Tony Keenan's Irish Angle

A second set of barrier trials at Naas have piqued Tony Keenan's interest as well as the 2020 Irish fixture list

  • Wednesday 11 September
  • Blog
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Barrier Trial Pointers

Round two of the barrier trials organised by Irish Thoroughbred Marketing took place at Naas last Tuesday with 57 individual two-year-olds running across eight batches, that number up from the 42 that took part in the first set back in early-June.

The initial group of trialists enjoyed some success at the track with five runners from the June meeting winning since, Windracer, Cool Vixen, One Voice, Natural Power and Roman Turbo the successful quintet.

The last-named has been the most high-profile graduate, winning the Anglesey on his second start, and may have more to give having shaped better than the result when fourth in the Futurity last time, travelling as well as anything but not seeing the trip out after meeting some trouble and likely finding the ground on the slow side.

There were some new trainers among those participating this time with Michael O’Callaghan (five runners), Tom Mullins (five runners) and Emmet Mullins (two runners) among the more interesting ones.

Analysing these trials presents some problems. We have the times but not the weights and runners are coming to the track in varying states of fitness; this applies to horses from the same yard as well as different ones as I suspect Jessica Harrington for one has had her fillies fitter for these trials than her colts.

Not trying, as such, is permitted too with no penalty for a jockey not giving full effort. With all that said however, we can still watch and race-read along with adding some other aspects, and with that in mind here five horses that interest me from last week.

Smart Project (Kieran Cotter) is an unusual case in that he ran in the initial set of trials back in June. I flagged him up when writing about those contests on July 10th after he had shaped well amidst conspicuous greenness, but he failed to make the track again until last Tuesday.

Presumably not everything had gone smoothly in the interim, but he looked a different horse off his break, more clued-up and running out a wide-margin winner of the first batch over five furlongs. Races over that trip are getting weaker as the season goes on as the better horses compete over further but even so this was a good effort.

Emmet Mullins has proven innovative in his short training career to date, most recently when winning a listed juvenile hurdle in France with Fujimoto Flyer and his Dinn Righ travelled much the best when runner-up in the third batch, not given anything like as vigorous a ride as the ‘winner.’

The closing three furlongs of this trial was the fastest of the longer races on the card despite what the official time for batch seven may say; I made it slower than the returned time.

Jessica Harrington used the trials to good effect first time around and she was back with 14 runners in all, Valeria Messalina being the one that shaped best in batch four for me.

A half-sister to Pincheck (a Group 3 winner for the yard), it was interesting that stable jockey Shane Foley was aboard Katie Bo Katie in the same trial and the two pulled clear despite a slow pace, the Niall McCullagh-ridden daughter of Holy Roman Emperor coming home narrowly in front and never asked for anything like effort.

The Michael O’Callaghan runners tend to be well-drilled for debut, but it wasn’t that way with Now The King who finished second in batch six. He blew the start completely and while the raises a slight concern about his temperament, he made up lots of late ground under a considerate ride, shaping like the best trialist in his group.

Miss Myers (Tom Mullins) won the final batch eight though not before Naughty Dandy had travelled strongly. Still, the Mullins ‘winner’ was well on top on the line and her trainer has thought a bit of her for a while now, leaving her in the Moyglare Stakes up to the five-day stage.

All of the replays are available for viewing on the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Site along with YouTube and are well worth a look though one word of warning if you are looking to track a runner or two from them; most of these juveniles haven’t been entered yet so don’t show up in form databases so it will likely be a case of keeping an eye on declarations.

Link to barrier trials results and replays:

2020 Irish Fixture List

A question: What were the three most valuable races run in Ireland on a Sunday in June, July and August of this year?

That you might have to think about that for a while says something about how much summer racing has moved away from the traditional day in recent years. Part of that is a win for the stable staff lobby who seem keen on blank Sundays, another part seems to be an avoidance the big GAA fixtures.

The latter makes sense at times; for instance, the decision to move back the start of day one of Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown to avoid a clash with the All-Ireland football final replay is a sensible one, if one that will have might have more impact on TV figures than attendance numbers.

But going against more run-of-the-mill GAA fixtures is less of a concern and Irish racing has defined day in both the racing and sporting week and it needs to hold onto them.

The 2020 fixture list was released last week with the same number of blank Sundays (six) as in 2019 but at least next year there will be some better racing on the seventh day in the summer; there is a new Punchestown meeting in June, the Derby meeting is back to Friday to Sunday, Dundalk’s July 12th card falls then too while there is a Sunday meeting at the Curragh in August.

Another good call from those fixtures was the cutting back on the Friday evening Curragh meetings; I went to one this past summer and enjoyed the space and peace and quiet but that’s hardly the point, there was no one there. The Naas Road, even re-opened to full capacity, can be hell on a Friday afternoon.

Listowel being later is a positive step and it won’t clash with Irish Champions Weekend next year (allowing that wasn’t the reason behind the move) while it is worth trying the Easter meeting at Fairyhouse from Saturday to Monday, the Tuesday card there is often a comparative damp squib.

Anyway, the answers were the Group 2 Kilboy Estate Stakes won by Red Tea and the Sapphire Stakes won by Soffia, both at the Curragh in July, along with the Ahonoora Handicap won by Laughifyouwant on the final day of Galway. Surely, we can do better than that for Irish racing’s big day?

Tony Keenan's Irish Angle
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