The Listowel Festival is taking one heck of a pounding with the last two days lost to the weather.
The meeting known as the ‘Harvest Festival’ was extended to seven days back in 2002 and is the highlight of the season at the scenic County Kerry track. A mix of Flat and Jumps ensures the week appeals to all racing fans.
After an inspection yesterday afternoon, hopes were high that racing would take place today. It would come as a huge relief to the organisers as they are set to stage the racing highlight of the week, the Guinness Kerry National Handicap Steeplechase worth €175,000.
The race has gone to a host of quality horses over the years. Dorans Pride took the event back in 1997. Trained by Michael Hourigan, he became a classy hurdler before his successful chasing career. In 1995 he cruised to a stunning win in the Stayers’ Hurdle (now the World Hurdle) at the Cheltenham Festival.
Sent over fences his victories in the Drinmore Novice Chase, the Powers Gold Cup and the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup were notable. But he is probably most famous for his incredible run of success in the Morris Oil Chase, now the Clonmel Oil Chase. He took the event in four successive years from 1997 to 2000.
There have been other notable winners of Listowel’s Kerry National. In 2002 Barry Geraghty rode Monty’s Pass to victory, and the following April had a dream ride on the horse to take Aintree’s showpiece in style.
Today’s renewal includes last year’s winner, the 12-year-old Your Busy. That win came on decent ground and off a 10lb lower handicap mark. It was a famous victory for jockey Katie Walsh, and she retains the ride. He did win at the track back in June, that time over hurdles on testing ground, but this looks a tough ask.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins is well represented with Ruby Walsh taking the ride on race favourite The Paparrazi Kid. He ran well to finish second in the Galway Plate back in July, his first run in nine months. He’s had his setbacks since looking a promising sort back in the winter of 2013, when as a novice chaser he was good enough to beat Felix Yonger. Presumably now fit and well, his run at Galway should see him spot on for this.
Mouse Morris also has his share of runners, with Rule The World probably the most notable. He looked to be mounting a huge challenge in the Galway Plate when slipping up between the last two fences. If running to that level today he looks certain to be involved in the finish. He’s undoubtedly a classy gelding and will be ridden by David Mullins who takes a valuable 3lbs off his back.
Bryan Cooper will be on-board another Morris trained-Gigginstown owned gelding, the progressive seven-year-old Ravished. There’s every chance that he remains on a favourable handicap mark, and it would be no surprise to see this son of Oscar running a huge race.
Another for the powerful connections who is hard to ignore despite his generous odds is Akorakor. His form ties in closely with Ravished, and though he lacks experience, he’s a lovely big horse with huge potential over fences.
In truth, the race is as competitive as ever, and it’s hard to rule out any of the 20 or so runners. For the crowds that flock to the track, most will simply be thrilled to be watching any racing at all. Following the loss of action on Monday and Tuesday, Horse Racing Ireland has sensibly announced a further day’s racing at the track on Sunday.
Let’s hope the weather plays its part and the Listowel masses can enjoy the remainder of their festival.