We’re coming towards the end of 2019 and we won’t have many more runners, if any, after tomorrow night. Golden Valour goes in the maiden. He has been knocking around for a bit and has had quite a few runs to be still a maiden. His last few runs would suggest he’ll be competitive but he needs to improve to cope with the favourite. I underbid Narynkol at the recent Horses In Training sale in Newmarket and a maiden with his rating had added appeal as a race of this nature should be a penalty kick for him. He’s a huge unit that appears to be a bit ungenuine but I forgave him his tendency to finish weakly because of his size. Hopefully he’s just ungenuine!! I’m half joking. Our lad did well to get as close as he did the last evening after pulling very hard and getting trapped wide. He needs to step forward again.   It’s been an interesting year to say the least. If someone had sat me down in January and asked me expectations, 6 wins wouldn’t have been my answer. We haven’t had the bounce of the ball at times and to have horses placed in 2 group 3s, 3 listed races, 5th in a Guineas and a Group 2 suggest we haven’t lost our marbles entirely. I have been guilty of errors of course, running moderate horses and placing horses poorly at different times but errors are part and parcel of every endeavour. Trying to learn from them is the thing I suppose. Beating oneself up about them probably isn’t. I have never experienced weariness like I have in the last 3 years, never felt as empty or as helpless at times and I have never been less well off. There is something about training horses that takes you over, consumes you so you know that to do anything else would be humdrum. The momentum that comes with a nice horse finding it’s way, turning into something, getting somewhere is like a drug, it counters everything and sustains the whole thing. A last winner for 2019 would be nice and then all eyes on 2020. I learned a lot this year, more than at any other time, hopefully it will stand us in good stead.

These have been sporadic, no harm to update on occasion I suppose. We are post Galway and we drew a blank again this year, not having a runner didn’t help. They put on some show up there and it would be nice to have something with 10lbs in hand to go there some time. At that you still have to handle the place and get a draw and a trip and not bump into something with a stone up it’s sleeve. Anyway on to Naas tomorrow and we run a new one tomorrow in the 2yo maiden. Well, new to us. He has 2 runs in England, a debut full of promise was followed by a bomb out last time. His behaviour/hormones did for him that day and they could easily get the better of him tomorrow. His behaviour has been good since he arrived and I’m happy to give him the benefit of the doubt. If he does get carried away and runs poorly he’ll have a mark and we can get him gelded and go the nursery route. Alternatively he has the chance to be impeccable and stay whole a little longer. It’s up to him. He’s very well bred, can gallop but doesn’t appear to be a 5 furlong horse. I’m putting plenty of pressure on him running him so quick but good horses thrive on pressure. He needs to be getting on, his 2 year old year is flying by and he needs to start contributing for Clive’s sake.

Elaborating on the chances of these runners is becoming a bit of a laugh in a kind of excruciating black humour kind of way. I’ll persist I suppose. When Cautious Approach was heading for the wrong side of the running rail in the closing stages at Bellewstown there was a kind of resigned acceptance as it happened. Little enough said, confirm she’s ok and trek on home. It’s uncanny but runners of ours have been turned upside down a lot this year. Cautious alone has clipped heels when coming with her chance in Dundalk and nearly got capsized in Killarney another day. Tomorrow is a chance for her to get back on track but she’s drawn 14 which can’t be good. Excellently Poised returns to the fray after an extended break and he’ll likely need it. He was functioning at a level last autumn/winter, he showed a bit of promise but he’ll have to have improved to be competitive tomorrow. I’m not sure. He’s not one to graft and have all i’s dotted and t’s crossed, I’d have no horse, so I’m taking plenty on faith, eyes closed and hope. We’re going through a transition at the moment, plenty have fallen by the wayside or have been moved on. Time to rebuild. The facilities are there, the system is there, just have to find better horses. There was a survey sent out during the week designed to assess the mental health of trainers. It’ll be interesting to see the results but I suspect there’ll be plenty of evidence of burn out, anxiety, isolation etc. It takes a special type of ignorance to be solely responsible for the training and campaigning of horses and not blame yourself when things aren’t clicking. That blame or shame as Michael Channon Jr described it, eats you and has the potential to impact you and those closest. Sticking to principles, keeping everything just so and just wait. Any horse that has done well for us has been comparatively straightforward, just ticked along, grafted themselves in to something and went away about their jobs. There are a core few still there and they will do that, we need more and to stay in business while we wait for them!

We have 3 runners tomorrow between Bellewstown and Tipperary. I drew the short straw(in distance terms) and will be heading for Bellewstown. We run African Friend in the 5f handicap. He has a reputation for bad behaviour so I want to be on hand. His conduct has been immaculate with us, we have put him through stalls without any problems and he has been very biddable in his daily routine. I never try and address the specifics of a horse’s bad behaviour, whether I’m right or wrong if they are kept in a very strong routine they don’t have the time, interest or energy to act the clown and maybe they forget about it. We’ll see tomorrow. There’s no obvious major angle with this guy, his mark appears to be approximately right. He’ll run away plenty once we’re happy with his conduct and he shows enough to suggest he’ll win occasionally. Cautious Approach runs in the fillies handicap and this is a lovely race for her.  The positives- she appears to be in great form having had a 3 week relax, she’s well drawn and Andy Slattery is claiming a handy 5 off her. The negatives- she’s a big ol unit and Bellewstown may be sharp for her, may be. The ground won’t be rattling fast. I believe they keep the ground on the kind side at this track (totally understandable) but this lady wants it with dust flying off it. Lougher runs in a winners of one in Tipperary and as a maiden she’s 1 of 4 maidens in this event. Jessie’s lady was impressive on debut and she’ll have to be a fair filly to carry her penalty, not against our lady per se but Aidan’s fella will likely improve 3 stone. Lougher had a frustrating debut, after jumping the road, pulling too hard, she was kept in rear by the winner’s stablemate. By the time he thought of having a go at his  pal the race was over. She ran on fine and was fine after and we brushed ourselves off and here we are. She’s talented, tomorrow should give us an idea what we’re dealing with. Optimism all round then. Anyone following this year’s trials and tribulations will raise an eyebrow I’m sure and they’d be right. It’ll turn around, it has to. 🙏🤷‍♂️

Racing takes us to Naas tomorrow. It’s a low key card with a 10f listed race for 3yo fillies the feature. It’s being called an Oaks Trial. I’m not sure what kind of a record it has for producing Irish Oaks winners or runners, I’d be surprised if there were many. Our stable star Dean Street Doll runs here and appears to have a legitimate chance. Her Guineas run was very good. A staying on 5th is a peculiar feeling. She has ran well, justified her place in the race, honourable etc but it’s still nowhere. This filly’s pedigree and the way she has been finishing her races suggests 10f will bring about improvement and if that’s the case she’ll take whacking. My feeling is that a Naas 10 is going to be a fair test for her. We have to have a look as it frames the rest of her 3yo campaign. She is reckless hard on herself and trying to get her to conserve is going to be a big problem for Colin. It’s a very competitive race with 1st and 3rd from the Guineas trial in there, an unknown quantity from DK and then the small matter of Team Ballydoyle. Individually they are lesser fillies, by their standards, as a collective they’re a different proposition altogether. I heard Aidan describe recently their policy of racing horses, campaigning them vigorously and categorically identifying the best, most durable amongst them. It’s good for the breed, strengthens the gene pool etc. I admire everything about the outfit. Brilliant horses, brilliantly trained, campaigned, ridden etc but when 2 or 3 or 4 rock up in the same race it makes life tricky. Head down and keep kicking I suppose.

We head to Leopardstown tomorrow for a low key card. Royal Ascot is the biggest show in racing at the moment but mere mortals have to ply their trade away from the spotlight. That’s us! Some day we’ll go, hopefully.  We could have gone with Dean Street and Chessman I suppose but belting runs to finish 8th of 28 or 10th of 30 didn’t really appeal. Anyway we introduce our 2nd 2 year old tomorrow. It’s the first mile race for 2 year olds and I put her in because usually it’s a small field and I expect her to be a bit dozy for the first couple of furlongs. She will be fine back at 7 after tomorrow but the early tempo will suit her better. She is a filly we like, her work is good but my experience of my starters  is to expect nothing and get their first run out of the way. It’s a huge occasion for them and if she gets the opportunity to learn and enjoy the day out then we can think of a plan thereafter.   Papal Count runs in the last. He ran fine on Saturday. He looked caught for a gear turning in after they appeared to go slowly and a better gallop will suit. His runs have been with cut but he’s a good mover and a solid gallop on nice ground might have him competitive. I say might because it’s hope rather than expectation.

We were in Gowran this day last year and were in the middle of a pretty mental run of results. Things are completely different this year. The nice ones are performing but that means running nicely without coming close to winning and the lesser ones aren’t winning or coming close to it. Tomorrow is going to be more of the same. 2 grand horses capable of running away fine. Drawn in 1 and 2 and on Tipp’s sprint track, with juice in the ground, that is lights out. That’s not being pessimistic, it’s just a fact. Ampeson is now a gelding, he was very taken by The Curragh the first day and especially the 5 fillies in his race. That was a Monday, he was a gelding by lunchtime Tuesday.  He’s fine to start back. It’s a hot race and realistically he needs to travel and finish and I’ll be happy with that. That’s Mad has 2 good runs over 5 furlongs and a repeat of those would have him running well again. The draw scuppers things however.    

Tomorrow’s 2000 Guineas is the new Curragh’s first big day. It’s great to see the race with 2 potential superstars facing off. Newmarket’s convincing winner taking on last year’s champion 2yo. Christ it’s exciting. Our 2 will have run by then with Barend Boy going first. I got excited for a brief moment a furlong down in Naas last Sunday but he ran out of steam late on, fading to finish 4th. It was a good effort and dropping back a furlong should suit. I say should but he needs to travel better than he did over 6 two runs back. I hope he’s not a bit tripless.He’s taking on his elders aswell and that makes things tougher.   Chessman goes next and his last 2 runs have been good. This was his target since Navan but last week’s Listed 7 cut up and he had to take his chance. He bumped in to a filly on fire and she outbattled him late on. It won’t be the last time he’s outbattled but he’s a very talented horse that’s performing to a high level and I’m not going to crib him. I am conscious he tended to throw in occasional stinkers in his previous life but he seems to have taken last Sunday’s race well. This is a substandard Group 2 and this lad on song could swoop past a few of these. He needs to be spot on though, I hope he is.   I probably won’t get to expand on Dean Street Doll and her Guineas assignment Sunday but it’s one we’re looking forward to. She’s well, she has been on the go but she’s maintaining her condition and her appetite for work is terrific. She’s high energy and despite a busy schedule her post exercise pick of grass had to be cut short due to bad behaviour this morning. Whether she’s entitled to have a go at these superstars weighs a little but hopefully she acquits herself well. Her Guineas trial 2nd was admirable, I thought and things could have gone better. Colin had to take her back early on the last day and when they dropped to a crawl she started to pull very hard and stopped using herself the way she can. This is the key, if she can get down and settle in to a rhythm and use herself she will definitely step forward on what she has done thus far. Whether that’s enough or whether she has the sense yet to settle are the unknowns but myself and Clive and all attached to this beautiful filly are going to enjoy the experience of finding out.

I have failed to keep up with these blogs recently. I’ll have to do better. These horses have been running away fine at times and to be competing in some of these better class races feels great but a winner or 2 wouldn’t go astray. T For Tango runs in the 6f claimer tomorrow and it has to be a good opportunity for him. How can he mess this up? Lincoln could I suppose. Sligo should suit and the trip would be more his than his main rival’s. He could be claimed too and if he is so be it. He was an 8k purchase last July and has won a race and been placed. He’s far better than his rating but needs heavy ground and a fast pace. He could run to quite a high rating in that instance. He’s sound and easy to train.

The lovely Dean Street Doll steps in to stakes company tomorrow for Leopardstown’s 1000 Guineas Trial. It’s a huge step up from winning a maiden 15 days ago but it fits in to have a look. It’s not a big field and while they will be undoubtedly hot to handle it’ll be interesting to see if she can. For her to win a maiden wasn’t a surprise but for her to do it so soon was. To me anyway. She has a lovely way of doing things but she pulls very hard in her work and her races and can feel a little weak late on in her exercise and I expected her to find less than she did. Colin liked her and advised this route. He’s riding like a man possessed at the moment and it’s nice to have him on our side tomorrow.

2017 Richard O'Brien Racing Limited