• In The Stables with Pat Smullen

    I've been around for quite a while and one of the many things I’ve learned over the years is never to panic. More often than not, things are out of your control anyway and there is no point in getting upset.

    By our standards, we haven’t had a great year to date. But that’s just the way it goes. At the end of last season, many of our highest profile horses left to go to stud and when that happens, it leaves a hole. It has to. We have had no real flag bearer so far, but there are definitely signs that things could be about to change.

    Last year was exceptional for me, from start to finish. Obviously, I’m not where I want to be, winners-wise, this time around. We are just lacking that little bit of quality. Our three-year-olds and some of the older ones might be an average bunch or maybe just a little under the weather. But we are happy with our two-year-olds. Many of them are late maturing types and for us now, the remainder of the season is about them.

    The Grey Gatsby was a shade disappointing on his return at the Curragh on Derby weekend but I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on in the Meld Stakes at Leopardstown tomorrow night. We have been happy with him since his run in the International Stakes and hopefully he will run well. That was his first start since October of last year and we think he’ll improve. But he has to really.

    It was some bit of placing from the boss to find the Man O War Stakes at Belmont in May for Zhukova. A five-year-old filly with 8st on her back in a Grade 1, where else would you see it! She ran a good race in the Pretty Polly a little closer to home last time. It turned into a funny race though, one went off in front and the way it ended up, we had to lead the rest of the field. It was far from ideal but that’s just the way it unfolded. And she’d be better with an ease in the ground. If she gets the right conditions, maybe we can pick up a Group 1 in Europe later in the season to go with her big American success.

    And another that will enjoy getting her toe in is Tocco D’Amore. She just had a little setback after her impressive win at the first time of asking at Naas but she’ll be out again later in the season. She will obviously go up in class when she runs but I’m looking forward to getting back on her. Another one for the back end of the season.

    Eziyra delighted us in the Darley Irish Oaks at the Curragh. It was a top-class renewal. She ran a brilliant race and is now Classic-placed which is huge. But we were not overly surprised as she had been working well before Saturday’s race. Like so many of her owner’s horses, she is improving with age. I’d be in no rush to go up in trip with her but others might have a different point of view! She’s another filly we’re delighted and fortunate to have.

     

    The Galway festival is only weeks away and it is a meeting that has been kind to me. I’m lucky that its seven days the boss likes to target. But it is a tricky place and it’s not a nice track to ride to be honest. It’s undulating and more often than not you get full fields, so it can be quite rough. And you need a good bit of luck in running.

    The key to the place is timing your run. The trick is not to go too early. The final furlong at Galway can be pretty punishing. It is possible to keep out of trouble by being up with the pace but wherever you find yourself, you don’t want to kick too soon. And the draw in Galway, regardless of the distance of the race, makes a big difference too. Being out wide over seven furlongs or a mile is a huge disadvantage. You would need to have a lot in hand if you get a high draw, particularly in the handicaps. With the right horse, it mightn’t be such a big deal in the maiden races.

    Tandem is a proper horse. He’s won three on the bounce and goes for the big mile handicap on the Tuesday evening. I think ten furlongs is his ideal trip, he certainly impressed me over that distance at Leopardstown last week where he had his race won from some way out. And he won over further at Tipperary and the Curragh before that. But he travels strongly in his races and I’d be hopeful that he’ll be fine. He won his maiden at the festival here over eight furlongs, but that was back in 2012! He’s been some servant to the yard in the interim and there is plenty more to come.

    We’d have a couple in mind for the listed fillies’ race on Thursday afternoon. Raymonda might be the one at the end of the day. Seven furlongs looks to be her trip and the race should suit. She did well in a Group 3 at Fairyhouse earlier this month and it might make sense to target the race.

    In an ideal world, horses, particularly the youngsters, would have the benefit of at least one run heading to Galway. But with the way things have been this season, some of ours for the maiden races will be having their first runs at the festival. It makes things more difficult for sure and plans won’t be finalised until nearer the time.

    As far as the jockey’s championship goes, we are only at half-way. Let’s see how the table stands after Galway and even then, no one really knows where they are until Listowel is done with. There are no great plans, no special tactics. My aim is just to ride as many winners as I can. You ride to the last day of the season and if you have more winners than the others, you are the champion jockey. A long way to go and no need to panic!

    But I’d be hopeful that the second half of the season will be more rewarding than the first. There is plenty to look forward to. We will finish the year strongly. We’ll be alright.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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