Saturday 10 December 2016

Faraway hills are greener for Cawley

Published 31/10/2011 | 05:00

It was great to see Alain Cawley (24) hit the ground running in his new job with Martin Keighley when scoring on Havingotascoobydo at Wetherby on Saturday.

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A former champion conditional jockey, he emerged as one of the most promising young riders in the business when taking what opportunities came his way during his association with Paul Nolan.

The season before last, he excelled, in particular, on Shinrock Paddy and Joncol, recording three Grade One triumphs on the stout stayers in his first season without a claim.

It was a pity, then, that such a talented prospect began to struggle more recently, but his plight is sadly typical, especially in Ireland, where there is little turnover at the top of the riders' table.

While winning a three-runner non-event of a novice chase on Havingotascoobydoo -- his first spin for his new boss and his first winner since early June -- is nothing to write home about, at least he started with a flourish.

A quick glance at the current jump jockeys' standings provides further proof of how stubbornly unchanging the old order is in these parts.

The current leader Davy Russell has been second in the championship five times in a row, and took third prior to that.

Barry Geraghty, Paul Carberry and Ruby Walsh hunt him up, all even more permanent fixtures in the top four or five. Notice anyone missing from that line-up?

That's right, the reigning champion jockey Paul Townend, whose 14th winner of the campaign at Wexford yesterday left him joint 13th on the table.

Townend is irrefutably established as one of the most polished riding sensations in the jumping game, with a catalogue of big-race success that belies his 21 years.

He was injured for the first two months of the season and his boss Willie Mullins is only starting to motor now, but his modest position on the leaderboard is indicative of just how competitive life as a jockey is in Ireland.

Townend is riding as well as ever and isn't going at all badly. With six up for Mullins, he has partnered twice as many winners for the champion trainer as Walsh has.

Still, the Cork-born rider is now 33/1 to retain his title, with Walsh as low as 8/13, despite Russell still being 20 clear of him and with plenty of good horses to ride for Gigginstown.

Suffice to say, then, not only will Walsh be anxious that the controversy surrounding the whip in Britain is resolved to his satisfaction soon, but Townend and Russell head a long list of domestic riders eager for the same outcome.

Race that stops a nation

There are no Irish-trained runners in tomorrow morning's Melbourne Cup, but there are 11 European contenders.

Jukebox Jury, which dead-heated with Duncan in the Irish St Leger, is one of two Mark Johnston runners, while Ed Dunlop's Red Cadeaux, third that day, also runs.

Luca Cumani, who has twice trained the runner-up in the Australian feature, is represented by Drunken Sailor and Manighar.

Brian Ellison also saddles two, including the Ebor winner Moyenne Corniche. Godolphin relies on Lost In The Moment and Modun, while last year's winner Americain is 4/1 to retain his title.

Second favourite at 7/1 is his French counterpart Dunaden. That one landed the Geelong Cup two weeks ago, the very race Americain won en route to glory in 2010.

Faheys excel at Naas

Cheltenham Festival winner Noble Prince put himself in line for a tilt at the Paddy Power Gold Cup back at Prestbury Park by hosing up in the Poplar Chase at Naas on Saturday, and the Kildare venue also proved a happy hunting ground for the Fahey family.

Monasterevin handler Peter Fahey watched as his brother-in-law Andrew Leigh took the conditions hurdle on Owega Star, before his brother Paul recorded a head victory in the handicap hurdle with the Emmet Mullins-ridden He'llberemembered.

Ride of the weekend

For a man who has flirted with retirement in the past, Timmy Murphy's winning steer on Weird Al in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby on Saturday was another reminder of his enduring talent.

Never far off the pace, Murphy coaxed a clean round of jumping out of the eight-year-old, and timed his run brilliantly to pick off long-time leader Time For Rupert with an irrepressible run approaching the last fence.

Training performance

Willie Codd produced Dawn Commander to win well on his racecourse debut at Wexford yesterday.

It was a fair performance from the grey four-year-old -- successful in a point-to-point at Tinahely recently -- to win a maiden hurdle at the first time of asking, and it was no surprise to hear that he is now bound for Brightwells Sales at Cheltenham in November.

Learn's French lesson

Learn, the only Ballydoyle runner at Saint-Cloud yesterday, failed to make the frame in the Group One Criterium International. Having led over a furlong out under Colm O'Donoghue, he tired to finish fourth behind the Nicolas Clement-trained French Fifteen. Ian Balding's Bonfire was an unlucky third.

Number of the week

2 Johnny Murtagh's lead over Pat Smullen in the Flat jockeys' championship after Smullen cut the gap with a fine treble at Leopardstown yesterday. Next week's fixture at the Dublin venue is the season finale, with just Dundalk on Friday in between.

Tweet of the week

"Ur bank balance wud be happier with 2nd me thinks!! Hope you gave Raj a nice tip!" -- After Jamie Spencer tweets that he may as well be beaten 10 lengths as the short head that he was in Dubai yesterday, Paddy Brennan is quick to set him straight, before also responding to Spencer's tongue-in-cheek references to Raj, the obliging porter that features in the ads for Dubai during Channel Four's racing coverage.

lIt was a good weekend for followers of Richard Forristal's selections, with four of his nominations scoring at combined odds of 56/1 at Wexford yesterday. Also yesterday, Hope Point and Bowntobebad, his two picks at Huntingdon, collected at 7/2 and 15/8 respectively, while at Naas on Saturday the gambled on Ten Bob (4/1) was one of three winners that he advised.

Irish Independent

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