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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Morning Mingle proves the perfect way to set the scene for new initiative

David Jennings at Leopardstown for a fashionably late and stylish launch

Samcro, the star of the show, steps out with stable companion Rapid Escape at the Morning Mingle
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Australia adores these mornings. Thousands got up in the middle of the night to watch Winx meander around Moonee Valley a few days before she won her third Cox Plate. They can't get up early enough over there.

Fortunately Horse Racing Ireland has taken our laziness and lack of respect for alarm clocks into account, so it's a 10am start for the Morning Mingle at Leopardstown, a Breakfast With The Best-style initiative that has never been done in Ireland before. The aim? To launch the Dublin Racing Festival in style. We get going just after 10.30am – it's Ireland.

We do a bit of galloping first. Nineteen horses from four different stables are here. The star of the show is of course Samcro. Hard to believe that a horse who has run only five times in his life and never won a Grade 1 or Grade 2 is the main attraction ahead of Christmas Chase winner Road To Respect or former Champion Hurdle winner Jezki, but such is the aura of invincibility around the son of Germany that we cannot wait to get another glimpse.

Jessica Harrington leans out to get a good view of her horses at the Morning Mingle

Newstalk and TV3 presenter Ivan Yates is joined by Irish racing expert Johnny Ward to dissect every clue that comes from the gallops, the coverage shown live on At The Races. Such a task turns out to be terribly tricky. As Noel Meade put it: "My lads didn't do much." That was putting it mildly.

None of the 19 worked up much of a sweat, but Espoir D'Allen did look like Linford Christie running alongside Phil Taylor in his workout with stablemate Spades Are Trumps.

Ward is witty, though, and keeps us entertained with some hilarious one-liners. After Yates reveals that, like Our Duke, he too has back problems, Ward swiftly replies: "Hopeful his long-term future is more prosperous than your own, Ivan."

It's Samcro time

It is almost a four-way dead-heat between Jessica Harrington's quartet with Ward keen to back the unraced Exit Poll given his close proximity to Supasundae, Whisperinthebreeze and Jezki. That's the price gone.

There is little to split Road To Respect and Snow Falcon, while Apache Stronghold and A Genie In Abottle seemed to find the going tougher than most.

It's Samcro time. God, he's gorgeous. Shane McCann, hailed "the best judge" in Gordon Elliott's stable, is on board and he does everything easily upsides prolific bumper winner Rapid Escape. More about him later. Farclas is another to catch the eye.

We break for breakfast after the galloping concludes. No matter what your morning feast is made up of, it's here. There is a full Irish, continental, croissants, pastries and even pancakes. Another blow to the January diet.

Once we're fed with food it is time to get fed with information. There is a six-strong panel on two couches to discuss all 15 races on the Dublin Racing Festival running order.

Henry de Bromhead, Davy Condon [Gordon Elliott's assistant] and Chris Jones [owner] are on one, while Noel Meade, Gavin Cromwell and Jessica Harrington take up the other flank. You want to know the nuggets?

Noel Meade and Kate Harrington share a joke

Well, Our Duke schooled at Punchestown recently and is a definite runner in the Unibet Irish Gold Cup. Petit Mouchoir is on course for a clash with Footpad in the Frank Ward Solicitors Novice Chase. Samcro will go for the longer option and swerve the Deloitte over two miles, while Highland Fling wins the Handicap Hurdle. Ssshhh, say nothing. Cromwell doesn't want anyone to know. 

Time for charity bets, well mythical ones. If the panel each had €100 (they all do and more) what would they put it on? It is Rapid Escape for both Cromwell and Condon. De Bromhead and Jones also stick together and go for Paloma Blue. Our Duke for Harrington. Noel Meade? "I'd stop a battleship so I'll go for Samcro," he says to a chorus of laughter. 

It is a fitting way to end the Morning Mingle as we are all left smiling. We might not have learned much from the gallops, but the fact that the horses and their trainers were here tells you all you need to know. 

This was a new initiative from HRI that worked, really worked. How can you tell? Mentions of Cheltenham were few and far between. Now, that's saying something. Expect more Morning Mingles. 

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I'd stop a battleship so I'll go for Samcro
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