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Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Easter Parade: the highs and lows of a packed four days at home and abroad

Scott Burton has a song in his heart looking at Fairyhouse, Meydan and Lingfield

Go Get: following his disappointing showing at the Cheltenham Festival, Getabird bounces right back to form in the Grade 2 novice hurdle, winning by 12 lengths under Paul Townend
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The Fred Astaire and Judy Garland musical Easter Parade is a perennial television favourite at this time of the year. And with so much top-class racing, there was plenty to sing and dance about through the four days of the long weekend. Scott Burton reflects on the Easter extravaganza 

Happy Easter for Godolphin

Sheikh Mohammed enjoyed arguably his best ever night at Meydan with four Group 1 wins, including the big three at the end of the World Cup card. Godolphin's two main trainers in Dubai and Newmarket both walked off with a pair of prizes, although arguably not with their established stable stars.

In particular Hawkbill has been a difficult horse to place for Charlie Appleby since beating The Gurkha in the 2016 Coral-Eclipse.

After being at the centre of a stalls drama which would not have been much help to either himself or his neighbours either side, Cloth Of Stars and Satono Crown, Hawkbill was allowed to dictate a sedate pace before clearing away under the ever-alert William Buick.

It was disappointing that the biggest turf race on the night was once again run at a crawl which disadvantaged many of the leading players but, credit where it is due, Buick and Hawkbill made the most of their opportunity.

"We would drive up the avenue…"

Fred and Judy were 'just a couple of swells' in Easter Parade but lack of local knowledge seemed to catch out Javier Castellano a couple of times when he gave up the chance of getting across to Meydan’s golden highway on the rail.

Javier Castellano (pink silks) and West Coast about to surrender the favoured rail slot to Thunder Snow and Christophe Soumillon (white cap) on the run to the first turn in the Dubai World Cup
It might not have made too much difference to the overall result of the UAE Derby, in which Ryan Moore and Mendelssohn were away and gone before Reride ran on late, but you still have to ask how Castellano ended up four off the rail down the back on a horse drawn three.

Worse was to come in the World Cup when Castellano offered up the fence on West Coast, with a grateful Christophe Soumillon saying later: "I couldn’t believe it," after he was allowed to get across from stall ten on Thunder Snow.

Rocky Hori Show

Trainer Noriyuki Hori might have been rapidly going off the idea of a return visit to Meydan, even before Hawkbill tried to get into Satono Crown's stall.

Hori’s other runner on Saturday night, Neorealism, pulled off a shoe midway through the Dubai Turf.

Hawkbill (stall 7) rears up in the stalls and tries to join Satono Crown (8) before the Dubai Sheema Classic.

Bad racing luck for sure, but the trainer's plans also went awry ahead of the 2016 Sheema Classic, when Japan Derby winner Duramente lost a racing plate in the preliminaries and stewards would not allow it to be replaced.

Shakin' The Blues Away

Getabird and Un De Sceaux were beaten favourites at Cheltenham but they showed no ill-effects on ground at Fairyhouse on Monday, which was, if anything, more testing than what they encountered at the festival.

Getabird enjoyed getting his own way out in front without the pressure which seemed to light him up in the Supreme and it was a good sign for his future prospects over fences that he had so much left in the tank at the end of the Grade 2 Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle.

He jumped well for the most part and it is worth noting that the two miles at Fairyhouse includes ten hurdles, against the eight at Cheltenham

Un De Sceaux: led home a 1-2-4-6 for Willie Mullins in the feature race on Tuesday

There are few more uplifting sights in jump racing at the moment than the diminutive Un De Sceaux blazing away from the front.

It is easy to crab the form of his win in the Grade 2 Devenish Chase – two of his main market rivals were pulled up while Doctor Phoenix was clearly still a big danger when coming down two out – but his enthusiasm for the job of jumping and running remains undimmed, while Paul Townend was adamant he hadn’t got to the bottom of Un De Sceaux when he was gifted the race.

Fairyhouse round-up

Much of the Graded fare at Fairyhouse featured horses that we already had a fair handle on but that was not necessarily the case with Coquin Mans, who races in the Hurricane Fly colours of George Creighton and was sourced from Jean-Luc Pelletan, the same French trainer who unearthed the dual Champion Hurdle hero.

By all accounts Coquin Mans has been a bit of a tearaway up until now but he appeared much more tractable for Townend, before going clear after the last in the Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle on Monday.

Coquin Mans settled much better for Paul Townend when winning at Fairyhouse on Monday
He might be a chaser in the making and, given his finishing effort in heavy ground over two and a half miles, looks a stayer with potential if he can continue his education in learning to settle.

Al Boum Photo did well to deny Shattered Love in the Ryanair Gold Cup on Sunday, although his jumping remains a work in progress.

In the day's other Grade 1 Laurina continued her serene domination of the mares' novice hurdling division. There are plenty of opinions about how and when she should be set sterner targets

I'll just say this: Laurina is still entitled to run in novice company – Sunday was only her sixth start, including two for Guillaume Macaire – and I don't see why her connections should feel under any greater pressure to run in races that would give a truer measure of her ability than the people around, say, Samcro or Footpad. 

Better Luck Next Time

There were at least two major hard luck stories at the climax of a dramatic Irish Grand National, in which Arkwrisht and Folsom Blue both held every chance before being baulked at the final fence.

Rachael Blackmore and Arkwrisht had travelled sweetly up front and still looked to have more to give, while Robbie Power and Folsom Blue had become detached from the main group running back towards the stands for the last time but were staying on powerfully when Bellshill slowed and swerved at the last.

Judging by how close Folsom Blue got at the line after having his momentum severely checked, he looked a particularly unlucky loser.

"This comes once in a lifetime, not twice," sings Garland in the song but if there is any justice Folsom Blue and Arkwrisht will get the chance to land a big handicap somewhere down the line.

The incident should take nothing away from JJ Slevin and the winner General Principle.

JJ Slevin celebrates General Principle's win in the Irish Grand National
A former crack amateur, Slevin secured the Martin Pipe Conditional Handicap at Cheltenham in 2017, a race Gordon Elliott had long coveted given the role the former master of Pond House has played in his own training career.

Slevin hadn’t ridden a winner for Elliott this season before driving General Principle up on the inside, but if Elliott does beat Willie Mullins to claim a first Irish trainers’ title, how important might that one result be?

Watch the replay of the Irish Grand National and view the full result

Bachelot a name to note

Theo Bachelot showed plenty of patience in delivering City Light and Lucky Team fast and late for his two wins on all-weather finals day at Lingfield on Friday.

Bachelot has been nurtured by City Light’s trainer Stephane Wattel and recently signed a contract as first rider to the colt's part-owner Jean-Louis Bouchard.

Theo Bachelot celebrates City Light's Sprint success at Lingfield
The 25-year-old could be back in Britain before long should the unbeaten Sacred Life come through his Classic trial at Deauville next Monday, with Bouchard and Wattel considering a crack at the Qipco 2,000 Guineas.

Broadcasting gongs

The three French successes at Lingfield on Friday fell right for ITV Racing, whose Sally-Ann Grassick spent eight years in Chantilly working for racing channel Equidia and who was able to coax more than just "my tea is rich" out of Bachelot and Maxime Guyon thanks to her linguistic skills.

Also a big thumbs-up to Craig Evans, who did a fine job on his first World Cup night as Meydan racecourse commentator since replacing Dubai institution Terry Spargo.

Evans may not have produced the verbal fireworks of his fellow Aussie but he was alive to a couple of key moments during proceedings, notably when immediately alerting viewers to the importance of North America’s tardy start in the World Cup with the simple phrase: "That turns the race on its head.".

Also bonus points for describing Mendelssohn’s margin of victory in the UAE Derby as "a conservative 17 lengths" as he sauntered across the line.

With the benefit of time and a slide rule, the judge settled on 18 and a half.

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There are few more uplifting sights in jump racing at the moment than the diminutive Un De Sceaux blazing away from the front
E.W. Terms
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