Cold, grey, sleety snow this morning out giving the Ayr runners a pipe opener, worse to come, let’s hope nothing disruptive. Delighted with both our long priced Newcastle runners yesterday, Wicklow Lad travelled a bit too well in the Eider but still ran with great credit to finish 8th of the 18 runners, in a decent bumper Presenting Rose galloped all the way to finish a good 7th which was an excellent performance considering her relative inexperience.
Off to Ayr tomorrow where we have 5 declared runners, the ground is presently soft but the forecast is cold, wet and windy. Three of our runners are out of the same mare which is quite unusual, starting with Clan Legend in the 2.20, Lucy rides, he ran better last time and should continue to improve for experience, we also run Titian Boy (Stephen) in the same race, an embryonic chaser this is his first hurdle and he still has plenty to learn.
Then so long as they don’t get too much rain we will run Bertie Milan in the 3.20, Lucy rides and 8 run, he bounced back to form at Musselburgh last time and we will be hoping he can build on that.
In the 3.50 we run Clan Chief (Lucy), 7 run and the more rain the better for him, he looks fairly treated on his handicap debut but should be better over further in time. Finally we run Little Glenshee in the 4.50, Lucy rides, 7 run, tongue tie back on and first time cheek pieces to encourage her to focus on the job in hand in the early stages of the race, she has been running well this season without winning. Kit has his first point-to-point venture outside the Northern Area today assuming he can find his way to the South Durham point-to-point at Mordon where he is booked for two rides.
A couple of stories in the racing news this week that have prompted plenty of comment; first one being Willie Mullins would like to see Cheltenham Festival prize money doubled to improve the returns his owners receive on the vast sums they spend on their horses. Whilst the Festival does need to crank up it’s prize money I’m not sure how he sees this helping the grass roots of the industry for which he rightly expresses concern. A major problem in NH racing at the moment is the best horses being snapped up by a very small group of extremely wealthy owners who are effectively prepared to pay anything to ensure they have the best. Presently these owners are concentrated round Willie Mullins and even our two top trainers struggle to compete when a top prospect appears (most often in France). They still outbid the vast majority of trainers and the unfortunate result it that we end up with a situation whereby 80% of the front three in the market for all the Festival Championship races come from just three yards. This is unhealthy principally because it is actually quite boring, we had a wonderful days racing at Leopardstown recently but it just isn’t as interesting when of the six runners in a top class novice chase 3 are trained by W Mullins and 3 are owned by Gigginstown, the colour goes out of the sport; the latter owners have a vast array of top class horses but how many does the average racing fan remember the name of? They sort of all morph into one, in many regards this is killing the sport in Ireland. The secondary effect of this is that second tier and new owners coming into the sport think their best chance of a ticket to the Festival is to have their horse with one of those yards but they fail to appreciate the vast sums being spent and the numbers of horses involved and can become disillusioned. This virtuous circle works well for a very small number of trainers who are able to dominate the sport in a way never seen before, this is unhealthy for the long term future of the sport simply because it destroys the narrative and makes it less appealing to the public at large. The long term future would be much better served by boosting prize money at grass roots level and gradually creating more competition that way rather than having Rich Ricci walk away from Cheltenham with an extra couple of hundred grand. Think that’s enough, may bore you with my views on the other issue (bans for non-triers) in due course….