Mullins explains Ballycasey withdrawal that allowed Patricks Park into Plate
Five years after Carlingford Lough landed a major gamble in the Galway Plate after sneaking into the final field as first reserve when another of JP McManus's runners was a late withdrawal, Patricks Park contested Wednesday's €250,000 showpiece in similar circumstances – although in this case the Willie Mullins-trained market leader could finish only second.
Patricks Park was only assured a place shortly before the cut-off point an hour and a half before the first race on the card when his stablemate Ballycasey was withdrawn due to the change in ground. Available at around 6-1 before Ballycasey's withdrawal, Patricks Park was sent off the 9-2 favourite with Ruby Walsh getting off Saturnas to ride him. David Mullins, who was due to ride Ballycasey, switched to Saturnas.
At declaration time on Tuesday, the official ground was given as yielding. After a dry night, that was changed to good at around 7.30 Wednesday morning, but significant rainfall thereafter prompted the clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer to change it back to yielding shortly after noon.
A number of other horses were withdrawn on Wednesday due to the ground conditions, with the stewards understood to be taking a sympathetic approach this week due to the changeable weather. The ground was given as the reason for the withdrawal of Brian Ellison's Our Kylie from the third race, which was duly won by the Jessica Harrington-trained first reserve Rovetta.
In 2013, when Eddie Harty withdrew Like Your Style after a going change, the late senior jumps handicapper Noel O'Brien observed during a hearing ahead of the race that the horse had recorded both of his wins on soft ground and that all of his best form was in testing conditions, a point Harty famously described as "circumstantial".
During an inquiry into Ballycasey's withdrawal, O'Brien's successor Andrew Shaw noted that "the majority" of his wins had come on soft or heavy ground. Of his 11 career wins, nine have come on conditions varying from yielding to heavy, with the other two having come on good to yielding. Mullins stated that he felt Ballycasey had always run "his best races on good ground, even though he had gained success on many different ground descriptions".
Reason for withdrawal
The stewards' report continued: "[Mullins] added that the animal had not won for over a year and consideration was now being given to running him in cross-country races where the ground is generally good or thereabouts.
"In analysing the horse's career he felt as a young horse he handled all ground descriptions and ran very well in Graded company without winning a Grade 1 race, but in latter years the horse struggled in handicap company and had been competing in conditions races where he had run well without always running to his handicap mark. As a result the horse had dropped significantly down the handicap.
"In summary he felt that Ballycasey was suited by small fields of runners but competing on today's ground conditions with a large number of runners where he would encounter kickback was not suitable for him at this stage of his career."
Speaking after Diamond Hill won the amateur riders' race, Mullins expressed his disappointment at the process of withdrawing Ballycasey.
"I was surprised to be brought in," he said. "I was disappointed that we couldn’t take him out here on the track after sending someone up to walk the track. I sent them in to the scales to withdraw him and we weren’t allowed. We had to go and ring a phone number. I can’t understand why you can’t take your horse out at the scales.
"It’s ridiculous that you can’t take your horse out at the races on the day. We’d seen all the rain and asked them to take the horse out, but we couldn’t. I don’t understand where racing is going that we can’t do that. It sounds ridiculous to me, the rigmarole we had to go through to take the horse out.
"Patricks Park is lucky to get in now that we've had a change in ground the horse was withdrawn."
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