CARLINGFORD LOUGH'S GOLD CUP GAVE ME MY BIGGEST KICK OF THE SEASON
It was a great five days at 2016 Punchestown Festival. There was a great atmosphere all week, there were record attendances, and it provided a fitting end to the season in Ireland, as it always does.
From a personal point of view, there were many high points in the week, but the highest of all was CARLINGFORD LOUGH ATR Tracker.
As I said on Wednesday night, I got a bigger kick out of winning the Punchestown Gold Cup on him than I got out of any other win or any other race all season.
It was the way he did it as much as anything. You rarely see a horse travelling as poorly as he was travelling half-way through the race, coming through and winning a Grade 1 contest, a race that is as prestigious as the Punchestown Gold Cup, against that class of opposition.
He was brilliant on the day. When we were struggling going down the back straight, I was thinking, if we can just keep in touch, I knew how much he could find.
And sure enough, we were still in touch on the run to the home turn and when we straightened up for home, I was very hopeful that we would win.
I just had to make sure and get a clear run for him over the last two fences.
It was some training performance by John Kiely. He suggested after Cheltenham that it might be best to skip Aintree, to go to Punchestown a fresh horse.
He had him in some form. And it was fantastic for the boss, to win another Punchestown Gold Cup. He had a great week too.
DON'T TOUCH IT ATR Tracker in the Grade 1 Herald Champion Novice Hurdle on Tuesday was another high point.
He was a big price, he had to step up to take on Yorkhill and Petit Mouchoir, but Jessie Harrington has always had big faith in this horse.
Don’t Touch It had other options during the week, but Jessie was adamant that he was up to that grade. Yorkhill probably under-performed, but it was still a big performance from Don’t Touch It to beat Petit Mouchoir.
He showed a lot of class and he showed a lot of courage after jumping the last slowly. Petit Mouchoir headed us on landing over the last, so he did well to battle back as well as he did.
It will be interesting to see how he progresses now next season. That was just his fifth race over hurdles.
JER’S GIRL ATR Tracker was very good in winning the Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle on Friday.
She was getting lots of weight from her rivals, she was getting the age allowance and the sex allowance, and she took full advantage of it.
Gavin Cromwell targeted the race with her, and he had her spot on for it. She enjoyed the better ground, and she was very good at her hurdles, with the exception of the one going away from the stands. She just grabbed at it a little.
After that, though, she travelled really well. I knew that we had Thomas Hobson covered on the home turn and, after that, it would have taken a very good one to come from behind us.
It will be interesting to see how she fares now next season if she goes for those mares’ races off level weights.
She’s versatile in terms of ground and trip, she has won over two miles and two and a half, and she has won on yielding ground and on soft ground.
Jer’s Girl is just a talented filly and she has been really well handled by Gavin.
My other winner was ANIBALE FLY ATR Tracker in the two-and-a-half-mile Coral Handicap Hurdle on Saturday, my last ride of the week.
I’m not sure if it was that strong a race in the end, the second, third, fourth and fifth were all big prices, but he still did it well. He travelled through his race well, and he won nicely.
You’d have hoped that a decent handicap like that was within reach for him, but he had disappointed on his previous run at Fairyhouse, so you never know how they are going to go next time. But Tony Martin had him in great form.
There were others who ran well in defeat during the week. CONEY ISLAND ATR Tracker ran a good race in the Grade 1 three-mile Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle on Wednesday to finish second, beaten just a half a length by Bellshill.
He didn’t travel brilliantly through the race, but he stayed on well, he ran all the way to the line. It was a good step forward for him, to run Bellshill so close. And he was a five-year-old taking on a six-year-old.
SIMONSIG ATR Tracker ran a cracker to finish third in the BoyleSports Punchestown Champion Chase on Tuesday.
He jumped brilliantly, with the exception of the one away from the stands. He came with what looked like a winning run between the last two, but he just faded from there, which he was entitled to do on his first run since last November and just his second in three years.
It’s great to see Simonsig back though. If he can be kept right next season he’ll be a force.
MY TENT OR YOURS ATR Tracker didn’t run badly in the Betdaq Punchestown Champion Hurdle. He was just a little flat, which was understandable on his third big run after a long break.
It was a big step up on his recent runs. He struggled at different stages of the race, he struggled turning for home, but he stayed on strongly over the last two fences and he nearly got there.
It was good to see him return to form and hopefully he will be able to build on this performance now.
IVANOVICH GORBATOV ATR Tracker just didn’t have the guns for Apple’s Jade in the Aes Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle.
She obviously improved a lot from Cheltenham, but I’d say she improve again since Aintree. I tried to go with her but paid the price.