Wow! Golden Horn and Gleneagles going head to head in the Juddmonte at York. Bring it on.
The two horses that have lit up an otherwise run of the mill season will lock horns on the Knavesmire just like Roberto and Brigadier Gerard did many moons ago.
Not quite the Flinstones era but there were no mobile phones (shock, horror) and people watched the snooker programme Pot Black on black and white television!
Last Sunday we got a glimpse of some of next season’s potential superstars in the Phoenix Stakes at The Curragh.
While the early birds and shrewdies often get the best of the betting – and the juicy prices – sometimes the real heavy hitters keep their powder dry until just before the off.
So while there was plenty of light weight activity and shadow boxing in the morning and early afternoon, the real artillery was unleashed late.
When the gloves were finally off it was all about Buratino and Air Force Blue.
Coventry winners have an average enough record in the Phoenix but that didn’t deter either the layers or the players.
All the money, the milk and honey, was for the two market leaders.
Early 6/4 for Buratino was swallowed up and 11/10 was the call at the off, with Air Force Blue drifting to 11/4 at one stage such was the weight of money for the jolly.
But then the Coolmore sharks came out to play, and 9/4 was the best of it for him at the death.
Late on in the race the layers were possibly contemplating second holidays this year as Washington DC, the least fancied and backed of the Ballydoyle trio, set sail for home with Buratino starting to paddle.
It looked as if yet again Seamie Heffernan was about to poach a tasty Curragh big one.
But any thoughts the men with the big satchels had of some unexpected frolicking in Fiji vanished like early morning mist on the nearby Old Vic gallops.
For a roar went up from the stands as Air Force Blue – who seemed to be going nowhere fast early doors – suddenly took off.
Quickening like a real good one, he swept home for Joseph O’Brien with his Coventry conqueror and market rival Buratino back in third.
In truth Washington DC looks a five furlongs specialist – something he might prove in the Coolmore sponsored Nunthorpe next Saturday.
Mind you I note stablemate Waterloo Bridge is still among the entries for that.
And while the Norfolk winner is not on any betting lists just yet he’d be mighty interesting should he line up.
Buratino could make a quick reappearance in the Gimcrack and why not, though American raider Finnegan could prove a pretty tough nut to crack.
While the seven days – and nights! – of the Galway Festival proved the usual endurance test for both wallet and liver, there was real added spice this time in the race for Festival Leading Trainer.
Normally Dermot Weld – who had won it a staggering 28 times in the previous 29 years – would have this wrapped up even before the half way stage on Thursday.
But it was very different this time.
In the end Weld – who sent out nine horses who finished second during the week – crossed the line in front again.
This time though he stumbled over it on a points system as Willie Mullins and Tony Martin actually sent out more winners.
Jessica Harrington and Henry de Bromhead were both in the mix too so, for once, it wasn’t one way traffic at Ballybrit.
It’s unlikely Mullins had targeted the award but he didn’t look too happy either that he didn’t get it in the end having sent out the most winners (nine).
You can be sure he’ll have a right cut at winning it next season whatever the scoring system.
Now at first glance you might say that a man who currently trains the ante post favourites for the King George, Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase, Mares Hurdle, Arkle and the JLT wouldn’t be too bothered by what happens at Galway in that crazy week when July tumbles into August.
But that mad seven day shindig by the Western seaboard can creep into your bones.
After all, while Weld was globe trotting and picking up the Melbourne Cup twice, and the Belmont Stakes – the only non American to train a winner of one of the Triple Crown races – he always had one eye firmly fixed on Galway.
In fact Go And Go, who went on to claim the Belmont one magical evening in New York, actually kicked off his career by winning a maiden at the Galway knees up.
Looking to next year Tony Martin will once again be a big contender too, and, interestingly, while better known as a jumps trainer, he actually has more Festival success on the level.
Jessica Harrington will probably go closer than de Bromhead as she is becoming a formidable trainer on the flat.
In contrast popular Waterford handler de Bromhead concentrates totally on the jumping game, where he excels in both the winter and summer seasons.
Five strong players there to be going on with and yet there could be a surprise winner next time from outside that group.
Step forward please Aidan O’Brien.
The Ballydoyle wizard, lest we forget, was Irish Champion Jumps Trainer four times, the only four seasons that he held a full time jumping license.
And for whatever reason – possibly with an eye to launching Joseph as a jumps trainer if his weight continues to rise – he is suddenly targeting bumpers and maiden hurdles again with a string of unexposed sorts that could rattle even Willie Mullins’ cage.
Quite what the Coolmore bosses think of all this is anyone’s guess, and they were hardly best pleased that Legatissimo was beaten in the Epsom Oaks by Qualify whom Aidan trains for outside owners.
Then again O’Brien could reply that he doesn’t train Legatissimo!
Interesting times down Tipperary way then, and while of course he’ll be mainly focused on Glorious Goodwood come that time of year again next time, O’Brien could well have one eye on the Galway Leading Trainer title too.
Remember, back in the day, he sent out the 1,2,3 in the Galway Plate – Life Of A Lord, who also won it the following year, led home Kelly’s Pearl and Loshian in ’95 – so he is certainly not immune to the magnetic appeal of that western jamboree.
While big race Hurdle hero Quick Jack will face another Galway winner Clondaw Warrior in the Ebor, his stablemate Thomas Edison, who took a tumble at the last in the Hurdle, could have the Cesarewitch as his next target.
Tony Martin is a sharp operator with those classy dual purpose types.
Speaking of the Ebor though, Fields Of Athenry commands attention.
Twice a runaway winner over extended trips at Leopardstown recently – and on contrasting ground – he could yet finish up in the St Leger.
For sure three year olds often flounder in the Ebor. Trends are regularly a valuable guide to sorting out what to back – or, just as importantly – what not to back, in big races.
But I’ve long ago learnt that people like Aidan O’Brien and Willie Mullins – and Tony Martin at Galway – tend to knock trends and statistics into a cocked hat.
I must admit to being surprised when Aidan confirmed “Fields” as an intended Ebor runner – but immediately snapped up some of the 10/1 still available.
It looks like one of those gambits that might flop spectacularly or he could win doing handstands.
At “tens” it’s a chance well worth taking.
Master jockey Ruby Walsh certainly gave jump racing Down Under a boost by bagging the Australian Grand National on Bashboy at Ballarat.
Understandably the whole affair got plenty of publicity in this part of the world too but most – if not all – was of the bells and whistles variety.
For most racing fans in these islands are still blissfully unaware of the perilous state of jump racing in Aussie land.
The sport is banned across most of that normally sports mad nation, and in the few areas where it is still allowed like Ballarat it’s existence is under severe pressure from the animal rights lobby.
A sobering thought that. Consider too that across the Atlantic greyhound racing is banned – on cruelty grounds! – in Massachusetts. Weird.
Thankfully there is little threat of anything like this happening in the UK or Ireland anytime soon so little need to reach for the lifeboats just yet.
Yet, as the Countryside Alliance could tell us, best not be too complacent either.
Back next Saturday.
Irish Racing Club