You go to any race meeting in Ireland now and you expect to see Willie Mullins train two, three or maybe even four winners. T
he champion trainer already has a firm grasp of that crown for this season and we’re not even at Christmas yet.
You don’t go to many race meetings expecting to see the buzzing and encouraging crowd that attended Navan last Sunday, however, and that very sight was extremely pleasing indeed.
It was Ladbrokes Troytown day and there seemed to be a real good local crowd as well as the portion who came for the top class fare on offer.
Entry fees to Irish race meetings are something that continuously divide opinion. Nearly everyone apart from the racecourses will argue they are too expensive, but the reputation of Vautour going into Sunday’s meeting meant those paying through the turnstiles were expecting to see a star and it looks fair to say they that, if you appreciate proper racehorses, he was nearly worth the admission alone.
Free Expression was another star of the show. While he only managed to show his authority in the closing stages to beat a horse who, at the moment, is not rated high enough to contest big novice races in Ireland, Free Expression looked a very green type who would take a lot of beating anywhere he goes – which could well be the new Grade One version of the Slaney Hurdle at Naas in early January.
It would be wrong to say we saw a Quevega or Annie Power in the concluding bumper but the manner of Lyrical Theatre’s concluding race triumph means she’s nowhere near average but well above it and the crowd at the Meath track seemed to appreciate the dominance of Mullins rather than getting fed up of it.
Mullins clearly has no problem training racehorses, but this season again it looks like his biggest headache is going to come in placing them.
When will he decide two novice chasers from his ‘A-team’ will have to clash or two of the novice hurdlers or, alternatively, which is the right type to keep at home while you send another for a similar race across the water. It’s an enviable task in many ways, but unenviable in others. With Willie, you just don’t expect him to get it wrong too often.
Gordon Elliott doesn’t get it wrong often either and what a time of it he is having. Erase Willie from our minds for a while and we’d all be raving about Gordon instead and one of his finest attributes is placing, of course.
He made a name and found many new owners on his travels training winners at the likes of Perth, Kelso and God knows where, but to win a Troytown with a horse backed from 20/1 to 4/1 who was third at Cheltenham and then won at Sedgefield and had a light weight for Sunday’s big handicap, all proves that he certainly knows the time of day and he is set for another personal best season if he continues at this rate.
One element of Sunday’s card was disappointing, however. Those at Navan heard a person being called to the coffee shop over the PA system and instead of a reg being called out for a car to be moved we had the owner’s name announced, which was strange indeed.
However, after the first race a lengthy steward’s enquiry followed. Racegoers were informed of that because it involved the winner and eventually it was revealed that the result stood.
But after that it emerged that Bryan Cooper had picked up a four-day ban for improper riding, which is something I’m sure Gary O’Brien relayed to people watching at home on At The Races and members of the press would have released via social media.
Now, to the hardened racegoer (or even trainers in attendance) they would be aware straight away that a four-day ban would mean Cooper is set to miss the John Durkan at Punchestown.
To be aware of it, though, they have to be told and why that information couldn’t have been released over the PA system I just don’t know.
Instead, we had the outcome of the Best Dressed Lady competition being described as “one of the most important matters of the day.” Poor Vautour!
It’s the little things, but with such a healthy crowd we surely want to enhance the RACING experience?