Leinster Leader Stable Tour: Jessica Harrington
In the second week of our National Hunt stable tour series, focus turns to the Commonstown Stud team in Moone. Following what can only be described as a torrid 2007/08 season, Jessica Harrington talks to Robert Catterson about getting her team back on track in the months ahead.
IF you look up the statistics in the Racing Post, they'll tell you that Jessica Harrington leads the way in the Irish trainers' championship after another good start to the jumping season.
"We've had another good start and again the horses are running well at this time of the year. I currently lead the trainers' championship and I led it for just the one day last season so that's nice. But realistically, it will be a matter of time before Noel (Meade) and Willie (Mullins) overtake me and that's just the way it is." says Jessica as she gets her list of horses ready for this now annual examination.
But what the stats don't tell you is the heartache which Jessica and the rest of the team at Commonstown have gone through over the past 12 months.
"We lost a lot of horses last season and a lot of good horses too. It was tough for everybody. Macs Joy fatally injured himself in the Boylesports International at Cheltenham and that was a very tough day. It's terrible when that happens, especially to one of your good horses."
"We lost Tailor's Hall last season too when he fell at the last at Leopardstown when well clear while we also lost Glenrock Leader on the same day and Foligold died in a race in Cork last November. The three mares of Gemini Lucy, Gazza's Girl and Dingle Belle have all gone to the breeding paddocks while Hide The Evidence has left here. The quartet of Callow Lake, Ridge Boy, Studmaster and Albanov aren't here anymore also. Another of our horses in Chasing Cars has been ruled out for the season after picking up a 'leg'."
"That's over ten horses that we'll be without this season and that means that we're going to be short in horses running in the top races. It's just the way it is and while we have plenty of young horses here amongst our team of 90 horses, we just have to wait for the next bunch of stars to come through the pecking order. We've done it before so it's nothing that unusual."
CORK ALL STAR:
"He's very well in himself and we were hoping to go for the Tipperary Hurdle with him earlier in the month but the ground went against him there so we decided against it. The plan is now to go to Down Royal on Friday and we'll take it from there with him. If he runs well, the Morgiana Hurdle will be next."
"He hasn't run over hurdles since Punchestown and right throughout last season, his jumping seemed to let him down. He has improved in that department and is schooling well and is a stronger horse this year. I still have high hopes for him and he wouldn't have to improve a whole lot from his bumper form to have a say in some of the top hurdle races this season."
"He started off this season by winning the National Lottery Chase at Gowran Park and I was very pleased with him that day. I'm looking at the Nicholson Champion Chase at Down Royal on Saturday with him now and he's a possibility for that race."
"He'll go for all the top races over here over 2m4f plus and he's been in good form since his win at Gowran. Last season I was contemplating on running him in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham but he's probably too high in the handicap now to run in that race this year. He's a very consistent horse and hopefully he'll pick up another nice prize this season."
GIVE IT TIME:
"I was thrilled with her win at Punchestown in mares hurdle two weeks ago and she did it really well. She went off with the pace and when she kicked on, they really couldn't keep up with her. She had been working well and she did it in great style."
"The mares hurdle route will be the plan with her now this season and she'll be running in all those races. She wants soft ground and 2m4f looks ideal for her. Those types of races are a great plus for mares and her ultimate aim will be the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March."
"I was delighted with his first run over fences in a beginners chase at Punchestown earlier this month, in what looked a decent race on paper. He was just outdone in the end and I think if he had been a bit quicker over the last fence, he'd have won."
"He has really filled out a lot over the summer and he'll be campaigned in novice chases this season between 2m4f and three miles. He'll be back out in a couple of week's time when hopefully he can go one better in a beginners chase."
"He's been running very consistently over the past couple of seasons so it was a deserved success when he managed to finally win his beginners chase at Limerick earlier this month."
"He'll be going for all the good 3m novice chases and he's a very good jumper. He seems to handle most types of ground and if everything went right, he might be a Grand National horse someday. Perhaps he may end up taking his chance in the Irish Grand National at the end of this season."
Indeed, the Harrington team are likely to be well represented in the novice chase front this season with the likes of Horner Woods, Fantoche, Merveilles, Turtle Time Lucky, Helvic Head, Personal Column and Hume Lover all being prepared for novice chasing campaigns. Harrington describes Horner Woods as a 'fine beast of a horse who has been delighting her in his schooling over fences' while Hume Lover has been schooling 'very well and is due out within the next fortnight.'
Another novice chaser in Dreamy Gent will now enjoy a break until the spring after numerous solid displays in recent months.
Three times winner Taravada is reported to be in 'great form' and is another due out in the coming weeks while Harrington expects both Romance Of Steel and Dicera to have come on for their first runs of the seasons recently.
Of the novice hurdlers at Commonstown, Alpine Eagle, Direct Exit, Gallant Light, Bostons Angel and Zarinava are top of the pecking order in that sphere while Afasheen and Cabin Point will be joining Give It Time in the mares hurdle route for the forseable future. Quartino, winner of the Guinness Handicap Hurdle at the Listowel Festival, is due out again in a competitive handicap hurdle at Down Royal this coming weekend.
And then on to the squad of bumper horses and this is the department where Harrington is quick to nominate her 'dark horse' for the coming season. A four-year-old filly by the name of Rock Gossip, who according to her trainer 'already looks the part'. Sibenek very much pleased his trainer with his fourth-placed effort on his career debut at Punchestown a couple of weeks ago while point-to-point winner Pontiac will be another representing the Commonstown team in bumpers sometime soon.
BIG RACE WINNER:
CORK ALL STAR:
Was disappointing in his first season over hurdles but is reported to have summered well and can get his career back on track in the coming months, possibly starting at Down Royal this weekend.
Was due to make her career debut at Naas last weekend and has been showing all the right signs in her work at home. Described by her trainer as a filly who 'already looks the part'.
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Weather for Naas, Ireland
Wednesday 19 June 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 12 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: South