Tag Archives: Equine Photography

Irish Derby 2022 Review

The 2022 Irish Derby saw a dominant winner in Westover. Arguably an unlucky horse at Epsom, he demolished his seven rivals at the Curragh.

He looked a proper Derby horse on Saturday, and not, as some suggested, a Leger type. There were also question marks over the suitability of the Curragh. Personally I felt the stiff finish and the galloping nature of the track would suit really well.

That turned out to be true. Westover looked extremely comfortable, and the track played to his strengths more than anything else.

Westover

The true merit of the performance will come to the fore as the season goes on. Main rival Tuesday didn’t fire. The filly couldn’t back up her strong Oaks victory. Perhaps she didn’t recover in time, given she also ran in both the English and Irish 1000 Guineas earlier this year. This was probably one race too many.

Regardless, the fact is Westover was more than entitled to win even against a peak Tuesday. She had opportunities in the Group 1 races but couldn’t crack the topspeed 100 mark yet. She’s probably much better over 10 furlongs anyway, if given the opportunity.

In the absence of a true rival it was more the visual impression that “wowed” the crowd. Whether Westover would have been good enough to win the Epsom Derby with a clear run is pure speculation.

Nonetheless, I think all racing fans will be hoping that we get a “rematch” with Desert Crown at some point this season. Such a clash looks much more open after the Irish Derby. Not to forget 3-year-old horses improve at a different pace throughout the year, so things can look different the next time these two meet.

Given Westover’s excellent performances at Epsom and the Curragh it makes me wonder how good Cash could be. He was one of my Five To Follow this season and he ran a huge race in the Sandown Classic Trial when runner-up behind Westover.

He didn’t make it to Epsom and neither to Chantilly, having picked up an injury in the meantime. David Simcock said they’ll be patient and target Ascot in autumn. He’ll stay in training next year, most likely. It will be exciting to find out how far Cash can go.

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Eyecatchers:

Some horses caught my eye at the Curragh on Saturday. Want to give a quite shoutout to them (I’m not doing the weekly eyecatchers at the moment due to time constraints) for those interested to keep an eye on them.

Power Under Me
1.25 – 6 furlongs, Listed

Was early on isolated on the stand’s side racing without cover. Chased the fast pace, travelled pretty well until put under pressure from 1.5f out. Battled to the line but had to let two horses pass. Fared best from those close to the pace. First and second came from off the pace.

This is probably his level. Perhaps able to be competitive in Group 3, but found out in higher grade last time out despite some excuses. 6f with a bit of ease in the ground most likely the ideal scenario.

Raadobarg
2.35 – 1 mile, Listed

Raced in midfield most of the race which developed further up field. Had too much do in the home straight but ran on well from his disadvantaged position. He gave the impression would he had tracked the eventual placed horses a bit closer he could have been seriously involved in the finish.

Was desperately unlucky last time out in France when badly hampered in the moment he was coming with his run to potentially win the race. Looks still improving. 7 furlongs to a mile will all be fine, but ideally with ease in the ground. In fact the softer the better.

Boundless Ocean
3.45 – 1m 4f, Group 1

Raced in last position dropped in, was keen at different stages of the race, although a little bit better settled than in other races this year. Had a lot to do from the back of the field turning for home given the race was won at the frontend. Made a good looking move from three furlongs out until emptying in the closing stages.

He’s a difficult colt to ride it seems. Can miss the break and often pulls really hard for his head. But he has clearly talent. Was a bit unlucky in the Gallinule Stakes when short of room at a crucial stage and pulled way too hard over 12 furlongs when runner-up lto. Unlikely to stay 12f with his demeanour but could be underestimated over 10 furlongs.

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Irish Derby day Photos:

©Florian Christoph

Tramore Racecourse: An Irish Racing Pearl

A friendly track with plenty of charm, fine facilities and stunning panoramic views of the Waterford coastline – Tramore is a place where racing feels celebrated.

It’s certainly a place steeped in history: racing at Tramore dates back to the 19th century – at least. While racing in the existing location has taken place since 1912.

History is in the air and you can feel it, smell and hear it when approaching the entrance to the track, with the spectacular coastline standing tall in the background. This isn’t the shiny new Curragh or a renovated Leopardstown. Racing at Tramore feels raw and real.

No surprise, you can sense the age of the place everywhere you go but that doesn’t distract from the fact that the facilities are well maintained. Yes, some wear and tear is visible, which only adds to the charm of the place, though.

The layout of the actual racetrack is interesting. This is a tight, roller-coaster like 7 furlong circuit. It’s up and down, ever turning and I can see how some horses love it while others won’t travel a yard.

This is perfect from a racegoers perspective because you are able watch the horses pretty much the entire race. No big screen needed. You can get a superb look of how the race develops especially once the field races down the hill on the far end of the track before turning for home.

As for filling the empty stomach or quenching the thirst: Tramore simply gets it right, There is lovely bar for pints from the tab. Enough space to sit with screens to follow the racing.

Food options are varied thanks to a fine bistro that offers a variety of fresh food options. There is also a dedicated fish and ship shop at the track. Prices are fair, taking into considerations we’re on a racecourse. It was €15 to get in, a coffee €2.50 and the food is reasonably priced.

Getting around is easy. Parade ring, stands, betting ring and all the other facilities are in close proximity. Despite the age of the racecourse everything here is clean, tidy and as well maintained as can be. Also a big shoutout to all the staff. Every single one had a smile on their face.

A highlight of Tramore’s location is the spectacular scenic view you can get from the parade ring toward the Waterford coastline. You can see the waves crashing on the beach in the background and smell the salt in the air.

The racing on the day of my visit wasn’t spectacular. Maiden Hurdles, low-grade Handicap Chases and a bumper – but it’s the atmosphere that matters. And from that perspective it was a stellar day.

A bumper crowd in attendance marveled in the victories of household names Rachel Blackmore and Paul Townend. Particularly Blackmore’s winning rides were popular with the local crowd.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was the Champions Parade of Cheltenham heroes Honeysuckle – the two-time Champion Hurdle winner, Energumene – the reigning Champion Chaser, and A Plus Tard – the 2022 Gold Cup winner.

A Plus Tard

I wasn’t sure what to expect when heading for County Waterford. In any case: all expectations where certainly exceeded. Tramore Racecourse is a stunning place to go racing. I loved every minute. It’s pushing hard to become my favourite track in Ireland, I must admit.

The combination of coziness, rural charm and history with scenic views, fine facilities and a lovely atmosphere make this a place where the sport of horse racing feels celebrated.

All Photos © Florian Christoph

Cork 2022 Flat Opener

Balmy weather and a solid card of seven races on offer – on a quiet Sunday I used the opportunity to drive down to Cork for their flat season opener.

It’s been a while since I’ve been at the Mallow track. So, I was certainly excited for racing on a day with perfect spring weather for flat racing on ground described as good. The card had a solid look as well: a few interesting maiden races, the Listed Cork Stakes and some intriguing Handicaps.

€20 get you in. Given the recent heated discussions about ticket prices in the UK on the back of Cheltenham, thankfully here in Ireland entrance fees are generally fair – particularly for the marquee days and Festivals.

For the card on offer on this Sunday €20 isn’t necessarily cheap, though, it includes a racecard. Coffee was €2.80, a bog standard 99 ice cream €3.00. Can’t complain – that’s fair enough. Let’s not forget Covid has hit racecourses hard over the last two years.

Cork Racecourse is a lovely track. There’s a friendly vibe, short ways from parade ring to betting to the stands. Solid facilities. Good viewing of the action. A cozy place.

My focus on the day wasn’t so much on betting. It rarely is when I go racing. It’s all about the atmosphere, the horses and this time in particular: photos. I was hoping to capture some solid action shots – and left satisfied!

Crispy Cat

Race Review

The opening 7 furlong maiden was perhaps the most intriguing contest of the day. Princess Olly, a daughter of Invincible Spirit, was an expensive 220,000 gns yearling. Quite why she was an 18/1 shot I am not sure, though. She looked fine in the parade ring and won nicely for AMO racing, trainer Adrian Murray and jockey Rossa Ryan, who flew over for the ride. She should get further and looks an exciting prospect.

The runner up Osraige, trained by Joseph O’Brien, travelled best of all for most of the race but didn’t quite get there in the end. She’s an obvious one to keep an eye on.

Princess Olly – winner of the opener

The Listed Cork Stakes over 6 furlongs looks a cracking race on paper. Half the field, at least, had a realistic shot. In the end Power Under Me for Ger Lyons and jockey Colin Keane got up on the line in a thrilling finish that saw Mooneista only headed in the dying strides.

The 4-year-old gelding continued where he left off, after he finished 2021 with a Listed win at the Curragh. In saying that, I thought Elliptic, back in fourth place, was the eye-catcher of the day. She looks to have trained on well and finished strongly coming from off the pace with a brave move.

Power Under Me lands the Cork Stakes

It was a double on the day for AMO Racing thanks to the Michael O’Callaghan trained Crispy Cat in the five furlong juvenile maiden. He looked ready pre-race and won a shade cozily in the end, having another interesting Ger Lyons expensive newcomer Beauty Crescent in second.

The subsequent 5 furlong Handicap for 3-year-olds was probably the one I was most interested in. Some good prospects lined up, with my money riding on Red Lacewing.

The physical difference between the horses in the parade ring was striking. Pearl Palinka, who was thought to be one of the leading contender beforehand, didn’t look particularly ready for her first outing of the year. Whereas Ernest Rutherford was a reall standout – shiny coat and fit – it was no surprise he won the best turned out award.

Ernest Rutherford

But it was Drombeg Banner who landed the spoils eventually. Well supported in the market, the Ken Condon trained gelding went off favourite, made all and wasn’t for catching.

Runner-up Red Lacewing ran an excellent race in defeat. A slow start didn’t help, and her momentum was stopped half a furlong from home by the left hanging winner. She had to switch and regather momentum but the damage was done.

I believe she is one to watch out for. She looked well physically, although, was quite unruly pre-race when walking from the parade ring to the track. Clearly temperamental, she has a big engine and was an eye-catcher on all occasions last year.

Red Lacewing

It was a rather quiet day for team O’Brien. Only Aiden – with Shark Bay in the lucky last – won a race. Although Osraige for Joseph and Elliptic for Donnacha ran promising races. There are bigger days to come for them.

All photos © Florian Christoph

A Day at the Irish National Stud

Back to normality. Somewhat, at the very least. Thanks to the recent easing of Irish lockdown restrictions open-air visitor attractions are allowed to reopen again.

Because I’m living in County Kildare I have the opportunity to visit the Irish National Stud. I haven’t been for more than a year. So it’s good to be back.

This is the best time of the year to visit the stud because the foals are born. It’s such a beautiful thing to observe: the special bond a mother and her foal have.

While the younger foals follow every step of their mum, the older ones have grown in confidence and somewhat independence. They can be seen having fun fooling around the fields.

It was a typical Irish May day with nearly all seasons present within a single hour. The foals didn’t mind, anyway.

Mums joined in the fun from time to time as well, to the bewilderment of the foals.

Royal Ascot hero Equiano – who is new to the Irish National Stud roster in 2021 – clearly has not lost any of his zest. He was flying around the paddock and enjoyed parading for the camera.

The living legends enjoyed the attention from the kids in the afternoon. Kicking King and Rite Of Passage were particularly keen on cuddles, and perhaps even more so keen on the treats they received over the fence. The almighty Hurricane Fly couldn’t be bothered and was lying far aware in the deep grass soaking up the sun.

At last. Cuddles for Hurricane Fly.

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All Photos copyright Florian Christoph, 2021.

Impressions: The New Curragh

The new Curragh opened its doors for the general public for the first time today. A new era for Irish (flat) racing. A monstrous project in the making for the last four years, associated with a price tag of around €80 million – it’s better be a success!

Whether it’s going to be a long-term success with crowds embracing the new facilities beyond this opening day remains to be seen. Judged by the attendance today the word ‘promising’ may be on the lips of many, though.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for a good few years: finally back at the Curragh! Driving down the N7, get off at exit 12 and there it is, right in front of your eyes, the imposing new grand stand!

Upon arrival my first thought was: WOW! This is spectacular! Stunningly beautiful from an architectural point of view. I didn’t expect it to be that good. No way! After all, this is Ireland where these type of projects rarely go to plan. This project had its own little issues, but the outcome is magnificent – and that is what matters most.

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What’s good? Great views from the parade ring. Plenty of space. Only short walks between parade ring, betting and the grand stand. First class elevated viewing for the regular racegoer from the stand itself. Everything is shiny, new and gives the impression of classiness.

Opportunity for improvement? Getting your hands on a coffee is a tricky adventure. Long ques for food and drink wherever you go. Maybe I missed them, but there were no mobile coffee vans like they used to exist at the old Curragh.

Food prices are not for the fainthearted. But that’s nothing new. Regular ticket prices are €20. A season ticket is €265 – that’s a whopping €90 more than when I bought one the last time in 2015, the year before construction began. This isn’t a cheap place.

I didn’t go racing at the Curragh during the construction years. I was – quite frankly – pissed off. Holding a season ticket for a number of years, I would have expected some concessions to existing members while racing continued at what was effectively a building site – a decision in itself I didn’t like. It showed a lack of regard for the general racegoer.

Whether the new Curragh will be able to attract on regular basis the sort of crowd that came through the turnstiles today for the more low profile days is a question the future will tell. I’m not so sure, unfortunately.

I hope it does, I really do. This new Curragh deserves it. It’s an amazing place to watch horse racing. It’s the perfect stadium for our equine heroes. Having been to many racecourses around the world I can honestly say the Curragh is right up there with the best.

Now they have to work on service for the general public, think about pricing and any further enhancements that could be made to the raceday experience in order to lure punters to the track more often.

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This Is Turf Paradise

I am over in Phoenix, Arizona right now, so I took the opportunity to pay the local race track – Turf Paradise – a visit!

Now, this is the fourth track I have been able to see here in the United States: Aqueduct, Golden Gate Fields and Los Alamitos the others. In comparison with those three, Turf Parade is small. In fact, much smaller. Why? No casino!

Turf Parade is quite a compact race track, located on the outskirts of Phoenix, easy to get to because of its proximity to Interstate Highway 17.

In saying that, at the other tracks I felt lost… and the day became dull after the first few races. Well, mid-week racing, few people are keen to come racing on a Wednesday – it can be lonely onsite. Casino-race-tracks are often huge places: wide and open spaces add to the feeling of emptiness.

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Turf Paradise is different: smaller, compact, short ways from parade ring to betting to food, drink and good viewing options. I was greeted by a super relaxed, serene and friendly atmosphere on the day.

Sure, splendid sunshine always helps; nonetheless, this place has loads of charme: you’re close to the action, entry is free and fair food & drink prices make it a truly wonderful day out.

There were only a few hundred or so people attending this mid-week race day. But as this is such a compact place, it didn’t feel lonely as it did at bigger tracks I’ve been to.

The racing was nothing to shout about. Low-grade claimers and maiden races. In saying that, most horses turned out looked fantastically well presented. Nice in their coat, clean and fit!

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Unlike recent controversy accompanying the Breeders Cup and a certain French jockey (and something I certainly notice turning in for a bit of US racing in the evening on At The Races), there was no excessive whip use to be seen here – in fact, I felt the whip was used pretty sparingly and a lot of hands and heels riding was going on – to my surprise.

Unlike Aqueduct, Golden Gate Fields and Los Alamitos, If I ever have the chance again I’ll definitely go racing at Turf Paradise – I absolutely loved the day, where a card packed with 8 raced didn’t feel dull at any moment!

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