Karl Burke has weekend to savour and Skitter Scatter stirs soul

By Johnny Ward
Sun 16 Sep 2018

It was a day of regrets at the Curragh – but Karl Burke was not dwelling on his own.

Google his name and you will find articles about the "former trainer". If he had a hangover at a sun-baked headquarters – and he was entitled to after celebrating the victory of Laurens on Saturday night in the Irish capital – he was hiding it with aplomb.

Burke comes across as nothing but a top trainer and top bloke. He lost his licence in 2009 for passing inside information to a banned person, Miles Rodgers. Burke opined later that racing's rulers had no choice but to ban him.

At the time Rodgers had been warned off for two years for taking bets on his own horses through an online betting exchange. The BHA banned Burke, one of the lower parts of what he on Sunday recalled as being a "rollercoaster career".

Perhaps the highs do not amount to as much without the lows.

Burke raided Ireland with two horses in Group 1s this weekend, one of which – Laurens – looked a highly avaricious supplementary in the Matron. Meanwhile, Havana Grey probably found as weak a Group 1 as is possible in the Flying Five.

Burke made a mistake, paid the price and sought redemption.

"My career has been a bit of a rollercoaster and more roller than coaster most of the time,” he said. “The last five or six years have been fantastic since I came back after the year off with the ban.

"Libertarian to start with, second in the Derby and winning the Dante. Every year we've managed to hit lucky with some nice horses at the sales."

The day of regrets was chiefly down to the retirement of Alpha Centauri and Saxon Warrior, both injured in combat at Leopardstown on Saturday, a double blow that can only taint the memory of the 2018 Irish Champions Weekend.

The chief beneficiary of Alpha Centauri's fetlock injury was Laurens, but Burke still had to produce her in the shape he did to beat a wonder filly.

There was a bit of luck involved in that and plenty more in the case of the Flying Five being about as bad a Group 1 as has been run in this country in living memory.

Even Burke could not get over the lack of opposition. “I was very surprised the way this race broke up," he said. "I can't say I was unhappy about it, but I was surprised."

Burke has fallen in love with Irish Champions Weekend.

The love that Paata Khvedelidze has for Skitter Scatter is the beautiful abstract that racing's authorities, perhaps, should be keener to promote.

Paata came to Irish shores from Georgia via a two-year stint with Sir Mark Prescott. "All I wanted to do in life was racing. I rode in Georgia and had some success but this is the best day of my life,” the groom said.

“I ride this filly every day and even though she is small, she is so powerful. The other day, Ronan Whelan was riding on a good filly beside me but I think he spent most of the time smiling at how well Skitter Scatter was going for me. I love her and it is hard to put it into words."

For Whelan, there was lavish praise from Prendergast, another of the gents of the game.

“I said to Ronan going out, because I don't think Ronan realises how good he is, there were other jockeys looking for the ride on this filly – more and more as the year went on. I told him going out that there was a reason you are on her because you're world class and he is."

Such a shame, though, that two more world-class specimens will not be seen again.

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