Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Elliott’s Magical Day at Navan


2021 will probably be a year that Gordon Elliott wants to forget. After all, the trainer spent most of the last 12 months under suspension and only managed to get his season going in September. But while he will still face an uphill reputation to rebuild his personal reputation in the media, Elliott can at least look at the success his horses have had in recent weeks and believe he has picked up from where he left off. In fact, the evidence on show at Navan Racecourse on 4th December suggests he might be in an even stronger position. 

Fans at “The Christmas Party Raceday” at Navan saw the first event go off at 11.30 am, with the familiar name of Willie Mullins as winning trainer. However, in the subsequent seven races, Elliott took over with seven winners. It was historic, to say the least. No trainer has ever won seven races on a card before in Ireland. Previously, Elliott and Mullins both had recorded six in one day. 

Seven from Eight for Elliott 

So, who led Elliott to glory? His first win was a mild shock, with The Goffer coming in at 10/1 in the maiden hurdle. The favourite, Fantasio D’Alene, was also trained by Elliott but fell at the 8th. Next up was Ginto (11/8), who promptly took the Grade 2 Navan Novice Hurdle with Jamie Codd in the saddle. A 40/1 shot, Commander of the Fleet, took the Bective Stud Handicap Hurdle. Next, the red-hot 1/4 favourite Riviere D’etal left all trailing in its wake in the Grade 3 Klairon Davis Novice Chase. Farouk D’alene came home next at 7/2 in the Navan Beginners Chase. In the penultimate race of the day, another favourite, Conflated, came in at 9/4. Finally, Jamie Codd wrapped up a great day for Elliott with victory on Itswhatunitesus in the flat race. 

The total odds for the Elliott seven-time were 37,382/1, according to The Sun. Obviously, there were some parallels drawn with Frankie Dettori’s seven winnners at Ascot in 1996. That feat came in somewhere around 25,000/1. It was such a rare event that people are still talking about it 25 years later. There’s even a casino slot, Frankie Dettori’s Magic Seven, which celebrates the event. So, will be talking about Elliott’s magnificent seven in 25 years? It probably won’t be held in the same regard, even if it is a feat that seems unrepeatable. 

Elliott Will See Pathway to Redemption

For a start, this felt more about a question of what comes next for Elliott than an event in and of itself. The trainer’s comments afterward had all suggested that he saw it as a vindication of his talents after spending a long time in the wilderness. It’s understandable that he was relieved to see the media report on something positive regarding the trainer after the controversy that has dogged since the publication of those photos in early 2021. 

Looking forward, Elliott will see success as the best remedy to rebuild his reputation. And, if he keeps training winners, the media will have no choice to focus on that success. The incredible events at Navan will fortify his reputation as one of the best jumps trainers of the 21st century. Elliott will hope that is the main focus of 2022 as he targets big prizes at Cheltenham and beyond.

Friday, 24 December 2021

5 Stunning Moments for Female Jockeys in 2021

2021 threw up plenty of brilliant racing memories. But years from now, it will likely be remembered as something of a tipping point for female jockeys. Of course, anyone with an ounce of sense in their heads would have been well aware that female riders are just as good as the men – the facts speak for themselves. But 2021 was the year when the hard work paid off for many, and where the debate over women jockeys getting chances finally got mainstream media attention. 

Below we are going to look at five of the best moments from the year gone past that helped create that tipping point. There’s more work to be done across the sport to ensure women get a chance to shine, but these moments show we are headed in the right direction: 

Rachael Blackmore & Honeysuckle – Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham 

To be honest, this felt inevitable from the moment that Honeysuckle took the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown five weeks earlier. The impressive run at Leopardstown was enough to see Honeysuckle and Blackmore go off as the odds-on favourite at Cheltenham, and the pair duly obliged with a comprehensive victory. Of course, other huge victories followed for Blackmore at Cheltenham, and it’s hard not to look at her glorious four days there as a single stunning moment. But the Champion Hurdle was the crowning achievement, and it put Blackmore on the road to becoming a bona fide superstar. 

Hollie Doyle & Trueshan – Goodwood Cup, Goodwood 

Hollie Doyle is doing something similar to Blackmore on the flat, and she had one of the best moments in her career so far at Glorious Goodwood. The well-fancied Trueshan took advantage of slow ground in the Goodwood Cup to crown Doyle as the first-ever female jockey to win the Group 1 race. Doyle was not in the saddle when Trueshan won the Prix du Cadran at Longchamps in October, but she did steer Trueshan home in 1st at Ascot a few weeks later. Trueshan is now the ante-post favourite for the 2022 Ascot Gold Cup. Will Doyle be the first female winner of the Royal Ascot showpiece?

Bryony Frost & Frodon – Champion Chase, Down Royal 

We could pick any one of several big wins for Frost this year, including the Grade 1 Tingle Creek Chase on Greaneteen at Sandown in early December. But there was something extra-special about this win on Frodon at Down Royal. Perhaps it was the way Frost and Frodon blasted over the fences, keeping Gold Cup winner Minella Indo (with Rachael Blackmore in the saddle) and Galvin at bay. Or maybe it was the fact that Frost’s name had been all over the papers for non-racing reasons, although through no fault of her own. Nonetheless, it was a great moment for Frost. And, as an aside, a nice way to highlight the underrated Down Royal Racecourse as a host of elite events. 

Jamie Kah & Smokin’ Romans – Pakenham Cup, Pakenham 

Jamie Kah is hardly a household name in Ireland, but the 25-year-old jockey is a superstar in her native Australia, albeit one that has courted controversy in recent times. Nonetheless, the big win at Pakenham was celebrated as a precocious talent getting her career back on track (Kah had just returned from suspension). If she can keep her focus on racing, there’s going to be a lot more success for the record-breaking jockey Down Under. 

Rachael Blackmore & Minella Times – Grand National, Aintree 

Yes, Blackmore is on this list twice, but would you expect any less after her extraordinary year? Moreover, this win in the Grand National has claims of being the greatest moment (so far) in the career of any female jockey in history. Leaving the race aside for the moment, it was such a testament to Blackmore to see Minella Times’ odds shorten before the race simply because she had picked the ride. And the pair duly delivered in style, capping off a remarkable few months for the Irish jockey. On the evidence of Blackmore’s early-season success this term, we expect to see more history from the jockey in 2022.

Photo: Rachael Blackmore: Photo via
Hollie Doyle on Trueshan: Photo via

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

5 of the Best: Frankie Dettori Wins at Irish Racecourses

5 of the Best: Frankie Dettori Wins at Irish Racecourses
Lanfranco “Frankie” Dettori has done it all in racing, and then he has come back and done it all over again. It’s now almost a decade since he passed the milestone of 500 Group winners, and he is still going strong. He’s also approaching 300 Group 1 winners, and he has surpassed 3,000 winners overall. The stats are ridiculous, and if you have followed Dettori’s career, you will know that we have not the column space to go through all the Italian’s achievements. 

Of course, his greatest achievement came with that mind-boggling seven wins from seven races at Ascot in 1996. The 25th anniversary of the achievement was celebrated in September of this year. With many sports outlets interviewing Dettori and asking him to relive his memories from that miraculous day. The 25,000-1 odds have made it such a part of betting folklore, and it’s the reason for the creation of the Frankie Dettori Magic Seven casino game by Playtech. While the odds of that day will never be repeated, Dettori’s career has played out in such a way that the Ascot Magnificent Seven doesn’t define him: That says it all, really. 

Dettori loves to come to Ireland, too. And as you might imagine, he has come away with plenty of the spoils whenever he visits the racecourse of the Emerald Isle. Below we look at some of his best Irish wins:

Balanchine – Irish Derby 1994 (The Curragh

Dettori has a storied relationship with Godolphin, whose international racing operation really got underway in 1994. The Epsom Oaks was landed (Godolphin’s first Classic win) in June of that year, and then Frankie and the filly went to Ireland to land the Derby a few weeks later. It was Dettori’s biggest win in Ireland at the time, but he would come back for more. 

Daylami – Irish Champion Stakes 1999 (Leopardstown) 

Dettori has won the Irish Champion Stakes six times (just one behind Michael Kinane’s record of seven, if you were wondering). He has done so on some wonderful horses, including Golden Horn and Fantastic Light. However, the pick of the bunch has to be the stunning ride on Daylami in 1999. Daylami would also give Dettori his first of two Tattersalls Gold Cups a year earlier. 

Dubawi – Irish 2,000 Guineas 2005 (The Curragh) 

Another dual winner in Ireland, Dubawi won the National Stakes in 2004 and the 2,000 Guineas a year later with Dettori in the saddle. He was a superb horse, and this was a cracking race with Dubawi finishing impressively to hold off co-favourite Oratorio. Dubawi has gone on to have a significant stud career, siring winners of several Group 1 races.

Wicklow Brave – Irish St Leger 2016 (The Curragh) 

We had to mention this one because it is one of the rare partnerships between two legends of racing, Dettori and Willie Mullins. The latter is, of course, known for his success in jumps racing, but he worked with Dettori here to land Group 1 success in the St Leger. The trio of Wicklow Brave, Mullins and Dettori would try to replicate that success later in the Melbourne Cup, but they fell short of the standard in a frustrating race.

5 of the Best: Frankie Dettori Wins at Irish Racecourses
Enable – Irish Champion Stakes 2017 (Leopardstown) 

Is Enable the best horse on this list? Wins in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe (twice), King George (thrice) and Epsom Oaks, as well as being twice named European Horse of the Year would underline that argument. By the time Enable came to take the Irish Oaks, she was just really getting started on a stellar career. More importantly, though, it was a sign of a second coming for Dettori, who was given a new lease of life through a partnership with John Gosden.

Photo: DH

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Irish Racecourses: Navan

Navan Racecourse, a.k.a. Proudstown Park is situated in the townland of Proudstown, approximately three miles north of Navan town centre, in County Meath, in eastern Ireland. Navan stages 17 Flat and National Hunt fixtures throughout the year but is probably better known for the latter. 

Notable races ‘over the sticks’ at Navan include the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle, run in February, the Grade Two Fortria Chase and the Grade Three Monksfield Novice Hurdle, both run in November, and the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle – which, between 2004 and 2014, was a Grade One contest – run in December. On the Flat, Group Three Vintage Crop Stakes staged in late April or early May, is the most valuable race of the season, worth €60,000 in added prize money. Named in honour of the first European-trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup, the Vintage Crop Stakes is a recognised trial for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot; in recent years, Yeats, Fame And Glory, Leading Light and Order Of St. George, all trained by Aidan O’Brien, have won both races. 

The steeplechase course at Navan is a left-handed, undulating, rectangle, approximately a mile and a half in extent, with nine, fairly stiff fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately one furlong. The fourth-last fence, an open ditch, is directly followed by the turn into the home straight, which features three more plain fences. The hurdle course is laid out inside the steeplechase track and features seven hurdles to a circuit. The course is essentially galloping in character, but the uphill climb from the final bend, which is three-and-a-half furlongs from the winning post, provides one of the stiffest finishes in the country. In the depths of winter, soft or heavy going can make conditions very testing indeed, so Navan is no place for horses with doubtful stamina. 

The flat course, like the steeplechase course, offers no hiding place in terms of stamina, but similarly offers plenty of room for manoeuvre and is renowned as one of the fairest in Ireland. Sprint races are run on a straight course, which joins the round course at the top of the home straight, but horses can win from any position on either track and little, or no, draw bias exists. 

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Irish Racecourses: Dundalk

Dundalk [Dalgan's fort] is a town of County Louth, Ireland. It sits on the Castletown River, flowing into the Dundalk Bay. It is near the border of Northern Ireland between Dublin and Belfast in the province of Leinster. 

Horse Racing and Greyhound Racing is held at Dundalk Stadium. This is Ireland's first all-weather race track opening in August 2007. It cost 35 Million euros. 

Local transport 

Dundalk is located 52 miles North of Dublin. The racecourse is just one and half miles from the town centre of Dundalk. 

Bishop Court's airport is about forty miles away. 

Flat racecourse:

Dundalk is a left-handed course covering ten furlongs with a run in of two and a half furlongs with an up hill finish. A low draw is an advantage over 5 - 6f.   

National Hunt racecourse:

The turf course was closed in 2001. The racecourse dated back to 1889.

Contact details:

Dundalk Racecourse 
County Louth

Tel: 353 42 937 1271 
Fax: 353 42 937 1271 



Saturday, 20 March 2021

Irish Racecourses: Thurles

Thurles Racecourse is situated less than a mile from Thurles town centre, in County Tipperary, in the Shannon Region of Ireland. Thurles is, in fact, one of three racecourses in County Tipperary, but unlike Clonmel and Tipperary, a.k.a. Limerick Junction exclusively stages National Hunt racing. Thurles also has the distinction of being the only privately-owned racecourse in Ireland, having been in the Molony Family for at least four generations since 1911. 

Thurles Racecourse stages eight National Hunt fixtures between October and March. Notable races include the Grade Two Analog's Daughter Mares Novice Chase, run over 2 miles 4½ furlongs in January, and the Grade Two Kinloch Brae Chase, run over the same distance in late January or early February. In recent years, two winners of the Kinloch Brae Chase, Don Cossack in 2016 and Sizing John in 2017, have gone on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

The steeplechase course at Thurles is a right-handed, undulating oval, approximately a mile and a quarter in circumference, with seven, moderately stiff, fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately one furlong. The course rises steeply throughout the back straight but falls, equally steeply, towards the final bend and the two-furlong home straight, in which the final two fences are situated. On the whole, the course is sharp in character, favouring horses that race on, or close to the pace, although those who do too much in the back straight may pay for their exertions later on. 

Above anything else, Thurles is renowned for its extraordinarily free draining soil which, even in the depths of the Irish winter, rarely becomes very testing and is almost always raceable. Thurles has received almost universal praise for its ground conditions, with trainers safe in the knowledge that they will not overface young, inexperienced horses, while the steep hill in the back straight provides useful insight for those heading to the Cheltenham Festival.

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Irish Racecourses: Punchestown

Punchestown Racecourse is situated on the outskirts of Naas, the county town of Co. Kildare, in the eastern part of the Irish Midlands. Punchestown Racecourse is, in fact, less than three-and-a-half miles from Naas Racecourse but, unlike its near neighbour, exclusively stages National Hunt racing. Punchestown hosts 17 National Hunt fixtures between April and December, with notable races including the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle, the highlight of the two-day Winter Festival, in November, and the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase, in December. 

 However, Punchestown is synonymous with the Irish National Hunt Festival, commonly known as the Punchestown Festival, which is staged over five days in late April and early May and brings the Irish National Hunt season to a close. The Punchestown Festival is one of the highlights of the Irish sporting calendar and features no fewer than 12 Grade One contests, including the Champion Chase, Champion Stayers’ Hurdle, Punchestown Gold Cup and Punchestown Champion Hurdle, not to mention the fascinating La Touche Cup, run over 4 miles 1½ furlongs on the only cross-country ‘banks’ course in Ireland. 

The main steeplechase course at Punchestown is a right-handed, undulating oval, approximately two miles in circumference, with eleven, moderately stiff, but fair, fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately one furlong. The course is galloping in character, with a steady climb throughout the final five furlongs, which affords staying types an opportunity to find their stride. 

The hurdle course, laid out inside the main steeplechase course, is only a mile-and-three-quarters in circumference and, consequently, much sharper in character. The bend at the end of the back straight is particularly sharp and, on the whole, the course favours horses that race handily. 

The cross-country course consists of a twisting, turning circuit, three miles around, with left-handed and right-handed bends. Horses must negotiate a series of idiosyncratic obstacles, including banks, fences and walls, before returning to the racecourse proper and a single, regulation birch fence between them and the winning post.