Sunday 18 February 2018

Wins now and Lilywhites make it week to remember

Niall 'Slippers' Madden on board Persian Gayle in the Signature Novice Hurdle on day four of the Summer Festival at Galway. Photo: Sportsfile
Niall 'Slippers' Madden on board Persian Gayle in the Signature Novice Hurdle on day four of the Summer Festival at Galway. Photo: Sportsfile

Sometimes it's hard to understand why we call the summer the quiet time for National Hunt racing. Wednesday was my first day off in 10 days and the week of Galway is always particularly demanding.

Still, riding a few winners makes life easier.

I was in luck at Ballybrit on Thursday and Friday. Wins Now's triumph in the Galway Blazers Chase for my dad and JP McManus was particularly sweet, as he has been frustrating, and it was a nice pot.

All in all, Galway was enjoyable, and I continued what has become a tradition at this stage by working a few nights in the Hole in the Wall pub in town.

I'm friendly with the owners, so I started working there during race week a few years ago as an alternative to going out on the dry and standing around like a bit of a spare part. It keeps me occupied and you still get to meet everyone and have the craic.

I'd no joy at the track on the Saturday or Sunday, but there was plenty of joy in the car on the way home as I listened to the commentary of the Kildare-Meath game.

As an avid Kildare fan, I had wagered a few bets with the Meath lads in the weigh room.

Robbie 'Puppy' Power had been particularly sure of himself, so I was happy to relieve him of a good lump of cash after what was a great win.

I'd been to a few Kildare games prior to last Sunday, but Galway is on again the day of the All-Ireland semi-final, so I just hope they get past Down and get to the final now -- there is no jump racing that day.

On Monday, I headed south to Cork with Paddy Kennedy, Mark Walsh and Andrew McNamara. I had three rides for Dad and JP McManus, all of which lined up with decent chances.

Ainama and Salesin both won nicely, while Clancy Strand ran well to be second in the handicap hurdle. It was a good day, but it's always the one that you get beaten on that bugs you.

Mark had a winner too, so it was a happy enough car going home.

The following morning, I rode work on the Curragh for Dad, before heading into Bardons in Kilcullen for a bite of lunch. After that it was on to Roscommon for one.

I had been looking forward to riding Third Level Tome for Charles Byrnes up there, only to get brought down at the second hurdle. That's racing for you -- on top of the world one day, on your backside the next. It was a long way to go for such a short ride, but them's the breaks. Mark had no joy either.

That night, I went back to Kilcullen for a meal and a few drinks. With no racing on Wednesday, it was nice to be able to switch off for a few hours, celebrate the winners and nurse the wounds after the spill.

I rode out on the Curragh again on Wednesday morning, before making the most of the day off to catch up on a few jobs like dropping into Naas to get my suits dry-cleaned after Galway.

While I was there, I picked up a gift for my girlfriend Emma, whose birthday is tomorrow, and called into my parents for a cup of tea and a chat.

I didn't need to ride out anywhere yesterday morning, so I was nice and fresh for the drive to Sligo with Barry Geraghty. Tonight then, we're in action at Wexford, where I have a two spins.

I'm on Eventide for my cousin Ivor Keeling, but Trevor Horgan's Artic Zone is probably the pick of the two. He won for me at Kilbeggan recently, and the trip and ground will suit tonight, so he should be thereabouts again.

After that, it's on to Kilbeggan tomorrow, Downpatrick Sunday and Ballinrobe on Monday. The off-season is right!

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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