We head to Tipperary tomorrow. I haven’t ran too many on turf but they’ve been running away well. That doesn’t last and it would be nice to grab a winner or two. We have 18 riding out and it seems maybe 12 are capable of doing something so the numbers are stacked against us. Pandemic Princess starts her career tomorrow. I just can’t get these babies on their job first time. They tend to leave their brains at home and generally step forward a lot from their first runs. She is expected to do the same. I think she is nice enough to win a maiden. Whether that is on her 2nd or 3rd run or whether she will wait til nurseries to show us her level, tomorrow will tell a lot. If she jumps slowly and picks up 2 or 3 late that will be fine but if she grabs more than half of them I’ll be getting excited. Dynakite goes next. He was showing very little through his sequence of maiden runs. He won’t do anything off 63 or 33 if he stays at that level. There is cause for optimism however. He has been training with blinkers and they appear to make a big difference to him. They’re like his safe space, he is focused and relaxed with them on and he appears to be in better shape as a result of more meaningful exercise. One hangs one’s hat on these minor changes, hopefully they have made a difference. They need to. Morph Speed has his second run for us in the first division of the 9f 45-65 handicap. If he steps forward from his first run then he should be very competitive. I thought he was in great shape 10 days ago and not a lot went wrong, that’s preying on my mind a little but hopefully normal rules apply. Musalsal bumped into a well handicapped, well drawn, well backed, well ridden rival that happened to be on fire last Wednesday night. That’s racing I suppose. He’s due a turn, hopefully it’s tomorrow night.

We’re Leopardstown bound tomorrow with 3 runners. It’s a bloody hard place to get a result but we have bits of chances. Eloso runs first in the 7f 3 year old only handicap. His form has been steadily progressive in Dundalk. The last night I thought he had won as they flashed past the line. That was an easier opportunity than this and he went up 3 lbs for getting beat. He will need to have jumped forward significantly to cope with these. Ger appears to have his 3 year olds with Alex D’s profile razor for their first runs so he will be hard to manage and Aidan’s fella could be thrown in. It’s the right race for our fella. Let’s see. Golden Valour goes in the next race. He should have had a winter campaign but had a nasty accident in transit last November and has been recovering for a large portion of the time since. It has been a long road back. He seems well, I have struggled with his weight and while he has a lot of graft under his belt he needs to shed a few kilos to be competitive. 7 furlongs is short of his best, he has won twice over the extended Dundalk 10 but a really fast run mile is what he wants. With tomorrow behind him hopefully we can build towards something nice with him. Musalsal goes in the last and this race looked like a great opportunity for him until I saw his draw. He’s in stall 17 and for a horse that jumps slowly and is sluggish early he is going to face a fair task to get on the premises late. Sooner Scott than me. When a horse pings and is generous early it must give riders loads of options to find the spot where they want to sit, the alternative is a headache. It would be lovely to grab a winner but I’ve a feeling I’ll be giving myself a little pep talk on the way home tomorrow evening. “The wheel is going to turn, it always does”. Rachael Blackmore winning The National has sealed her annus mirabilis. This is some thrill watching her doing what she’s doing. The same thrill the year Geraghty owned Cheltenham or Johnny won every Group one going. That rarefied place a sports star can get themselves to, everything works. Long may it last. Henry has had to up the ante with his own achievements. Winning all the main events wasn’t cutting it, he’s taken to having the first and second to grab a few column inches. After the Dublin Racing Festival I concluded that Willie was out on his own, different class. Wrong again

We’ll be weaned away from Dundalk over the coming weeks as the turf season ramps up. Dundalk racing is competitive as bedamned but it’s big boy pants from here on in. I feel flat racing has really ramped up in the 5 years since I started. Joseph wasn’t really a thing, nor was Jessie anything like she is now. Donnchadh is new, Ger is bigger and DK and JSB are firing better than they were. Bitch innit. Not much point whinging just get on with it. We run two tomorrow and I’m looking forward to seeing both. Musalsal had a good prep for his last run and I felt was poised to do something. He blew the first 3 furlongs, jumping slowly and turning a good draw in to a bad one. He finished out well but a repeat of his last run won’t do. He needs to be sharper, more up for it and if he jumps and travels and allows Scott to ride a race on him then he should run well. He’s weighted to be winning but that carry on early in his race can be infuriating. Chessman turns back 6 days after his Naas comeback. He’s doing the exact same as he did 2 years ago. He was an excellent 2nd in this after the same preparation. He appears well since Sunday and that was a good run. He was up to his usual tricks, he scampered up to challenge Ger’s favourite, got to a head and thought that’ll do. If Power Over Me had ran on and won I think we would have finished 2nd. Maybe. Anyway, he’s well and tomorrow should be interesting. The real specialist mudlarks aren’t going to get their ground but it’s a good race nonetheless. I’m hoping he’ll place, the engine is still intact. He has never won for me but getting him to at some stage this year is the priority. Hopefully we find something to make that happen.

We haven’t had a turf runner yet but should have 2 over the weekend. Another late night beckons in Dundalk before then. We have 3 to run. Uncharted runs in the winners of 1 for progeny of stallions with average yearling sales of less than 50k. She fits that category to a tee but is still an outsider. I wanted her to start her year without much hardship and the Dundalk surface allows for that. She has one piece of work done and hopefully she can put tomorrow under her belt and she can build away from there. Given the quality of the race if she were to be competitive we’ll have a nice problem of having to revise plans. Irish Acclaim runs back over 6f 2 races later and it is the usual competitive fare that he has been facing all winter. He travelled well and finished out his race the last night over 7. They may not have gone quick enough for him and while he was possibly last off the bridle the 3 in front of him were not coming back to him. A helter skelter 6 should suit tomorrow and if he keeps running his race he will sneak another couple. Eloso goes in the last and I’m hopeful rather than confident he will manage the drop back in trip. It’s a good race for him given his rating and if he travels for the first half he should finish well. Here’s hoping.

Another week further along and after the chaos of the last few weeks there’s a semblance of order on the racing front. Hope it lasts. We are Dundalk bound with 2 3 year olds tomorrow. Dynakite runs in the claimer. We don’t have him very long and I was anxious to get going with him. It’s hard to tell where he is at in terms of ability as his head is not in the game yet. That should come with racing and it would be nice to see him finish out his race. He will be foolish and ungainly early but if he hits the line he should have a little career.   Eloso runs in the mile maiden. With every week that passes and we get closer to the season proper these maidens are becoming increasingly competitive. This lad copped on a lot from his first run and did a lot right on his 2nd run. Ronan hoped that one or both of the market leaders might slip up and he rode him to pick up the pieces. Neither did and he didn’t get a crack at either. The mile will suit but with a poor draw and a deep enough race another step forward would be nice to see. He had a rotten dirty nose when he was withdrawn 2 weeks ago but appears to have fully recovered. Hopefully there’s no lingering effects. This is a tough, galloping, straight forward horse that should run a solid race.

We head to Dundalk tomorrow evening with 2 runners. Benavente runs first in the Listed Patton Stakes. It is over 1 mile and restricted to 3 year olds only. They all have similar profiles to him although his winning form would be below that of some of the others. It will be interesting to see how he gets on. He needs to be improving rapidly to stick it to a few of these. Hopefully he is. He had a bit of a lull in the 3 weeks since his last run but hopefully he can leave that behind him, put his best foot forward and we can see then where that leaves us. Irish Acclaim is immediately after and while again there are only 7 rivals it is very competitive. He has been lethal when he’s on song, hopefully he is again. The handicapper will be doing his level best to give others a chance, it would be nice to think he’s not there yet. We’ll find out together. This has been an extraordinary week for racing. Christ, that photo made me shudder but I never envisaged the fall out. I don’t know Gordon but have been in awe of his success for some time. What he has achieved is extraordinary and how he has kept on building on his achievements is the racing success story of my lifetime. That’s not overstating it. He has done it all and was on course to keep on doing it. He has kept a semblance of competition in Irish NH racing and he was going to explore every avenue to usurp Willie in the coming years. Again emphasising I don’t know Gordon at all and may have exchanged 10 words with him but he gave the impression of someone living a wild existence. He was doing it all, an outrageous success, one hell of a party and it has all screeched to a halt. Most of us are pulled aside by a spouse, slowed down by family, forced to behave by friends. It’s normally the preserve of youngsters but groups can behave themselves as if everything, literally everything is funny. It is a recurring theme in society and one would hope future generations are equipped to say and know when enough is enough. It’s tougher to teach an old dog new tricks but insight can come at any age. Another point that is worth making, in any one’s life if someone close sets out to ruin you, they will succeed. No one leads such a blameless existence that they can’t be pulled down. Most of us are just lucky enough not to meet or cross that person. It’ll be interesting to watch Gordon put this behind him. Whatever punishment is handed down I hope he has the stomach to claw himself back because back he’ll be.

Just a quick word on our 2 runners tomorrow. Benavente and Eloso run in a 7f winners race, the last race on the card but there’s no winners in it. Benavente ran away fine 3 weeks ago. It was his first run for 7 months  and after travelling smoothly he just flattened out in the last furlong to be beaten less than a length. Hopefully it was just fitness preventing him from kicking on and getting the job done. If he’s going to be the horse we need will become clearer tomorrow night. It would be nice to see him grabbing the bull by the horns and taking his opportunity. Eloso runs in the same race. He was clueless the first day but showed a bit. I expect mine to be a bit shell shocked the first day but this guy was quite silly. He jumped slowly, travelled in snatches and then dived left when threatening to run on nicely. The interesting thing with this fella is how much he appears to have improved. He has come forward a lot for that first run. He seems to be on the trajectory that would have him competitive in a maiden. He has a lot to learn however and I feel with tomorrow under his belt we could start to think along those lines. He could be coming faster than that. He’s fit and very well so it would be nice to see him run a race full of promise.

We head to Dundalk with 3 runners tomorrow. It’ll be my third trip this week having galloped horses there on Tuesday. Each visit is 8 hours of driving and a lot of junk. 2021 started on a good note runners wise with Irish Acclaim winning again. It was a bit of a surprise to me. He was great the first day but I wondered if the race had fallen on his lap. He won fair and square the last day, travelled best and put the race to bed. He has a crap draw to contend with tomorrow night and a furlong less. Should they go fast and stretch them out then he might get to follow and slot across without burning petrol. From stall 14 one is depending on what others do and Scott and he will have to be lucky. We run 2 in the 7 furlong colts and geldings maiden. Eloso is starting out, he hasn’t shown enough to be competitive at this stage. He is lackadaisical and a bit spaced out. If he can finish his race then he’ll have something to build on. He has a decent pedigree and should be able to get himself somewhere when he steps up in trip and the penny drops. Tomorrow will tell a bit more.   Benavente is having his 2nd run. We have had to wait for 7 months to see if he can build on his excellent first run. The gap is my fault. Everything had come together nicely for him to start last June but just in the last few days he started to show signs that a little pause was in order. Lockdown was over, we were raring for road and I wasn’t for budging. He ran, was eye catching and was just a bit flaaad after it. He ran up light, had a little break, tied up after his break, was gelded, had a longer break and we are now here and back. I took my time bringing him back to fitness, we didn’t press any buttons until the New Year and we were sailing along readying for tomorrow when the frost hit. He will improve plenty for tomorrow’s run and will have to be a very good horse to win in the circumstances. He could be.

2020 is drawing to a close. The care of horses and small kids means you’re kind of hidden from the pandemic. Mouths to feed and tidying what that leads to. On repeat. The year could have gone better on the racing front, a lot better but there’s little point roaring about it. I’m not convinced we’ll finish out with a flourish either. We have 4 tomorrow. Uncharted runs in the 2yo mile maiden. It’s less than ideal but she was balloted out against fillies last week and the week before. Those 2 races were the plan, this wasn’t. She is a filly I like, I think she’s good enough to win a maiden. Is she ready to win a maiden yet? I don’t know. Is she capable of beating colts? Tall order. Her first run wasn’t as good as her work so that’s a slight concern. The ground was very testing and I could probably have had her fitter. Hopefully she steps forward and runs well. Break and then aim towards the spring. Shoot The Breeze runs in the 7f Nursery. I didn’t mind his first run. He grafted all the way to the line after struggling for 2 furlongs, 10th of 18 in a Curragh maiden is a respectable start. He jumped and travelled well the next day but came off it fine and early and it was little improvement. His 3rd run was just poor. He has had a break and starts back tomorrow. We’ll see. I’d love to get him to do something for this group of owners. Their enthusiasm is infectious and they’d get a great kick out of him being competitive. He has to help! Eiffel Flower is well named being by Champs-Elysées out of Floriade. She has a lovely pedigree and is a fine big imposing mare that you’d be proud to bring anywhere. She starts in the 7f maiden tomorrow and her owner has instructed “she needs to s#€t or get off the pot”. He’s right. I don’t know what to expect. We’ll have a look, she’ll be awkward and clueless but should still finish out to some effect if she’s going to do anything.   Irish Acclaim starts his new life with us tomorrow and we’ll learn plenty about him. He has been gelded, he’s sound, he’s straightforward at home, he should be a nice addition. I’ve had lads with his profile build deadly little careers for themselves but equally, ones that were gone at the game. I think he’s in the former category but tomorrow will give us a nudge as to where we’re going. He’s owned by an offshoot of previous syndicate members that we’ve had great days with and I would really love to help them build a head of steam.

I haven’t written here for a while and a quick look through our recent results gives an indication why. We haven’t run many with chances. A combination of youngsters finding their feet and a few older ones finding theirs or battling the handicapper. Such is life. There was a time when I would be beating myself up about this but they’re just not for troubling the judge at the moment. It’ll turn. We have had more 2 year olds than usual and they should have a health warning attached to them. They just take their own time and not much one can do about it. We’ll keep a few going for the all weather. Lockdown has been extraordinary for everyone and for the most part we’ve been incredibly lucky. Businesses have been decimated and lives changed massively. We have been affected of course. It has been tough for owners to justify the continued cost of a hobby that they can’t enjoy. Plenty have stuck with it and hopefully we can find a way to repay that resilience. My day to day routine is largely unaffected. Yard, kids, some combination of both and occasional racing. Now I just don’t have to feel bad about not visiting anyone. Owners can’t go racing, can’t visit their horses. WhatsApp is terrific and they have to stomach me droning on about their charges. Pandemic penance.   Interesting and somewhat depressing to read and consider Mr Bolger’s assertions in a recent The Irish Field article. I can’t say I have ever had concrete knowledge of anything untoward happening and it is dispiriting to think he could be right. He’s not one for rash outbursts however and it would be nice to see the IHRB addressing his concerns. Questions have been raised on the quality of testing in the UK and Ireland compared to France. I would like to see a zero tolerance policy. If the French have systems picking up what we’re not then up the standard to theirs. Forget thresholds, there is no need for horses to be showing up on raceday with remnants of anything, legitimate or otherwise, in their systems. Racehorses require veterinary care but there’s well documented withdrawal periods for all those legitimate therapies. There was a recent survey circulated gathering information on trainer’s mental health. I was thinking of this and laughing to myself driving the 4 hours to Dundalk last Wednesday with a very moderate 3 year old. He was bred by my Dad and I’ve stuck with him for that reason alone. He ran his little heart out finishing in rear. How he has ended up with an opening mark of 60 defies belief. He might (MIGHT) do something eventually but why other’s striking successes should impact me I can’t understand. The real deal he is not.    

2017 Richard O'Brien Racing Limited