Chomping at the bit for Joncol's Hennessy shot
It has been a stop-start season due to the extremes of weather, and that continued last weekend with the loss of Naas and Leopardstown. Neither fixture seemed to be in any doubt on Friday, so to end up losing both because of waterlogging was frustrating.
I had been due to ride Joncol in his bid for back-to-back successes in the Hennessy Gold Cup on Sunday, but instead found myself riding him out at Paul Nolan's yard in Wexford. He felt savage well, so I can't wait to finally get it on tomorrow.
That afternoon I spent time with my sister Aisling, our cousin Deirdre and Gerard Hanley, a friend, who were on tour from Galway. They had been in Carlow on Saturday so, with racing abandoned that day, they made the journey down to me in Ballon. Suffice to say it was a much more relaxed afternoon than I had hoped for.
In the evening, I went for a few games of pool in Joe Doyle's pub with my housemate Declan 'Socky' Bates, Philip Rothwell's conditional. 'Socky' has a thing about socks that no one else quite gets and we are trying to get his nickname to stick. This should help!
The new week got under way on Monday with the sad news that Jack Tyner had passed away. I didn't know Jack personally, but his death puts everything into perspective. It was a sad day for racing, and more so for his family and friends.
I lived and worked with Dary Cullen before he died in 2006, so it's something I've had to deal with before. Jack's death was a reminder of how tough racing can be, but it's what we do, and we have to just get on with it. You can't think about the dangers.
On Monday and Tuesday, I rode out in Paul's again, before going swimming in Carlow. The swimming is good for general fitness and I hurt my back when I got a fall off Arklow Ger a few weeks ago, so it helps to loosen me out a bit too. In between sets I sit in the sauna for 20 minutes to get my breath back. I don't need to sweat to keep my weight down or anything, but it helps to relax my muscles.
On Wednesday I rode work for Danny Miley in Wicklow. I ride Rating Queen and Forty Foot Tom for him at Leopardstown tomorrow, so I sat on both of them. They went fine. At 10, Rating Queen's best days may be behind her, but Forty Foot Tom ought to have a squeak in the two-mile handicap hurdle. While he will be better when he steps up in trip, he gets in off a light weight here. That gives him a chance.
In the afternoon I visited Emmet Mullins in Leighlinbridge. Neither of us had rides at Punchestown, so we watched on the television instead. Emmet used to live with us in Ballon, and he hasn't changed much since he left -- still too tight to put the heating on!
I was back on duty at Thurles yesterday, with Coolharbour Breeze finishing down the field in the mares' race on her chasing debut. She should improve for the experience.
After Leopardstown tomorrow, it's on to Navan on Sunday, where Shinrock Paddy will run in the Boyne Hurdle. He showed a lot of guts to win at Naas last time, and ought be thereabouts again on Sunday. It looks a good race, but he gave weight to a smart horse in Donnas Palm at Naas and he never gives in, which is half the battle.
Obviously, though, this weekend is all about the Hennessy for us. Along with Shinrock Paddy, Joncol helped to put me on the map last season, and it would mean a lot to win the Hennessy again. He wasn't right first time out at Navan, but he ran a cracker to be third in the Lexus. Thankfully everything has gone to plan since then, so I'm really looking forward to it.
Michael Doran, Joncol's work rider, says he has been bombing up the gallop all week, so the week-long postponement isn't really a concern. With Pride Of Dulcote out, there is one less to beat now, but there are still plenty of good horses in the race.
That said, I'm not really worried about the opposition, as I've just got to concentrate on doing everything right on Joncol on the day. If everything goes to plan, it's the opposition who will have to worry about us.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie