It didn’t feel like spring on the Curragh during the week, when we had to work the horses in a blizzard on Wednesday morning, but the weather has picked up in time for the start of the 2017 turf flat season.
The season has a bit of a different shape to it this year with Naas hosting the first meeting of 2017 on Sunday because of the redevelopment work being carried out on the Curragh. The demolition men moved in a few weeks’ ago and the skyline around here has changed a bit as they knock different buildings down.
The redevelopment of the Curragh is a big turning point for the industry in Ireland and it will be interesting to see how it changes as the project progresses. It is the only racecourse we will see being rebuilt like this in our lifetimes and I really hope that the job is done right.
Personally I am really looking forward to the season ahead. This is the exciting time of year when all your dreams are still possible but in a few weeks they might have transformed and become nightmares.
We have a bunch of more precocious two-year-olds here in Rathbride than we have ever had before. I find myself working more of them at this stage of the year than I did last year and, as usual, we have more fillies than colts in the yard.
Of the first season sires, we have three by Dawn Approach, two fillies and a colt. Two are for Sheikh Mohammed and Godolphin and the third is owned by Tom Jones. We also have a nice New Approach colt to run for us this year and a lovely colt by Fast Company.
We have over 20 three-year-old maidens in the string this season and they will hopefully be graduating from maiden class quite quickly and we have a lot of horses to look forward to.
Diarist, a son of More Than Ready owned by Godolphin had one run at the tail end of last season and he is a nice gelding. Tom Jones owns Mauricio, who is an unraced three-year-old gelding and Naturalist, a three-year-old colt from the first crop of Nathaniel owned and bred by Celbridge Estates is another to look forward to.
This is the exciting time of year when all your dreams are still possible
Virtudes, a three-year-old daughter of Invincible Spirit out of a half-sister to Centennial, and owned by Godolphin will make her debut at Naas on Sunday 26 March. We also have a daughter of Born To Sea called Aurora Butterfly and owned by Madeline Burns of Rathasker Stud who is yet to run and is another unraced filly we are looking forward to getting on the track.
Perle De La Mer also a three-year-old filly by Born To Sea we have for the Burns family and she made a brilliant start to her racing career, winning a seven furlong maiden at Galway on her debut.
Bumbasina raced once last year for her owner-breeder Renzo Forni and it would be fantastic if she could follow in the hoofprints of her year-older half-sister Dolce Strega, who did so well for us all last year. Dolce Strega won the Group 3 Athasi Stakes at the Curragh so Bumbasina has plenty to live up to.
Another three-year-old filly who has very big shoes to fill is Faraday’s Law, a full-sister to Irish 1000 Guineas winner Just The Judge. She was kept to race by their breeder Joan Kearney-Smith and she had one start at the back end of 2016 over seven furlongs at the Curragh.
We were delighted with Holiday Girl’s run in a maiden at Leopardstown during Irish Champions’ Weekend, when she was second over seven furlongs. A daughter of Acclamation, she is owned by Godolphin and is a nice filly that I’m looking forward to getting onto the track again.
Sunday is when it all gets going once again and I’m sending four runners to Naas including Wild As The Wind who goes for the Group 3 Lodge Park Stud Park Express Stakes. She is drawn in stall seven in a 12-runner field. Owned by Frank McNulty, who also bred her, Wild As The Wind won her maiden over nine furlongs at the end of last season. It was just her second run but she showed that day she can handle this soft ground and she should run well.
We have two representatives in the three-year-old maiden fillies’ maiden with Billy riding the Godolphin filly Virtudes, that I mentioned earlier. She had a bit of a setback last year but there isn’t a bother on her now. Virtudes is a very independent-minded filly with her own ideas about a lot of things but she is tough and hardy.
Nathan Cross rides Sixtysix, a daughter of Dandy Man who runs in Amanda’s colours. Nathan will be having his second ride and his 10 pound claim will be helpful for the filly, who was our first runner of 2017 when she finished third in a Dundalk maiden a couple of weeks’ ago.
Tommy Hallinan goes for the one mile three-year-old maiden and he ran well in both his races last year, finishing in the first three each time. He is owned by Michael Ryan, who also bred him, and he is a nice horse for the season.
Cork on Sunday 2 April is pencilled in for the seasonal reappearance of Downforce, who had a busy time of it last season but kept going – winning races at the beginning and end of the year. He finished off with a good third behind Sovereign Debt in the Listed Knockaire Stakes at Leopardstown over seven furlongs. That was his first run in pattern company and showed he was up to that level so he will start off in the six furlongs Listed Cork Stakes.
Michael Ryan bought Heroic Heart at Tattersalls November Sale and she could have her first run in Ireland at Cork. A daughter of Invincible Spirit, her dam is a full-sister to Yesterday and Quarter Moon so Heroic Heart descends from Kirsten Rausing’s brilliant family of Alruccaba, Alouette, Albanova and Allegretto. It’s a fantastic pedigree.
Catamaran will probably run in the five furlong maiden at Cork, she is the first foal out of Katla who won a few Listed sprints and Billy was in the saddle for a couple of those wins.
Peticoatgovernment won over five furlongs at Cork last season so a return there for her seasonal debut is on the cards. Snowstar might run in Cork too and perhaps Hushing and Holiday Girl, who also run in the blue of Godolphin might make their first starts of 2017 there next week. Faraday’s Law is another filly who could possibly make the trip to Cork on 2 April too.
I feel we are in a good place as the season kicks off and it will be good to get started and see where we are at in a few weeks’ time.