English brings strongest team to Ballybrit in quest for further glory
Damian English was only 25 years of age when 25-1 shot Cash Or Casualty secured his first win as a trainer when landing the mile handicap at the Galway festival in 2011.
English, a native of Naul in County Dublin, has gone from strength to strength since that heady breakthrough at Ballybrit. He has now saddled nearly 50 winners and has his sights set on further Galway success this week.
“It’s the biggest string I’ve ever gone down there with," he said of this week's raiding party. "I have nine to go to war with.”
The trainer has a knack for making silk purses out of sow's ears and Geological epitomises that policy. Bought at the Tattersalls Autumn Sale as a three-year-old in 2015 for a mere 800gns, the redoubtable son of Rock Of Gibraltar has amassed more than €100,000 in prize-money from 64 starts since then.
He takes pride of place at Grougha stables and is an intended runner in Tuesday's valuable Colm Quinn BMW Mile Handicap.
“If Geological gets into the premier handicap on Tuesday, he’ll run," English said. "If not there’s a race for him on the weekend. He’s some money-spinner – he thrives on his racing.”
Geological recently disappointed in a handicap at the Curragh, but English explained: “He's never won over five furlongs, but he's won over six, seven furlongs and a mile for me. In those premier handicaps, you have those five-furlong horses and he just doesn’t have that toe. Rory Cleary reckons seven furlongs or a mile should be ideal.”
Over the past seven years, English has carved out a reputation as a highly efficient operator and credits the use of the local Mornington beach near Balbriggan for much of his horses' progression.
“The beach is brilliant, it’s completely different to what the horses are used to," he said. "We bring them down and they have a little canter, or a swing. They walk in the sea for about a mile, then you take the tack off them and they have a bit of a roll.”
“The horses don’t associate the beach with going for a gallop," he added. "All they're thinking about is having a walk in the sea or a roll in the sand. They just love it.
"When they're coming out of those big yards where they're doing the same thing since they are yearlings, it’s completely different. You have dogs chasing you one day, people roaring and shouting and kids running around – it buzzes them up.”
One of English’s latest acquisitions is the five-year-old Dance Alone, who finished third at Leopardstown on his latest outing despite some traffic problems. A three-time winner for the stable, Dance Alone is engaged in Tuesday's Caulfieldindustrial.com Handicap.
"He should've won the race but the gaps just didn’t come," English reflects of his latest run. "I was delighted with the way he finished. He’s gotten his confidence back and he’s thriving on his racing.
"I also Mokhalad in Tuesday's race, but I want to keep all my horses apart if I can."
English nominates unraced filly Crimping as a dark horse to watch out for, but for now his focus will be on the western venue at which he made such a statement in 2011.
“Dance Alone, Mokhalad, Alfirak and Red Avenger are probably my best chances," he said. "Hopefully one of them will collect as a winner at Galway is always special."
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