A glorious weekend of flat racing on both sides of the Irish Sea, and of course the Arc Trials at Longchamp, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Certainly a time to savour and enjoy the last of the summer wine.
Yet the start of Listowel Harvest Festival Week tomorrow and the sudden onslaught of monsoon conditions in some places is a reminder that winter is on the horizon.
And Paul Nicholls pre season stable tour last Sunday whetted the appetite for the jumping game once more.
To describe Nicholls as resilient would be something of an understatement.
With the retirement of his former stable stars, some of his key men starting training careers of their own and Ruby Walsh departing things looked bleak last year.
Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins seemed sure to rule the roost between them, but a typically defiant Nicholls never saw it that way.
Instead he gave a superb front running performance in the hunt for another Champion Trainer title and bagged it for the tenth time in eleven years.
He finally accepts that Silviniaco Conti is not a Gold Cup horse – it took a while! – and the Grand National could be his end of season target, though of course a lot could happen between now and then.
Because of a minor injury hold up he won’t make the JN Wine Champion Chase at Down Royal – last year’s runner up Rocky Creek is his prime contender for that – and could go straight to the Betfair.
Unsurprisingly Dodging Bullets will again follow the Tingle Creek, Clarence House and Champion Chase route.
While he will certainly – barring injury to either – be facing Un De Sceaux on the Cotswolds in March, whether they will clash before that remains to be seen.
With all the gripping action at Leopardstown and “Donny” today, Cheltenham right now seems a million miles away.
But this is often the time to rustle up some great ante-post value investments.
And of course if you bet on the exchanges you’ll have the option of “laying off” at much shorter odds as the Festival approaches.
Or you could keep topping up your investments in the months ahead so that come mid March you could have quite a nest egg coming to you should your selection gallop up that famous hill in front.
As the late and great Sir Henry Cecil once said “horses make fools of us all.”
Indeed, but every so often you see something that jumps out at you.
Then of course the doubts set in “am I missing something obvious here because this bet looks too good to be true?”
Of course all too often there is a catch, or something goes wrong either on the day or in the build up.
Still, we keep living the dream because sometimes everything goes according to plan.
Monty’s Pass in the 2003 Grand National was my great moment – he should have carried at least a stone more – and now I see something else that interests me big time.
No, it doesn’t get my juices flowing quite like Jimmy Mangan’s Aintree hero did, but it’s still something I find hard to get out of my head.
And the man who trains my Arkle hopeful has serious Festival pedigree.
Just like it’s hard now to imagine a world without mobile phones, there was a time when Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh didn’t carry all before them at Cheltenham.
Back in those days which still linger somewhere in the mists of memory, Edward O’Grady was the man who led the Irish charge.
Eighteen Festival winners is a mighty tally, and the Tipperary handler – the first man J P McManus sent horses to – has certainly had a quiet time of it in recent seasons.
But in Kitten Rock he once again has a horse to go to war with.
Bought in France by O’Grady for Simon Davis, he looked promising right from the moment he won his maiden hurdle in Navan.
Soon snapped up by J P McManus he was prolific, including a six in a row which concluded with the Red Mills Trial at Gowran Park.
He collected some notable scalps along the way, like Glens Melody in the Limestone Lad Hurdle at Naas and Max Dynamite, whom he hammered by 14 lengths at Limerick.
In the Champion Hurdle he travelled well for a long way and finished sixth to Faugheen.
Yet even as he was moving up the gears in the hurdle ranks, O’Grady was always adamant that he would be going over fences this season.
Well so he is, with the Arkle as his target. There is plenty of 16/1 available, and that looks a massive price to me.
As we suggested here a few weeks back, there is a strong possibility that Joseph O’Brien will be a full time jumps trainer next year, with J P McManus as the main patron.
This will please the Coolmore bosses no end.
Not that they don’t rate Joseph as a jockey – they very much do and with good reason.
But his weight problems won’t go away and with Ryan Moore now officially the number one jock they feel that Joseph can now concentrate fully on a different role.
As things stand he’s more or less training the ever increasing Aidan O’Brien jumping team as it is, spending every afternoon that he’s not at the races with the jumpers at Pilltown.
Seamie Heffernan and Colm O’Donoghue offer plenty of back up at Ballydoyle, and it’s interesting that William Buick was due to ride Bondi Beach in the St Leger today as that young pilot is very much on their radar.
Now with Order Of St George being re-routed to the Irish Leger at The Curragh tomorrow, Colm O’Donoghue, who was to ride him, switches to Bondi Beach.
None of this is to say that the strains and tensions this season between Aidan O’Brien and the Coolmore chiefs have disappeared.
Yet there does seem to be a thaw, and it helps that both sides acknowledge privately that there is room for negotiations and a different approach behind the scenes.
Ideally Coolmore would love to see Aidan once more totally concentrating on the flat next season, Ryan Moore in place as stable jockey (or Buick if Moore is still injured) and very much business as usual at Ballydoyle.
And, as even Sir Alex Ferguson found out, those Coolmore boys generally get their way.
ANTE POST ADVICE – Cesarewitch – Thomas Edison 16/1 Ladbrokes, Sporting Bet 2pts. each way
Arkle Chase – Kitten Rock 16/1 Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Sporting Bet, Bet Victor, Stan James, Betway, Betfair Exchange. 2 pts. each way.
Back next Saturday.