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Monday 26 August 2019

Mighty McDonald

P.J. the champion rider at Goodwood

Taghmon jockey P.J. McDonald is presented with his prize for being the champion jockey at Glorious Goodwood (Photograph courtesy of Racing Post)
Taghmon jockey P.J. McDonald is presented with his prize for being the champion jockey at Glorious Goodwood (Photograph courtesy of Racing Post)

The big-money meetings at Galway and Goodwood dominated proceedings last week, and Aidan O'Brien had 17 runners at each.

He was leading flat trainer at Galway with six winners but came away from the richly endowed English meeting without a single winner - I wonder how long has it been since that last happened?

The most successful Wexfordman at Goodwood was jockey P.J. McDonald who was very much in demand with 24 rides over the five days, and his four winners made him Champion rider at the meeting, ahead of Dettori and all the top names.

Ballydoyle suffered the effects of a bad bug for a couple of months last season, and whispers are starting to appear in the racing press wondering if something similar is afflicting them again.

Quite a few of their runners have been in contention with a couple of furlongs to go, and they are not getting home when the pressure comes on.

This was evident at Goodwood with some really high-profile horses, though there were a few good runs there as well.

Royal Ascot and Chester winner, Circus Maximus (9/2), ran very well under Ryan Moore in the £1m plus Qatar Sussex Stakes and put it up to Too Darn Hot (1/1) for Gosden and Dettori, going down by half a length but collecting €226k, and I Can Fly (14/1) was third under Donnacha.

On Thursday, Moore was second on well-backed Constantinople (2/1) in the £175k Qatar Gordon Stakes, beaten a neck after leading inside two furlongs. Wayne Lordan took third in the €200k Qatar Richmond Stakes with Royal Dornoch at 25/1, having missed the break, while Eminence (8/1) was third under Moore in the £75k handicap over a mile and a half but never looked like winning.

On the other hand, there are those runs that have fuelled concerns.

Epsom Derby winner and Irish Derby runner-up, Anthony Van Dyck (7/1), was second last in the Royal Ascot highlight, the King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, after weakening with half a mile to go. This was the classic battle in which Enable beat Crystal Ocean.

Hermosa (13/8f), dual English and Irish 1,000 Guineas winner, trailed in an eased down last in the £600k Group 1 Nassau Stakes, a long way behind stable mate Just Wonderful (20/1) at Goodwood on Thursday.

On Saturday in the £312k Group 2 Lily Langtry Stakes won by another John Gosden star, Enbihaar, Moore was third on O'Brien's South Sea Pearl (7/2jf), nearly seven lengths behind the winner, just half a length ahead of stable mate Flowering Peach who was a massive 33/1.

King of Athens (a well-backed 6/4f) was a disappointing eighth in a two-year-old maiden. 'Under pressure over 2f. out, soon beaten,' was the race-reader's verdict, all too common in recent times.

P.J. McDonald had a 221/1 double on Tuesday - a £30k five furlong sprint with Green Power (16/1), with just two heads dividing the first three, and a £25k mile fillies' handicap with Maid for Life (12/1) by half a length.

He had a great win on Thursday with Celsius (11/2), getting up by a short head after a difficult ride, and he won again on Friday in the Group 3 £100k Thoroughbred Stakes on Duke of Hazzard (3/1f). He also has several significant places.

Pat Dobbs got in on the act in the £150k Unibet Golden Mile Handicap, with a daring ride on Beat Le Bon (17/2) for Richard Hannon, squeezing through on the rails inside the final furlong.

He had another good payday in the £250k 27-runner Stewards' Cup on Saturday when finishing second on Open Wide (14/1), behind gambled on Khaadem.

Things were much better for the O'Brien runners in the less rarified atmosphere of the Galway Festival, with six winners all ridden by Aidan's son, Donnacha - Inishfree (4/9), the impressive Petite Mustique (3/1) in a fillies' maiden, and Invitation (10/3), plus a treble on Saturday, Emperor of the Sun (4/6), Lancaster House (6/4) and Royal County Down (2/1).

Jim Bolger got on the board in a three-year-old handicap with Halimi (7/1) under Kevin Manning.

Over the jumps, J.J. Slevin had a few good rides during the week for his cousin, Joseph O'Brien.

He had a comfortable win on Linger (9/4f) in the Easyfix handicap hurdle, which won again on the flat on Sunday.

He had a couple of good places, especially his third on his Cheltenham winner, Band of Outlaws, in the €300k Galway Hurdle, behind Robbie Power on Tony Martin's Tudor City (10/1).

Colin Bowe sent Sweet Home Chicago (25/1) over to Galway for a handicap hurdle and he took a good second under Bryan Cooper.

Wexford People

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