The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) has insisted there was no reason to hold a running and riding enquiry into the performance of the JP McManus-owned Ilikedwayurthinkin at Fairyhouse on Saturday.
The Gavin Cromwell-trained horse started a 7-2 favourite for a handicap hurdle – his first start in handicap company – and finished fifth behind the winner Clementina under jockey Mark Walsh after running on strongly in the closing stages.
Ilikedwayurthinkin's performance provoked considerable media comment including from racing's trade paper, the Racing Post, whose analyst at the racecourse described the stewards decision not to hold a running and riding enquiry as "not good enough".
The IHRB’s Rule 212, introduced at the start of 2017 after extensive amendments due to various high-profile ‘Non-Trier’ cases, states that every horse is “seen, to a reasonable and informed member of the racing public, to have run on its merits”.
On Sunday the IHRB's chief executive Denis Egan defended the racecourse stewards' decision not to hold an enquiry and pointed to a mistake by Ilikedwayurthinkin at the third last flight as crucial to the horse's performance.
“The horse is bang there and drags his feet through the third last. They [the stewards] felt that was the problem, in a sense in that he lost his chance there. But they were happy enough with the way he was ridden,” Egan said. He also said the IHRB has no plans to re-examine the matter.
After that mistake Ilikedwayurthinkin made headway on the outside of the field and kept on well on the run in to be nearest at finish.
“He has made a mistake, the commentator made a comment that he made a mistake. The horse was pulled wide into the straight and he [Walsh] eased him up on the heavy ground coming to the second last to get a stride.
“After the last he hit him one or two and he stayed on. Maybe he could have been a little more aggressive after the last but he wouldn’t have won anyway. They [the stewards] looked at it themselves and were happy with what they saw,” Egan added.
Mark Walsh donned the McManus silks again in Sunday's Grade Two Novice Hurdle at Navan but his mount Rhinestone had to settle for fourth as Easy Game led home a Willie Mullins one-two.
Easy Game followed up a previous course and distance Grade Three victory by proving two lengths too good for his stable companion Getareason.
Ruby Walsh’s run through on the winner was far from straightforward but the four-year-old continues to surprise Mullins with his rate of improvement.
“It looks like Ruby had to go through the houses so it goes to show how brave the horse is. He’s a horse that has gone a bit under the radar with us. I didn’t dream he’d be this successful and he’s improving all the time. He’s had a tough season for a four-year-old,” the champion trainer said.
Some of Mullins’s previous half dozen winners of the race progressed to the first Grade One of the New Year at Naas but as a four-year-old Easy Game has a different profile to them.
“We’ll see, but he keeps surprising me and is getting stronger and better,” Mullins added. “I was delighted with Getareason. He jumped slow but a lot better than the last day and showed he’s got an engine.”
Easy Game may run into Battleoverdoyen in that Lawlors Hotel Novice Hurdle on January 6th and that could be quite the collision judged by the latter’s hugely impressive jumping debut in the opening maiden on Sunday.
Michael O'Leary's £235,000 purchase didn't miss a beat as he sauntered to a 13-length victory under Jack Kennedy. The former point-to-point winner's jumping was notably good and trainer Gordon Elliott immediately nominated a major step up in class next.
“He improved a lot from his run the last day in the bumper and he’ll improve again for his first run over hurdles. He jumped very well, stays very well and he’ll probably go to Naas next,” he said.
That Battleoverdoyen took just over three minutes and 54 seconds to win a mid-December maiden hurdle at Navan reflected the continuing reluctance of some top trainers to risk some of their best horses on such unseasonable conditions.
Willie Mullins skipped Saturday’s International Hurdle with Laurina and even though Cheltenham wound up rain-soaked, the trainer was still happy with the call for his principle Champion Hurdle hope.
Nominating Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle and Leopardstown’s Ryanair Hurdle as possible options for the highly rated mare, Mullins said rain on the day at Cheltenham wouldn’t have got into the ground enough for Laurina.
“Ground is paramount: I want soft or heavy in the ground for her first run,” he said on Sunday.
Mullins’s nephew Danny landed Sunday’s €50,000 Tara Handicap Hurdle on Salty Boy for his mother Mags.
Salty Boy proved half a length too good for Golden Jewel after a sustained struggle from the last and justified a decent gamble having been backed into an 11-2 shot.
“He’s just so genuine and has improved again today,” Mags Mullins said. “We’ll see how he comes out of this. He might have an entry for Christmas or it might come a bit soon. We’ll let him tell us.”
Danny Mullins didn’t waste time doubling up on the day as he powered Danse Away to success in the later handicap chase.”