independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Competitive Edge success puts welcome spring in our step

I watched the Sandyford Handicap Chase at Leopardstown last Sunday alongside Frank Berry and Tom Taaffe, who trains the eventual runner-up Quartetto.

When Quartetto and Competitive Edge flashed by the line together, myself and Tom were like, "ah, your fella shaded it."

"No, I think your fella did" – and so on!

If I hadn't been without a winner for eight months, I might have been more confident that AP McCoy had got Competitive Edge up. With the horse still a novice, it helped that a few fences were bypassed, but AP lifted him home – as only he can.

We felt Competitive Edge would go close and he was backed. In that respect, if you're going to end a barren spell, to do it on a Grade One card with a fancied JP McManus horse, is the way to go. At least you know you're doing something right.

We've just had to keep faith in what we were doing at home when the results were going against us and hope that we'd turn a corner soon. With a bit of luck, Sunday might have been that turning point, because we have a nice team for the spring and summer.

Ebazan, which Barry Connell purchased out of John Oxx's in the autumn, is one we should have plenty fun with over hurdles, and it was great to see Barry appoint young Danny Mullins as his retained rider this week.

For me, a lot of jockeys are as good as each other starting off, but the ones who progress to the next level are the ones who catch a decent break – this is Danny's big break.

I travelled to the races on Sunday with Patrick McCormack and Peter Murphy, the three of us having been to the sales in Cheltenham on Saturday.

Patrick and Peter sold their bumper winner Moyle Park for £250,000, so we had a car full of very contented people by the time we left Leopardstown.

We enjoyed a meal and a few drinks afterwards and I must admit that I did pull out a bit hazy on Monday morning. Still, I was up first thing to check Sunday's runners.

To this day, I love the day-to-day chores like checking legs and studying handicap marks. Dave Geoghegan, who had been my head lad since I began training, moved on before Christmas, so I have been doing a lot more of the management duties lately.

Matthieu Palussiere helps out at the moment, though he is due to return to France soon. He did well as a trainer when he had the horses, but decided a few months ago that he didn't have the numbers to make it viable. That's the way the job is now.

I still ride out and do a bit of schooling myself. Although I haven't blown up or anything, I'd always have been keeping a stone and a half off while I was riding, so I'm "a-round" 12st now – heavy enough to keep me off the gallopers.

Next weekend's Hennessy Gold Cup back at Leopardstown should be a cracking contest.

With Cheltenham in mind, if the ground is good, First Lieutenant might be the horse to take out of the Lexus, as I felt he was unlucky the way the race unfolded. Ruby Walsh was masterful on Tidal Bay, but the late gap that he got was an absolute gift as well. That just might have been Tidal Bay's day.

Sir Des Champs is the one for me next week, as Flemenstar looks as though he needs a shorter trip. Having twice won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, I know how much of an out-and-out staying contest it is – they never let up – and I can't see that suiting him.

Sir Des Champs, on the other hand, will be better the further he goes, especially if there is a cut in the ground come March. That said, he really needs to win the Hennessy to be considered a genuine Gold Cup contender.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie

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