellow Mome. Roaring Bull fared best of the Gordon Elliott battalion in sixth.

There was plenty of love on social media for what was a classic Ruby Walsh win.

 

What next? Aintree beckons. Speaking to Gary O’Brien on Racing TV, winning rider Ruby Walsh said: "I’d say now we’ll run him away over hurdles, and we'll have a go at Tiger Roll. He’s French, even the way he jumps – he’s accurate, he’s low, he’d be my horse for Aintree.”

Something to note: Burrows Saint is just six, which means he will be trying to improve the truly dreadful record of seven-year-olds in the Grand National, but there is little else not to like.

 

2. No Jiggy for Giggy

At the end of this day, I don’t think that Michael O’Leary will be too upset with how his season went, but he might not want to remember the Irish Grand National too much.

Gigginstown had 12 runners, the overwhelming majority of them running for Gordon Elliott, but the best of them finished sixth, as Roaring Bull made it three six-year-olds in the first six. It’s fair to say that his fact did not go unnoticed...

 

The Guessing Game: As well as dominating the final fields, fans, punters and commentators can have a nightmare when trying to identify their best chance, with an army of caps needed, as this shows:

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Spotting your runner can be nigh on impossible, but this idea from Sky Sports’ Racing’s Kevin Blake was of interest and sparked some fascinating conversation.

Some have suggested a cap on the number of runners that an owner can have in a race, limiting them to perhaps three or four, and it will be interesting to see if such calls actually grow over the next couple of season. This, of course, is anti-competitive; but then so, some will argue, is one owner having half the field in a race on a regular basis.

JP McManus, who didn’t have any horses in the first six, ran five and has run more in Irish Nationals previously, is the other owner who routinely gets the caps out.

On one hand…. When over half the runners in the season’s biggest handicap are connected to just two owners, it can reflect badly upon the state of the game.

On the other…. These two behemoths are arguably the power behind Irish racing and their support to the sport is simply priceless.

 

  1. It’s a Rachael Sunday

A defining feature of this jumps season has been the performance of younger jockeys. Plenty have made their name on the biggest stage, and arguably the biggest breakout star has been Rachael Blackmore.

Blackmore, who features regularly in this column – and with good reason – has 87 Irish  winners, a tally beaten only by Champion Jockey elect Paul Townend, and the most important of them came on Sunday, when she steered the tremendously exciting Honeysuckle to victory in the Grade 1 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final. It was the best result all round for racing and the punters, with her growing fan club overjoyed.

 

 

Blackmore was cool, composed, and kicked at the right time to put the race to bed, something she does as second nature now; it was reminiscent of her ride on A Plus Tard at the Cheltenham Festival, leaving nothing to chance at all, and the victory was that of a serious talent.

Honeysuckle ended up beating the same owners’ Elfile, cannily ridden for a place, by five and a half lengths, and to show her talent, Cheltenham Festival winner Eglantine Du Seuil was beaten eight and a half lengths in third.

 

What they said: "It's incredible, unbelievable really. This mare is a bit special and to be associated with her is fantastic. It's hard enough to be able to get rides in Grade 1's, so to be on a horse good enough to win is brilliant. She was fantastic and made my job easy. She's got a very exciting future. She didn't put a foot wrong." – Rachael Blackmore speaking to the Racing Post’s David Jennings

 “It was very frustrating at the time when she missed Cheltenham, but the owners said you have to do what’s right for the mare and thankfully their patience has been repaid. She just went a bit flat and we weren't happy with her, but she was back in good form about two weeks after Cheltenham." – Henry De Bromhead, also speaking to David Jennings

 

  1. The Helter Skeltons

200. That’s the magic number for Dan Skelton, who became just the second National Hunt trainer in history to register 200 winners in a single season.

 

To record a double century of winners is a monumental achievement, but of all the ways to do it, a six-timer on Easter Sunday is spectacular. Perhaps even more remarkably, that six-timer was split across just two courses, with a four-timer at Market Rasen thanks to Montego Grey, Present Ranger Gortroe Joe, and Zamparelli, whilst Istimraar and Kereman won at Plumpton.

Only Martin Pipe has done this before and the great man has predicted that Skelton will be the person to break his record, if anyone can.

 

It has been a season with sparks of quality – think of Roksana and Mohaayed – supported by an army of handicappers who have been smartly targeted from the summer to the spring; and this season has been a masterclass in placing, as well as a superb shift from Harry Skelton (176 winners) in the saddle.

 

 

  1. Meanwhile…..
  • Voix Du Reve got the better of stablemate Real Steel in the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup, giving Willie Mullins with a one-two and a second consecutive win in the race.

 

  • Mullins had another Graded winner as French Made reversed Cheltenham form with Gardens of Babylon (2nd) and Coeur Sublime (3rd) as she came forward from her Triumph Hurdle run to take the Grade 2 Glenview Studs Juvenile Hurdle.

 

  • The popular and likeable (see the commentary) Rashaan took the Strawberry Hurdle for Colin Kidd and Davy Russell, springing an upset from Not Many Left with Off You Go in third.

 

  • Jett jumped his rivals into the ground to end a 14-month losing streak in the Grade Two Devenish Chase.

With just Punchestown to come, that's almost the end of the Spring Festivals. Hereafter, it's mostly flat racing all the way. Until next week...

- WK

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