Sport Horse Racing

Monday 19 February 2018

A million reasons to cheer Ash's sweeping victory

Invincible Ash ridden by Gary Carroll wins the National Lottery Swepstakes on Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby day at Curragh. Photo: PA
Invincible Ash ridden by Gary Carroll wins the National Lottery Swepstakes on Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby day at Curragh. Photo: PA

Mick Halford

Being Irish Derby weekend, last weekend was a busy one for everyone at Seven Springs Stables. On Friday morning I started in the yard at 6.30, making declarations and going through entries in the office to begin with.

We also had a lot of horses to work and swim during the morning. We like to swim them as much as we can when the weather is good; with it being so beautiful last week, plenty made it into the pool.

In the afternoon, I spent a few hours helping to clear out our old kitchen. My wife Louise is due twins on July 19 (that will be five kids under five years of age) and we are going to need a bit more space, so we are in the process of building an extension. I get stuck in and do my bit, before heading for The Curragh in the evening.

Barrow Island ran well to be third in the maiden for Johnny Murtagh and Airspace got the weekend off to a great start by winning the five-furlong sprint. The Friday night of the Derby festival is always a real local night, so it was nice to get a result.

I was in the yard at 5.45 again on Saturday morning, as we wanted to take two fillies up to The Curragh to work. My apprentices Shane Foley and Gary Carroll did the steering and we were back on site by 7.20, just in time for first lot.

With no runners at The Curragh, I stayed at home to watch the racing on TV -- I was glad of the rest. In the evening, I ventured outside with my sons, Josh and Tommy, to wash and clean out the car but that's about as strenuous as it got.

I like to treat the kids to breakfast on a Sunday morning and Irish Derby day is no different. After dining with them in the usual spot, Toughers in Newbridge, I left to saddle our three runners at The Curragh. Invincible Ash -- which was drawn one, the same stall that Airspace won from on Friday -- provided us with a memorable highlight by winning the National Lottery Sweepstakes Race under Gary Carroll.

Trevor and Caroline Cawley, the lucky couple from Sligo who drew Invincible Ash in the sweep, won a cool €1m. The excitement in the winner's enclosure was just amazing.

I think that PJ Condron, the mare's owner, and his wife Bernie got a bit of a shock, as the place erupted when all the prize winners arrived in. It was a pleasure to be part of such a special occasion and I hope the race becomes an annual feature -- I think people will really buy into it.

That evening, we went to a barbecue at Conor and Audrey O'Dwyer's. The mood, the food and the company were all great and there was lots of slagging. Of course, I got plenty of it after the sweepstake win. Conor was convinced that I would be after selling the Cawleys a horse already, but I haven't -- yet!

Although we had a full turnout in the yard on Monday morning, there were a few sore heads knocking around, which was probably to be expected. Thankfully, it was a quiet day, as was Tuesday, Louise's birthday. We went for a bite to eat in Naas in the evening and were back home by 11.0.

The following evening, I took three to Fairyhouse. We had a second and two thirds, while Shane Foley rode a double, so it was a decent night's work for the yard.

Yesterday then was another busy morning. One owner called in to see his two-year-old gallop and then Pat Downes, HH the Aga Khan's racing manager, met us at The Curragh to watch a few go through their paces.

Zerashan, which won at Fairyhouse recently and is due to go to Leopardstown next week, went sweetly under Fran Berry. He beat Simkana, a sister of Sinndar's, when he won and has progressed well since, so I'm hopeful that he might draw again on Thursday.

Indian Wind is our only runner at Bellewstown this evening. He may be up against it and instead I'd be more hopeful for our two which run there tomorrow.

Ibelieveinmiracles will have a chance in what looks a weak five-furlong maiden, while Harranda could also go close in her maiden. And having finished third after being badly hampered last time, she ought to be thereabouts.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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