I’M often told how lucky I am to go to most of the big races in Ireland and England and while I’m always grateful for such advice, I don’t really need it as I already know.
But Sunday’s Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown really did underline the point as I and a good crowd were treated to a battle royale between Our Conor and Hurricane Fly with the latter eventually prevailing by a length and a half.
When the winner was headed briefly by the runner-up, I was thinking what a fine effort it was by Our Conor at the tender age of just five to master ‘The Fly’.
However, the champion dug deep under Ruby Walsh to regain the lead and after the race in the hallowed Dublin winner’s enclosure, despite the fact that the winner was an odds-on favourite and a bad result for the bookies, I honestly felt shivers running down my spine as ‘The Fly’ wallowed in the crowd’s appreciation of a true champion.
Sometimes you read in the papers after a great race that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and while I feel that would be a bit of an exagerration, it wasn’t far off.
The first two home were both trimmed for the English Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival with ‘The Fly’ currently our 5-2 favourite and Our Conor at 6-1 and whether that famous hill at Prestbury Park will make a difference to the order that they return home, we’ll have to wait and see.
My last word on the day goes to the punter in the Leopardstown toilets who was telling his friend: “I never get that horse [Hurricane Fly] right – the only time I backed him was when he was beaten at Cheltenham.”
Given that he has won 21 of his 24 hurdle starts, I don’t normally do this but it might be a good idea for that particular punter to give up betting on horse racing and concentrate on football or tennis instead!
I was very impressed with Thelobstercatcher when he completed a brace at Fairyhouse on New Year’s Day, when showing great tenacity to hold off Shellys Creek by a short-head, and I think that he can go in again for trainer Pat Fahy in Punchestown’s Grand National Trial on Sunday. Connections were a bit concerned about the heavy ground that day, but they needn’t have worried as jockey David Casey got a fine tune out of him so I wouldn’t think it matters about the surface at the weekend.
They also admitted that the Thyestes Chase had always been the dream for this horse, but as he didn’t line up for the Gowran Park feature, this looks like a lovely alternative instead with a possible return to Fairyhouse for the Irish National later on.
Thursday’s maiden hurdle at Thurles could provide an opportunity for the Mouse Morris-trained Spot Fine to deservedly get off the mark after four placings in similar events this season.
Turning to the footy I like the look of Spurs at even money to beat Hull away on Saturday. The home team are doing well in the FA Cup and an away tie in the next round away to Brighton won’t have them quaking in their boots, but their league form is dismal with only one win, albeit a 6-0 demolition of Fulham, in their last nine matches.
In contrast Spurs went out of the cup to a good Arsenal side a few weeks ago but their attractive style of football is reaping dividends in the league and they’ve won their last four matches, including an impressive 2-1 win away at Manchester United which put the heat on David Moyes.
Thursday Thurles 2.35pm Spot Fine
Saturday 3pm Spurs to beat Hull
Sunday Punchestown 4.10pm Thelobstercatcher