Katie Walsh: I'll be hoping Dad will strike Gold
I think it goes without saying that this Sunday’s card at Leopardstown is as good a meeting as you are going to find in the build-up to Cheltenham.
It’s a cracking day’s racing with four top-class Grade One races and it’s as informative a day as you are going to get.
What people must not forget is that, while Cheltenham is the be all and end all for so many people, and everyone loves to win around Cheltenham, these four races are extremely prestigious in their own right and any trainer, owner or jockey that takes one of them home on Sunday evening will be absolutely delighted.
Naturally enough, I will be hoping that Dad can be one of those trainers as we have Foxrock running in the Hennessy Gold Cup which looks a wide-open race.
Obviously, it is a very big step up for Foxrock after getting beaten at Leopardstown over Christmas but his Leopardstown Chase win three weeks ago was good and he seems very well since.
As he got a hike in the handicap ratings for his win the last day we really only had two options with him and that was to go here or the Bobbyjo at Fairyhouse so Leopardstown, with Barry Connell owning him and his fondness of the track, was the obvious choice and we’ll see how we go.
Who knows what will happen though. You have the first two home for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the race, yet neither of them are favourite, so it really is very open.
Foxrock is one of two unexposed horses in the race and I’d say if people were looking for a good each-way bet that Henry de Bromhead’s Home Farm could even run a big race.
For me, the horse they all have to beat is On His Own, if he can manage to get his jumping straightened out. For whatever reason he seems to be a better horse going right-handed, even though he was second in a Cheltenham Gold Cup and a Lexus, which are both left-handed. But he does have a tendency to jump to his right and if he can somehow stop that, he sets the standard.
I ride Foxrock out every day and I’m happy with him going there. He seems well, he’s eating well and has put back on all the weight he lost from his last run, so we’ll see how we get on and hopefully he’ll give a good account of himself.
This meeting speaks for itself in terms of quality though.
Our Conor won the Juvenile Hurdle a couple of years ago and Guitar Pete won it last year and finished third in the Triumph and went on to win at Aintree so after Sunday’s race we’ll have a fair idea as to what sort of hand we have in the Triumph this year.
The other novice hurdle has been won by Champagne Fever and Vautour, who feature again and it always produces a good horse – go back to ’97 and Istabraq was the winner – so Sunday will be no different, while in the novice chase I think we’ll be looking at a superstar in Valseur Lido.
As well as all of that, you have a brilliant Hunters Chase with Prince De Beauchene, On The Fringe and Salsify all running so there’s quality of the highest standard from start to finish at Leopardstown.
Magic showing proves to be highlight of the week
I was at the point-to-point at Oldtown last Sunday before dashing back to ride in the bumper at Punchestown and, thankfully, it was worth the trip as my husband Ross’ horse Call It Magic won the five-year-old maiden and made a fairly big impression on anyone who saw it.
Call It Magic is always a horse that Ross (O’Sullivan, pictured)thought highly of and it’s all well and good thinking that, but they have to go and do it. So it’s very rewarding when your faith is justified and Call It Magic won by 24 lengths. According to the regulars at point-to-points, he is as impressive as you are going to see in any five-year-old maiden this year.
Call It Magic was owned by Ross’ sister Robyn and ridden by her fiancée Jamie Codd, so it was a brilliant family occasion and hopefully now he’ll be a horse to look forward to in the future.
Other than that, it was a pretty frustrating week with the two jump meetings called off at Clonmel and Down Royal, but thankfully they’ve been rescheduled and there doesn’t seem to be any problems envisaged for Naas or Leopardstown at the weekend.
In racing, you get used to what the weather throws at you, but one thing we all detest is the frost as it’s hard to keep gallops going and racing on. Thankfully, the worst of it seems to have passed.