Fortunately on a day where we saw some heavy falls it appears that not just the winners were all right but the fallers too. Phew. More about some of that below.
Writing this on the plane heading back to Stansted. First things first, what a brilliant racing weekend we’ve enjoyed in Dublin. Two days of absolutely top class racing. Yesterday, with the money down, we screamed home Supasundae in a thrilling Irish Champion Hurdle. Today the screams were silenced almost as they started, with Killultagh Vic falling at the last when poised for a dramatic win, allowing one of the rank outsiders Edwulf to get up and beat course specialist Outlander.
This was a race of stories. What a story it could have been for Killultagh Vic, and what a training performance this would have been by Willie Mullins. It was at the same final fence over two years ago that KV nearly fell in a Grade 2 novice chase. Managing to stay upright the horse came to a total standstill though somehow Ruby Walsh stayed onboard. In doing so, he conceded his pursuers a several length lead, only then for Killultagh to find an amazing turn of foot, from a standing start, to win. If you haven’t seen this before then you really should. Remarkable is an over used word – but it is very applicable here. Two years off the course followed, before he came back to win a small Punchestown hurdle last December. To win the Irish Gold Cup in his first chase in over two years would have been truly amazing. But that final fence caught him out again. It looked a bad fall and for a few moments, with the screens up, we feared the worst. When we got up the crowd as one let out one of the biggest cheers of the day.
For all that, Edwulf’s win is almost as amazing a story. Well fancied for the 4 mile National Hunt chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year he came with a nice run only to pull up late on with breathing and dehydration issues. His very survival was in doubt. In his reappearance at the Christmas meeting, in the big chase (formerly the Lexus), he was pulled up. To come here and win the Gold Cup on his next run is, once again, amazing. Racing can really throw up these stories.
And for trainer Joseph O’Brien he is quickly following in his father’s footsteps. Yesterday Tower Bridge gave him his first Grade 1 hurdle winner, today the Irish Gold Cup was his first Grade 1 chase winner. It’s only a couple of months since he trained the winner of the Melbourne Cup!
The Gold Cup wasn’t the only race of note today. Monalee showed great courage to withstand all-comers and win the Grade 1 Flogas Chase. It will take a good one to beat him in the RSA at the Festival. This was one of those races where I backed the winner, and the second (Al Boum Photo), but both were to win and I didn’t do the forecast. Doh!
Finally we also saw a real superstar in the making today. It won’t take a good one to beat Samcro at the Festival as he won’t be beaten. After today when he easily took a decent field of novice hurdlers apart the hype will just get bigger and bigger. We’ll probably hear calls for him to go to the Champion Hurdle but it seems the 2 1/2m Ballymore is where he will be heading (ante post bet safely on thankfully), and, as long as he gets to the Festival fit and well, he will rate as the banker of all Irish bankers.
So a fantastic two days at Leopardstown. Over 26,000 turned up over the weekend to enjoy high class racing, good food, lovely Guinness and even the weather turned very lovely this afternoon. The Dublin Racing Festival has been a brilliant racing innovation.
I’ve said it before Leopardstown rates right up there with the best tracks. I’ll definitely be back, hopefully for this weekend next year – if not before, though I doubt for the Irish Champions weekend in September as I will wait until the Curragh works are finished to return for that fixture.
Irish racing is great fun. The atmosphere is top class whether at the supposed ‘gaff’ tracks or the big meetings, the quality of the racing is decent and, when you’ve backed a winner there’s nothing better than hearing “the winner’s all right”, it’s so much better than “weighed in”.