A Grand (National) Day Out; JOE recaps a great day's racing at Fairyhouse
With fantastic weather and a hugely popular winner of the big race, yesterday was a vintage day at Fairyhouse.
Going racing in Ireland is always a great way to spend a day but when the sun is shining, it is an exceptional way to spend a day. So when we set off for Fairyhouse yesterday, with sunglasses rather than an umbrella packed in our bags, we knew we were in for a treat.
And so it proved, especially as the racing more than matched up to the weather at the Meath track. The card was stuffed with talented horses and after a few serious hours of study, plus a few calls to a few supposedly well-informed friends, we were all set to go.
It is hard to beat picking the winner of the first at 7/1 so when Ivan Grozny crossed the line in the Tayto Hurdle our already good mood was sky high. The horse, ridden by Paul Townend, had run badly in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham but the addition of a hood for the first time seemed to do the trick for the four-year-old.
Ivan Grozny, and Paul Townend, in the parade ring before the first race
The Grade 2 Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle was a real cracker of a race, with big names like Mourad, Get Me Out Of Here and Thousand Stars going to post. In the end, it was the latter who romped home, leading from start to finish with a hugely impressive display of high-class, high-speed hurdling.
After a puzzle of a handicap hurdle went to Cara's Oscar, and a Point-To-Point flat race went to the well-backed favourite Free Expression, it was time to prepare for the big one, the Boylesports Irish Grand National.
One of the many joys of going racing is getting up close to the horses. Not only are they beautiful animals to watch but a good look at your choices really helps you decide which horse to back. We were very taken with how well Jonjo O'Neill's Shutthefrontdoor looked and we were not alone.
Shutthefrontdoor in the parade ring before the Grand National
The horse, which began the day at 10/1, rapidly became the favourite and was as low as 7/1 with most on-course bookies by the off. Goonyella and Home Farm were the other big fancies but it was such an open race that you could almost make a case for each of the 26 runners.
Sometimes these big races disappoint but this one didn't, as a massive group was in contention about three from home. It was then that Barry Geraghty got to work on the favourite and the local jockey (he lives in Ratoath) claimed his first ever Irish Grand National, just holding off strong challenges from Golden Wonder and Saoirse Dun. The roar when the winner crossed the line was huge. Yes a lot of people had backed it, but there was a genuine outpouring of joy for Geraghty as he filled in the one blank on his CV.
The scenes in the winners' enclosure were marvellous, with the crowd ten deep at the rails. It really was a special day to be at Fairyhouse.
Incredibly, just minutes after receiving the winner's trophy from Enda Kenny, Geraghty was back out on the course, where he sensationally piloted Une Artiste to success in a mares chase. It showed just what a pro Geraghty is and that win was hugely popular too as virtually everyone we spoke to had backed the winner.
The evening sunshine was still glorious as two more races went off. Usuel Smurfer was a win for the bookies, taking home the Bill Cullen Premier Cars Handicap Steeplechase at odds of 20/1 while the last saw very well-backed favourite Marinero finish only third, with the win going to Investmentsuccess at 10/1.
The view trackside at the winning post
And even though those last two races didn't provide us with any financial gain, just being trackside in such glorious weather was reward enough.
As the crowds filed out after the last race, everyone was still talking about Barry Geraghty. After three winners at Cheltenham this year, and then four at Aintree, he was already having a stellar season. Then, at his home meeting, he won the Powers Gold Cup on Easter Sunday before landing the Grand National a day later.
Racing is a tough business, where fairytales rarely happen. But yesterday really was a storybook day for Geraghty, and one that will live long in the memory of everyone who was there.
To find out when racing is on again at Fairyhouse, check out their site, Fairyhouse.ie