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Track talk with Niall Cronin: Travel does indeed broaden the mind


Hurricane Fly leads at the last as Jezki is none too clever

Hurricane Fly leads at the last as Jezki is none too clever

Hurricane Fly leads at the last as Jezki is none too clever

HEAVY rain, hail, freezing cold weather and even Christmas is a rather distant thought right bang in the middle of Hong Kong at the moment.

The bright lights that provide the landscape at Happy Valley Racecourse are rather different than the ones Santa turns on around the towns of Ireland at this time of year and the quick ground for track work in the mornings at Sha Tin would only be a nightmare for those planning runners at Leopardstown or Limerick.

But there is no doubt that seeing how things work at the big race meetings in Hong Kong and Melbourne certainly would make you jealous when you reflect on how things operate back at home.


There are some things that we could just never even dream of trying, and there are others - like the climate - that are out of the control of the best racecourses in Ireland.

The number one thing I think that we need to introduce somewhere in the racing calendar is an International Jockeys' Challenge.

You are not comparing like with like when making the point that there was over 30,000 people at Happy Valley on Wednesday, because we'd never dream of that crowd and while the Shergar Cup, held at Ascot every year since 2000, could be deemed a success, it probably isn't an overwhelming one.

Nevertheless, we pride ourselves on producing the best jockeys, trainers and horses in the world, so let's open up one of our Group One tracks and bring over some of the best of the rest in the jockey ranks and give the racing public a chance to see Ryan Moore, Richard Hughes, Joao Moreira, Yuichi Fukunaga and S'Manga Khumalo.

Obviously, you'd like to do something like this on nice ground, as that's what Flat horses tend to like, but you can never be sure of that at anytime of year in Ireland, so let someone take a stab at it in March or November before the season gets up and running or just after it draws to a close.

The fireworks display at Happy Valley really added to the occasion I experienced on Wednesday night, although I don't know where fireworks would work in Ireland outside of Dundalk but some racecourse has to get on to this bandwagon.

Leopardstown for one of their big concerts on a Thursday night in the summer would probably be a prime candidate, although this is something that you'd like to see at a showcase meeting, and although Punchestown is a twilight meeting it probably isn't just dark enough for such a show quickly enough after the last race.

The fireworks certainly create an atmosphere but it is in that department where we certainly can be proud of ourselves - the atmosphere at our tracks.

There has been a lot to love about Melbourne and Hong Kong so far, but there is still nothing yet to match the atmosphere of Sprinter Sacre at Punchestown or what it could be like if Jezki and Hurricane Fly jump the last together upsides in just over a fortnight.


The scene at Happy Valley was simply incredible but bring any of those in attendance there to a balmy, summer evening's racing in Killarney and I'm sure they would be in just as much awe.

There's things we'd love to try and other things we must do, but while we can learn from the rest of the world, at times, it is nice to know that in Ireland we can also be trend-setters rather than followers.

Longevity is Power-ful thing in the Flat game

Sole Power fully deserved to be crowned Horse Of The Year at Monday's HRI Awards as did Australia and as did Hurricane Fly.

That's not being unfair to the other candidates by not mentioning them but after a fantastic season that will end (hopefully in style) in Hong Kong on Sunday, Sole Power was a worthy winner.

Australia was a dual Derby winner, which is hardly common, and Hurricane Fly is a 20-time Grade One winner which has simply never been done before, three of those Grade Ones coming since he won Horse Of The Year last year.

But I think as well as winning three times at Group level this year, Sole Power proved that when it comes to good Flat horses, their longevity is key.

The fact that he is a gelding is not a topic you'll get Eddie Lynam talking too long about, but the fact that he's been around long enough for us all to enjoy and appreciate him was obviously a help in his deserved appreciation earlier this week.