Before I was properly attuned to horse racing, one of the things that actually put me off it was the amount of prattling on the presenters and analysts on television – particularly the late John McCririck – did before a race. The thought process here would have been ‘Just list the runners and riders and then shut up.’
Now, of course, one is far more engrossed in the nuances of the sport. To the extent that it not only has become one of the central tenets which make life palatable for yours truly but it has also ended up affording me an opportunity to make it into a business opportunity. However, at the same time, I forever recall the words of the late, great Danny Daly, immersed in steeds all his life, “No matter how long you’re at them, horses can make an awful fool of you”.
Exhibit A for the prosecution in that instance would be handicaps. Be they on the Flat or over either form of obstacles, they can be absolute minefields to try and decipher. By definition, those considered to be the best horses are incumbered for their quality with top weight. With a downward gradiant used to split up all the others.
There’s a school of thought – easy to enrole in – that prophecises light weights win handicaps. Then again, those allotted the biggest burden generally attain the dubious honour for good reason. It’s seldom, though, the top weights manage to defy carrying the full load in these fiendishly trappy mazes to negotiate.
However, Willie Mullins doesn’t conform to ‘norms’, he re-defines what they are. Thus, I should’ve gone with my gut instinct. With the Closutton maestro being mob-handed in today’s Paddy Power Chase, common sense would’ve been to side with the choice of stable jockey Paul Townend – Castlebawn West. The problem with common sense, mind you, is the name being highly misleading. As it is generally in very short supply when needed most.
Victory in the big one of the day would’ve been job done for the season for a lot of people, never mind the rest of the day. Not being normal, though, is what sets Mr Mullins apart from some of his undoubtedly top class contemporaries. It should have been no surprise then to see the perennially leading trainer took the opportunity to underline why it is thought the Carlow trainer will again to usurp in most if not all the races that really count at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival.
Firstly when last season’s Champion Bumper runner up Appreciate It maintained his upward career when easily accounting for main market rival Ballyadam. Faith will be retained in Gordon Elliott’s charge, however, as I fervently believe the property of Cheveley Park Stud won’t be seen to his optimum until the gelding goes out in trip. It may well be that the grueling terrain at the Dublin 4 track wasn’t to his liking either.
While Mick Masterson’s animal taking the spoils wouldn’t be a major point of note – even with the aforementioned and the Elliott charge shared joint favouritism – though there would’ve been even an eyelid batted at the fact that Chacun Pour Soi made a winning seasonal return. Even the most objective observer ought to have had to draw a little breath at the utterly awesome nature of the French bred’s display in decimation of what was, with respect, a high class field of rivals.
Such is the mastery of Mullins at what he does, nobody should be surprised at whatever he achieves. However, this corner wouldn’t venture there are few can match his ability to (a) keep horses going into their twilight years but also remaining competitive and productive therein. Therefore, even though it may be extremely difficult to affix the following commendation to any particular animal housed in the Mullins Theatre Of Dreams, it would be ventured that the rising 9-year-old is the shining jewel in the Closutton crown.
Racing is, however, one of the greatest examples of an arena where the old saying ‘A pat on the back is only six inches from a kick in the ass’ can be sternly illustrated. Nobody is immune to it and it will hurt no matter who you are. Today Willie Mullins would understand. After all the high points for the operation, the day concluded in sombre fashion when odds-on favourite Reality Cheque was fatally injured in the concluding Bumper.
Rather than focus on that, however, let’s conclude today’s round-up by highlighting one of the stories which makes National Hunt racing the intrinsically special part of Irish life it is. In this case, Co Waterford trainer Paddy Corkery bringing his stable star Master McShee up to land a valuable handicap in fine style from the equally exciting Sea Ducor out of Arthur Moore’s.
In the aftermath of the man from Capoquin said:. “It’s brilliant to be able to bring a horse here with a chance and to win is unreal”. We share the same dream sir.