Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

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Fairyhouse, Porterhouse and the House Special

1st and 2nd December 2012

More than a decade ago we made three trips to this weekend fixture: 1998, 2000 and 2001. During these visits top class performers seen at the track included Istabraq, Alexander Banquet, Cardinal Hill, Dorans Pride, Sackville and Limestone Lad.Sunday's card promised three Grade One races and the chance to see some potential champions in action. Before that there was the Saturday card to tackle.

We were staying north of the river at the Clarion (IFSC) hotel in the financial centre. A modern hotel with immaculate rooms and a very impressive leisure centre/pool. It was a short walk to Connelly station which provides a rail link to M3 Parkway from where a courtesy bus service operates to the track.

The admission cost on the Saturday was just ten euro (£8) providing access to all areas. However Tote Ireland cardholders received complimentary entry on production of one's account card, a concession that currently applies at many Saturday Irish meetings throughout the year. Why is it so expensive to go racing in England? For example my local track (Ludlow) operates a three-tier pricing structure with members' admission priced at a hefty £21. I don’t expect it to get any cheaper now that nearby Hereford has closed.

We were at the track bright and early as the first race of the seven-race card was due off at 12:10. This was a 20-runner maiden hurdle where they bet 16/1 bar three. The favourite Ned Buntline looked good in the paddock but was very short (8/13). Second favourite Lord Of Lords behaved strangely beforehand - rather like he was in a dressage event with Kauto Star - so the one that looked a play was Bright New Dawn ridden by the excellent Davy Russell, 5/1 in the ring. Davy led all the way holding the late surge of the favourite. A healthy 8.00 dividend from the tote was the reward. Unfortunately the rest of the card didn’t prove to be this easy!

Davy Russell won the next – we weren’t on – and we couldn’t find the winner of the third, a handicap chase, despite several attempts. Favourites then won the last four races. As you know I’m not one for backing favourites.  I’d say the least impressive winner was Mount Benbulben who made plenty of mistakes in winning the beginners’ chase at odds-on. This was in direct contrast to Bog Warrior’s performance, who was put back over hurdles as a confidence booster. He sauntered home in the handicap giving lumps of weight away. It will be interesting to see where connections go with him this season and what Cheltenham target he will have.

A losing day but not a disaster because of the first race winner.

Saturday night we paid visits to Porterhouse – they now have three outlets in Dublin - our first visit was to the “central” bar which you will find in Nassau Street near the bottom of Grafton Street. Great atmosphere with all their excellent brews available on tap of course. Later we made it down to the original Porterhouse in Temple Bar for some live music and excellent eats.

Sunday it was the same routine of a Connelly train to M3 Parkway/courtesy coach to the track. Bear in mind that the coach times are linked to the rail timetable and not strictly to the first/last race times. The track had a higher entrance fee of 15 euro not surprising given the quality card.

The first Grade One turned into a bit of a nightmare. I’d backed the Mullins’ second-string Zuzka @ 29.0 with betfair on Saturday night and was feeling very pleased with myself when I saw it was 12/1 in the ring. Very unprofessionally, I didn’t even take a look at the tote.

Ruby, riding the 11/8 favourite Champagne Fever, tried to make all but was collared close home by the impressive Jezki. Zuzka ran well enough to finish one length inferior to his stable companion. Jezki retuned 9/4 but an incredible £4.80 on the tote. How could that happen? The PMU had bet into the pool and had swelled it by a factor of ten. I could only conclude that the French had plunged on the favourite – which incidentally paid only 1/50 for a place in the six-runner affair.

Did the French catch Champagne Fever?

Mullins and Walsh were to do better in the other Grade Ones, firstly winning the Drinmore Novice Chase with Arvika Ligeonniere who, following a lengthy lay-off found himself some 20 lengths clear at one stage. Long-term he is probably a solid Arkle or RSA Chase prospect provided he stays sound.

In the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle over 2.5 miles Zaidpour was successful, running on strongly for the Mullins/Walsh team possibly to put him in the World Hurdle picture if he proves as good over a longer trip.

Needless to say we didn’t back any of the Grade One winners. Worse was to come in the 3m 5f handicap chase in which we had latched on to Give Us A Hand at 12/1. Ruby was originally down to ride this one but Paul Carberry deputised. It led all the way except on the line. Everyone at the track thought it had won and most people seemed to think Ruby was in the saddle despite the contrasting riding styles. Prior to the result of the photo, a Ladbrokes’ broadcaster even declared a Ruby hat-trick! Not only did he not ride our selection, it lost by a nose at 8/1.

All was not lost as we woke up in time to back Willie Mullins in the last. Outlander rewarded us with a five-length victory at £5.20 on the tote, fractionally ahead of the 4/1 SP.

Sunday evening was spent in a less frenetic Temple Bar where we stumbled on La Paloma, a Spanish restaurant a stone’s throw from Oliver St John Gogarty’s. Despite the dodgy decor, lack of punters and a worryingly large menu we were attracted by the John Dory advertised outside as the house special. This proved to be an excellent dish cooked with chorizo and Serrano ham and served on a bed of lentils. Irish serving staff, draught Guinness and huge portions made this a Spanish restaurant with a difference.

Oliver’s – a stone’s throw from La Paloma

The final hours of the holiday were spent in Oliver’s listening to the excellent live music - albeit accompanied by Guinness at 5.75 euro a pint!

20 December 2012


7 January update: Several Fairyhouse winners had follow up successes at the Leopardstown Xmas meeting. These included Outlander, Arvika Ligeonniere and Jezki. The latter two are fancied for the Arkle and the Supreme Novices respectively. As for Bog Warrior he skipped two Leopardstown entries to win effortlessly over hurdles at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. This earned him a 14/1 quote for the World Hurdle; however connections may yet put him back over fences.  

Additional pics:

Live music at the Porterhouse                       Patrick Kavanagh poem on a pub wall