Willie Mullins believes the Leopardstown management was left in a no-win situation after the second day of the Dublin Racing Festival was decimated by non-runners.
The feature race of the day, the Unibet Irish Gold Cup, was reduced to just four runners, with 22 of the 26 absentees on the day missing out on account of the ground, which was officially described as good to firm in places on the chase track.
Mullins’ Al Boum Photo was expected to be among the leading lights in the Irish Gold Cup, but the trainer had no hesitation in pulling him out after conditions quickened up again overnight.
The trainer said: “I was concerned about the ground at Christmas and that’s why we didn’t run here then. We ran him down in Tramore.
“I gave it every chance to rain without taking him out. I had to declare him and leave him in and risk getting fined by the stewards.
“No rain came. You want to run in your Gold Cup, but we couldn’t and it was a no-brainer to take him out.
“He’s a fine, big horse with a real soft (ground) pedigree to jump. We’ll wait until we have too – if that’s next year, so be it.
“We’re looking at a year, I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a dry summer, dry autumn and dry winter.
“We often had dry Leopardstowns, but we’ve had softer ground before that and the ground has gone good from soft and it’s soft underneath. This is just unusual in that it never softened at all during the whole year.
“You could water, but different people have different horses for different ground. I looked at the ground and thought I’d have horses whatever way the ground turned up.
“It’s a year in a lifetime, or even three lifetimes. They chose not to water. I certainly didn’t talk to them. They run the racetrack and I run my yard. I didn’t feel it was my position to say anything to them.
“We’re in the situation we are in but we’ve still got good racing and good horses running.
“I think track managers have enough on their plate without going to trainers. Trainers will want the ground for their horse.
“I’d rather leave it to the track and let them make the decision. That’s their business, not mine. My business is to keep my horses right and to run them on the right ground.
“I don’t want to get mixed up in running a racetrack, they have a hard job to do.
“If they water the track and the heavens open, people will be giving out about them too.”
Owner Michael O’Leary saw a number of his horses pulled out due to the ground, including likely Flogas Novice Chase favourite Delta Work, and he believes the track should have been watered ahead of the meeting.
He told Racing TV: “It’s a bit unfortunate. Leopardstown may need to reconsider for next year, maybe they should have watered, it is the last jumps meeting of the year.
“You wouldn’t water here at Christmas, but the ground on the chase track isn’t safe, there were a lot of injuries yesterday.
“It’s a very well run meeting and they are a great management team. These are unusual conditions, but for the last jumps meeting of the year they should have thrown water on it.”
Clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer is planning to discuss the build-up to the meeting with the Leopardstown team, but admits the recent spell of cold weather had been a factor.
He said: “When we launched the Dublin Racing Festival 10 days before the meeting, we were forecast 40-50 millimetres of rain and we didn’t feel there was a need to water at that stage.
“However, we didn’t get that and instead got about 20mm up to the Monday of this week. The updated forecast at that point was for another 10-20mm of rain, sleet or snow and sub-zero temperatures all week.
“For me, that is problematic watering with sub-zero temperatures.
“Myself, Pat Keogh (CEO), David Attwood (raceday operations manager) and Willie Gibbons (head groundsman) will all sit down and have a conversation about the lead up to this meeting and where we are now.”