THERE hardly seems to be a moment these days to catch breath – not that I am complaining. However, life seems to have accelerated as fast as a Ferrari, and we have gone from lockdown to high-velocity in a matter of weeks.

Where last year’s diary was full of events which subsequently had a line put through them, this year’s edition is filling up, and fast. People’s appetite for Thyestes Day at Gowran Park, the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown, the upcoming Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association’s awards, Cheltenham and more show that there is no shortage of pent-up desire to get out and to mingle.

With January already consigned to history, we are galloping on at a rapid pace, and Tuesday will no doubt see a record turnout for the announcement of the Randox Grand National weights. There will be two kinds of nervousness on show, those who feel they may be allotted a handicap mark that will be too high, and those who worry that their weight might not be enough to get them one of the coveted 40 places in the final field.

At present there are 107 probable runners, though some of these are put forward in the certain knowledge that they have no hope of making it to the start on April 9th. This million-pound race, with a winner’s purse of £500,000, has attracted another quality entry, and there is reason to believe that this year could see a number of notable horses not making the cut.


There is a real sense of anticipation too on the flat racing front, and not just about the start of the turf season in a number of weeks. The Saudi Cup and the Dubai World Cup are on the horizon too, and the level of interest in both is high.

For the latter, some 750 horses from 20 different countries have been nominated for the meeting on March 26th.

With nine races, including five thoroughbred Group 1s, on the card and $30.5 million in prize money, the meeting promises to be a spectacular day of racing, culminating in the 26th Group 1 Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup.

There are 16 horses nominated from Irish trainers, and Ado McGuinness is not only responsible for a quarter of them, but has them all down for more than one race.

Johnny Murtagh has three horses longlisted, father and sons Aidan, Joseph and Donnacha O’Brien collectively have five nominees, while Jessica Harrington, Fozzy Stack, Paddy Twomey and Dermot Weld all have one shot each at their targets.