Tag Archives: Pat Smullen

Tuesday Selections

Jamie Spencer

A day of seconds and thirds… let’s not dwell on it. Much more fun is to watch he ATR “Ride of the Month”! As always the At The Races team  selected a number of spectacular rides seen at tracks they show racing from.

I honestly find it hard to get excited about jumpers at this time of the year, so to see those type of rides appearing on my screen…. It feels odd, regardless of how spectacular they are.

Nonetheless, I want to give Ruby Walsh an honourable mention for the heroics he had to perform to get Penhill over the line at Galway. Any other month it might be the ride of the month….

But it’s the flat season, so for me the three top rides were:

  1. Jamie Spencer – Deavuille
  2. Pat Smullen – Xsquared
  3. Josephine Gordon – Dltripleseven

Of course Pat Smullen on a slipping saddle was horsemanship at its best, but I got to give it to Jamie Spencer.

Usually at the receiving end of stick of an army of armchair jockeys (predominantly on social media), he gave Deauville a peach of a ride from an impossible draw in the Belmont Derby, and miraculously had the horse in a prime sport turning for home, while saving enough fuel for when it really mattered. Well done!

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Tuesday Selections:

6.00 Nottingham: Champion Harbour @ 7/1 Bet365
6.15 Lingfield: Great Expectations @ 13/2 Bet365
7.00 Nottingham: Atlan @ 11/4 Skybet
7.45 Lingfield: Kristjano @ 7/1 Bet365

Epsom Review: Minding The Gap

A historic day for Irish trainer Dermot Weld, who celebrated a first Derby success thanks to his brilliant Sea The Stars colt Harzand, who followed in the footsteps of his prominent daddy, who himself now sired a first Epsom Derby winner!

It was not a trouble free preparation, though. In fact it was touch and go in the morning whether Harzand would take his chance in the most famous flat race and the ultimate call was actually with Pat Smullen cantering down to the start! He went into the starting gate, thankfully, as we know the outcome by now.

Under a masterful ride by jockey Pat Smullen – also for him a first Epsom Derby success – the inexperienced colt was patiently guided through the field; Smullen settled him in a good position somewhere in midfield and rode with a cool head when gaps didn’t open up immediately in the home straight.

Harzand ultimately fend off a late surge by favourite US Army Ranger. He dug deep and found another gear when it really mattered. Given all the foot problems beforehand, it was a brilliant performance!

And The Ranger, whom I’ve been so keen on? Finished runner-up with plenty of credit. He clearly proved to be a classy individual. However it didn’t go to plan for him. Ever so slightly, yet decisively, he missed the break and didn’t seem to travel particularly well early on, subsequently lost every chance to be in a decent position. In a race where small margins can be the deciding factor about victory and defeat this was surely a tough ask to overcome.

Good Ryan, Bad Ryan?

After the less than ideal start, Jockey Ryan Moore took it easy on US Army Ranger, settled in rear, relaxed the horse and let him find his rhythm. Commentator Richard Hoiles called it during the race: “Us Army Ranger is given time” – which was the only real option in my mind. He was still third last turning for home but Moore gradually edged to the outer of the field to get a run. Gaps didn’t open for him and only inside three furlongs Ranger finally got into the clear.

Winner Harzand was already flown towards home at this stage, still Ranger produced a stunning change of gear and loomed large with 200 yards to go. But the big effort to make up so much ground in such a short space of time showed its effect and he ran out of gas in the final furlong.

Ryan Moore has come under scrutiny for his ride on US Army Ranger. As often in this game, opinions are divided. In my view this was a class ride by the world’s best jockey. He proved, despite defeat, why he’s simply the best. In difficult circumstances he gave his mount the best possible chance to finish as close as possible. Not always is a winning ride a good one and a losing ride a bad one.

Sure, it wasn’t the game plan to travel as far back as second or third last for large parts of the race. But inexperienced Ranger didn’t help the cause when he bottled the start. What other option did Moore haven than let the horse find his stride, relax him and try to preserve as much energy as possible? Hustling him up to make up ground would have been detrimental to Ranger’s chance, in my mind.

The fact that gaps didn’t open up when Moore (and I as a punter) would have wanted it is not his fault. These things happen in racing. Imagine the gap would open up over 4f out though – Ranger cruises through it, and maybe wins the race. You know what happens then? Moore’s going to be the hero!

It wasn’t to be. The gap didn’t open, Moore had to delay and ask Ranger for an almighty effort when the road was finally clear. In the end it was all a bit too much for US Army Ranger who still finished second – what is in fact credit to his class and the one of his rider.

In the end inexperience cost him, and for that reason it’s fair to say the best horse on the day won. Harzand was more professional, mastered the difficult test Epsom provides and is without a doubt a really good winner of the world’s most famous flat race.

Minding and the Beauty of Racing

These last two days were yet again a wonderful reminder why I personally love flat racing so much. Yes, it was a disappointment not to back the winner  in the Derby with US Army Ranger, still I enjoyed the coverage, the races leading up to the big one, Postponed’s brilliant success in the Coronation Cup, the joy and emotions on Weld & Smullen’s faces after they won their first Derby….

However it was Friday’s performance by Minding in the Oaks that is the standout of the two days – she simply blew me away! When I saw her overcoming all the trouble in the Oaks, when I saw her blistering turn of foot, changing gears so smoothly like Formula 1 cars usually do, her wonderful attitude and enthusiasm – it was something else!

The speed, the beauty, the power, the elegance – it’s what flat racing is all about and it’s epitomized in this dramatically good looking and at the same time incredibly talented filly Minding. Her Oaks performance was one of those special racing moments you have to see to believe.

And no, I didn’t back her. It has nothing to do with money whatsoever. I’m just grateful for having witnessed her performance for the pure love of the sport. And on that front isn’t it  wonderful to know our sport is yet again blessed  with brilliant talents like Minding, Harzand and US Army Ranger? I love it!

Photo Credit to citizen.co.za

Friday Night at Dundalk: Report + Photos

Dundalk last night has been great! As always – I have to say. It never disappoints. Of course it helps if your 10/1 selection goes in, though! It was my third visit to Ireland’s only All-Weather track. The course is often hailed by trainers for its consistently excellent surface. Well maintained, not much kick-back, and with the false rail installed it is a fair track to race on these days.

Punters alike favour the track because the form stands up and most importantly you can see some good horses in action as well, usually in the feature race on the night. So happened yesterday, as outlined in my preview. The Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Race saw some really nice sorts going to post and it promised to be a real cracker. It didn’t disappoint! A three runner photo finish – exciting stuff!

Postulation held on to win it for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen. He finished a good runner-up behind subsequent John F Kennedy conqueror Success Days – so no surprise to see him going close here. Favourite Queen Nefertiti finished only third – but she should come on for the run and looked well in the parade ring before, like a filly that has clearly trained on.

Postulation
Postulation

Runner-up The Happy Prince for Aiden O’Brien in hands of his son Joseph travelled like the winner until the furlong marker, but didn’t quite find enough in the end. Yet he followed-up with a good performance on his recent Limerick success and is a nice type for the future.

Shannon Soul was beaten in fourth but was clearly the most impressive individual in the parade ring. Put him in your tracker, he may be able to win a nice race soon.

Kilimanjaro was a nice winner for the O’Brien team in the last race on the card. He contested in two hot maidens last season, showed himself much improved on his second start back then, but really made visually a good impression here at Dundalk in the parade ring. He won the maiden over the extended 10f trip in good fashion, really seemed to get rolling in the closing stages. He has a Derby entry. You wouldn’t expect him to be good enough. But the first time hood helped and sometimes these O’Brien horses can improve explosively, as we all know.

Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro

Personal highlight on the card was undoubtedly the win of Iron Major. If you read my preview yesterday, you know I tipped him to win at 10/1 – and he obliged duly. Inexperienced 10lb claimer Oisin Orr delivered a confident ride from the back of the field and went through an open gape 2f out. Iron Major found plenty when asked for an effort and was clearly well handicapped, as imagined beforehand.

Iron Major
Iron Major

Dundalk All-Weather