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Katie Walsh: Historic day for Naas racecourse

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Katie Walsh. Picture: Colin O'Riordan

Katie Walsh. Picture: Colin O'Riordan

Katie Walsh. Picture: Colin O'Riordan

I THINK it is fair to say that a memorable year for Irish racing came to a very fitting close at Leopardstown last week and it was fitting that two champions such as Hurricane Fly and Jezki went head-to-head in such a thrilling race on the final day.

'The Fly' is something else and he's a credit to Willie Mullins and everyone involved with him. Gail who looks after him does a great job because he's not straightforward, he'd bite you and kick you before he'd lick you!

Hurricane Fly is 11 now but he doesn't know he's 11 and that's the main thing and he's obviously a very healthy horse who has a great constitution for the game.

To come back time and time again and win 21 Grade One races is absolutely phenomenal going and after ending last season with two defeats to Jezki and turning the tables in their two meetings this season is a fantastic achievement.

BATTLES

2015 will undoubtedly see more battles between the two of them, firstly at Leopardstown later this month and obviously back at Cheltenham where The New One and Faugheen will also be there to have a say and there's loads to look forward to in that division.

The Lexus at Leopardstown was also a cracking race which was run 11-seconds quicker than the King George at Kempton and I must admit I was surprised to see Road To Riches winning but he's a leading player now in the Gold Cup now and he deserves to be.

Imagine coming up against him in the Galway Plate! Fair play to Noel Meade, he is a horse that is clearly improving but On His Own has to have every chance in the Gold Cup again and Lord Windermere will be a good each way bet again if he comes back to form.

There was a day off after Leopardstown but then it was straight back into the mix at Punchestown on New Year's Eve and Fairyhouse and Tramore yesterday but it is the Naas card on Sunday that really is one to savour.

It's a big day for Naas as it is their first ever Grade One race and it's thoroughly deserved for the track. Naas is a real top class track where the best horse always win and there aren't usually many excuses. It's a proper Grade One track.

Now that they have a Grade One over jumps, it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Naas find themselves with a Group race on the Flat in the near future. They've done a lot of work on the track in recent years and they are now reaping the rewards.

Looking at the entries for the Grade One Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas on Sunday and it attracted some of the leading novices in Ireland. Skipping Leopardstown at Christmas is not an easy thing to do as that is the big stage but among the horses entered for Naas are Tell Us More and Douvan who are two of the highest rated novices in Willie Mullins' yard and No More Heroes and Free Expression who are two very highly regarded sorts from Gordon Elliott's.

Dad runs a horse called On Impulse in the race but it'll be a big step up for him. He's a really nice type and was very good when winning for us at Punchestown in a maiden hurdle but there's a big difference between stepping up from a maiden into Grade One company. He came out of Punchestown well, seems in good form in himself and hopefully he'll run a nice race. We'll surely learn a lot more about him after this run and make a plan from there.

No resolutions but more of same would do

I'm not one that sits around thinking of setting goals or targets at this time of year but 2014 was a very good one for me with Thousand Stars in France and Your Busy in the Kerry National and I'd take your hand and all off if you offered me something similar for 2015.

I would obviously love to ride at Cheltenham again this year and see how we get on over there and naturally I'd love to ride in another Grand National at Aintree but this is horse racing and you never know what is going to happen or what is around the corner.

Like every jockey, the main aim is to stay sound and healthy for the year and after that we'll take what comes our way.

I suppose Foxrock, trained by Dad and Dai Bando trained by Ross are the two horses I'm looking forward to seeing progress throughout the year.

Foxrock ran a brilliant race in the Paddy Power at Leopardstown considering he had to carry top weight and he seems none the worse for the run so we'll regroup and go again with him.

Dai Bando was a little disappointing at Leopardstown but the ground was heavy and St Stephen's Day threw up a few strange results so Ross will have a look at the calendar and see where he goes next and hopefully he'll bounce back from that.


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