HAPPY new year to all our readers. It is New Year’s Day as I pen this, following a visit to Tramore to see a horse in which I have about a 2% share run in the opener. Ground conditions proved to be telling, and we live to fight another day.
As I landed at the Co Waterford track, and was enjoying a delicious cappuccino from one of the well-managed outdoor catering units, Facebook reminded me that I was at the same venue, on the same day, five years earlier. There was a real since of déjà vu as the sun was shining then, just as it did for one of the first race meetings of 2022.
The feature race that day in 2017, then a listed contest, was won by Henry de Bromhead with Champagne West, part of a double on the day for the local trainer. Next time out the gelding didn’t have far to travel to Gowran Park where he added the Goffs Thyestes Chase to his career tally of victories.
The race, now the Grade 3 Savills New Year’s Day Chase, has been run five times since, dominated by Willie Mullins, and for the fourth year in succession was won by Joe and Marie Donnelly’s Al Boum Photo. A major shift of power since 2017 has been the fact that Mullins had one of the five runners on the day, while this time he had five of the six declared runners, and saddled all the four starters.
Within an hour of Al Boum Photo winning, the Closutton handler saddled Stormy Ireland to win the Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle at Cheltenham, thus completing yet another astonishing haul of big race prizes over the Christmas period.
Apart from the major successes, many others during the week, emanating from Co Carlow, were staking their claims for major prizes as the season progresses.
Gordon Elliott’s yard also had a great time, and one must wonder if the commentators, and the British trainers, across the water are already quaking in their boots at the prospects of the Irish horses at Cheltenham in 10 weeks or so. A lot can change and stables can be out of form, but the battalion currently being assembled for the annual pilgrimage to Prestbury Park looks formidable.
I usually try to avoid ‘Cheltenham hype’ for as long as possible, but it is hard not to be excited about the quality of the potential Irish party, and all we can hope is that they stay safe and come through their prep races in one piece.