Allegations of bullying and harassment against jockey Robbie Dunne will be heard by the disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority next week. Six days have been set aside for the hearing, at which Dunne has been charged with conduct which the BHA considers "is prejudicial to the integrity, proper conduct and good reputation of horse racing in Great Britain by bullying and harassing a fellow licensed jockey" between 13 February 2020 and 3 September 2020. The case is finally being heard after months of investigation and after contents of a lengthy BHA report into the allegations and culture in the weighing room was leaked to a newspaper last month, potentially putting the case – which centres around a complaint made by Bryony Frost – in jeopardy. The leaking beforehand is a disgrace that needs to be investigated once this case is settled.
It is rare for Willie Mullins to send a runner from Ireland to Britain on a Monday, much less to Kempton Park, but it produced a winner this afternoon. It was duly noted as My Sister Sarah produced a faultless display in the hands of Nico de Boinville to land the feature on the card, the five-runner Listed Racing TV Mares' Hurdle Race. The 10-11 favourite was much too good, sealing the deal with a superb leap at the last to score by seven lengths from Dragon Bones (6-4) after taking it up approaching the penultimate fence.
The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board has announced that all the horses present at a raid on the premises near Monasterevin earlier this month have tested negative for banned substances. A statement from the IHRB said: "The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board can today confirm that the hair and blood samples taken from horses at the premises near Monasterevin, County Kildare, on 9 November 2021 have been analysed at LGC laboratories and reported negative for prohibited at all times substances."As this is part of an ongoing investigation working in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and other agencies, we cannot make any further comment at this time." The negative results are in no way surprising, in my opinion, they do not clear anything up in truth. This needs to be brought to a conclusion.
All Class was the focus of attention at Punchestown after landing a gamble in a race described afterwards as a "complete farce" by winning trainer Ronan McNally. Beaten 71 lengths on her first start for McNally on the Flat at Gowran Park last month, the six-year-old was available at as big as 13-2 in the morning for the William Hill Ireland Pick Your Places Handicap Chase. Having opened at 4-1, she was backed into 13-8 favouritism in a 16-runner field. Front-running Rudy Catrail crashed out at the first leaving the 13-year-old Capture The Dream clear, with the only one to pay him any respect being Donagh Meyler on the eventual winner. The stewards held an inquiry and interviewed all jockeys bar the first two home and the riders of the two fallers at the first fence. Niall Cronin, communications director of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, said: "The riders felt that the early fallers contributed to them getting so strung out early on and that they went very quick for the type of race it was. The stewards noted their explanations."
Shishkin has been ruled out of next week's Betfair Tingle Creek by trainer Nicky Henderson. The unbeaten chaser was due to make his seasonal reappearance in the Sandown Grade One, but Henderson does not feel he is quite yet at concert pitch. As a result, he will now head for the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton over Christmas instead. "I’ve just spoken to (owner) Joe Donnelley and we’ve sadly and reluctantly decided that Shishkin is not going to run in the Tingle Creek," said Henderson. "There’s nothing wrong with him, but I just haven’t got there. He worked this morning and he just isn’t sparky at the moment. I think I just got behind the ball a little bit."We did his wind in the autumn which wasn’t a problem, but it just put us behind the ball and Nico (de Boinville, jockey) and I both feel he’s not quite on his A-game."It really is a thin line. We’ve scoped him and everything and there’s nothing wrong, but you can’t afford to go into this anything bar 100%."
This business with Shiskin is just another example of why Nicky Henderson should end his contract with Unibet. Henderson is clearly under pressure to produce content for Unibet. It is inevitable he will be asked about his star horses. It creates a hostage to fortune, whatever Henderson is getting paid it's not enough for the grief it creates. Do yourself a favour Nicky and get out of it.
At Dundalk, there was a double for Sheila Lavery with Annecherie (who was advised (0.75pt each way at 7/1 to our members). The Lavery double was completed by Summit Star.
At Thurles, there was a treble for Willie Mullins with Ciel De Neige, Cilaos Emery and Braganza. While Willie Mullins saddling a treble at Thurles is not unusual, the victory of Braganza following a mammoth absence of almost four years is certainly out of the ordinary. The six-year-old mare had not been seen since finishing last of five for Ed Dunlop in a Chelmsford maiden in December 2017. Owner Sharon Noonan paid €6,000 for her whilst she was in foal in November 2018 and following a 1439-day absence, she was finally ready to make her debut in the BetVictor Irish EBF Mares Maiden Hurdle. Weak in the betting, she was sent off a 10-1 chance but came home strongly under Sean O'Keeffe to win by six lengths and earn quotes for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Horse Racing Ireland has agreed to create a four-week winter break for leading flat jockeys, running from 22 December to 18 January. The three Dundalk meetings on 5, 7 and 14 January will be restricted to races for either apprentice riders who claim a 5lb, 7lb or 10lb allowance or for jockeys who rode less than 20 winners during the previous turf season. HRI Director of Racing Jason Morris said: "In 2021 HRI extended the break for our leading jump jockeys from 12 to 24 days during June, which was very well received. "The changes announced today, which were proposed by the Irish Jockeys' Association, will mean that we will likewise have doubled the break period for the leading Flat jockeys from 14 to 28 days, while at the same time increasing opportunities for other riders at the start of the year."
At Dundalk, there was a double for our friends at Hilltop. As James McAuley saddled with Sister Lola and Dalvey. The Hilltop team are having an incredible 2021 which is well deserved.
Cloudy Glen scored an emotional success when causing a 33-1 upset in the Ladbrokes Trophy Handicap Chase at Newbury. Wearing the second colours of the late Trevor Hemmings, who won this race with Trabolgan, Many Clouds and Cloth Cap, the Venetia William-trained eight-year-old held the persistent challenge of Fiddlerontheroof in the hands of Charlie Deutsch. Hemmings' first colours were carried by last year’s winner Cloth Cap, who helped set the pace from the outset. Cloudy Glen was a product of Hemmings' Gleadhill House Stud, being a son of Cloudings who has provided many winners in the famous silks – not least Grand National hero Many Clouds. Hemmings died last month at the age of 86 and Williams felt victory in this race was a fine tribute to the owner. She said: "It was written in the stars. Trevor (Hemmings) was looking down. To have his two horses making the running in the Hennessy, turning for home. It is just unbelievable, isn’t it?"He was just wonderful as an owner. He had the most wonderful, wicked little sense of humour."But he understood horses. You had to be patient. In his business, he was really on it, but with his horses, he was so patient and knew what it took. Fiddlerontheroof was up for second Willie Mullins saddled both Brahma Bull and Ontheropes to finish third and fourth.
Defending champion Epatante and the mercurial talent that is Not So Sleepy shared the honours after the judge called a dead-heat in the Betfair Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle. Nicky Henderson's 2020 Champion Hurdle heroine Epatante made a brilliant reappearance in the Gosforth Park feature 12 months ago, but subsequent defeats at Kempton, Cheltenham and Punchestown meant she returned to Gosforth Park with a point to prove.
Having undergone back surgery during the summer, Epatante was the 11-8 favourite to get back on the winning trail and provide Henderson with a record seventh Fighting Fifth success under Aidan Coleman. Not So Sleepy, meanwhile, was an 18-1 shot in the hands of Jonathan Burke off the back of finishing second on the Flat at Doncaster last month. Epatante travelled with her customary zest for much of the two-mile journey and moved smoothly into contention from the home turn, but was made to fight for it by both Not So Sleepy and Sceau Royal. To the naked eye, Henderson’s mare looked to have just got the better of Not So Sleepy in a driving finish passing the post, but they could not be split in the photo.
Aye Right got a deserved victory in a big handicap taking the Rehearsal Chase at Newcastle. It produced a good betting day for our members from 4 bets. Aye Right (won) 205 Newcastle 6/1 (0.75pt each way)Ontheropes (placed) 300 Newbury 8/1 (0.75pt each way)Frero Bannbou (placed) 335 Newbury 13/2 (1pt each way) along with a 0.25pt each way Trixie. At Fairyhouse, there was a treble for Bryan Cooper with Lieutenant Command, Dunvegan and Grangee.
It was a massive day at Fairyhouse. I was in attendance. It is always a really brilliant day of racing with the added bonus of seeing friends you have not seen for ages. As jump racings congregation comes together on the road to Cheltenham.
Statuaire caused a minor shock when getting up in the final strides to deny favourite My Mate Mozzie in the Baroneracing.com Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse. Willie Mullins saddled three runners in a race he had won eight times previously, but they were sent off as the three outsiders of the field. However, the mare Statuaire (12-1) took a huge leap forward from winning her last two outings in the summer at Downpatrick and Wexford. Dropped out in the rear by Danny Mullins, Statuaire seemed to want to go much quicker for most of the race and the pace was only steady, with the whole field covered by just three lengths until the third last. The favourite My Mate Mozzie then took over, and he was sent off a 5-4 chance with the late absentee Three Stripe Life missing the race due to the quick ground. Gavin Cromwell's charge looked to have done enough running to the last but got in too tight, losing some momentum and Statuaire flew home to win by a short head. I thought the third home Mighty Potter was very unlucky he was the one I would take out of the race.
Beacon Edge came from the clouds to claim an unlikely victory in the Baroneracing.com Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse. Noel Meade's seven-year-old, a smart staying hurdler last season, was only fourth jumping the second last and looked booked for a place at best. By then Gabynako had jumped for fun out in front for Darragh O'Keeffe and thinned the field out in the last half-mile. Gabynako was still going great guns in front, but he made an error at the second last giving Fury Road a big opportunity. Heading to the last Gabynako had just about got back on top but made another error, costing him plenty of momentum and leaving Fury Road in front. By then Denis O'Regan had coaxed Beacon Edge to within a couple of lengths but on landing over the last, he was the one finishing with a flourish and while to Gabynako's credit he battled back to head Fury Road, Beacon Edge (7-2) won by a length and a quarter. It capped a frustrating afternoon for Gabynako's trainer Gavin Cromwell, who had seen his My Mate Mozzie beaten a short head in the Royal Bond half an hour earlier. I thought Gabynako was really unlucky here, he is the one to take out of the race for me.
Honeysuckle maintained her unbeaten record with an imperious display in winning a third Baroneracing.com Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse. The reigning champion hurdler has now had 13 races under Rules for Henry de Bromhead and this was her ninth Grade One verdict. De Bromhead felt he left her a little short heading into the race 12 months ago and while she was victorious, she only beat Ronald Pump by half a length. It was Matthew Smith's eight-year-old who proved her toughest opponent once again, but this time around he was eight lengths in arrears. In truth, the result looked a formality from a long way out, when Rachael Blackmore moved Honeysuckle alongside the early leader Stormy Ireland with Ronald Pump going with her. Approaching the second last though, Honeysuckle pulled clear and despite jinking slightly to her right at the last, she only had to be pushed out to win as the 2-5 favourite. This was a brilliant performance from Honeysuckle. However, the race was marred by a horrible injury to Paul Nolan's Latest Exhibition. It was a very sad incident sadly Latest Exhibition lost his life.
The last thing to take out of Fairyhouse for me on Sunday was the run of Whiskey Sour in the 80K handicap hurdle. I will very much have Whiskey Sour on my radar for The County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.