In her weekly Limerick Leader racing column, Katie McNamara looks forward to the big National Hunt meeting.
Next week is the highly anticipated Punchestown festival which marks the end of the National Hunt season for another year.
The Charles Byrnes trained ‘Solwhit’ looks to have a very solid chance in the Grade 1 Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle but he takes on the mighty mare Quevega.
The JP McManus owned Istabraq was only one of a few very talented horses who won at the Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown festivals all in the one year and Solwhit may have his work cut out to achieve this feat.
However he has won in such a magnificent fashion at both Cheltenham and Aintree this year that it is hard to oppose him.
I would certainly have a few quid on him if I were a punter as I cannot see him been beaten given how good he has been over three miles this season.
That said, it is a very hot race and the Willie Mullins trained Quevega is full of heart as we saw at Cheltenham this year and she will not go down without a fight by any means.
Byrnes reports the gelding to be in fine form and nothing would make the people of county Limerick happier than to have a true champion in our region.
The student race day at Limerick last Thursday has been described as ‘epic’, a ‘mini oxygen’ and the ‘social event of the year for college students’.
These terms alone describe just how successful the whole event was and how hugely popular it has become in the last few years.
An overall attendance of 13,821 descended on Greenmount Park for the day to enjoy the 10th annual student race day held at the venue.
The roar of the crowd from the stands at the off of every race was compared to the famous Cheltenham festival roar, and it is great to see the enthusiasm of students at the races.
It is the largest student race day in Ireland and fair play to the manager of the racecourse Russell Ferris and all his staff at the racecourse for running another top class day once again this year.
Meanwhile on the race track, Shanagolden jockey Chris Hayes was firing on all cylinders as he recorded a great winner for Cork trainer John Joe Walsh at his local track in the ‘It’s a student’s life’ handicap over one mile and three furlongs.
The Four Elms was given a confident ride by Hayes who chased the leaders and moved his mount into second four furlongs out.
From here he shook up his mount who stayed on strongly to challenge a furlong from home and went on to take the showpiece by 3 ¾ lengths.
The son of Desert Style was taking the race for the second consecutive year with Hayes on board again.
The 25 year old followed up on this victory the next day at Dundalk for his boss Kevin Prendergast on Caged Lightening, who took the Louth Land of Legends Gathering May 3 Maiden in a nail biting finish.
The favourite League of Nations made all over the one mile trip before being challenged by Caged Lightening two furlongs from home.
The Aidan O’ Brien trained three year old tried to battle to keep his head in front but the Lesley Prendergast owned three year old was just too good for O’ Brien’s charge beating him by a head.
Hayes commented afterwards ‘He’s been freshened up over the winter and he’ll improve when he goes back on grass. Hopefully that gives the owner a bit of a boost’.
The son of Haatef is owned by the trainer’s wife and according to Hayes he will be one to have on your side on his next outing when switched to the different surface.
County Limerick jockey Brian O’ Connell was also shaking things up as he rode a 14/1 winner for Wexford trainer Philip Rothwell in Tramore last Saturday.
All honours took the Tramore Racecourse Members Club Handicap hurdle in convincing fashion from Robbie Kaydee who finished 4 ¼ lengths back in second.
O’Connell gave the son of City Honours a patient ride settling him behind the leaders before making his move coming to the second last.
The seven year old was winning for the first time in his career and judging by his performance last week, there looks to be much improvement with him on better ground.