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.    

Cautious Approach returns to her favourite track tomorrow after a vaguely frustrating summer. She hasn’t got rolling at any stage, primarily due to lack of opportunities and when she has ran things haven’t really gone to plan. She’s well drawn in a competitive race and hopefully she will run well. Everything seems irrelevant when one thinks of Pat Smullen and Frances and his children. My mind keeps wandering to his passing, it’s heartbreakingly sad. I didn’t know him, I only knew him as a jockey. The impact he had as a jockey was immense. To achieve all he did and put together and keep together a family and home. To receive a devastating cancer diagnosis, face that, recognise the opportunity and promptly raise millions for cancer research. How? Pat rode a couple of fancied ones for me when I started. I’d set off on the long journey north positively buoyed by that fact. It didn’t stack up, heading for a 45-65 in Dundalk and having Pat Smullen to ride them. It was like I had entered a parallel universe in which I didn’t belong. He made me feel I did. He took me seriously, this was everything to me, he had watched replays, he knew the opposition, where the pace was, he had a plan. It counted for a lot then and it does now. He was a real great, great days on great horses all over the world, yet on a miserable winter night in Dundalk he had a plan. Thinking of nobodies as somebodies doesn’t come easily to most, he could do it and it was easy.

Galway week was spent in West Cork with family. Back to reality tomorrow with The Alpha Man running in Naas. It’s his first run in handicap company. The last few months have been a steep learning curve for him and he’s stepping in to a race with plenty of depth tomorrow. We have a good rider on our side and hopefully he shows up well. It would be nice, imperative really that we get owners back as soon as possible. The vast majority of my owners, practically all, have horses for one reason, a day out. They’re working people and it’s their hobby. Their outlet to meet friends, to socialise, to give themselves a chance of a day of days. That’s gone and everyone has understood why. The reality is they’re not going to be able to justify this going on much longer. Not one has complained and they may be some way from doing so yet but they’re not there to support me or the industry without some consideration for their investment and what they’re entitled to expect. I’m not privy to what goes on in the corridors of power and the difficulties racing’s representatives face but I can’t understand why they don’t keep communicating. Keep talking, keep telling us and our owners of progress or the lack thereof. We need to feel our owners are at the forefront of everyone’s minds and their return is an absolute priority. I worry more than a little about the ongoing divisive conversation around interference rules. Raceriding is an inherently dangerous occupation and everything should be done to ensure it’s as safe as possible. Jockeys should however feel supported as they head out to get the best possible result on our behalf. That’s true if you’re a trainer, owner or bettor. It has been framed as a sort of wild west, anything goes and someone is going to get hurt and it is going to be someone’s fault. Someone is going to be hurt, that’s an immutable fact, it doesn’t have to be someone’s fault. We’re facing a situation where everyone is a steward and there’ll be hell to pay. Horses shifting left or right under pressure is tougher to predict or control than is being recognised. Knowing what’s happening behind you can be tricky with wing mirrors, imagine without and amongst 16 or 18 competitors with all the associated noises. It’s tough as all hell for jockeys. Look at the rules by all means, review them, change them but it doesn’t need to happen like this. If the driving forces and the other associated names feel the need for change then it can happen without jockeys getting thrown under the bus.

I wanted to preview Forge Road tomorrow as I posted a little video of her several weeks back. I was mad about her then and still am. I am conscious however that she is a staying filly that doesn’t yet have the power required to show herself to best effect. She has been in full, strong exercise for 4 months and deserves to start her development as a racehorse tomorrow. I hope she shows a bit but I’m quite relaxed about this lady and it could be this time next year before we get to see what she can do.

I might just give a weekly update rather than focusing on individual runners. I missed Musalsal last week. I was betwixt and between with him. I had ground reservations. Just shows you the judge I am. TS Eliot said “Humility is wisdom” but recognising what you don’t know can be a wearing characteristic in this game. Cautious Approach runs in a good fillies handicap at 7.55 in Killarney today. She’s the solid hard knocking sort of the field. There’s a few progressive potentially good fillies in it, hopefully they don’t bring their A game and she can put pressure on them. We’ll see. Her last run was good but she’ll have to be improving. I’m not ruling that out but last race evidence suggests that progress will come at 14f plus.

Roscommon bound tomorrow so quite an early start. Beauty Of Deira runs in the 4 and up fillies maiden over 10f. You generally need a borderline stakes horse to win an Irish maiden but once the 3 year olds are kept out of them the quality dips. There are 4 or 5 in this of interest and I’d like to think we’re on the fringes of those. It’s an enormous plus to have a maiden win to a fillie’s name. This lady is quite talented and her debut effort for Hugo Palmer underlines that, she was nabbed by a quality filly that day and it was only in the last 50 yards she gave way. Her work has been excellent but I haven’t been able to work her half as much as I’d like. Fitness and freshness will be her enemies therefore and a nice run would be lovely to see.

Global Pass got off the mark at the 16th or 17th time of asking last time. He tries to back that up today. Obviously he completely lost his form last year and it’s not fully clear why that was. He was striking into himself at home and at the races and the recurring wound was difficult to manage. We have him where he has stopped doing that at home but it’s simply a case of just training him much lighter. It appears to be working. That has it’s own difficulties and he now needs to run regularly to maintain his fitness. Today’s race isn’t exactly ideal. There will be give in the ground which I’m not sure he will handle. Equally I would prefer to be sticking to a mile. Hopefully he will get away with both but it wouldn’t make sense to be taking him 2 hours to the Curragh to work him when he can pop down the road an hour and compete for a few quid. He won easier, in my opinion, than the 4lb rise suggests and to that end trip and ground notwithstanding he should be knocking on the door. Would be nice…

These 2 have had their runs and there isn’t a lot to say. Chessman is below this grade but if a race set up for him and he gets running late he may pass a good few. He handles fast ground but doesn’t recover from his races as well so the juice makes my life easier. Golden Valour was eye-catching in Navan. Finishing well from a poor position. It’s important to remember he put himself in that position by blowing the start. He’s liable to make mistakes and that draw won’t help. I imagine he’ll have to be ridden cold but I’ll leave it to Ronan. His form on testing turf is very poor and may be related to that but he was out of form at the time so we have to look at him today in these conditions. Hopefully he handles them.

Our first trip racing to the Curragh this year. I work all my horses here a couple of times before they run. It’s a well worn path. We run 3 and on the face of it they appear to be bit part players. The Alpha Man goes in the mile maiden and it’s as hot a maiden as you could hope to find. This lad is ignored as a result and to be fair his 2 placed efforts have come in much lesser races. The interesting thing with this fella is both runs were like debuts due to the lockdown enforced gap between run 1 to run 2. He appears to have improved a lot since Gowran and he will give a good account of himself. You can make a case for a load of them and maybe conclude this lad would be better waiting for a mark. I think he’ll run well. Bullish, no but he’s getting uber professional. We’ll see. Ampeson runs next and I’m sceptical of him. He shocked me one day last year by travelling like a dream in Cork and getting there to look like he might nick a big pot. I haven’t seen it since so it’s up to him to claw his way back to that. Cautious Approach was underwhelming on her first run back post lockdown. It’s not like her. She has been busy and well since. She can get herself back rolling today. It’s very competitive. Hopefully she travels, finds daylight and finishes to much better effect. She did a piece of work a few weeks ago that was better than anything she has done. I’m hopeful she can reproduce that here. She needs to.

Musalsal is back to the scene of last week’s 3rd. Everything is the same, 7f, good draw, similar opposition. With normal luck and a reproduction of last week’s run he should be there or thereabouts winning. We’re still finding out about him and he needs to have a good constitution both mentally and physically to continue showing up. He’s had an easy week, he has exercised every day and eaten well. You have to take it on trust that the wellbeing has been retained as you can’t afford to go looking for it. Hopefully he’s still there and can get rolling. 🤞

2017 Richard O'Brien Racing Limited