Irish Point Notes, Week 9, by Seattle Dancer
Week ending 30 November 2014 (four fixtures)
Rockfield, Co. Roscommon
The noticeable trend from this particular race, albeit that there have been three abandonments since 2008, is the fact that almost all winners remained with their handlers and went on to score under Rules. The best of a motley bunch to appear on course was unquestionably Portrait King who won the 4m1f Eider Chase in 2012 for a division 4 trainer, Michael Phelan, and has unfortunately been very injury prone since.
Anyone reading my blog for clues for what is unstated should note that I have a stack building for last year’s winner whose time on the racecourse proper is fast approaching, a horse that cost a staggering €130,000 as a 3yo and has spent the first six months of his career running for peanuts in point-to-points but has made the progression from maiden winner to, symmetrically, a winners-of-one, -two and –three-a most unusual feat for a, now, five-year-old.
This year’s winner is a French-bred and the curiously-named “American” trained in County Cork by Robert Tyner. Hailing from this stable there is a reasonable chance that American (rated 87) will remain under the care of Tyner and continue the recent winners’ tradition of winning for him under Rules.
I have to say it was one of the strangest finishes I’ve seen in years as the jockey of the original first-past-the-post Always On The Run seemed to try to deliberately steer the promoted winner into “the middle of next week” and it seemed to me one of the most foolhardy manoeuvres I have ever witnessed in a horse race. If it happened at Punchestown or Plumpton it would be a Betfair thread running on full-tilt for days on end. The officiating stewards reversed the placings of the first two home and such decisions are a very rare occurrence in pointing races.
Although French-bred, the previously unraced American is by a German stallion, Malinas (by Lomitas by Niniski by Nijinsky to try to give the sire-line some context), who was second in the 2004 German Derby and currently has two top class runners representing him in Black Thunder (fell going well in this year’s RSA-trained by Paul Nicholls) and Medinas who recently won Newbury’s G2 Long Distance hurdle for Alan King. He cost a reasonable-looking €15,500 and the dam-side offers plenty of encouragement as American is a half-brother to many French middle-distance winning jumpers with plenty of black-type on the page.
American’s owner, in the absence of an absent Tyner, who is enjoying a very good spell with his runners at present, was ebullient after the race and big things are clearly expected of this horse as “we think an awful lot of him and he has a big future”.
There is no 5yo maiden run on this card.
Kirkistown, Co. Down
Only four runners turned up for this event and it was won by Minmore Lodge – by Flemensfirth – trained by the Wexfordian Sean Doyle (responsible for an October 4yo winner Black Sam The Man who didn’t impress me and who subsequently changed hands for the £15,000 bid by his new trainer John “Shark” Hanlon – and they say shark by name, shark by nature!)
The small field makes deciphering the race a little more difficult unfortunately because the race history has a stellar cast. Every horse that won a division since 2008 and has competed under Rules has won under Rules including David Pipe’s 2014 Cheltenham scorer Ballynagour and Annacotty who collected the 3m Feltham Chase for Martin Keighley last Christmas. Incidentally, Keighley seems to manage to get his hands on a few very promising graduates each season.
On this record alone one has to include Minmore Lodge (rated 88) on any watch-list and, especially so, since he was a very good second behind a previous selection, Cogryhill, only two weeks earlier. Clues as to his exact ability are scarce with an “impressive” display yet he was “forced to work hard for victory” and, remarkably, in the absence of the winning trainer, the successful jockey said that “they think a lot of him”!
He looks very well bought once again for just €13,500 as his three full-brothers (a breeder with a share in Flemensfirth?) have all won on the track and are of some account. They tend to need middle-distances and upwards to win and haven’t had the speed to win bumpers. You can’t ask for much more close up on a jumping pedigree. Winning jockey “Bon” O’Neill was very complimentary about the performance and like all winners hailing from these quarters he will be offered for sale at public auction.
5yo maiden: “THUNDER AND LIGHTNING”
There are an interesting number of diverse angles to this winner.
General Principle g by Gold Well trained by Stuart Crawford
Crawford has now won three of the last four runnings of this race a fact I must confess I was unaware of prior to last Saturday because 5/1 looks a very generous S.P. to me. This previously unraced horse received a hat-load of plaudits from the on-course reviewing journalist and a nifty rating of 90 to accompany the luuuvvvvv! Crawford’s other two previous winners were Mill Bay (an unpromising rating of just 82 was borne out by five unsuccessful starts under Rules) and Call Box who collected a winners’ event one year later before graduating successfully to the track and immediately scoring in a beginners chase for Crawford.
Call Box had been handicapped over hurdles prior to his second pointing win (a rating of 100 was a very significant marker) and he subsequently scored three times in handicap hurdles from an initial winning mark of just 90 (and subsequently 111 & 118). Incidentally the chase win earned him an opening chasing mark of 122 from which he was unable to add to his steeplechasing tally. A half master-class in training! Incidentally, Crawford trained Ballynagour to win the 2010 4yo maiden here and, as you should know, this horse won this year’s Byrne Group Plate at the Festival.
Crawford bought General Principle for €20,000 as 3yo for former Antrim trainer Roy Wilson and he is a full-brother to Saints And Sinners, winner of 2 hurdles and a chase (2m1f-2m5f) for Mick Easterby, and the 2002 mare Bella Mana Mou who collected four wins (2.5m-3m) for Michael Cullen and it’s a good stout chasing pedigree. Gold Well is increasingly popular as a stallion – he’s an unraced brother to Montjeu – and he recently transferred to the Coolmore roster thanks to the exploits of Holywell, among others.
The horse’s owner, Roy Wilson, is also worth a mention as he formerly trained both between the flags and under rules and he successfully graduated the winning pointers Flemross and Seriatim to success on the track during his career which now seems at a lull. After General Principle scored so impressively Crawford stated, “I bought him for his owner Roy Wilson at the Doncaster Sales two years ago and he is a very nice horse who could go anywhere” so I hope he remains in the same partnership for his approaching racecourse career. In an interview I have read Crawford was of the opinion that the horse needed “reasonable ground, otherwise we might try him in a bumper but he could go any route” which I must confess leaves me a little puzzled as to the exact interpretation of this.
Finally, before departing the scene I want to relate the quotation from the afore-mentioned Roy Wilson after he had trained his ex-winning pointer Flemross to win his first handicap hurdles on his seventh attempt: “He is a front runner so that keeps him out of trouble. I didn’t know how fit he was today. He is a summer horse so we will keep running him now. He needs thunder and lightning, thunder to wake him up and lightning to make him go.”
Lisronagh, Co. Tipperary
Itsnothingpersonal – by Beneficial trained by Edward O’Grady
O’Grady’s fortunes have dipped dramatically in recent years rumoured to have been catalysed by his spurning of advances from Gigginstown (on their very specific terms) and a reported falling out with JP McManus. He was one of the greats of Irish National Hunt training and I, for one, hope that he returns to the big time.
It was particularly sad that he felt compelled to issue a statement last year around the time of the summer store sales denying that he had retired and he’s probably one of the biggest sufferers from the steep dip in the Irish economy that saw many of his clients go bust. O’Grady has won 18 races at the Cheltenham Festival but for me he will always be associated with Golden Cygnet who threatened to be possibly the best hurdler of all time but died tragically after a fall in the Scottish Champion Hurdle. It makes me gulp to realise this all happened back in 1978!
This autumn fixture was first run in 2010 and, ironically, its first winner and most expensive auction horse at £130,000, Dramatic Duke, was a failure for Jonjo O’Neill. However, all five subsequent winners have scored under Rules and three of them managed to win on their racecourse bow at odds of 11/2, 5/4 and 16/1. A rating of 90 suggests that Itsnothingpersonal has the scope to be a decent horse inside the rails.
A seeming bargain at just €8,500 as a 3yo he is owned by O’Grady’s son and is a half-brother to a very smart sort of Robin Dickin’s, Garrahalish (Presenting), who has scored four times. Indeed, after he won his novice chase at Towcester in October, Dickin was predicting great things for him. These two horses have been a great boost to the pedigree as the dam’s five previous foals to race had all looked very pedestrian. The dam herself won at a modest level on the flat and over hurdles but she is a half-sister to four winners of 16 races in what is a predominantly flat pedigree.
Itsnothingpersonal had started favourite on his only previous pointing start last May and confirmed the high regard in which he is held by this performance. O’Grady wasn’t giving much away on future plans but he will surely train him personally under Rules as his ammunition in recent times has been quite limited. The perfect result for him I imagine would be to sell the horse and for him to remain in training in Ballynonty.
Florida Calling by Presenting trained by Denis Prendergast
Coincidences are where we look for them and Prendergast happens to be the man that handled Dramatic Duke (mentioned above) who was the expensive 4yo flop at Jackdaws Castle in 2010/11. Denis Prendergast operates a private buy-to-sell operation for his patron Terry Ryan and they have struck gold in the sales ring since they geared up their commercial operation in 2010 and they have produced a total of 8 younger winning maidens that have secured top dollar from Paul Nicholls and, particularly, Jonjo O’Neill. Their best graduates have been No Loose Change (a late developing 6yo who scored four times for Nicholls) and Handy Andy, who has been a consistent sort for Colin Tizzard.
Curiously, Jonjo O’Neill has trained nothing but expensive flops from this source and Dramatic Duke (£130,000), Pepper Canister (£170,000) and Oficial Ben (£120,000) have all failed and a £240,000 purchase by Paul Nicholls (Italian Master) only managed a single victory for Dan Skelton after he left Ditcheat. All in all a very poor record for Prendergast’s protégés and one would be very wary of his stock were it not for the exception to every rule! Free Expression won the very last 4yo maiden of the year run in 2013 for Prendergast and he has been a real star so far for Gordon Elliott and JP McManus (interesting that he wasn’t sent to Jonjo after being acquired privately by McManus!) winning all three of his hurdling starts and it looks as it Cheltenham 2015 beckons.
Back to this contest, and it hasn’t been a great source of winners although the Champion Hunter Chaser, Salsify, won in 2010. Its other claim to fame is a winning hurdler from 2012 who is poised to win in his first start in a handicap chase at Limerick this coming Christmas (!) and last year’s winner, Final Pass, has already won over hurdles for Donald McCain.
This year’s winner, Florida Calling, had failed to finish in two starts at four and he appeared to beat a modest bunch of opponents in this contest although a rating of 91 suggests he impressed the race-readers. Furthermore, being by Presenting he would prefer better ground and his trainer was of the view that this “lovely horse with much better to come” could go for a bumper if he’s not sold. So far, the “going for a bumper” would not appear to be a particularly regular route for the trainer and its long odds-on he appears in a sale. Florida Calling’s sales catalogue page will read very well as the winning dam is a half-sister to Moon Over Miami (eight-time winner for Charlie Mann) and Presenting Lisa who is currently making waves as a promising 5yo prospect in mares’ events this autumn.
If history is repeated – or at least the successful version of it – this horse will soon run in the green and gold hoops of McManus but is probably unlikely to be sent to Jackdaws Castle to be trained. However, if past racing trends are to be relied upon he will be no more than a modest winner under rules.
Ballindenisk, Co. Cork
Ballybane by Acambaro trained by Carl Dore
The unfamiliar sire appeared vaguely familiar and I realised he was also responsible for Mai Fitzs Jack about whom I wrote last week and who I regard as capable of doing a job for his current connections at a particular level. Although I didn’t review the sire then my less than effusive endorsement of the youngster was caused by the lack of familiarity with Acambaro. He is a German-bred grandson of Lyphard who transferred to Ireland in 2008 and his first crop of Irish-breds are now 5yo’s. He has a lot of catching up to do to feature as an obvious sales attraction and for this reason I am reluctant to take much of an interest in Ballybane.
Carl Dore has trained a few 4yo maiden winners over the years and his best horse, by far, was Alfa Beat who he trained to win a point-to-point and he landed a serious touch with this horse on his first venture into handicap hurdling company. The horse subsequently became a cash dispenser for master gambler Charles Byrnes before winning a Kerry National a few years ago. In my opinion Ballybane does not have the necessary credentials to be an obvious sales target.
However, I will probably be far more interested in him if he remains with present connections as their handicapping history offers some possibilities. As I write I will probably include him in my horse-tracker as a rating of 88 gives him a chance and he did manage on the day to beat representatives from all the in-form yards. The race has a very good record of producing track winners also and with the exception of a Jonjo O’Neill representative (again!) all recent winners have scored well under rules including Indian Castle, Carraig Mor, Al Alfa, Danandy and Hard To Swallow.
“I can’t spare this man, he fights.”
Battle Of Shiloh by Shantou trained by David Kiely
Shantou has already been responsible for the winning 4yo, Shantou Village this season – an £80,000 purchase by Neil Mulholland – and as an anorak-wearing American Civil War amateur historian, if names count for anything this son of Shantou deserves to be a Gold Cup winner! He has a decent if recently quiet pedigree with the unraced Soviet Star dam being out of a half-sister to the 2000 Cheltenham bumper winner Joe Cullen.
Handler David Kiely started off the 1994 Grand National winner Miinnehoma in points and is part of the Waterford “Kiely” dynasty, fronted by John Kiely, who is no slouch when it comes to training jumpers and is often referred to as “king of the bumpers”. In recent times David Kiely has produced just two winners from a relatively small number of pointers namely She Ranks Me and Grouse Lodge and these horses won 12 races between them under rules for Donald McCain. Battle Of Shiloh is due to sell at Brightwells next weekend and he will surely be on McCain’s shopping list. Incidentally, once again if you discount a Jonjo O’Neill acquisition, Benzel – from 2013 but perhaps early days as yet – all three previous winners ran to a high standard on the track (average OR was 130) including the aforementioned Grouse Lodge from 2011.
The above quotation is by none other than Abraham Lincoln who made this comment when under pressure to remove General Ulysses S. Grant as head of the Army of the Tennessee in the aftermath of the Battle Of Shiloh which, incidentally, he won!
Horses To Follow:
Battle Of Shiloh