How much of an improvement does a horse have to make before the stewards take an interest? At Killarney it seems that the sky is the limit, or perhaps it was the sweet- talking of trainer Tony Martin.
Last Sunday, Wrong Turn, a horse he took into his stable at the start of the year, won the La Na Gaeilge Handicap Chase at the Irish circuit. Now admittedly, it was a poor race, and Wrong Turn was near the bottom of the card, with only 10st 5 lbs to carry.
The evidence on which he was first awarded a handicap rating (89) was pretty flimsy. Wrong Turn hadn’t taken one in three hunter chases at Gowran Park, Down Royal and Cork, but he had finished an aggregate on 271 lengths behind the winning horses.
He fared a little better on his handicap debut, when he came in sixth of seven finishers. At least this time the jockey could have seen the horses in front of him, as Wrong Turn was just 22 lengths down. That was enough for the handicapper to relent on his rating before Sunday, when he ran off a one-pound lower mark of 88. That represented an 11-pound turn round with Kennoway, the winner of that race, as he was raised ten pounds.
There must have been some rumours circulating, as Wrong Turn went off at 7/4 favourite on Sunday, and despite a poor first circuit, he came through to win by 11 lengths. Surely that was enough turnaround for the stewards to enquire what had brought the improvement about?
Tony Martin said after the race that Wrong Turn had “only come to hand in the last month” and had “improved a ton since the last day.” Perhaps he had got his answer in before any questions were asked. Then again, Ruby Walsh had never ridden the horse before, and we know Ruby works magic with many a dummy.