Ruby Walsh: Why the resentment of success?

There seems to be more anger than delight at the success of the elite band of trainers sitting at the top of the Irish training ranks
Ruby Walsh: Why the resentment of success?

HUNGER FOR SUCCESS: A smiling Gordon Elliott pictured at his stables. Pic: Healy Racing

Facile Vega, Captain Guinness, and Bob Olinger all came to the fore last Saturday at Navan, where Gordon Elliott dominated another weekend on home soil. More power to him, is how I see it. He started at the bottom, worked his way to the top, knocked himself off his pedestal, and climbed back on. ‘Poor me’ doesn't seem to be in his vocabulary, and a business brain driven by the hunger for success is reaping the rewards.

And yet, there seems to be more anger than delight at his success, not just his but that of the elite band of trainers sitting at the top of the Irish training ranks.

All sorts of theories and suggestions are being made as to how to solve the domination of the superpowers and save the sport of National Hunt racing. Too many fixtures, a lob-sided programme, and the concentration of too many wealthy owners in a few yards are top of the list. Limits on how many runners an owner or trainer can have in any given race have been thrown about, and the rapid fall in licensed trainers has also been highlighted.

The latter issue is the biggest because competition keeps the wheels turning, and looking deeply into the fall of licensed trainers is where any investigation should start. Tinkering with the programme or bringing in limits to restrict the top band is simply using sticky tape to paper over the cracks.

Reform should be difficult because it involves change, and nobody likes that, but proper change begins from the bottom up.

Trainers go out of business because they don't have enough stock, but we are still breeding the same number of horses, so where are they? The other thing that breaks them is the lack of investors — or ‘owners’ as they are known in horse racing — to buy stock. Where have they all gone? Somebody owns all the horses that are being lost to the racecourse between birth and racing age, and that’s the first issue which needs to be investigated.

Last weekend, Cheltenham provided its fair share of excitement, and some performances set the mind racing for the weeks ahead. Most of those who visited the winner's enclosure were probably expected to, but that's not unfamiliar territory. What was more exciting was the manner in which some of them achieved victory.

Jonbon was slicker and faster at his fences, and having not matched his novice rivals in last season's Arkle, he did so against older rivals in the Shloer Chase.

RaceiQ is a horseracing answer to a data provider that most other sports have and, by using its metrics for jumping, one can see, in terms of time spent jumping, he matched the more experiencedEditeur Du Gite and Nube Negra all the way and caught up with Edwardstone in the second half of the race. That is a step forward for him and could help him narrow the gap between himself and El Fabiolo come March.

However, the more interesting metric RaceiQ provided was around Stage Star’s mistake at the last in the Paddy Power. He lost nine miles per hour, or almost a third of his speed, when he got the jump all wrong but still managed to regain his full speed in a little over three seconds. His effort marks him down as a Grade One performer, and the more RaceiQ data one reads, the more one realises the importance of good jumps late in a race compared to early.

This brings us to Galopin Des Champs, who, with his jumping speed, lagged behind Bravemansgame early in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but outjumped him over the final four fences when the chips were down.

Both grace the racecourse with their presence this weekend on either side of the Irish Sea as they keep the home fires burning. Bravemansgame heads the field in Saturday’s Betfair Chase, and his recent Wetherby run should have him primed to deliver. Willie Mullins sends two to Haydock, and Gaillard Du Mesnil should be able to cope with Grey Dawning at 1.50pm, but Fine Margin could struggle to cope with Slate Lane at 2.20pm.

At Punchestown, State Man will bid to kick off his season in the same style as last term when he contests the Morgiana Hurdle and, while he faces three race-fit rivals, his class should get him through. The Florida Pearl Novice Chase, at 1.23pm, is a cracker, with all eight runners having a chance. Flooring Porter impressed me at Cheltenham in October, but he has never convinced me going right-handed so Affordale Fury gets the nod.

At Ascot, Shishkin will don cheekpieces for the first time when he runs in the 1965 Chase and, with a bit of help to concentrate his mind, he could take off and cement his King George claims.

Galopin Des Champs reappears in Sunday’s John Durkan Chase and will face his Punchestown conqueror Fastorslow, who proved at the April festival that he resembled the first part of his name more than the last. It will be a good contest but at this trip my preference is for Willie Mullins’ stable star, who looks a picture at home.

Tullyhill has impressed with his schooling at home and should oblige at 12.10pm, while Soir De Garde can finish the day off in good style for Willie by winning the 3.35pm.

For WP, the day will also involve watching what is happening at Cork, where Enola can kick off his day in good fashion. Lisnagar Fortune and Readin Tommy Wrong are hard to split in the 12.35pm, but I think Cinsa is on a workable mark in the 1.45pm.

Willie has plenty more runners on the banks of the Blackwater, but winners could be hard to find from there on, especially when Night And Day has to take on Halka Du Tarbert in the Mares’ Beginners’ Chase at 2.20pm.

All in all, we have five good meetings across the two days. Some will lament that Bravesmansgame, Galopin Des Champs, and Shishkin are at separate meetings, but big quarter-final clashes spoiled the Rugby World Cup for many, so why is racing in such a hurry to think that is the route forward?

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