Wouldn’t you just know it, hardly a drop of rain in Dublin for a month, and then the night before the Irish Champions Weekend the heavens opened.
Yet it was nothing compared to the storm of controversy that followed on the Saturday, with the big races on either side of the Irish Sea triggering Stewards Enquiries and plenty of heated debate.
People can be selective of course. For some racing scribes who were all too happy to brush aside the injustice done to Bondi Beach in the Stewards Room after the Great Voltigeur suddenly got into a lather of sweat when the ball hopped his way at Doncaster.
Can’t help wondering did the York fiasco in some way unintentionally play on the minds of the officials at “Donny”?
Or – again subconsciously – the fact that the serious attention given by Coolmore and Ballydoyle to the Leger has helped transform and rejuvenate a Classic that seemed to be seriously fading in both prestige and popularity.
We’ll never know. And for sure Colm O’Donoghue spoke well at the inquiry, but had that really any effect?
After all Joseph O’Brien had the perfect mix of respect and calm assurance before the beaks at York but it counted for little.
And the Leopardstown shenanigans brought matters to an even more absurd level.
Perhaps we live in a kind of racing bubble, rarely thinking of how the rest of the world views our passion and pastime.
This struck me on Wednesday when I met someone in the street who has little knowledge of racing – and never bets – who was still incensed at what happened in the Irish Champion Stakes.
He is a professional photographer, working for a national newspaper.
Not a racing or even a sports snapper mind, I can only assume he was sent to Leopardstown to cover the fashionistas and the social set.
Yet here he was, fully four days later – and a man normally very slow to anger – still feeling a sense of disgust and injustice.
He didn’t remember (or possibly didn’t know in the first place) the names of the horses or jockeys involved but asked:
“How can a horse that goes right across the track and holds up the others be allowed keep the race?”
How indeed. The whole thing was bizarre.
After all Golden Horn took the hustle and bustle – and all the distractions – of Epsom on Derby Day in his stride.
Yet something at Foxrock last Saturday clearly spooked him.
No question or doubt about it John Gosden is a superb trainer and an absolute gentleman, but am I the only person puzzled by his total 100% confidence that the whole business was caused by a shadow?
One way or another there was plenty of hot air and anger about the place last weekend.
And I had some irritation of my own to deal with after the last minute switch of our 14/1 ante post St Leger snip Order Of St George to the Irish Leger the following day.
The decision to move the Champion Stakes forward without apparently even notifying the sponsors – never mind seeking their views and approval – really defies belief.
Sure, notification of some kind was sent, possibly be e-mail, but a phone call to Sheikh Fahad Al Thani or his closest associates would have been a hundred times better.
Still, it’s happened now, nothing can change that, but hopefully lessons have been learnt all round and we move on.
Overall the Irish Champions Weekend is already a hugely successful concept after just two years.
Still a few teething problems of course but nothing that can’t be sorted.
One quibble that might be harder to fix is, that once the Champion Stakes has been run, there is a certain feeling of After The Lord Mayor’s Ball about proceedings.
Moving that race to the Sunday is perhaps worthy of serious consideration.
Not that the menu which includes the Moyglare, the National Stakes and the Irish St Leger is anything to be sniffed at.
While Order Of St George was clearly going to skip over the soft ground, it was rumoured from early on Sunday that Aidan O’Brien was not at all pleased that Air Force Blue and Ballydoyle had to race on it.
Indeed it is said that he seriously considering considered withdrawing both, particularly the filly.
Yet because of the whole Champions Weekend business – and the fact that he had already caused upset by taking Gleneagles out the day before – it was decided that both would take their chance.
It was a gamble. Air Force Blue is by War Front whose offspring generally love to hear their hooves rattle.
But the Phoenix winner – while clearly not in love with the surface – handled it fine, and indeed a bit better than market rival Herald The Dawn.
Ballydoyle was chinned late by stablemate Minding and both are clearly sharp operators, and interestingly there was plenty of each way tips flying around for third placed Alice Springs who completed a Ballydoyle clean sweep.
Air Force Blue looks pretty imposing now particularly as he’s shown that he’s ground versatile.
Yet before you rush down to the bookies to plunge on next year’s classics remember a lot can go wrong between now and then.
Those hot ante post vouchers that help fuel so many dreams during the winter often end up being used to light the fire.
Need I mention John F Kennedy and Old Man River.
More immediately Found is interesting wherever she turns up.
Paddy Power go 16/1 for both the Qipco Champion Stakes and the Arc, and there is certainly each way value there.
Interestingly Ladbrokes and William Hill are both only 8/1 for the Champion.
The Rugby World Cup has kicked off with all the usual hype and hoopla and I have France backed at 22/1 with Betfair.
There is still plenty of 16/1 about this morning and as they regularly over achieve in the World Cup I think the layers have seriously under rated their prospects.
Back next Saturday.
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