Wednesday 21 March 2018

Little to learn from schooling

DESPITE the sterling efforts and hard work of all at Leopardstown for the pre-Cheltenham gallops after racing yesterday, they turned out to be the least informative in the event's history.

Only Willie Mullins, Dermot Weld and Paul Flynn continued with their plans but Weld and Mullins opted to just work on the Flat rather than school over fences.

The likes of Noel Meade and Tom Cooper both withdrew their intended gallopers throughout the course of the day and so did Mullins before again changing his plans.

Mullins was due to school a number of his string, but instead opted against that and let them go on a steady canter instead, while Weld's duo of Merchant Royal and Daffern Seal also abandoned the jumping in favour of a gallop, in which they led Flynn's Galway Hurdle winner Moon Dice.

Mullins said afterwards: "The ground was very quick and probably the fastest we've ever seen at this time of year in Leopardstown but I just felt that we brought them this far, we'd probably have to ride them out when we got home so I said 'right let's do something here'."

The champion trainer did find some positives in the exercise but admitted that his Cheltenham hopefuls would be set for another trip away this week.

"The bit of work and jumping that I had planned today we'll have to do later in the week, which we will do, but an easy day away at the races won't have done any of them any harm today."

Of those that went around, which included leading Cheltenham candidates such as Sir Des Champs, Mullins said: "One or two of the jockeys remarked how well he handled the ground, Raptor especially and Nina (Carberry) said Up The Beat flew on it."

Cheltenham did endure a welcome deluge of rain yesterday morning but ground such as Leopardstown yesterday is what can be expected at the Festival later this month. "Emmet (Mullins) passed remark the ground today was just like it was when Sir Des Champs won at Cheltenham last year. You might have to race on ground like it on a big day but I just wasn't going to risk it schooling."

Paul Flynn is aiming Galway Hurdle winner Moon Dice at the County Hurdle and having been dropped in a couple of lengths behind the Dermot Weld duo, he finished upsides them after a 1m6f gallop. "I didn't do as much as I would have hoped, but we did a bit with him and it was nice to get him away from home.


"We just went with two horses of Mr Weld's and he'll work again at home this week before Cheltenham. He didn't run because he doesn't like the heavy ground and I was probably wrong to run him here at Leopardstown. Hopefully, Cheltenham don't get too much rain or over water," Flynn said.

It was a real pity for all concerned that Leopardstown had some unseasonable quick ground for yesterday's meeting but, that said, the ideas of the number cloths and making the whole experience easier to follow was a top one and hopefully we will see it carried out again for future projects at the likes of the Curragh or back at Leopardstown.

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