RED MILLS Day at Gowran Park is renowned for red-hot talent and the feature Grade 2 RED MILLS Chase and Grade 3 RED MILLS Hurdle are shaping up to continue the trend.
Dual Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace was a regular in the RED MILLS Hurdle before galloping to Cheltenham glory and old rivals Quilixios, from the Henry de Bromhead yard, and the Gordon Elliott-trained Teahupoo could cross swords once more ahead of a tilt at Honeysuckle’s crown next month.
In all, the RED MILLS Hurdle has attracted a possible field of 11, while 10 horses have stood their ground for the Red Mills Chase. Willie Mullins’s nine-time Grade 1-placed Melon heads the ratings in the two-and-a-half-mile contest, while Aintree Grand National favourite Any Second Now would be an intriguing runner for Ted Walsh, having last run at this venue when finishing sixth in the Galmoy Hurdle.
Cork trainer, Michael Winters has his stable star Chatham Street Lad in both events but reports the Red Mills Chase as the target on a day when all hospitality for owners and trainers, as well as the stable staff canteen, is being sponsored by RED MILLS. Vivian Healy’s ten-year-old is a talented individual with an easy Caspian Caviar Gold Cup triumph at Cheltenham among his seven successes. He was only beaten eight lengths in fourth by Chantry House in the Marsh Novice Chase at the Gloucestershire festival last March.
The Beneficial gelding recorded a facile victory at Grade 3 level in Limerick just ten days after that effort but has not run since suffering a bad cut at Haydock, in the course of finishing third to A Plus Tard in the Betfair Chase last November.
“He’s going down there with plenty of work in him but sometimes it takes a run for him to get fit,” notes Winters. “The horses were quiet for a while too but we won a point-to-point on Sunday so it might be starting to turn for us.
“He’s a bit of an old hand, he always finds his own form but I’ve a lot done with him going down to the races. He was at the Knockanard point-to-point track on Monday and he’s been in Aghabullogue. He’s had little bits of variety work.”
Winters reveals that while the injury was severe, he was surprised and relieved that it wasn’t worse.
“We were terribly fortunate. He had eight inches of skin that had to be stitched back and for there to be no problem afterwards was a relief. It is great at the races that they can be looked after like that and we went to surgery down the road. What they said was that if any bit of dirt or mud or anything had been inside when he was stitched, he was in trouble but they washed it out well. We had no choice but to give him time after that. But he was really lucky. Maybe it was because I was after going to mass that weekend!”
Winters acknowledges the depth of quality within the field, with Willie Mullins supplying three in Melon, Galway Plate winner Royal Rendezvous and Blackbow, while Castlegrace Paddy (Pat Fahy) and Ex Patriot (Ellmarie Holden) are others representing local interest.
Chatham Street Lad has considerable possibilities at the major cross-channel festivals but will need to give a good account of himself on Saturday to justify the passage.
“If we come out of it with a good, solid run, we’ll be happy, and we’ll consider the options he has then,” says Winters. “We’ll take Saturday first. Willie Mullins is strong as usual but our fella has some good solid work done and it would be disappointing if he ran bad. He’s showing us that the mind is good.
“He puts his heart into it and he might tire from the last but he mightn’t either. We’ll consider the likes of the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, and maybe the Topham at Aintree over the Grand National, but the RED MILLS Chase is a big race and a good race, and we’ll be looking for a good run.”
Joseph O’Brien’s admirable Darasso will attempt to win the RED MILLS Hurdle a second time, after scoring in 2019, and Willie Mullins duo, top-rated Saldier and Cash Back are also possible runners but Teahupoo is a progressive individual who has gotten the better of Quilixios twice already this term, staying on strongly at Limerick to prevail in a Grade 2 contest over Christmas.
“Teahupoo is in good form and the RED MILLS Hurdle is the natural progression into senior company for him,” reveals Elliott.
“He did it well at Limerick over Christmas on very testing ground and we couldn’t have been happier with that. I’d hope he’d be better again on better ground and this is a lovely race to target at this stage of the season.This race should give us a good guide as to what direction we take for major spring festivals.”
Gareth Connolly, CEO, Connolly’s RED MILLS said:
“We’re gearing up for a great day at Gowran Park on Saturday. The response we’ve received for tickets has been incredible, and the event is now completely sold out. As always. this is a very important day for Connolly’s RED MILLS. My father, Joe has been Chairman here for 25 years and it’s a partnership that has thrived. We recognise the immense support we receive from the industry and days like Saturday allow us to show our appreciation for that support.
We’re delighted to also sponsor the hospitality for the owners and trainers with runners on the day, as well as the canteen for the stable staff, who work tirelessly to care for the horses that we get to enjoy and watch run.
Looking at today’s entries, we’re in for a great day on Saturday and we look forward to welcoming everyone. A huge thank you also to Eddie Scally and the team at Gowran. If anyone wants to know what’s involved in racecourse management, they should tune into the Thoroughbred Tales Twitter account, where Eddie is updating followers on a daily basis as he and his crew prepare for Saturday.”