Barry Geraghty defends decision to race at Cork after last two races are lost
Barry Geraghty has insisted that the decision to proceed with Cork's Hilly Way Chase card on Sunday was the right one after the deterioration in rain-sodden conditions prompted officials to abandon the final two hurdle races.
The two-time champion jockey took a fall from Enda Bolger's promising chaser Ballyoisin at the second-last fence after his mount raced keenly in the Kerry Group-sponsored feature. By then, nearly 40mm had fallen on ground that was described as soft to heavy at declaration time on Friday.
However, Geraghty feels that the ground was perfectly safe and that part of the reason his mount tired so badly was due to the relentless fractions being set up front by the high-class Un De Sceaux.
"The only reason Ballyoisin fell was because he was trying to go Un De Sceaux's pace on very heavy ground, and I'd say there isn't another horse in the country that could do that," Geraghty said on Monday.
"He emptied on take-off and couldn't get out the landing gear. It was a simple fall. I landed on my feet and he went to get up, but I held him down for a bit so that he could get his breath. He was fine, it was just a tired fall."
Despite the gruelling conditions, completion rates on the day held up well. In the opening juveniles' maiden hurdle, 20 of the 22 that set out completed, and Ballyoisin was one of just three fallers from the 55 runners that set out across the three hurdles and two chases that took place.
However, with 40 horses having ploughed their way through the hurdle track in the first two events, Geraghty explained the background to the fixture being abandoned before the latter two contests.
"I spoke to the clerk of the course, Val O'Connell, after the second hurdle race and I said to him that we'd struggle to get through the day on the hurdle track," he said.
"I thought at that stage that we might get away with the novice hurdle, and the chases were on fresh ground, so they should be okay.
"I wasn't riding in the last two hurdle races so I was completely impartial, but I just felt we'd struggle to get back on the hurdle track after the chases. By then, the ground was gone.
"With two big fields in the first two hurdle races, they took their toll on the hurdle track, but the chase track was okay.
"Conditions were as bad as you'd want, but it was consistently wet, sloppy ground all the way around. There was no false ground and I've ridden on worse, put it that way.
"I came home two furlongs behind on Jessie's mare [Billy's Hope, beaten 73 lengths in fourth) in the graded mares' chase. I could have pulled her up if I wanted but there was no problem. She was going at her own pace and popped the last."
The Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan echoed the view that the volume of traffic on the hurdle track was the root of the late abandonment and stressed that there were no welfare concerns arising out of the meeting and that all horses returned safely.
He said: "Val O'Connell reported that 20mm fell on Saturday night, another 4mm fell by 9.00am and a further 9mm fell during the day. The problem was that the first two hurdle races churned up the ground, but he believes that more chases could have been run if they had been scheduled."
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