Navan proves exception to ‘logistical nightmare’ caused to racing by weather
Son Of Rest can appreciate drop back to minimum trip in Cork stakes
Apples Jade: will try and bounce back to form at Punchestown later this month in the Mares Champion Hurdle. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Navan’s Saturday fixture has Ireland’s racing weekend to itself as the sport’s programme officials battle the “logistical nightmare” caused by current weather conditions.
Further wet weather on top of already saturated ground led to Sunday’s Naas card being cancelled on Friday morning and fingers are crossed the omens are better for its rescheduling next week on Friday the 13th.
Saturday’s other fixture at Limerick had already been a victim of the very wet conditions in the south and west of the country in particular.
Tipperary’s scheduled card for this Tuesday has already been moved to Dundalk’s all-weather track which also races on Wednesday.
A sold-out student race day is fixed for Limerick this Thursday while it remains to be seen what impact the weather could have on Ballinrobe’s first card of 2018 this Friday.
Horse Racing Ireland’s director of racing Jason Morris has been busy shuffling the fixture cards this week and confirmed the final cancelled day of Fairyhouse’s Easter festival will now be run on Tuesday week, the 17th.
“Fairyhouse was due to race that day anyway. So we’ve moved that original fixture to two days later, the 19th. All that is closer to Punchestown than ideal. But with the amount of rainfall we’ve had that’s just the reality,” Morris said.
“All we can do is react as best we can and try to do the best for everyone in the circumstances. It’s a logistical nightmare when you’re losing so many meetings,” he added.
Next weekend is set to see flat racing at Leopardstown on Saturday with Cork and Tramore due to race the following day. However Morris also confirmed that any more potential fixture reshuffles won’t see a second Irish card on the same day as the Aintree Grand National.
“I don’t think anyone would thank us for putting on a jumps card on the same day as the Grand National,” he said.
Considering even Leopardstown’s famous drainage wasn’t enough to prevent last Wednesday’s fixture cancellation – a card moved to Monday week, the 16th – Navan bucked the trend and is set to reap the benefits of apparently being in its own microclimate.
The course passed an inspection and manager Peter Killeen said on Friday: “We had only 1mm of rain overnight and we’re forecast to get less than 5mm today.”
It will still be heavy going at Navan where the four-runner Listed Cork Stakes over five furlongs is the feature.
Three of the four runners ran behind Medicine Jack on Day One of the turf season at Naas and although Son Of Rest and Downforce are joint top-rated on 108, both were behind G Force on that occasion.
Son Of Rest appeared to travel best of all for much of that contest until fading to fifth, a place behind G Force. Dropped a furlong, and with that run under his belt, he can emerge best.
Ger Lyons and Colin Keane combine for the topweight Inscribe in the mile handicap. The horse is now on a mark of 82 after wins at Gowran (off 69) and Naas ( 78) last season. His weight will make it hard work in the conditions but Inscribe appears progressive.
The star mare Apple’s Jade is set to try and bounce back to form in Punchestown’s Irish Stallion Farms Annie Power Mares Champion Hurdle later this month.
Apple’s Jade failed to defend her OLBG Cheltenham crown behind Benie Des Dieux last month and Eddie O’Leary, spokesman for her owner, Gigginstown Stud, said: “She just didn’t run her race at Cheltenham and I don’t know why.
“We’ve left her in several races at Punchestown but I think she’ll go for the mares contest and I hope she bounces back.”
Benie Des Dieux is also among 20 possibles left in the mares event at Punchestown which will see the culmination of the battle to be crowned champion trainer this season.
Gordon Elliott’s prizemoney total for the campaign to date is €4,605,926, over €550,000 ahead of Willie Mullins’s haul of €4,055,125. Powers rate Elliott a 1-2 favourite to gain his first championship crown ahead of his rival who is 6-4 to make it 11 titles in a row.
Apples Jade v Benie Des Dieux will be just one of a series of eagerly anticipated Elliott-Mullins clashes at the final major festival of the jumps campaign.
Perhaps the most intriguing Punchestown possibility though will be if Elliott’s superstar novice Samcro opts to leave novice company and take on his seniors in the Betdaq Champion Hurdle.
Samcro is one of 16 left in that race. They also include six Mullins horses, among them the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon.