Today was very much a bittersweet day’s sport viewing for yours truly. A nice few winners were punted on (and tipped) but there will be no attempt made to hide the heartache felt at being parked up in the office flitting between the television and the laptop perusing multiple race meetings and the Players Championship Finals in darts.
At about 11.30am, Eoghan Lynch, my friend, aide de camp, extra brother and everything else in between, sent a text noting “We should be one the road now”. And indeed we should have been. Whoever decided not to immediately lift the embargo on people attending outdoor sporting events would want to have a right look at themselves.
In the 19 years I’ve been a member of Fairyhouse Racecourse, I’ve never been absent from both days of their fantastic Winter Festival. One occasionally. Only after getting a freezing or soaking on the first day. But never both. There’s been much conjecture in recent weeks regarding the strain being felt by racecourses in Britain due to the lack of spectators and how it has left many in a perilous position. If the current lockout goes on much longer here I shudder to think of how – or indeed if – some entities will survive.
Doubtless, the biggest loss to Peter Roe and his team at the Ratoath venue over the weekend will have been the corporate bookings which would’ve almost certainly have sold out. Among them Meath GAA’s annual function on the Sunday. There was one high class on the menu though – that being Monkfish, trained by Willie Mullins.
The Stowaway gelding was something of a surprise winner of the Albert Bartlett at the much maligned Cheltenham Festival last March but there no disguising the regard in which Rich Ricci’s steed was held in Closutton and by midday today it was very easy to see why. The 6-year-old had a comfortable four lengths to spare over the somewhat underrated Ontheropes.
Not only did that kick off the day’s action but it was also the instigation of a double for the jockey and trainer and two for the flamboyant, affable American owner. The third strike of the day for the Carlow maestro came courtesy of Concertista. The mare made only broke her maiden for the yard when winning the Mares Novices Hurdle in Prestbury Park last Spring. That she was sent to Glouscester without winning a race surely gives you a fair indicator of what’s thought of her where it matters most and today did nothing to quell those notions.
I had actually thought the champion team would make it a four-timer via Reality Cheque in the Bumper but the Getaway progeny ran very ‘green’ and was collared close home by Highland Charge who was given a fine ride by young Pat Taaffe despite clearly having plenty left to learn himself.