PAT HEALY: This week Pat reviews the Irish Grand National, heaps praise on Galopin Des Champs, and looks forward to next season.
What a fantastic days racing we had at Fairyhouse this week with the Irish National, the atmosphere, weather and crowd certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that many young people at the races and as I was photographing the first fence, which is away from the stands, waiting for the race to start, I could hear singing from the enclosure. I don’t think I’ve ever heard singing like it at a racetrack before, but it just typified the crowd that was in attendance. It was a huge, young crowd and it really made the atmosphere one to remember. To top it all off though, what a training performance from Dermot McLoughlin with Lord Lariat, it was certainly no fluke, and the horse was set out for the race all season. It’s another great story that racing can throw up, and there’s not a nicer young man that goes racing than his jockey Paddy O’Hanlon. Being a tall lad, he does a great job with his weight, which can’t be easy. He tried his hand on the flat in England, but it didn’t work out for him. He works very hard for Dermot and rides out there two or three times a week. It was fantastic to see him repaying Dermot’s faith with his first winner of 2022, and I’m sure if he had 10 winners to his name this year, he would have swapped them all for an Irish National win.
Everybody now knows what kind of horse he is and what regard Willie Mullins holds him in, but the real excitement is that now every time he races, there will be sell-out crowds coming to see him. Ruby Walsh in his media role now waxes lyrical about him every time he runs and there is no better judge than Ruby. I presume he’s finished for the season now, but we have to look forward to September/October time when Willie outlines his plans for the new year. If he stays in one piece, please God, we’re looking at something that could be really special.
When Punchestown wraps up next week and we’re finished for the season but judging by the clues we’ve been given in the past couple of months, next season could be a vintage one. We obviously have Galopin Des Champs going for a Gold Cup, but who’s to say A Plus Tard won’t win a second Gold Cup as he was mightily impressive this year, Honeysuckle will be going for a third Champion Hurdle, but we also have Constitution Hill on the horizon who’s the highest rated novice since Golden Cygnet. That’s just four of the many horses I’m hoping stay healthy and well because if they do, we’re in for a serious treat throughout the season. Irish jump racing at present is just so far ahead of the English scene, we have the best horses and so much to look forward to.