Thursday 26 April 2018

Nightmare doesn’t mean dream days are over

Faugheen still in line for Cheltenham

Faugheen, with Paul Townend up, clears the last first-time round, before subsequently pulling up in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Faugheen, with Paul Townend up, clears the last first-time round, before subsequently pulling up in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Patrick Mullins

The unthinkable becomes thinkable with surprising speed. Concorde crashed, Blue Bird K7 disappeared without trace for 34 years, the Titanic plummeted to the bottom of the Atlantic and Faugheen pulled up.

It appears icebergs in the mist come in many shapes and sizes. I haven't felt the same child-like shock of disbelief since our unsinkable battleship Florida Pearl fell in 1998, just beside where Faugheen pulled up. I suppose getting older is learning that unthinkable is an untrustworthy word.

It was one of the last results to a tumultuous week, one as unpredictable as any storm in the Bermuda Triangle. Footpad was absolutely scintillating but Al Boum Photo capsized at the last in Limerick with the race at his mercy.

Stewards

Min was thrown out in the stewards' room but at least I think we learned how to race him better in future.

The novice hurdle descended into Reservoir Dogs-style carnage, with Whiskey Sour saving the day after doing a fine impression of Mr Pink avoiding all the trouble.

Losing the admirable Nichols Canyon was the undoubted low point of the Christmas period and it cast a long shadow over the racing for us. Yorkhill and Djakadam capitulating was another hammer blow.

However, perhaps we learned more about Yorkhill for future plans. Despite losing Nichols Canyon and seeing Yorkhill's bubble burst, owner Graham Wylie managed to say: "It'll make us appreciate the good days all the more," through a smile that didn't quite mask the hollow disappointment in his eyes.

Friday dawned and with it the expectation that Faugheen would do what he does. But it was not to be.

From as early as the third hurdle it was clear that the 'Machine' was not in full working order. At least he came back safe and sound, so there will be another day.

While his aura of invincibility has been lost, his defeat does not seem related to any of his old physical injuries and I expect to see him in Cheltenham.

We now have to trust in that often treacherous friend, hope, that the real 'Machine' will ride again in March to take back what is rightfully his.

Racing can often test your resilience, a test which we would all rather not have to take. Battles weren't won but the war is far from over.

I momentarily thought I saw Willie sitting at the kitchen table, out of the corner of my eye, with his head in his hands over a cup of tea but when I looked he was merely checking how Manchester United had got on. That would sufficiently explain the head in his hands.

There will be better days ahead, as there have been before. And we will appreciate them all the more.

If anyone is feeling withdrawals after the Christmas excess of top-class racing, Naas tomorrow provides welcome relief.

The meeting lost its star attraction with Samcro out but we send Next Destination forward to try and pull back some of Gordon Elliott's mammoth lead in the race for the trainers' title.

His lead is more than double what it was this time last year, so the task appears to be Herculean. Nevertheless, try we will. Race by race, euro by euro.

We've been looking forward to unleashing Next Destination and had hoped to call Samcro's bluff tomorrow.

That call will have to wait for another day, unfortunately.

However, he still faces some intriguing opponents as we all try to put the jigsaw that is the novice standings together.

Speak Easy looks the one to fear most but he lacks experience. The questions asked today will provide some interesting answers.

Duc Des Genievres provides ample back-up, which we saw last week you can need. He has limited options having won a hurdle in France.

He is a big, strong horse who will jump fences in time. He is a similar model to Sir Des Champs and while this is a big ask we expect him to acquit himself well.

Exciting

We also send out another exciting new recruit today. Demi Sang is two from two over fences in France and is a different make to Duc Des Genievres.

He is leggier and slimmer, more typically French. He isn't in our yard long, and has a different profile than most of our French horses, having won over hurdles and fences before joining us.

We like what we've seen from him at home but this won't be an easy assignment.

To my eye he is a horse who will be stronger and better next season. Regardless, we think he will be well up to winning good races this season.

Patrick's picks

Livelovelaugh (Cork 2.30)

Demi Sang (Naas, tom, 1,15)

Next Destination (Naas, 1.45)

Irish Independent

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