​First winner for The Queen gave me tremendous pride

​First winner for The Queen gave me tremendous pride

Monday, May 29, 2017

First winner for Queen gave me tremendous pride

It was a proud moment to train my first winner for Her Majesty The Queen, three-year-old Patchwork, at Redcar on Monday.I was thrilled to be sent the horse as a yearling as I rode his mum, Medley, and his dad, Paco Boy. Based on looks he is more like his mum, and overall probably has more traits from his mother than father.He had a little problem at two, and we couldn’t run him.On his first start at Kempton last month he was drawn on the outside in a 13-runner maiden and ran a bit keen.Next time out we dropped him in at Goodwood and he took a furlong and a half to settle before finishing well to take second behind Queen Of Time, a promising filly trained by Henry Candy.We found what looked an ideal opportunity for Patchwork at Redcar, a median auction maiden. Simply everything looked right for him.Normally I don’t tend to run too many that far away from home base, but this really was a race I couldn’t miss.Patchwork went up on Sunday. It was a seven-hour trip, but he took it well and duly obliged the following afternoon. He came home that night and was back in bed by 2am.I can remember going up to Redcar only once as a jockey. It was a Sunday and I waschasing the jockeys’ championship.Patchwork will get a handicap rating on Tuesday. He has come out of the race and long journey really well, and we will let him regroup for a little bit before finding another race for him.

Sandra has made right decision to quit training

My sister Sandra had her last runner, Sheamus, at Down Royal on Friday night.Sheamus was dad’s last winner, and we were all hoping he could send Sandra out on a high by landing the 3m handicap hurdle.Sandra was thrown into a position she didn’t expect and, helped by mum and some great staff, has carried the flag of Osborne Lodge brilliantlyShe has trained loads of winners, including Irish Grand National hero Thunder And Roses two years ago, and secured Grade 1 triumphs with Lieutenant Colonel in the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle and Christmas Hurdle. She excelled with Acapella Bourgeois, who was the first horse she bought and sold.

Owing to the high costs of business rates and liability insurance Sandra needed at least 40-50 horses in the yard to make the business viable.Training is a numbers game, and unfortunately her numbers have fallen over the last year or so.Sandra is very intelligent and could see that things were becoming more and more difficult in the current climate.She has made an admirable, mature decision - with no ego in the way - to quit, and I know it’s the right thing for her to have done.It’s tough for trainers outside of the elite in Ireland at the moment. When the likes of Colm Murphy have been forced to retire you know things are difficult.

Sandra starts a new chapter in her life now. She has taken on a role with the Curragh and Roscommon as Owners and Sponsors Liaison and is looking for similar positions at other racecourses.She thoroughly enjoyed being a trainer and gave it her all. Dad would have been very proud of her.

Handicapper unfair on veteran Taajub

The handicapper often faces a thankless task, but I disagree with his treatment of the ten-year-old Taajub, who won a four-runner Brighton sprint last week in which my runner The Big Lad finished second.That race cut up badly, and the Peter Crate-trained Taajub, who was running for the 72nd time in his career, took full advantage of a soft lead.

Prior to that he hadn’t won a race on turf in almost five years, but the handicapper decided to put him up 6lb. That doesn’t seem fair to either the horse or his connections. Wouldn’t a 3lb rise have made more sense?Just because Taajub won a race by two lengths doesn’t mean that he has improved 6lb literally overnight.It’s not just about winning distances. There is the bigger picture to look at, and I can’t see howthe handicapper can justify his decision. Peter is in a lose, lose situation now and could be forced into retiring the horse when surely he has been doing the sport a service by keeping a fully-exposed ten-year-old in training.

Even though Taajub came out and ran a blinder to finish second to Zipedeedodah at Lingfield on Wednesday, he will struggle to win another turf handicap off his new mark. If Peter ran him in a claimer he would be afraid of losing a horse he loves, yet It could take six or seven runs before Taajub’s mark drops back to a realistic level that he can win off. I understand how hard it is for the handicappers, a case in point being the Mark Johnston-trained Khamaary, a filly with a beautiful pedigree who narrowly won a lowly maiden first time out as a two-year-old last October and was given an opening handicap mark of 71. She duly bolted up by seven lengths at Redcar on Monday. However, we really should be encouraging trainers and owners to keep older horses like Taajub in training, not reducing their options whereby retirement becomes more likely.

Does Breakfast With The Stars experience help Derby horse?

The popularity of Breakfast With The Stars seems to increase with each year. Personally I can never totally decide whether it is a good or bad thing for a horse to run round Epsom ten days or so before the Derby. As far as I am concerned it is a two-sided coin. On one side it can offer an enjoyable day out for a horse in a nice, quiet Epsom environment as it is being prepped for the Classic. Getting on a horsebox and travelling to a racecourse does a horse good. It turns them on and gets their blood up. However, I am not convinced that all horses benefit from exercising round Epsom before the big day. The hill at Epsom can be terrifying for young horses. When a horse backs off running downhill it begins to slide. Things get worse as panic sets in. A horse getting out of sync is the worst feeling in the world for a jockey as it is very hard to get that synchronisation back again. When you hear the expression, ‘he didn’t come down the hill’, this is what’s happening. Perhaps it is better to let horses go into the unknown on Derby day without that previous experience behind them? Most horses who run in the Derby never have to go back to Epsom unless they are running in the Coronation Cup the following year. As with most things there are clearly advantages and disadvantages of giving a horse experience of Epsom before Derby day. On balance, I suppose I would just edge towards viewing it as an advantage seeing as the likes of Andre Fabre and John Gosden have used Breakfast With The Stars to winning effect in the past.

Updated Pass Card system will cause problems

We ask people to spend a huge amount of money on horses who, in the main, will never come close to recouping their investment. Most owners are happy to swallow that pill, but in return they would like some little perk on their day out at the races. The least racecourses can do - and most are very accommodating - is give owners a few extra free badges if requested. Now they are talking about cracking down on that. Pass Card scheme has been updated. Now when my secretary Rose calls to ask a track to put aside badges for owners, she gets told that's fine for now, but in future owners will need to do that themselves with their passcard number. If the owners aren't going and I want to send someone else in their place, that could become difficult. For trainers and their staff it is going to be very awkward when an owner informs us of a badge request and we have to say to them we can't do it and they need to go to the website themselves. This is a service trainers offer to owners. I think it's totally fair that if an owner has a runner and can't go racing he sends some family and friends in his place. Normally they can't go racing because they're at work. Racecourses should think long and hard about whether saying no to a couple of badges is worth it. Surely it's a case of biting the hands that feeds them? I completely understand that with big syndicates or racing clubs, racecourses have to draw the line somewhere, and some do lots to make owners feel special- Chester, for instance, make a contribution to cover owners’ expenses.However, I can only sympathise with racecourse staff fielding phone calls at the last minute for tickets as it takes so much man power and organising.I am not sure how some owners and trainers will adapt to the new system.

Hughesie’s Hottie

The Aidan O’Brien Group 1 treble at the Curragh this weekend comprising Churchill (4.10 Saturday), Minding (2.20 Sunday) and Winter (3.25 Sunday) is buying money.