By Stephen Dwyer
There are three Summer Festivals staged each year at Killarney’s racecourse. This is more than any racecourse in Ireland or the UK, but one visit to Killarney will make you understand why. The track itself is relatively straightforward, it loops around a ten furlong left-handed oval with a short finish. But the surrounds of the racecourse are phenomenal. Sitting in a natural bowl the racecourse is set against a panoramic backdrop of Killarney’s National Park, Ross Castle and the McGillicuddy Reek mountains. Branding itself as “Ireland's most Scenic Racecourse”, this may be a little understated.
Yesterday’s meeting (Wednesday evening) featured an eight race card and one of the biggest gambles of the flat season was landed in the very first race with the Aidan O’ Brien runner Royal Irish Hussar. A significant overnight drifter, the 3yo son of Galileo (pictured) was backed from 9/1 into 5/4 favourite, he made all the running and won cosily by eleven lengths. Speaking to Joseph O’Brien afterwards, the jockey noted “He bowled away nicely in front and he won nicely enough but it was an ordinary race “. Such was the weight of money on this maiden race that Paul Binfield from Paddy Power, noted : "We paid out over 100k on him. We went in at 6-1 about him, which wasn't the top price and was on the low side, but we soon realised that we really screwed up on the price. We never got near the bottom of him and he was backed at all rates." From the off the result was never in doubt and it was Aidan O'Brien's fifth winner in the last six runnings of this race.
With the Galway Festival just over two weeks away, Dermot Weld’s stable is warming up nicely. Khothry rallied late to deny the Jim Bolger-trained Neophilia a hat-trick in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF (Fillies) H'cap of €17,500 over 1m 3f. Though Neophilia was in receipt of 16lbs from Khothry, she was just held at the line. Khothry hit a high of 11/1 in-running (with Neophilia trading at 1/3 entering the final furlong) and she showed a nice turn of foot to hold on from Jim Bolger’s filly although the time for the race was slow by 3.54s despite the fast underfoot conditions.
With the going officially Good To Firm, Good in places, there was watering on the track but little in the way of large withdrawals due to the ground. Steps To Freedom started as the 13/8f in the Irish Examiner Beginners Chase but was denied by Sizing Italy. The winner, formerly trained by Jim Dreaper, was making his debut for Henry De Bromhead who said afterward: "I’m delighted. Andrew gave him a super ride. I thought the favourite was a certainty but that’s obviously why I don’t bet! "It was a savage run and he jumped great and all is good. He has every right to go for the novice chase on the Thursday of Galway now." Steps To Freedom, a former Grade 2 winning hurdler, had to settle for second place in his second start over fences but he will be winning soon and may appreciate slightly softer ground conditions.
The solitary hurdle race on the card was claimed in stylish fashion by Your Busy. Trained by James Nash, the Curragh handler announced afterward “I thought he had a great chance today and I told a few people to back him each-way. He got a freebie in front and he jumped great. He has always been better over fences and he will go for the Galway Blazers now”. Given an enterprising ride from David Casey, ,Your Busy kept on under pressure and if not too harshly treated by the handicapper, is one to keep on the right side of given similar ground conditions.
Monasterevin-based trainer, Peter Fahy completed a one-two in the concluding Ladies’ bumper when Sunday Serenade (6/4F) won by a neck from stablemate Alton Bay (20/1). Sunday Serenade was well supported throughout the day and was backed all the way in from 7/2. Ridden by Jane Mangan, the mare led from the last two furlongs and held the challenge of Alton Bay, winning in the end by a neck . Speaking of the plans for the winner, Fahy noted “She will have a break now and her main aim will be to go back to Navan for that Listed mares bumper.”
With a good crowd in attendance, the racecourse management will be very satisfied in what was a very decent precursor to the highlight of the year, today’s meeting - The Dawn Milk Ladies Day.