Leopardstown planning a ‘technical’ review of steeplechase course

Repeated criticism of the ground for being too quick prompts authorities’ concern

Max Flamingo ridden by Denis O’Regan goes on to win The Donohoe Marquees Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Max Flamingo ridden by Denis O’Regan goes on to win The Donohoe Marquees Maiden Hurdle at Leopardstown. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Leopardstown’s authorities plan to hold a “technical review” of the steeplechase course at the Co Dublin track.

The state of the going at on the chase track has prompted criticism more than once in recent years with complaints about the ground being too quick.

The 2019 Dublin Racing Festival was seriously affected by non-runners with 22 horses taken out of the second day of the meeting alone due to ground conditions.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary criticised the absence of watering on that occasion and said there was “almost a horse welfare issue” involved.

Last year Eddie O’Leary of Gigginstown Stud said there was something wrong with the chase course, describing it as “too quick”.

There has been extensive drainage work on Leopardstown in the past, provoking some to suspect the drainage has done its job almost too well for steeplechasers running there.

Watering took place on the chase course ahead of Sunday’s fixture and the going on it is forecast to be good to yielding again for Monday’s meeting.

Leopardstown’s chief executive Tim Husbands said he doesn’t expect conditions to change much either ahead of a schooling day at the track on Tuesday when some Cheltenham contenders may have a pre-festival spin over fences.

He confirmed the controversial surface is set to be examined over the summer.

“We will review it. We intend to get a technical review to clarify what the key issues are. It will probably take place over the summer months and we will take our advice from there,” he said on Sunday.

Monday would normally see the annual pre-Cheltenham workouts by festival contenders after racing. However such post-race gallops are not allowed under Covid-19 regulations.

Instead a schooling session will take place “with all protocols in place” on Tuesday.

Monday’s racing will be the last time until at least September that Gordon Elliott will be able to saddle runners.

“Sinister” aspect

The withdrawal of his licence for one year – with half of it suspended – takes effect on Tuesday.

On Friday Elliott was found to have damaged the reputation of racing after the emergence of a photo of him sitting on a dead horse.

The running of his Cullentra House stables is expected to be taken over by Denise Foster on Monday.

A Garda investigation into a possible campaign to discredit the trainer is continuing with Friday’s Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board referrals committee expressing the view that there was a “sinister” aspect to the case.

Elliott’s best chance of a winner on Monday could be Don Diablo who goes in the second division of a maiden hurdle. A repeat of his run behind Gentleman De Mee at Naas last time may be good enough.

One Cool Poet, who pulled off the feat of a three wins in a week at the 2019 Galway festival, gets another chance to exploit what looks like an attractive jumps rating in a handicap hurdle.

In Elliott’s absence, Henry De Bromhead is now second favourite for the leading trainer award at Cheltenham next week.

He can confirm his string’s good form with the point to point winner Grand Jury lining up in the bumper.

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