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Friday 15 December 2017

Katie Walsh: Foxrock proves that he is definitely on the incline

Foxrock, with Adrian Heskin up, on their way to winning the BoyleSports Chase
Foxrock, with Adrian Heskin up, on their way to winning the BoyleSports Chase

I stood in the stand near the last fence at Leopardstown beside my husband Ross last Sunday and watched the Hennessy Gold Cup play out with my heart was jumping out of my chest.

I stood in the stand near the last fence at Leopardstown beside my husband Ross last Sunday and watched the Hennessy Gold Cup play out with my heart was jumping out of my chest.

To be honest, in a race like that you tend to only watch your own horse and my eyes were fixed on Foxrock. From the turn in to the straight I was delighted that he was after stepping up this level and was going to run a good race to justify his place in a Grade One, but then when he was coming to the last and jumping it in front I started roaring.

At that point I thought he would actually go away from the last and win the Hennessy, but it just wasn't quite to be and it was just written in the stars for AP to win it on Carlingford Lough, 24 hours after announcing his intention to retire... AP had never won the Hennessy before and then goes and wins the only one he could win!

delighted

Obviously, I would have preferred if Foxrock had won, but I was delighted for AP. What he has done in his career and for the sport of horse racing is just incredible and he deserved the reception he got afterwards. There was a great atmosphere and there was no doubt that a lot of people were there to see him as they appreciate they might not get the opportunity again and in typical AP fashion he didn't let them down.

I mentioned in one of my first weekly columns back in the autumn that I was really looking forward to seeing Foxrock progress this season. To be honest, though, even then I'm not sure I would have expected him to finish second in an Irish Hennessy.

We were initially disappointed when he got beaten in the Paddy Power at Christmas, but he was impressive in the Leopardstown Chase and he deserved to run against those horses on Sunday.

I thought he had a really good chance of running well and I was just hoping he would. In fairness to the horse, he was getting back at Carlingford Lough going to the line and I love to see a horse doing that.

I work at home with Dad every day and I ride Foxrock out every day. Foxrock only has three horses rated above him in Ireland. Road To Riches won a Lexus, Carlingford Lough won a Hennessy and Don Cossack is favourite for the Ryanair at Cheltenham. We are only a small stable and we've been lucky in the past to have horses to run in the Gold Cup like Rince Ri and Commanche Court and you'd have to say after the other day that Foxrock is a potential Gold Cup horse.

I know Foxrock has fairly dominated this page in recent weeks but to do what he did last Sunday means that he is a bit special and it's an honour to have him.

Everyone is afraid to think that you have a horse like that until they go and do it, but when you line up at Leopardstown with all the horses carrying level weights in a Grade One, well, there are no lies, and the first two pulled eight lengths clear of the third horse, who won a Cheltenham Gold Cup last year.

Thankfully, Foxrock is fine after his run and there are no problems that way at all. Dad and Barry Connell will sit down in time and have a chat and make a decision about where he goes next.

Cheltenham is still a few weeks away so no decision has to be made for a while yet and I would think that it will be a last-minute decision.

There are plenty of other options around and a lot of races to be won besides Cheltenham, but naturally to have another horse to line-up in the Gold Cup would be fantastic for everybody. It's very exciting to be honest, but Foxrock is only seven and you'd have to imagine that whatever he does for the rest of his seven-year-old campaign that he is on the incline rather than the decline. He's only coming to himself.

All in all, though, it was a fantastic day's racing at Leopardstown last Sunday and great for AP, John Kiely and the McManus family.

The silence around Leopardstown when Brian Gleeson interviewed AP after the race was incredible - it was actually a bit weird - when you think how hard it is to get people to stay quiet during speeches at a wedding and here was over 11,000 hanging on every word.

AP really got the respect he deserved.

 

Everyone is afraid to think that you have a horse like that until they go and do it

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