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Plenty of trainers making the grade

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 Rockyaboya and Ruby Walsh win the Paddy Power Chase Leopardstown Christmas Festival Photo: Patrick McCann

Rockyaboya and Ruby Walsh win the Paddy Power Chase Leopardstown Christmas Festival Photo: Patrick McCann

Rockyaboya and Ruby Walsh win the Paddy Power Chase Leopardstown Christmas Festival Photo: Patrick McCann

CHRISTMAS for people in racing is one of the season's main targets. It's the halfway point and for those with horses of a certain calibre you have the top grade races at Leopardstown throughout the week.

Limerick's quality of runners is increasing all of the time and as well as the quality, Limerick is also the scene of many a well-plotted gamble.

Many expected the four days to be a Willie Mullins benefit with the trainer having strong teams going to both tracks, and that was fuelling the fire of those who want to feel that Irish racing is getting boring and all that jazz.

Yes, Willie Mullins trained more winners than anyone else over the four days but he is our champion trainer and it was surely more that class came to the top in certain races rather than pure dominance.

In total, at the three tracks – including Down Royal on St Stephen's Day – over the Christmas period, 63 races were run and 38 trainers saddled a winner while 42 jockeys enjoyed at least one winner. That's near enough to competitive for me.

The seven Grade One races at Leopardstown were won by six trainers, Mullins winning two, while John Kiely saddled his first winner at that grade over jumps for 11 years.

The meeting featured the current Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle winners who obliged in the Lexus and the Ryanair Hurdle respectively.

Gordon Elliott sent out a treble on both the first two days, while Bryan Cooper was second only to Ruby Walsh with four winners while Walsh had six.

 

Dominance

There is even an argument to suggest that had Solwhit not gone lame the evening before his scheduled assignment in the Woodiesdiy Christmas Hurdle, all seven Grade Ones would have been won by different trainers.

For all his supposed dominance, Rockyaboya was Willie Mullins' first winner in the most valuable race of the week, the Paddy Power Chase, while the champion trainer still has never trained the winner of the Lexus Chase.

Once again, and hopefully for the last time for the foreseeable future, I will reiterate that we need to appreciate what we have here now and not give out about it.

The dominance of Willie Mullins and the small fields in Irish racing have been the main topics across the forums for the last few months, but that is hardly dominance and as for the small fields, just look at Cheltenham on Wednesday.

The feature Grade Two novice chase had just four runners, while Annie Power took on just two rivals, both trained by Paul Nicholls, on the same card, while no race on the card had more than 13 runners and only two had 10 or more.

Indeed, if you think we are bad for small fields, also on Wednesday, at Fakenham, just 25 horses completed the races throughout the entire card that's just three more than ran in the opening maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse.


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