Irish jockeys and trainers to star in Scotland
Scottish racecourses are a good place to watch Irish jockeys and trainers. Ian Ferguson, Shane Donohue, Ronan McNally and David Christie all have runners at Musselburgh. Racegoers will be able to watch a rising star in Danny Mullins, an established one in Paul Townend and a conditional jockey having his first ride in Britain, Barry Foley.
Ferguson brings four horses from his Ballymena yard in County Antrim. None have obvious winning chances and it is almost four years since Ceasar Milan gave the trainer his last British success, in a bumper at Ayr. Yet in 2009-10 Ferguson won here six times from 22 attempts and has had few runners in Britain in the last few years.
Ferguson trained Simonsig before the future star moved to Nicky Henderson's yard, winning the 2011 Champion Point-to-Point Bumper race at Fairyhouse. A month earlier Ferguson won the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham with Zemsky, at 33-1.
They are not Ferguson's only claims to fame. He was a friend and neighbour of Billy Rock, the trainer who mentored Anthony McCoy and arranged for him to join Jim Bolger's powerful yard. Through Rock and his own eyes, Ferguson knew McCoy's potential and in a spell of less than five weeks in 1994 McCoy won a hurdle and two Flat races for him on Huncheon Chance.
Townend is at Musselburgh for just one ride, on hurdling debutant Windshear for Sophie Leech (2.30). The six-year-old is a fascinating contender.
In 2014, when trained by Richard Hannon, Windshear finished second in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot and fourth in the St Leger. Windshear also finished runner-up three times in Group 3 races. Once rated 112, Windshear's form deteriorated last year and when Leech bought him for 35,000 guineas last October, he was rated 89.
If Windshear takes to hurdling and recaptures some of his old ability he will win but the "if" tends to be quite significant with Flat bred recruits of his ilk.
Although racegoers at Ffos Las won't be able to see Townend or Mullins, except on television, they'll be able to see Davy Russell and Strangsmill, instead. One of Russell's five rides is for Leech, on Kapricorne (3.20). I wonder if the trainer will go to Musselburgh, go to Ffos Las or stay at home, in Gloucestershire?
Strangsmill, who runs in the opening novices' hurdle (2.20), has the distinction of having run in six Irish point-to-points and never starting at more than 5-2, including three times as a short-priced favourite. Unraced until she was seven, Strangsmill began by twice finishing runner-up, was then pulled up when 5-4 favourite before winning easily at Curraheen, only to be disqualified for taking the wrong course. A week later she fell when evens favourite then finally redeemed herself last June by winning at Kinsale when taking the correct course.
Now with Sheila Lewis, Strangsmill was tailed off and pulled up at Towcester on her hurdling debut last month. She's unlikely to win at Ffos Las. I just thought it was interesting.