Monday, we start at Punchestown. There was a very impressive win for Pure Genius by 52 lengths for Ted Walsh and JP McManus. Feddans (7/1 into 3/1 favourite) landed a gamble in the concluding Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares INH Flat Race . It was good news for our members who were advised 1pt each-way Feddans at 7/1. At Lingfield, there was a jumpers bumper card which saw a treble for Gary and Josh Moore. The horses were Espirit De Samoza, Jumping Cats and Royaume Uni. At Ayr, Coral Cup winner Dame De Compagnie got off the mark over fences for Nicky Henderson. At Wolverhampton, there was a double for Mark Johnston with One Hart and Mildenberger.
Tuesday, we start at Clonmel. There was a really impressive winner in Magic Daze for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore. The Willie Mullins-trained Capodanno opened his account when prominent throughout to land the two-mile Monroe Maiden Hurdle. At Exeter, there was a double for Gary and Josh Moore with Ruby Yeats and Full Back. At Southwell, Alpha Theta was on target for Mark Johnston.
Trainer Charles Byrnes has had his licence suspended for six months by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board after one of his horses tested positive for a banned substance. The Byrnes-trained Viking Hoard was pulled up at Tramore on October 18, 2018, after which a urine sample was found to contain hydroxyethylpromazinehydroxide (HEPS), a metabolite of acepromazine (ACP), which is a sedative, at 100 times the limit. ACP is a prohibited drug under the rules of racing – and following Byrnes’ request to test a B sample, the finding was confirmed. Evidence was heard from various officials and Byrnes himself, who “taking into account the gravity of what occurred” was fined €1,000 alongside his six-month ban.
However, the IHRB added it had “been advised that the trainer will be lodging an appeal against this decision”.The IHRB Referrals Commmittee hearing was held via Zoom on January 7, with the authority informing Byrnes of its decision on Monday before issuing a 14-page written judgement to support its conclusions. Evidence was heard from Dr Lynn Hillyer, IHRB chief veterinary officer and head of anti-doping, Declan Buckley, IHRB deputy head of Security, Byrnes and Vincent O’Connor, veterinary surgeon.
Wednesday, we start at Dundalk. There was a winner for Willie Mullins and Colin Keane with Swift Verdict. At Newcastle, it was another Jumpers Bumpers card. There was a treble for Brian Hughes with Armattiekan, Presentandcounting and Susie Mac. At Newbury, there were doubles for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson with Dostal Phil and Little River Bay. At Chepstow, Firak was a really impressive winner for the Skelton's. At Southwell, Richard Fahey was on target with Delph Crescent.
The day ended with the news Grand National-winning rider David Mullins has announced his retirement from the saddle at the age of 24. Mullins secured Aintree glory when steering Rule The World to victory in 2016 and counts nine Grade Ones wins on his CV. He claimed his first top-level success aboard Nichols Canyon in the 2015 Morgiana Hurdle and also triumphed on the likes of future dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and Savills Chase hero Kemboy in 2018. Mullins, who rode primarily for his champion trainer uncle Willie and father Tom, was last in action when steering Blackbow to finish third at Naas on January 13 and bows out with 211 Irish winners to his name.
He said: “It just didn’t fit with what I wanted to do any more, but racing is a tough game to get out of, and I’ve been trying for the last year to 18 months. Mullins pointed to his Grand National victory as an obvious career highlight, but also took great pleasure in the wins of Bellshill and Faugheen for his uncle at the 2018 Punchestown Festival. He said: “The Grand National was a highlight and it was certainly the biggest day of my career, but it was always nice to ride a winner for your mother as well.“I suppose Bellshill and Faugheen at the Punchestown Festival in 2018 would stand out for me as well.“That was special, to win two of the biggest races (the Punchestown Gold Cup and Champion Stayers Hurdle) for Willie when he was under pressure for the trainers’ title and for two of his biggest owners as well in Sir Graham Wylie and Rich and Susannah Ricci.“They were two proper horses as well and I guess that should have kept me going as a jockey, but it didn’t.“It was the easiest decision I’ve made (to retire), once I’d made it.”
Thursday, we start at Lingfield. There was an impressive winner for Richard Fahey with Double Dealing by four lengths. At Ludlow, Calico was on target for Dan and Harry Skelton. At Wincanton, the Somerset National was the feature it went to the veteran Dawson City for Polly Gundry. At Newcastle, there was a double for Julie Comacho with Chosen World and I Know How. At Meydan, an old alliance was rekindled as Frankie Dettori rode a winner for Land Of Legends. Dettori completed a double with Equilateral.
Friday, we start at Dundalk. There was a double for Joseph O'Brien with Visualisation and Lovely Esteem. The finale went Ado McGuinness with War Hero. “It worked out well. He's difficult in the stalls starting off,” commented McGuinness. “I'm going to dedicate this win to my brother (Laurence) who I buried last week. He was very fond of the racing.” War Hero was advised 1pt each-way at 6/1 to our members our only bet on the day. At Musselburgh, there was a double for Donald McCain with Shallow Run and Fruit N Nut. At Lingfield, Fred was on target for Mark Johnston. At Chelmsford, Win Win Power was on target for Richard Hannon.
Saturday, we start at Haydock. Navajo Pass inflicted a surprise defeat on the returning Buveur D’Air in Haydock’s The New One Unibet Hurdle. Nicky Henderson was disappointed but not dismayed after dual Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air suffered defeat on his long-awaited return to action. Royale Pagaille looks a horse destined for the very top judged on a brilliant display in the Peter Marsh Chase. This was just a fantastic performance. To my eyes, this horse is a Gold Cup horse potentially. Still a novice Venetia Williams has plenty of options. Royale Pagaille could be called a winner very early in this race. Royale Pagaille was advised to our members (2.5pts win) at 9/4.
At Ascot, Tritonic emerged as a leading light for the JCB Triumph Hurdle with a debut success over jumps for Alan King. Roksana returned to the scene of her fine effort in the Long Walk Hurdle to readily outclass her three foes in the Matchbook Betting Podcast Mares’ Hurdle for Dan Skelton. First Flow put up a remarkable performance to outrun a clutch of established Grade One stars for victory in the Matchbook Betting Exchange Clarence House Chase for Kim Bailey. I really admire Kim Bailey, who is an excellent trainer who has had to fight very hard to get back to the top. At Taunton, Yala Enki made it two wins in two years in the Weatherbys Portman Cup Chase for Byrony Frost and Paul Nicholls. It was a brilliant recovery from Frost at four fences out which made the win possible.
Sunday, Thurles and Hereford were abandoned. At Lingfield, there was nothing that stood out to be honest.