WHAT little growing up I did happened within walking distance of Mick O’Toole’s yard in Maddenstown. It was the most exciting place with many household names both human and equine winning at the highest level. Micko trained a Cheltenham Festival Grade 1 winner and a Royal Ascot two-year-old winner in the same year, which not many could attempt even now.

Among the human celebrities there were many who enjoyed the buzz of Davy Lad and Dickens Hill not to forget Chinrullah, Faliraki nor Parkhill. The people included Dessie Hughes, Martin Brassil, Bobby O’Ryan and Mr R.S. (Bob) Townend.

Many years later in November 2017, by which time I was involved with the Navan Racecourse team, I spotted a familiar face in the crowd. Micko came racing, not a common occurrence at this stage. He revealed that he was in Navan to see Al Boum Photo make his debut over fences. His friend and occasional betting-ring adversary, Joe Donnelly, had asked him to “find me a horse” because he wanted to get back into the game in which he had cut his teeth.

Less brandy and more tea

Micko was shrewd enough to see that the most likely place to find a good horse was where there seemed to be plenty of them and he asked Willie Mullins to help in the search. We witnessed a comfortable win for Al Boum Photo and a lengthy post-race analysis, which was less brandy and more tea than in the glory days, but Micko had all his old swagger back and the future looked accurately bright. The fact that it was a Townend in the saddle was a happy coincidence.

Micko was called from us in 2018, so he only caught glimpses of what was to come. The Donnellys regularly make reference to his role in their resurgence in racing and every win in the Donnelly colours is celebrated in O’Toole’s like the great days of old.

Masterclass in retraining

Al Boum Photo won two Cheltenham Gold Cups and ran well in another couple. Does it matter where he ranks in the pantheon of the greats? Is there one amongst us who would not give the world to own his likeness? Well, there is better news: he will be on view at RACE on Tuesday next where he is one of the stars of the Women’s Irish Network For Racing (WINR) and Treo Eile Spring Showcase. The theme of the event is “Racing and Beyond” and will be held at RACE and the Irish National Stud in Kildare town on Tuesday, April 16th from 3pm to 8pm.

The Showcase will start off with a masterclass in retraining with some stars of the track in the vast indoor riding school at RACE. You can meet your heroes Sizing John, Al Boum Photo and Snow Falcon. Watch them take part in a training session and listen to the mic’d up conversations between coaches Esib Power and Joanne Quirke and riders Kate Harrington, Emma Connolly and Louise Duffy.

The evening session starts with a reception at the Irish National Stud café and MC Patrick Mullins will get up close and personal with Johnny Murtagh, Dena Merson and guests to talk about their transitions into and within racing. This promises to be an unmissable event, don’t miss it!

To book your place scan the QR code.

Date for the diary

HRI Equine Welfare Symposium

Changing Stride: The way ahead for horseracing safety and care

ON May 24th in the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge, starting at 9am sharp, we host a symposium which has its theme as Horseracing Safety and Care. We will be joined by guest speakers Tamzin Furtado, Orla Doherty, Rachel Annan and Graham Adams.

There will be a presentation from various companies that have solutions to some of our challenges, namely, EquiTrace which utilises the microchip and the smartphone in innovative ways, RaceiQ which has been developed by RMG to utilise data analytics including sectional timing to give us a deeper understanding of the dynamics of a race as it unfolds, Equine MediRecord which simplifies compliance with raceday protocols assisting both the trainers and the regulators to make the day biosecure, the app Sleip which assesses the gait of a horse and assists in detecting any changes in stride pattern, and Equimetrics, a company specialising in analysing changes in physiology through the training regime.

A symposium is a two-way dialogue between the speakers and the audience, so it will be important that all interested parties are present or are represented to join in the discussion on these and other topics, helping us all to improve horseracing safety and care.