If, as some contend, Dundalk is a trainers’ track more than anything else, it’s proving itself invaluable to them. Many two-year-olds get their start there, while some top-class older horses are given a run in preparation for an assault on big international prizes.
They’re the ones that make it onto the race card; just how many others travel to the venue for a training spin is anybody’s guess. All of which is a tremendous compliment to the people tasked with maintaining the track. If it wasn’t safe or well-kept, trainers would stay at home or go elsewhere.
Dundalk form-lines figured prominently among the winners at last week’s big Royal Ascot meeting, which was extraordinary for the emotions it aroused. More akin to what we see at Cheltenham, Ireland went into a four-nil lead over the auld enemy on the opening day, two of the winners having graced the Dowdallshill circuit in the early part of their careers.
Aidan O’Brien won the Queen Anne Stakes with Declaration Of War, who was a Dundalk winner in October of last year, and in the very next race, Sole Power, the Dowdallshill five furlong record-holder, benefited from a power-packed ride from the meeting’s leading jockey, Johnny Murtagh, to take the King Stand Stakes for Dunshaughlin, Co Meath handler, Eddie Lynam.
The second day opened in similar fashion, O’Brien winning with Gale Force Wind, a scorer at Dundalk in May of this year, and then Duntle doing the business. David Wachman trains this lassie, and like all of the country’s top trainers, the Tipperaryman is a solid supporter of Dowdallshill, to where he brought his stable star to win last season.
The fairytale-writers had a win pencilled in for one from the yard presided over by Henry Cecil up until his recent death and got it spot-on; while royalists and those who like seeing history being made were hoarse cheering as Queen Elizabeth’s Estimate became the first horse to win the Gold Cup winner for a reigning monarch.
It was high octane stuff for five days, and good that Dundalk got several mentions, if mostly among the punting public.