Don Cossack strutting his stuff around Punchestown on Thursday was a reminder that the jumps season is galloping towards us at quite a clip.
But with the delights on offer at Ascot today, not to mention the Breeders Cup at Keeneland – and the “race that stops a nation” Down Under to follow – the flat season still has the lethal sting of a dying bee.
Yet at The Curragh last Sunday many thoughts were already turning to the 2016 flat season.
A season that will kick off very early in Ireland it must be said, on Sunday March 20 at The Curragh.
Yes just two days after the Cheltenham Gold Cup in fact. No hanging about there.
Indeed many of the Irish punters and revellers still on their way home from the Festival could drop into Headquarters to sample the fare.
Mind you the Lincoln – after four days of bristling action on the Cotswolds – will seem a bit like the after Christmas turkey sandwiches.
Anyway next season was very much the focus after Best In The World – no false modesty there! – took the Staffordstown Stakes last Sunday.
It’s the fifth time in seven seasons that Ballydoyle landed this Listed race.
And as if Aidan O’Brien hadn’t already enough glorious juvenile talent to dream about going to war with next year, this sister to Found is another dripping with potential.
Two days later, on a glorious sunlit Tuesday afternoon, the final Curragh meeting of the year took place.
There was free admission and nobody was expecting fireworks on what looked a real “industry day” card.
Ballydoyle first timer Idaho is a brother of Highland Reel, but he was sent off an easy to back 4/1 chance.
The market got it badly wrong though as this bay colt won with considerable authority, quickening like a real ‘good one’ in the last furlong of this mile maiden.
Both Aidan and Joseph O’Brien looked slightly surprised that he had done it quite so well first time out, but they were also clearly delighted with him.
Middle distances will be his game next season, and while Derby talk seems a bit excessive at this stage, the 25/1 on offer is tempting.
But while the O’Briens must have been in good spirits travelling back down the M7 and M8 to Tipperary, Tom McCourt was not a happy bunny as he headed North to his Louth base.
This normally consistent handler has endured a nightmare season with just one winner.
And he must have thought that he had doubled his tally when Clear Focus passed the post first in the six furlongs handicap.
Granted her focus was anything but clear late on when she drifted into runner up Oliveraie and a Stewards Enquiry was called.
Yet as she finished half a length clear and pulling away it was thought that she might keep the race.
But the Stewards reversed the placings and to further pile on the woe for McCourt, her rider, 10 lbs. claimer Killian Leonard, picked up a two day ban.
All of which proves that when your luck is out, it is often well and truly out.
And further evidence is that Clear Focus runs again today in Cork – with a 5 lbs. penalty!
It’s a safe bet that the normally genial McCourt won’t remember the 2015 season with any great affection.
So with Curragh finishing up for the year on Tuesday, just a few miles south across the Kildare countryside in Punchestown the jumpers swung into action on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Game Changer was a bit of a hit and miss type over hurdles but fences – and Gordon Elliott – have transformed him.
We won’t see too much of him over the Winter as he’ll hardly get his ground though with the weather these days who knows?
He’ll certainly be back in the Spring one way or another, though Cheltenham will hardly be on the agenda as the uphill finish won’t suit.
But stablemate Don Cossack is firmly on the Gold Cup trail.
The King George is an obvious target in the meantime, but with Gigginstown also owning the Noel Meade trained Road To Riches there will be some shuffling to be done.
Whatever route they take though Don Cossack will be a mighty tough nut to crack come the Gold Cup.
It’s a fair bet too that Bryan Cooper, who incorrectly picked Road To Riches in the Punchestown Gold Cup, won’t be deserting “the Don” again any time soon.
Who knows, he might be on board at the Lincoln meeting next March as it’s highly likely that a few of the Irish Cheltenham winners will be doing a victory parade on the opening day of the Curragh season.
Back next Saturday.
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