Tuesday 21 January 2020

Hot streak sets me up nicely to end festival famine on Moon Dice

For as long as I've been a jockey, I've had a tendency to ride winners in clusters. Before last Wednesday, I hadn't ridden a winner for a month. Then The Bishop Looney got up at Punchestown, Whatdoyousay won at Thurles, Burrenbridge Lodge won at Fairyhouse and Paddy Pub made it four in four race-days at Naas last Sunday.

I suppose confidence has something to do with it. If you're riding winners, you ride better -- but it's not just that either, as the first winner has to come from somewhere.

To a certain extent, every jockey's fate is in the hands of the trainers that he rides for -- when their horses are going well, you are too.

Burrenbridge Lodge's neck success in the Winning Fair Hurdle was his trainer Kieran Purcell's first graded victory.

Kieran, whose Windgap stables are 20 minutes from where I live in Inistioge, paid just €2,000 for Burrenbridge, yet the horse has won four hurdle races and €67,500 in prize money. Kieran is exceptional at getting the most out of limited resources like that.

Today, I must attend an appeal at the Turf Club by the connections of the horse that Burrenbridge Lodge beat at Gowran Park on January 26.

That's over five weeks between an incident happening and an appeal being heard, which is hugely unsatisfactory, given the potential implications of the objection being upheld.

If Burrenbridge Lodge is thrown out of the Gowran race today, that means he carried a 3lb penalty unnecessarily last Saturday. Now, I know it all worked out okay at Fairyhouse, but had we been beaten a neck by Minsk -- carrying an extra 3lb for a win that subsequently gets taken off you -- it would have left a sour taste.

If the horse ran 10 days after the incident and it was impossible to organise an appeal in time, fair enough, but five weeks isn't on, certainly not when there's a €24,750 pot at stake -- as there was on Saturday.

As far as I know, the Turf Club waits until there are a few cases to be heard before convening an appeals panel, but it's hardly ideal.

This week began with a trip to Glenview Stud in Cork. Mondays are quiet, so I took one of my father George's broodmares down to be covered by Dubai Destination.


It was on to Tipperary then on Tuesday to ride a few for Kieran in the schooling races. Run For Firth, a Dromahane point-to-point winner in November, went really well, and should have a big say in a bumper over the next few weeks.

Until just recently, there must have been up to 300 horses attending many of these schooling sessions at places like Tipperary and Thurles, yet there might still only be 10 runners in a maiden hurdle two days later.

Nowadays, I think people get horses ready to be tried in the schooling races and if they don't shape up, they pull the plug.

In the past, horses like that would have clogged up the system trying to get runs in maiden hurdles, but owners and trainers are more selective about what they run now.

Yesterday I was schooling at the Doninga gallops before riding at Thurles (no joy), and I'll be on the road at 5.30 this morning to get to Jim Culloty's Churchtown yard.

Jim has Lord Windermere and Barel Of Laughs in at Cheltenham; both will gallop after racing at Leopardstown on Sunday, so that should tell us whether or not to travel.

At the moment, my only confirmed ride for Cheltenham is Paul Flynn's Moon Dice in the County Hurdle, and it is a good one to have. He provided us with a memorable triumph in the Galway Hurdle during the summer and was really unlucky in running when fourth in the Greatwood at Cheltenham in November, so I'm pretty hopeful.

With five years having passed since my previous Festival winner -- Oscar Park in the Pertemps -- I wouldn't mind finally tasting a bit of Prestbury Park success again.

Follow The Plan, which finished fourth in the Hennessy last time, runs in the Carrickmines Handicap Chase at Leopardstown on Sunday.

I work-rode him last week and he felt great, so he could take a bit of beating, with conditions likely to be ideal. Dysios might also run well at Navan tomorrow. On his first run over hurdles at Gowran, he tired into eighth after racing keenly, so he will be better for that now.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie

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