PAT HEALY: Fairyhouse Showed The Highs And Lows Of Jump Racing

PAT HEALY: All Roads Lead To Cheltenham From Leopardstown

PAT HEALY: Pat reflects on the standout performances from the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend and ahead to the Cheltenham Festival. One clash he can’t wait for is Facile Vega v American Mike in the Champion Bumper.

Dublin Racing Festival                                                     

It was a brilliant weekend for Irish racing once again, there was a great atmosphere from a terrific crowd and ultimately great racing. All the major horses turned up to their respective races and you’d have to think that Gordon [Elliott], Willie [Mullins], and Henry [de Bromhead] would have left very happy. It’s going to be interesting to see how many of the weekend’s winners go on and follow up at Cheltenham next month. Thank God everybody was happy with the ground, and I’m sure the bit of rain they had may have helped, but you’d have to say that everything was perfect.

The reception Honeysuckle received at the track was just jaw dropping. In all my time in racing I can only remember two other horses that were applauded making their way to the start, one of them was Galileo at the Breeders’ Cup in Belmont Park and the other was Istabraq. I will never forget those two occasions and now I can add Honeysuckle to the list too, because it was just extraordinary to witness. The atmosphere around the whole place truly told you that we were witnessing history.

On the undercard it was great to see Tony Martin land another big handicap hurdle, and equally great to see Stuart and Ben Crawford get their heads in front in the mares’ bumper on Sunday. They’re a hardworking family based in Northern Ireland and are well known on the point-to-point circuit. Their mother Edith is a great woman and travels the horses with them, so it was a truly deserved success on the big stage for a tight knit family. It was great to see a young jockey in Mark McDonagh land the Grade A handicap chase on Sunday too with Birchdale. Speaking of small operations, they don’t come much smaller than Master McShee and Paddy Corkery, and his only horse in training ran a blinder in the Grade One novice chase to finish second behind Galopin Des Champs. I’m sure there will be another Grade One success in Master McShee in the future.

With just five weeks to go until Cheltenham now, and history tells us there’ll be dropouts in that time, you can’t help but feel as an Irish contingent we’re in a great place and very much looking forward to getting over. Outside the Championship races, the one clash I am very excited for is the Facile Vega v American Mike in the Champion Bumper. What makes this matchup interesting is that they’ve both come from very different backgrounds but will end up doing battle in the same place. American Mike has come through the point-to-point scene and Facile Vega had just his second run on a racecourse at Leopardstown on Saturday, it’s a huge clash for me because they have both been deeply impressive. It could come down to experience on the day for American Mike and that could be the edge over Facile Vega’s freakish raw ability, but we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to find out.

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