David Ord is in Ireland to visit Willie Mullins, Ger Lyons and Dermot Weld ahead of the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival.
A morning at Closutton where the focus wasn’t on Kemboy, Douvan, Faugheen, Un De Sceaux and Min, as welcome as glimpses of the National Hunt juggernauts were. They have the shine – and stomachs – of horses who had summered well.
For them the hard work starts now – for Thomas Hobson, Max Dynamite and True Self it’s banked. Their big day is just around the corner with a tilt at the £1million Sky Bet Ebor.
“We’ve a nice bunch of horses going for it – albeit they’re a bit older than a few that are heading there. The Ebor’s a race we’ve always targeted but the enhanced prize money is fantastic and hopefully we can get a slice of it,” the trainer mused.
Punters thought he had the key to the sweet shop last year when Stratum was the subject of a morning plunge that sent him off as the 3/1 favourite.. But it wasn’t be to be as the market leader ran into traffic problems down the home straight and finished 12th of 20.
“It’s a bit like a Grand National. If you’re lucky enough to be in the right place and get the run of the race and your horse is good enough then it’s your year. It didn’t work out for Stratum last year but he’d had his day previously at Newbury and it’s very hard to win two big handicaps in a season.”
So what about the class of 2019? He’s set to be represented by two Rich Ricci dual purpose stalwarts and a mare who has a deal more to offer than recent form figures would indicate.
“Thomas Hobson is in real good form. He just ran too free at Royal Ascot and scuppered his chance so we found a race for him at Tipperary. I thought let’s put him back over hurdles and get him back on his hocks a little bit and he settled much better there," the trainer said.
“It’s not a traditional Ebor preparation but was fine for him and the type of horse he is. They’ll be going a bit faster at York than they did at Ascot and that will suit him too. He’ll handle the ground.”
Max Dyamite will sport the same silks at the Knavesmire after finishing third behind Cleonte in the Queen Alexandra Stakes on a previous jaunt to Britain this summer.
“I thought he ran a cracker at Royal Ascot. I think he probably just needed it there although we also ran into better horses on the day. He came out and did what he had to do at Killarney next time. He’s a horse who needs a lot of training and we’ve been quite hard on him since to get him fitter.
“He puts on condition very easily and is lazy as sin at home which is good but just means we need to get the work into him. He’s getting that now. I think the Ebor will suit him. He’ll go on any ground. He owes us nothing.”
And what of True Self? As far as Plan Bs go a £600,000 cheque for winning the Sky Bet Ebor would do very nicely.
“We were looking for a jumps mare when we bought her but she has way more speed than that. She looks a decent stayer on the flat but is very ground dependant. She likes firm ground when it gets wet it’s detrimental to her chance. I think her best ground is good to firm or faster and that would be crucial to her chance on the day,” Mullins observed.
“At Haydock two starts ago it was too soft for her and we ran into a very good horse there. Then she came back to Leopardstown where she was drawn on the outside and couldn’t get any cover. She ran too free and that wasn’t her running either.
“I wouldn’t dismiss her in the Ebor. She has valid excuses for those two races and fits the right age bracket for this race. She possibly has our best chance heading over there. We’re very happy with her.”
Ger Lyons is another man eyeing a major pay day at York on Saturday week and he knows he has a horse with all the right qualities for the race in the shape of last year’s fourth Mustajeer.
“He’s doing well at the moment. We had a sighter last year. He ran well when we rode him to get the trip and not put any serious pressure on him and he’s been trained more or less with the race in mind this year,” he said.
“Colin Keane will go over and ride him at York and we can be more positive in terms of tactics than last year but that was just the way the race panned out in 2018. Gary Carroll used his head and you can argue we were a tad unlucky not to be a little closer.
“Previously if you had a Group horse in a handicap you’d win – now you need to need to be one to even get in the Ebor – that’s what £1million brings you– and rightly so.”
One man who resisted the temptation to have a dash at the cash was Dermot Weld with Sandown winner Falcon Eight taken out at the last forfeit stage.
He could still feature at the meeting in the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup but holds alternative engagements in Ireland and France this weekend.
Search For A Song will be on the plane to North Yorkshire and a date with the Galtres Stakes, a race her illustrious trainer has a fine record in.
She’s a lightly-raced, progressive filly who was fourth in the Irish Oaks on only her third career start last month.
“She is in a Group Three at Cork at the weekend but if the ground was good the Galtres looks the race for her. I thought she ran an excellent race in the Irish Oaks. She just didn’t quite settle early on but it was a Classic Frankie dictated really well from the front. I was very happy, to be fourth in an Oaks on her third run. It was a great effort,” Weld said.
“She’s a full-sister to Falcon Eight and she has a bit more pace than him. She’s only had three starts and should improve. I think she could be a very nice filly next year.”
Search For A Song is likely to have company on the flight over with a fascinating stablemate booked for another race the shrewd Weld knows well.
“There’s a two mile handicap I won a few years ago with Olympiad. If Dalton Highway gets in it towards the bottom he could go well. He won a handicap at the Curragh on Guineas weekend and was then second at Galway. If he runs he’ll represent us well.”
Get him in your My Stable tracker now if he isn’t already there.
That’s day one in Ireland done and dusted…day two brings Aidan O’Brien, Tom Hogan and Ken Condon. It has some act to follow.