12,000 reasons why Todd is on a winner
Down Royal Festival
Trainer Henry De Bromhead dominated Super Saturday of the Down Royal Festival; trainer Gordon Elliott recorded six festival winners over two days; Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary picked up six prizes while locals also enjoyed their own share of success.
Maze course manager Mike Todd promised the public they would see future Cheltenham Festival winners in action and its odds on they did.
Reflecting on a job well done, Todd said yesterday: "I'm still on a high - the same as riding or training a big race winner - the festival was a mega success. Our attendance was 2,000 up on last year and the best since 2010 when Kauto Star was here for the first time. Overall we had 12,500 through the gates over the two days and by all accounts, they had a ball. The sun shone and our bars, stands and hospitality suites were rammed."
What's more, to his credit and that of his team, Todd is managing on a shoestring budget to put on one of major events to see and be seen at on the Northern Ireland social and sporting calendar. From the annual jolly boys outings like that of the Royal Bar Sandy Row team, seen here year after year, to the landed and titled gentry, all of them outshone by the Best Dressed Ladies anywhere... the whole spectrum of Northern Ireland society is there, united in a good-humoured enmity with the smart money men on the bookmakers rail.
Todd added: "We are the exception to the trend in Irish Racing where attendances are down across the board, to the extent all the other Irish racecourse managers are coming up to see what it is we are doing differently to attact the crowds.
"It isn't easy, given our lack lack of financial support, compared to the Republic and the mainland. For example, bookmakers here pay a levy of £1,123 per shop compared to £6,600 in England. Our answer is to keep reinvesting in our facilities to provide the best raceday experience we can for the public, the trainers and their horses, and the response shows we are getting it right.
"From a racing perspective, countless horses have gone forward to greater things from Down Royal Festival and this year will be no different. Two winners in particular to watch are the Feature race winner, Valseur Lido, and Sub Lieutenant, in the Titanic Chase."
Waterford trainer Henry De Bromhead is old school and having tried several times to win the JNwine.com Champion Chase, not only landed the £140,000 feature prize but now has a potential Cheltenham Gold Cup contender in the aforementioned Valseur Lido. De Bromhead's year started on a down when losing the Potts owned team of horses but in the re-shuffle of the O'Leary horses moving from Willie Mullins, he gained 15 Gigginstown horses including the big race winner.
Jockey Ruby Walsh described the victory as "bittersweet", being Mullins stable jockey but came out winning when getting the pick of O'Leary's runners while Gigginstown's retained rider, Bryan Cooper, watched the action and what would have been his mounts while eating a bag of chips and sipping coke.
The conservative De Bromhead was obviously thrilled to win the big one which was his 25th Grade 1 victory and said: "He's not over big but a ball of muscle and a proper athlete. I'll discuss plans with Michael and Eddie O'Leary. I'm very grateful they sent this fellow to me and to have a possible Gold Cup horse is amazing - I'm thrilled."
Ruby Walsh added: "He always travelled and jumped super. He was going to win the Irish Hennessy when I fell of him." The winner has now been cut to 16/1 for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The smile on De Bromhead's face matched the Down Royal sun as Sub Lieutenant (5/1 to 6/4 joint favourite) took command in the supporting feature, the Titanic Chase. A former inmate of Sandra Hughes, the horse was another on the O'Leary transfer list. "He's a character - show him a fence and he just wants to jump it," the trainer said as his winner was cut from 50s to 25/1 for the King George VI Chase at Christmas.
Gordon Elliott sent out Mega Fortune to land the opening juvenile hurdle in runaway fashion in the closing stages. The winner was formerly trained in Tyrone by Andy Oliver and bought for connections by Glengormley based Bloodstock agent Kevin Ross who has an excellent record with his purchases at Cheltenham and for Elliott. The winner got a 20/1 quote for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Navan trainer Noel Meade landed his third winner at the Lisburn venue when Bel Ami Sivola easily claimed the Tayto Hurdle with Sean Flanagan in the saddle.
The Festival aptly concluded with a locally owned winner when Runfordave. owned by the Sloan family who sponsor the Friday feature, took the amateurs flat race - the 6/4 winner completing the festival six timer for Gordon Elliott.
* On a sad note, three-time Cheltenham Festival winner Vautour has been put down after breaking his leg in a freak accident.