Donaghmore Preview Night - 23rd Feb 2024
Donaghmore Preview Night - 23rd Feb 2024
(Hard work, this. Hope it's useful and worthy of a donation to Doddie Weir's Foundation. Will have to back Doddiethegreat, myself).
Returned to the The Bardic Theatre in the GAA club having thoroughly enjoyed last year. Once again welcomed at the door and volunteer bar staff very friendly. Told me that St Vincent De Paul Charity had received over £10k from the 2023 debut of this preview night so I'm glad I came. It was being filmed so likely to be out on Boylesports Youtube Channel in the next day or two. Sold out, a quiet crowd, a racing crowd, listening. My usual seat in the front row.
Once again the panel was ably led by David Jennings RP (DJ), full of craic. His questioning is polite but he likes to delve. Asks the questions you want asked. Tony Keenan (TK) handed me money for Gaultstats Charity (see above). Like Johnny Dineen (JD), TK's never short of a strong opinion. He had several this year. Came well equipped with plastic folders of information. Always supports Gstats. Lovely guy.
The rest of the panel was David Casey (DC), Gavin Cromwell (GC), Robert 'Puppy' Power (PP), Henry de Bromhead's assistant trainer. A strong team. It started at 8pm and I was on the road to Bangor by 1130. Loved it.
DC - Big news early on was that the Cross Country course is currently under water.
The following notes are mostly stuff of which you/I might not have been aware.
First up was a zoom call to Mick Fitzgerald, tonight's rep for Nicky Henderson. Nice of him to give up the time. 25 years ago, as a jockey, Mick came to Belfast and wouldn't stop talking about See More Business. Even when in the urinals. And he was right. As a pundit I find he rarely says much that we aren't really aware of. Or strays far from shorties. As this was. 'C Hill wouldn't stand out in a crowd, in good shape, don't know how good Jeriko is, no excuses for Marie's Rock being well beat by Bob Olinger, Jonbon schooled Thurs, fine.' 'Sir Gino schooled Thurs, will have one more before Festival. Does have a look around when he hits the front, so may not take it up until after the last. I was all over him on ITV Trials day.' Ok. Will Shishkin win? 'you'll have to ask Shishkin, want to try cheekpieces to help sharpen him up, but it didn't work at Ascot.' Liked Doddiethegreat (Coral Cup), Lucky Place. Napped Banbridge of non NH horses.
Panel Time - All Grade 1s quickly covered with a chance to mention others at the end of each day.
Supreme - DJ straight into DC. Ballyburn 'Willie was sure which race he was going for but might be changing his mind. Will win either race. As a bumper horse we thought he was a stayer, you put him in the best race you think he can win.' Tullyhill, David? ''a real good horse, but not as good a jumper as BB. Has the same ability, you can tell what we thought of them last year, Tullyhill was in the Punchestown Champion Bumper, BB in the winners of one, Mythical Power started in Ballinrobe.' Decision not be made til very close to the time. Mythical to be decided after discussions with JP/F Berry.
Rest of panel not sure if Tullyhill wins Supreme if BB runs Wednesday. JD - Firefox the danger. Has BB 14s Supreme. Will that make your week, Johnny? 'It will help, Gambling is all about front running, it's easy to make decisions when you're a few quid up. At Cheltenham, if you're not in front by Wednesday evening, it's hard to claw it back.' Don't I know it.
RP - 'Slade Steel is a very good horse beaten at Leopardstown by an exceptional horse.' If testing ground Supreme, goes there. If not will wait for WPM decision. Thinks WPM will want to get off to a good start. TK wants match bet Mythical Power to beat Tullyhill.
Arkle - JD - Indepocket to be supplemented. Hard for him being a maiden and a difficult prep. Has a chance. Not a Marine fan. Breathing difficulties? Sire French Navy hardly prolific. These people know everything. RP agrees, Quilixios ew for him. All good in prep, Marine won 'a very ordinary beginners' GC yet to make decision about My Mate Mozzie. 'Waiting for the Grand Annual weights.' Doesn't care that Segal tipped him in this. 'Not ruling it out.' Hmm.
TK sticks another boot in Marine. Stable form not good, only winning 8%, way above this last year. Likes Facile Vega and Blood Destiny. English horses should be 100/1 based on last year's novice hurdle form.
DC - Gaelic Warrior, 'went too quick last time, emptied him, but he's fine , I would love to run him here, it hasn't been discussed. For me, Marine looked poor in the ring before the Irish Arkle.' Likes Quilixios ew himself. Il Etait Temps, 'race would have to fall into his lap.' Blood Destiny for Navan next week and then probably the Powers at Fairyhouse. (Later in the evening announced that Hunters Yarn runs here, a statement repeated by DJ just to make sure he got it right).
CH - DJ 'Well David, can he beat C Hill?' DC - 'He can but it's unlikely.' Last year DC replied 'State Man is very good but won't beat CH. Asked by DJ on a scale of 1 to 10 what's his chances. Reply - 2.' Is SM better this year? 'Was first time out, not sure he was the last day.' Rest of panel think it a done deal. JD 'good thing, best hurdler I've seen, don't agree you have to win 3 CHs to be a great. These are better races than Istabraq won. Agree with that. DC - Zarak The Brave runs. Thinks a field of 8/9. Two count, and the rest 'might get in the effing way.' If others ride to be competitive, they'll be sixth, if ride for third, they might get it.'
MARES G1 - DC - Starts to rave about Lossiemouth. 'Very good, we expected her to do that last time. She's a standout, catches my eye every morning.' Stamina? 'Doesn't bother me at all.' Does she have a chance in the CH next year? Reply - No. Disappointed by Gala Marceau, Doesn't know if a plan. Echoes In Rain runs.
JD - Good thing bar a swamp, Ashroe Diamond has a chance, the rest no chance. TK disagrees. Telmesomethinggirl to be backed each way. 20s decent. RP thinks Lossie 'a certainty.' They run three, Telme, Hispanic Moon and Langtry Lady.
REST of TUESDAY - NH Chase, GC - Looks difficult for Flooring, worried about Corbetts Cross and Embassy Gardens. Asked by DJ about preparing Flooring for either Stayers/NH Chase, 'he's a clever horse, a couple of schools over hurdles and he'll be fine.' DC Nick Rockett won't run. Patrick to ride Embassy. Said 'he blew his top at the Festival last year.' Wants to see how he copes. Batman Kirac runs in Boodles. Irish rating 133 too high. Miss Manzor and Karia Des Blaises also go. Says 'Juvenile form in Ireland is not good.' Meetingofthewaters is in at least 5 races, no idea where he goes.
GC - Tues best bet Stumptown in the Ultima, Letsbeclearaboutit goes to Plate. 'Only ran against Embassy Gardens at Naas because he has to run once over 3m and run 6 times to get into G National. But he doesn't stay three miles.' DJ - If he doesn't stay 3m why the National, then? Reply 'owner wants to run him.' Blinkers will sharpen him up in the Plate. RP Amirite runs Ultima, needs good ground. TK - Corbetts Cross can be 'tricky' says Emmett.
JD - Lark for the Boodles, might be thrown in. Inothewayyourthinkin Ultima, GC seemed to go all coy for some reason when asked about it. Cant tell you any more.
BALLYMORE - Panel to assume BB in Supreme. RP starts us with Slade Steel, thinks whatever WPM puts in, will start fav. JD not an Ile Atlantique fan, 'Has been in three struggles and lost then all.' Thinks BB a better bet over the longer distance. DC - Ile, Dickie runs here, Reading Tommy Wrong likely for AB. 'Ile put up a better performance at Naas. 3 or 4 took him on. Backed Reading at Naas 33s was too big.' 'If Handstand or Jango Baie take this, we're in trouble.' Lecky Watson runs here.
BROWN ADVISORY - DC Fact or File, Willie undecided, we were even talking about it on the drive up. (WPM not here btw). DJ Are you on the same page? Ans - 'Similar but different pages.' Wouldn't play poker against DC. 'Trip doesn't matter, a really good horse, ground no issue, stamina not a problem but this is a stronger race than the Turners. Declaration may depend on opposition.' Big fan of Grey Dawning. Says P Townend even suggested Facile Vega for this race. Didn't see it as a bad idea. DC is a Sectionals fan and was able to quote F to F 8 secs faster than the handicap. Decision will be made well before Monday morning dec time.
JD - A great race. F to F is a 'cert to run in this.' RP - Montys Star's jumping is his forte, big step up in class. F to F fan. (At this moment DC and GC deep in conversation pointing to something in the programme. Wouldn't you love to know).
TK - Not a F to F fan. Valid points made. 'F to F has only won two time trials, no races, hung at the track last year in the Ch Bumper, jumped a bit to the right at Leopardstown. And although all those horses in last year's Ch Bumper have won hurdle races, none on them are actually any good. 6/4 is hype.' Then tips Stay Away Fay.
QM - TK - Capt Guinness wants 1m 6f chases. RP - Jonbon will not be in the first three. Capt had a heart problem from which he has recovered. GC Jonbon didn't get a great ride last time from James Bowen, echoed by DC 'if he'd just sat on him, he'd have won.' DC - El Fab is a superstar, Jonbon not out of this, hopes Edwardstone makes the running, but with Editeur De Gite and Elixir Du Nuts there, pace shouldn't be a problem. JD - if it's pacy, making a mistake at the back hard to recover.
BUMPER - TK's nap of the meeting is The Yellow Clay after that DRF run. Think this an ordinary race. DC agrees, 'The Irish bumpers this season have not been competitive affairs. We were confident that Jasmin would win his race but not sure what he beat. You Ought To Know an improver. Cantico's 3rd was in the strongest maiden Bumper seen yet. Patrick probably rides Jasmin.' Doesn't know about Maughreen, if she goes or not, Argento Boy won a weak race.
GC Mywayofthinkin NR. RP Romeo Coolio has a huge reputation. JD hates the race.
REST of WEDNESDAY - Cross Country currently under water says DC. (Thats handy 'cos I remember last year, Jamie Codd was quoted as saying that Galvin had taken to the Cross Country like a 'duck to water.' I digress). TK likes Enniskerry for G Annual even with the stable form. RP Indo is in 'mighty order. Will take all the beating.' Ballyadam and Hiddenvalley Lake for the Coral. If good ground Dancingonmyown for GAnnual even though 'he's a bit high in the handicap.' GC likes his Path D'Oroux. A measured talker, is Mr Cromwell, seems to think before his speaks. DC - Asked about Sa Majeste 'disappointed on arrival, don't know.' Thinks Stattler hard to fancy. DC then reemed off all the Festival handicaps won by Closutton. Knows his stats. Has no idea why they can't win one of the handicap chases.
TURNERS - We're assuming no Fact Or File. JD - Facile Vega one of the bets of the meeting. Believes the top trainers eg WM or NH can bring horses back to their best. DC - 'wouldn't disagree, lot of faith in him, race lacks depth, horse retains the ability, needs a strongly run race.' GC agrees and American Mike ew, TK likes Ginny Destiny's course form.
RYANAIR - DC 'If Fastorslow ran in this, he would win it with his mouth open.' All the rest talk about Banbridge being ground dependent and the Pic D'Orhy form. JD - more stats Envoi Allen is now 10 yrs old and they rarely win Grade 1s. DC has been disappointed with Appreciate It, runs here as does Capadanno. RP Envoi in good health, believes this not to be as strong as last year.
STAYERS - RP - Robcour? 'Both to run even though Gordon has some notion of Irish Point going to the Champion Hurdle.' Wee bit worried about the form of their wins this year. 'If the ground is good for Banbridge, may be too good for Tea.' TK muses if English soft is soft enough? JD will be keen to know which one Jack Kennedy picks. Teased by DJ to pronounce the one that's not Irish Point. DC - Monkfish may go to Gold Cup. Sir Gerhard runs, not sure if he stays, will probably be ridden to make sure he stays.
GC - Not overconfident about Flooring Porter. Difficult to beat the top two in the market, he thinks. Says he 'couldn't believe Danny's ride when Flooring won his first Stayers. They let him fill him up coming down the hill, then I couldn't believe it when they let him do it again the next year!' Nice story. DJ suggests its not the strongest Stayers 'there's no Baracouda or Big Bucks' and that Flooring should attempt the three timer.
REST of THURSDAY - MARES NOVICE - Agreed by the panel to be one of the races of the week. TK easily coaxs DJ into his Richard Dimbleby Dysart Enos Lecture (I'm only teasing, but he is keen) Even DC said, 'I had heard this race is already over. the 5lb non penalty will certainly help in my opinion.' Jade De Grugy is 'she's good and we love her.' Fun Fun Fun NR goes to Fairyhouse. GC says 'Cullentra just adore Brighterdaysahead.'
JD must be partly responsible for the Plate Crebilly plunge. All over this. GC has Letsbeclearaboutit and with some conviction, mentioned Perceval Legallois in the Kim Muir. That brought an oooh from others on the couch. TK likes three JPs in the Pertemps, Icare Allen, Chantry House and Thanksforthehelp (the latter failed to qualify at Chepstow).
TRIUMPH - DC - Storm Heart runs, Kargese 'won well DRF, was unlucky at Xmas, but all those of Willie's who were behind her at the DRF, can improve to go by her.' It's Sir Gino's to lose. All agree.
ALBERT BARTLETT - DC - Reading Tommy Wrong is the bet, both High Class Hero and Dancing City run 'the rest of ours don't matter after that.' Reading is a relaxed horse, experienced, right profile for the race. (they never say stats or trends, they always say profile, do you notice that?). JD thinks anything can win this, Stellar Story ew 25s. GC says yes, Vanillier was an outsider, but, drum roll, if it gets soft, Now Is The Hour will be supplemented. Tries to play it down, 'the English went very fast at Haydock, we won't be losing the run of ourselves, great ride by Sean..' RP likes Dancing City, the best form, TK - Reading Tommy.
Then interestingly, David Casey interrupted proceedings to go into a mild rant about the abuse given to Aidan Coleman and Harry Fry when they made those comments about the English races going off too fast. DC's view was 'they aren't being beaten because of this, the Irish do tend to have the better horses. But they do race too fast, too early.' His example was this years Cleeve when 'Dashel Drasher and all were flat to the boards, jumping the second last, a good six furlongs out. To win that, Noble Yeats needs 10 miles.'
GC - DC as bullish as he was last year. 'been there, done that, don't see a chink. beat them before, don't care about ratings.' Monkfish 'hard to know how good he is now, wasn't fully wound up for Gowran, but won well.'
JD is laying Galopin on a price only basis. Thinks there are enough front runners/others to get involved to make back to back GCs difficult. Has been beat this year. TK likewise, on Corach Rambler ew.
REST of FRIDAY - TK - Waterford Whispers laid out for the Martin Pipe. Seconded by JD. This year's JP plot in the race. Well received by others on the couch. RP didn't know if he was running. 'Will make a grand big chaser.' Magical Zoe runs in the County. GC runs Encanto Bruno in the Martin Pipe to be ridden by Conor Stone-Walsh. Limerick Lace and Brides Hill in the Mares Chase. Likes them both. DC thinks Dinoblue should take Allegorie De Vassy though the latter 'would be better on good ground'. Think that's what he said. No idea of their handicap hurdle runners. When quizzed deeper by DJ, confirmed that there was 'no State Man/County Hurdle hiding in the Closutton 2024 Festival handicap entries.' Can't see Billaway winning. 'Sure he nearly robbed that race at Naas.' JD put up Famous Clermont for the Hunters and Answer To Kayf also in the Martin Pipe. Will be ridden by his usual jockey, young Shinnick.
That's it. Apologies for any errors made but I think I got most of it. Have a good one. Again it's actually hard work this, so please remember a donation.
PS - Could be reading it wrong but GC wouldn't fill you full of confidence about Vanillier in the Grand National. 'Weight's back down but he is slow.'
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