There's nowhere else to start this week other than with Wicklow Brave, what a brilliant horse he was for everyone involved with him.
It was a cruel blow to lose him, especially when you consider that he was running another huge race when coming down at the last in the American Grand National on Saturday.
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To win a bumper at the Galway races, an Irish St Leger, a Punchestown Champion Hurdle and three races over fences you have to be very special and he was an extraordinary horse.
Looking in from the outside he seemed to be a real character of a horse and you probably didn't know what you were going to get with him on any given day. I'd imagine Wicklow Brave was brilliant fun to be involved with - the mad ones always are!
He even lost his form for a while during his career, and he actually probably came back from that spell better than he ever was. To do what he has done in his career is a testament to the work at home by everyone at the Willie Mullins yard and especially his stable lad Jason Dear.
He held a high level of form over nearly 60 runs, while competing over completely different disciplines in racing - that's quite rare.
It's the likes of Wicklow Brave who are the real stable favourites as they seem to be made of steel and give everyone involved plenty of great days at the best meetings.
We've had horses like that, those who could run every week if you wanted them to and they nearly always give their best - that's what makes everyone involved fall in love with them.
That's the thing about racing, there is somebody emotionally attached to every single one of them and losing any horse, regardless of ability, is an aspect of the sport that is never easy.
Stable lads and girls give everything to these horses and I really feel for Jason. Wicklow Brave brought him all over the world, gave him some amazing days and it's very hard for him coming home from the racecourse without him.
You see it every day in the yard, the stable staff just build these amazing relationships with the horses, and it doesn't even matter if they are any good or not - they're just stuck to each other.
Stable staff look after horses better than they look after themselves at times!
You'll often see "animal activists" condemn horse racing, but racehorses are looked after physically and emotionally like no other animal in the world in my opinion, and losing Wicklow Brave will have everyone at Closutton heartbroken.
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Cheltenham Is Back
You properly know the jumps are back when you see horses running at Cheltenham and as always Gordon will have a select few heading over.
There is a few entered who are still to be decided on, but three of them who look likely to head over at the minute are Dinons, Braid Blue & Graineyhill.
These plans can obviously change in a second!
Dinons is a good horse who has won 3 of his 5 starts so far over fences, and I really fancied him for the Albert Bartlett last year, as I said to everyone at the #racehour preview night. We thought conditions were perfect for him, but maybe the ground was a bit too soft and Gordon's horses didn't really fire on the day - you have to just draw a line under it.
As I said his chasing has been good so far, and he was actually 3rd to Wicklow Brave two runs back before winning last time in the manner of a good horse.
He won at this Cheltenham meeting last year, and has two options at the weekend there with one over 2 miles & 4 furlongs and the other over 3 miles. That decision won't be made until closer to the day, but I'm really looking forward to seeing him over the fences there if he does end up on the boat over as planned.
Braid Blue is one who has done well over the summer with 4 wins from his last 4 runs and while this is definitely a step up in class, I think there is more improvement in him.
He will have options, like Dinons, and that's a decision to be made in due course as well.
Graineyhill looks like he's heading over to the Amateur race on the Friday. He lost his form a bit during the summer, but he has put two good runs back to back now and could go well there. He was probably going to win at Gowran, or at least definitely finish 2nd before falling and ran a very good race at Punchestown last week to be 3rd.
He jumps and stays well, so a race around Cheltenham might just suit him. If he lines up, he'll have Jamie Codd on his back which is never a bad thing!
Paddy Byrne owns Graineyhill, and he goes back a long time supporting Gordon so it'd be great to have a winner at Cheltenham for him.
A Few Updates
Felix Desjy, as Gordon has said, had a setback unfortunately, but it might not be so bad as it's only a pulled muscle. If he gets back ready to run by the end of November he could still end up over fences this season. Only time will tell though, so fingers crossed - as I've said before on the blog that I think he could be very good over 2 miles jumping fences this season!
Also, I said two weeks ago in my blog (Keith Donoghue’s Weekly Blog: Why Racing Weights Should Rise) about Vision D'honneur that he had a setback and I wasn't sure when we'd see him this season, as I didn't know at that point. However, thankfully it was nothing major and he's back in work - he's another exciting novice chaser to go to war with.
- Keith Donoghue’s Weekly Blog: Delta Work Was The Best Horse In The RSA
- Keith Donoghue’s Weekly Blog: Tiger Roll, Samcro And My 10 To Follow
- Daily Horse Racing Betting Tips
- Ante-Post Horse Racing Betting Tips
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