Racing UK ambassador Ruby Walsh gives us his thoughts on the Dublin Winter Festival at Leopardstown and reflects on some of the performances
By Ruby Walsh
It was a great two days at Leopardstown for the Dublin Winter Festival. They had great crowds, it was a good atmosphere and there were plenty of highs, with a few lows - it pretty much had everything.
It’s never great to be watching from the sidelines but I think it was a great spectacle for Irish racing. The injury is going well and I’m doing some walking around in Dublin with the kids.
You would have to say Samcro, pictured above, was spectacular in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle on Sunday.
I think he’s guaranteed to stay, so the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle looks the obvious race for him. The ground was probably a bit slower on Sunday than it was on Saturday and I thought they went a good enough gallop for the track.
He kept at it really well but I don’t think it would have mattered if they had gone faster - the others would have stopped sooner and he would have won further. He just looks like a really good novice should look and he appears exceptional - a cut above the rest.
Footpad jumped really well in the Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Chase on Saturday.
They went a real good gallop but the runner-up Petit Mouchoir, to be fair to him, hadn’t run in a long time.
He made a mistake at the first and the second and did well to finish as close as he did and will be a formidable opponent to Footpad in March.
Footpad isa worthy favourite but I also think that Henry De Bromhead is entitled to think his horse will improve and give him a race.
It was a bit unusual for Ireland but the Coral Dublin Chase was a real end-to-end race and Special Tiara went a really good gallop.
From early in the race the only other horse comfortable was Min and a lot of them were going as fast as they were able to as they passed the stands first time, with the exception of Min.
Special Tiara always had them on the stretch but Min was always well within his comfort zone and I think he won with a lot of authority.
If you are looking for a positive from Faugheen’s run in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, it was a hell of a lot better than Christmas, but if you are being realistic there didn’t look to be much spark there.
If you watched the race before, Special Tiara had a lot of genuine two-and-a-half mile/three mile horses in trouble whereas Faugheen never seemed to have the stayers in trouble.
Supasundae is a stayer but Faugheen could never get him out of his comfort zone and that was the disappointing part for me.
I don’t know how we get the spark back. I thought maybe for a few strides at the back of the second last when he jumped it well and got a length on Supasundae, I thought ‘will he go and open up now?’ but he didn’t and Robbie Power’s body language suggested he always had him well and truly covered.
It was a great performance from the winner, Jessica Harrington and her team are a great outfit so all credit to them.
I thought Killultagh’s Vic’s run in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup was a remarkable performance.
He was only having his third run over fences so he was still entitled to be a bit novicey, in against the level of opposition he was running against, but I thought he did remarkably well to get involved in the race and was unlucky to fall.
It would have been a just reward for his owners who have persevered with him for a long time, so it was disappointing point but when you look at the winner and what he’s been through it was a great performance from him, and a brilliant ride from Derek O’Connor.
Outlander (who was second) around Leopardstown is rock solid so it was a solid performance from the winner. I think Killultagh Vic would have learnt a hell of a lot from Sunday.
Best of the rest:
Of the others, I thought Mr Adjudicator was good in the Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle but with Espoir D’Allen blowing out he probably didn’t get the credit he deserved.
I thought he was very good. I also thought Blackbow was really good in the Goffs Future Stars (C&G) I.N.H Flat Race on Saturday.
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