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THE Dublin Racing Festival promised the sun, moon, and stars on paper and boy it didn’t disappoint!
From Honeysuckle ruling the roost in the Irish Champion Hurdle, Faugheen causing a human tsunami off the Leopardstown stands and Delta Work proving he’s the real deal — it was all happening last weekend on what was a poignant few days for Irish Racing.
Before we dive deeper into the action on the track, Sunday was an emotional day for many behind the camera as RTÉ supremo Robert Hall called time on his wonderful broadcasting career after 37 years as Irish Racing’s steadfast anchor-man.
The broadcaster of a generation, Robert’s dulcet tones, cool composure and wry smile were just some of the attributes that set him apart. Racing isn’t short of TV presenters, but this man set the standard and remained consistent at the top level throughout his tenure on screen.
Superlatives have been exhausted by those describing Hall in the aftermath of last weekend so I’ll keep it simple. Some people pretend to be gentlemen, Robert Hall wasn’t pretending. The man you saw on screen is the very same man you got when the programme ended.
Personally, Robert has had a huge positive influence on my own career. As a relatively new player in the game of television, Robert has acted as the ultimate professor guiding and tutoring his student in a subtle, but meaningful manner.
It has been the ultimate privilege to stand between the best television duo Irish sport has ever known. How could you learn those life lessons in a book or from the classroom?
Being the ham in the Robert and Ted sandwich is an experience that no other apprentice will ever enjoy and it’s something not lost on me.
Like so many, I grew up with Ted and Robert. They have commentated on racing for longer than my lifetime so life without Robert will be a major adjustment, but hopefully one RTÉ Racing is ready to make.
Rugby regular Hugh Cahill will be given the leg up at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, but no matter how good he is in the anchor-man role, Hugh will inevitably come in for criticism.
Criticism purely because he’s not Robert Hall. But that’s just it — the is no replacing Robert Hall. Someone can step in an carry the torch, but no man or woman will ever be Robert. He is genuinely a special man.
Turning our attention back to the track, I doubt there has ever been a weekend of such concentrated quality at one venue. If you are a racing fan and didn’t go to Dublin last weekend, just ask yourself why?
Honeysuckle, Delta Work, Notebook, Chaqun Pour Soi all reinforced their credentials with hard fought performances, but a few less exposed horses announced themselves as potential stars.
On Saturday, Patrick Mullins sent Appreciate It to the front in the bumper and never saw another rival. The professionalism and pace he showed indicated this horse is above average. Naturally, bookmakers immediately slotted him in as favourite for the Champion Bumper on the back of this facile success.
On Sunday another Mullins cadet impressed even the toughest of judges. Danny Mullins enjoyed an armchair ride aboard former point-to-pointer Asterion Forlonge in the two mile Grade 1 Novice Hurdle.
Coming straight from a maiden hurdle victory at Naas, this guy has serious potential and is currently my idea of the Supreme winner. Equipped with a relaxed disposition and a slick jumping technique, I think this guy could be all the rage on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Looking ahead to this weekend, there is some quality action taking place at Newbury tomorrow afternoon including Native River in the Denman Chase (Grade 2), Altior in the Game Spirit Chase (Grade 2) and Ciel De Neige in the ultra-competitive Betfair Hurdle, but all roads lead to Tallow point-to-point for our family this Sunday.
Run on our land at Shanakill cross, the races kick off at 1.30pm and I know the committee, headed by Gerty Murphy, have put in painstaking work over the past few months to have everything ship-shape for this weekend.
As usual, it will be all hands on deck at home to ensure everything goes smooth from start to finish and with a healthy number of entries across the six race card, we are hopeful of some quality action of our own away from the bright lights of RTÉ!