Just how valuable Dundalk’s all-weather track is to the Irish training establishment was emphasised in no uncertain fashion at Royal Ascot. Two of last week’s winners were given a run at the ‘Hill earlier this year before the turf season began in earnest, and both found a winning bracket.
Royal Ascot is the Olympics of Flat racing, the only difference with the real thing being, it comes around each year. It’s National Hunt equivalent is the Cheltenham Festival, which, while it doesn’t have the pomp and ceremony of the meeting taking place in deepest Berkshire, is still the place where the winter boys want to have a winner.
Aidan O’Brien, whose total emphasis now is on the Flat, having had the great Istabraq among his recruits when he mixed it at both games, sent Ishvana to Dundalk to contest a three-year-old seven furlong at the beginning of May. It was the filly’s third run of the season, and she was seeking a first win of 2012. She made it home with a half-length to spare, rewarding punters who’d backed her at 6/1.
Six weeks later Duntle was on a Friday night card, David Wachman’s charge another trying for a first win. He was a 5/1 chance, and those who were on knew they’d be collecting long before the race was over. Duntle came in a whopping 18 lengths clear of his nearest rival, making him the widest-margin winner ever on the sand track. He was immediately ear-marked for Royal Ascot’s Sandringham Handicap, the last race of the second day. Backed to 4/1 favourite, he came home a cosy winner under Wayne Lordan.
By then Ishvana was back in her stable taking a deserved nibble having won the Jersey Stakes. If ever there was a family winner this was it, because the trainer’s wife, Anne-Marie, was on the card as owner and breeder. All the money would have been kept at home if their son, Joseph, had chosen to ride Ishvana instead of another from the stable.
But Joe-boy got his reward later on, guiding another from his father’s stable, So You Think, to a win in the day’s feature.
This is a racing dynasty, the like of which has never been seen before - and it’s doing Dundalk track’s reputation no harm that it figures in some small way in the training wing’s smooth operation.