The Racing Week That Was 20-2-22

15-2-22

Jockey Robbie Dunne's appeal against an 18-month ban imposed on him for bullying and harassing fellow rider Bryony Frost will be heard on March 30, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) said. Dunne was found in breach of four counts of conduct prejudicial to the integrity and reputation of horse racing between February and September 2020 by an independent disciplinary panel.

16-2-22

Tiger Roll will not bid for a record-equalling third Randox Grand National triumph after being ruled out of the Aintree spectacular by his owner Michael O'Leary. The Ryanair supremo, whose horses run under his Gigginstown House Stud banner, has issued a statement criticising British Horseracing Authority chief handicapper Martin Greenwood, describing his rating of 161 for Tiger Roll as "absurd".O’Leary’s decision came just hours after the weights for the world’s greatest steeplechase were announced at a special ceremony in Liverpool with Tiger Roll, trained by Gordon Elliott, being allotted 11st 4lb.

His statement read: "Tiger Roll is now 12 years old, He is clearly not as good as he was at eight or nine, and yet the UK handicapper now rates him 2lb higher than his 159 rating in April 2019, when he won both the Boyne Hurdle and the Aintree Grand National."This rating is absurd, and unfair on a 12-year-old chaser. It is a pity that the handicapper won’t give Tiger Roll either a fair rating or a fair weight in the Aintree Grand National, where he could at least try to emulate Red Rum’s three wins."However, the handicapper sets the weights and even if he is manifestly wrong in the case of Tiger Roll, there is nothing we can do about it other than remove him from the race since we don’t believe it is fair or safe to ask him to carry close to top weight at the age of 12.

"Since the top two horses in the handicap won’t run in Aintree this year, Tiger Roll will have to carry either 11st 8lb or 11st 9lb at the age of 12, which is three years after he carried 11st 5lb at the age of nine to win the great race in April 2019."Since we are responsible for the welfare of Tiger Roll, we must protect him from the idiotic opinion of this handicapper. We, therefore, regret to announce that he will not run in the year’s Aintree Grand National. "Instead Tiger Roll will be trained for the cross country race in Cheltenham and there is every likelihood that win, lose or draw, this will be his last racecourse appearance "He will then return home for his well-earned retirement here in Gigginstown for the rest of his days."It’s sadly clear from his ratings that this handicapper doesn’t want Tiger Roll to run in this year’s Grand National, he won’t give him a fair chance and sadly the race will be poorer for his absence."

In his defence, handicapper Martin Greenwood had earlier said: "I have relented a bit with Tiger Roll and he is down to 161 from 166 last year, which is 5lb lower."As I keep telling people, you can’t just ignore his win in the cross country at Cheltenham last season which was less than 12 months ago when he easily defeated two good horses in Easysland and Some Neck. "He and Minella Times – the two previous winners among the entries – are both on 161. Minella Times has run two stinkers this year, but it was only three starts ago that he was winning the Grand National."

There is a definite case for Tiger Roll being on a lower mark. It looks like it's not going to happen. This is sad in one way but not unexpected due to the Gigginstown position on the matter.

The British Horseracing Authority has confirmed an interim suspension has been placed on the licence of Mark Todd after a video emerged on social media of the trainer striking a horse with a branch. In the video, Todd appears to be teaching a cross-country schooling session where one rider is struggling to get a horse into the water jump, with the trainer then brandishing a branch and striking the horse several times on the hindquarters. Todd later apologised for his actions. In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the BHA said: "The chair of British racing's Independent Judicial Panel has today approved an application from the BHA that an interim suspension should be placed on the training licence of Sir Mark Todd following the emergence over the weekend of a video showing him striking a horse with what appears to be a branch."This interim suspension means that while investigations continue into the circumstances of this incident, Sir Mark will be unable to racehorses in Great Britain or internationally.

It's yet another story racing can do without, the BHA were a bit slow to get on top of this. They need to do better.

19-2-22

Teahupoo's odds for the Cheltenham Festival's Champion Hurdle were slashed after he cantered home a clear-cut winner of the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park. The Gordon Elliott-trained five-year-old dominated his six rivals in the Grade Three heat. Teahupoo was sent off the 13-8 favourite in the hands of Robbie Power, having accounted for the reopposing Quilixios in winning both his starts so far this season, Felix Desjy set out to make all, with Saldier briefly taking a turn on the front, but turning for home it was clear that Power's mount held all the aces. He stretched clear when given the signal and merely had to be kept up to his work to see off the staying-on Darasso by 11 lengths, with Quilixios a further 11 lengths back in third. Elliott said: "I thought he did it well. It was a good performance.

Melon amazingly gained only a second fences win today as the four-time Cheltenham festival runner-up landed Gowran's featured Grade 2 Red Mills Chase for trainer Willie Mullins.  Melon finished second four times, including in two Champion Hurdles, at consecutive Cheltenham festivals from 2017-2020, accounting for much of his €414,000 placed prizemoney haul, and today registered just a second chase win. Winning trainer Mullins later commented “it’s great to get him back to winning ways. He did a little bit of work during the week which was fantastic and we decided to come here.“Paul said he really enjoyed himself and we’ll see where we go from here. He’s in everything at Cheltenham - he’s run great races there but it’s hard to find a race that he can win at Cheltenham. There is also Aintree so we’ll have to talk to the owners and see where we go.“He’s a real favourite of (owners) Marie and Joe Donnelly.”

Fakir D'Oudairies became the latest Irish raider to claim big-race honours on British soil with a battling victory in the Betfair Ascot Chase. There has not been an Irish-trained winner of this particular Grade One contest since Sound Man struck gold for Edward O'Grady in 1996, but Fakir D'Oudairies ended the 26-year wait under Mark Walsh. With King George third Saint Calvados pulling up and a bad mistake four fences from home knocking the stuffing out of last year's winner Dashel Drasher, it was 25-1 shot Two For Gold who led the way turning for home. It took Fakir D'Oudairies a while to wear him down, but he eventually got on top after the final obstacle and had a length and three-quarters in hand at the line.

I've always liked Fakir D'Oudairies if I was his connections I would wait for Aintree which looks like it would be a straightforward task given the strength of the home team. The only danger would be if Shiskin turned up.

Does He Know stamped his class in the Bateaux London Reynoldstown Novices' Chase at Ascot. Kim Bailey's Grade Two-winning hurdler was thoroughly impressive in winning his first two starts over fences, but came up short when bidding for the hat-trick at Cheltenham in November. 9-2 shot Does He Know grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck before the home turn and galloped all the way up the straight under David Bass to claim top honours by 14 lengths. Doyen Breed was best of the rest in second, with his fellow Scottish challenger Corach Rambler - the 16-5 favourite - still in with every chance when unseating Sligo jockey Derek Fox five fences from the finish.

Does He Know will not be a factor at the Festival in my view. I don't think this form amounts too much.

The Galloping Bear (9-2 favourite) ground down veteran and top weight Bristol De Mai to land a fine victory in the William Hill Grand National Trial Handicap Chase at Haydock. It has been a memorable week for trainer Ben Clarke and jockey Ben Jones and was capped by a gruelling seven-length victory in testing conditions in the Grade Three feature on Merseyside. Somerset-based Clarke, in his first season with a full licence, and Jones landed a double at Sandown on Thursday with Dr Kananga and Lettie Lutz. And it got even better as a month on from his win in the Surrey National at Lingfield, The Galloping Bear landed an even bigger success. Nigel Twison-Davies' Bristol De Mai loves it at Haydock having won five times in seven trips including three wins in the Grade One Betfair Chase.

Bristol De Mai under Sam Twiston-Davies - who had earlier partnered Wholestone, also trained by his father and owned by Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, to victory in the Grade Two Rendlesham Hurdle - Bristol De Mai tried to land the National Trial from the front. They had many of their rivals in trouble three out as the gallant grey jumped superbly. He led over the third-last fence but carrying top weight and giving 19lb to The Galloping Bear, he began to feel the effects of his efforts. Jones and The Galloping Bear reeled him in and went on to score in good style. Bristol De Mai was a gallant second 26 lengths ahead of the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Time To Get Up in third.

Trainer Clarke said: "I'm shell shocked. I thought we had a good chance coming here, but when it actually happens - and to beat Bristol De Mai, he's a Haydock legend."That's our third winner of the week, we've only had a licence since September, but I thought we'd used up all our good luck at Sandown the other day. I can't believe how well it's gone."I'm based half a mile from Anthony Honeyball and used to be his assistant. I'd previously been training hunters and pointers but like Dr Kananga at Sandown and this lad, I thought they should be winning some proper money. For it to happen so soon, I'm stunned.

My heart went out to Bristol De Mai, he ran an unreal race however fair play to the winner. The Galloping Bear is not entered in this year's Grand National but Clarke is eyeing a crack at next season's Becher Chase over the big fences before a possible crack at the big one. Clarke added: "The Midlands National will come too soon, so I want to go over the water for the Irish National if the ground is right, that's if he runs again. Next season the Becher and maybe the big one."

Wholestone (16-1) made light of almost a year and a half off the track with victory in the William Hill Rendlesham Hurdle. The Twiston-Davies-trained veteran was having his first competitive appearance in 455 days. But at the age on 11 he scored by 13 lengths, from Grand National hope Top Ville Ben. The latter appeared to have the race at his mercy at one point, but Wholestone dug deep to score. Wholestone is not entered in the Stayers' Hurdle. This was my moment of the Jumps season so far. Wholestone is a horse I have always admired, despite no financial involvement, it's a long time since I gave a horse such a roar home.

Henry Daly’s Hillcrest was an impressive winner of the Grade Two Albert Bartlett Prestige Novices’ Hurdle. Sent off the evens favourite, Hillcrest made all pulling 10 lengths clear at one stage. He powered away from Nicky Richards' Crystal Glory after the last to win by eight lengths. Daly said: "Having watched that, if he goes to Cheltenham it will be the Albert Bartlett. That's if he goes, we could wait for Aintree, he won't do both. I really liked this performance. I have liked Hillcrest all season.

20-2-22

Today's race meeting in Navan has been cancelled after a track inspection at a venue this morning. Navan racecourse confirmed this morning that the meeting was cancelled after the track was found to "unfit for racing" after 11mm of rainfall overnight. The fixture, which features the Grade 2 Boyne Novice's Hurdle, has been rescheduled to Tuesday. Original declarations stand and the time of the first race remains at 1.10pm.