The second coming of Jessica Harrington has been one of the great narratives of world racing in the past few years, given that septuagenarian is joined in the odyssey by her daughters Emma and Kate.
While more trainers than ever are maintaining a presence in both National Hunt and Flat racing, it is difficult to argue with the claim that the Commonstown Stud handler is the premier dual-purpose trainer on the planet.
Her handling of Alpha Centauri served to advertise those talents further, the Niarchos Family’s filly winning four consecutive Group 1 prizes and giving her trainer a first Classic and first Royal Ascot triumph. This happened not much more than a year after bagging the most important race on the National Hunt calendar, the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Sizing John.
John will be attempting to regain his crown after missing out on the race last March and his supporters will be delighted to see Team Harrington clearly in good heart, following a treble at Navan yesterday thanks to Jetz, Walk To Freedom and Barrington Court.
And while the racing public have their jumping hats on now, a large new battalion of yearlings are being prepared for next season’s flat programme far away from the limelight. It seems impossible to keep track of it all but Harrington and co clearly have it sussed.
Celebrations galore in Kilmessan
Kilmessan Camogie Club won the AIB All-Ireland Junior A Club Camogie title for the second year in a row and third time in five seasons on Sunday but it wasn’t the only success being toasted around the Meath village.
Local trainer, Matthew Smith has been slowly building up his string with the support of his father, Kevin since swapping the construction industry for training. Last season, he finished with seven winners, including Prince Garryantle triumphing during the campaign-concluding National Hunt Festival at Punchestown.
Warnaq is the best horse to have gone through his hands, claiming the Grade 2 Flyingbolt Novice Chase at Navan in February 2015 before being sold to America, where he won the Grand National at Fair Hills with Ruby Walsh doing the urging.
More recently Warnaq, who runs in Kevin’s colours, has been catching the eye and appeared a good thing in the Davis Civil Engineering Handicap Hurdle at Navan on ratings given her easy handicap win at Naas on the final day of the Flat season. So it proved, the four-year-old going off in front in customary fashion and never seeing a rival.
Smith is clearly shrewd when it comes to spotting opportunities and while this was his first triumph of the current NH campaign, the likelihood that this filly will deliver again before the year is out. It says a lot for the young handler that Warnaq has retained her freshness, as that was her 11th run of the year and 15th since making her debut, finishing third at 66/1 in a 3yo Flat maiden at Tipperary in September 2017.
No fear of Casey
Francis Casey is not one to back down from a challenge, as evidenced last Thursday when pitching Eight Till Late in against Alpha Des Obeaux and Valseur Lido in the Listed Boomerang Animal Bedding and Boomerang Horse & Country Store Chase at Thurles. Though third of three, the 10-year-old finished less than one and a half lengths off the winner, Alpha Des Obeaux.
The gelding went into that race in the form of his life, with three wins already this year, his versatility illustrated by the fact that he followed his first ever win on the Flat under Oisín Orr at Leopardstown in July with victories over hurdles and fences, when Orr’s older brother Conor was doing the steering.
With just three days’ rest, and some recuperative trips to the sea, the Early to Late Syndicate’s pride and joy ran a brilliant race in the Ladbrokes Troytown Chase at Navan yesterday, travelling supremely well before tiring understandably in the closing stages to be seventh of 25.
Casey became a licensed trainer in January, taking over after the death of his father. One of the most colourful characters in Irish racing, Peter Casey was best known as trainer of multiple Grade 1 victor Flemenstar. Eight Till Late, who has won 10 times, provided Casey Snr with his last taste of success at Sligo in August 2017.
Peter was never afraid to take on the big guns, or to eschew convention and it seems that Francis is the same. It was fitting then perhaps, that Ar Eagla Na Heagla would clock up a third win of the campaign for Casey Jnr in the Join Gowran Racing Club Mares’ Handicap Hurdle at Gowran Park on Saturday, with the name translating directly as ‘For fear of fears’, meaning ‘Just in case(y)’.
The four-year-old is owned by the One Plus Two Partnership, and while Tom Richardson is undoubtedly an important figure in the ownership group, one suspects that the other duo – Casey’s mother Junie and wife Paul – need to be kept happy most of all. So job done.