It’s been a difficult few weeks for racing with a few cases of Equine Flu cancelling all meetings in the UK for a week (and even briefly threatening the Cheltenham Festival). Then a load of dick heads tried to hijack Saturday afternoon racing at Haydock and turn it into a city centre at 1 o’clock in the morning. Undeterred, I took advantage of a free Sunday afternoon to bring my wife and son to Navan to see Smiling Eliza run in a 2m4f hurdle for Gordon Elliott Racing Club.

This was my first trip to Navan and I was very impressed with the set up. First of all, the sun was shining and Ireland is a magnificent place when the sun is out. We got passes into the Trainers and Owners Bar which is situated just up from the winning line and above the parade ring. It has a balcony from which you can view the racing and in particular the long, steady climb of the final straight. Also if you look down, you can see Henry DeBromhead, Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott walking from Parade Ring to Weighing Room to Betting Ring without any one of the large crowd  batting an eyelid. There’s also a couple of children’s play areas for the many kids who were brought along for the day out with parents and grandparents. My wee boy had great fun playing there in between races or when I wasn’t making him go over to the Parade Ring to see 14 year old, double Cheltenham Champion, Salsify walking round like he owned the place. I stood just above the finish line and along the rail for his race in which he finished a very gallant third behind Ucello Conti. On the way back over to the play area I walked past Ted Walsh and Ruby, sitting on a window ledge of the Weighing Room, shooting the breeze.

I’d met a few members of the club walking around and I knew there’d be a lot there with at least 11 requests for tickets but it wasn’t until I went down to the parade ring before our race that I realised how many of us were there and quite a few faces I was seeing for the first time. Gordon’s Assistant Busty came out with Jockey Jack Kennedy and told him to keep her about 4th or 5th going round. I asked if there was any chance of her going to Cheltenham now and he said she’d have to win this race  well or another one she’s going to be entered in across the water next week. I walked back up to the balcony with a club member I’d just met. I told him I liked Liffeydale Dreamer in this. Eliza had drifted from 7/2 in the morning out to 6/1. I met my family and we watched the race together. I might have to borrow my da’s binoculars for Cheltenham as I could see the horses running but I couldn’t see exactly what was going on and was relying on the Commentator over the PA to inform me what was happening. Eliza and Jack seemed to be where Busty told them to be but as they came along the final stretch Eliza’s name disappeared from the conversation. Liffeydale Dreamer was mentioned time and time again and as they came over the last, it was only her name and Dragon Houdini (who I wouldn’t have picked in a 2 horse race) left with the latter going on to win by a few lengths.

Eliza finished well down the field and I assumed the longer trip was too much for her. I was late getting down to the paddock to hear Jack’s thoughts but as I was walking in, he was walking out and I was able to get a 1 on 1 conversation with him about the race. I asked him was the trip too long but splattered in mud and slightly exasperated he said no, she got murdered trying to get through a gap and after that she had no chance so he eased off her. It wasn’t until I watched the race when I got home that I saw what happened. Approaching the second last she was in a line of about 6 across the course just behind the leaders and as she went to make her move, she got closed out, stood on and eventually bumped back. It’s hard to know what would have happened even if she’d found the gap and propelled herself into contention with a good jump at the second last but she was there or thereabouts until then.

Eliza gave her all as usual and it was a great day out and a great day for Gordon Elliott who had 4 winners. We didn’t get down in time to see Grand National winner Tiger Roll win a 2m4f hurdle race at 25/1. Hopefully Eliza comes out of the race well and can go again next week.

We also have a new club horse joining us called Flat To The Max ( pictured above )  so looking forward to seeing him race soon.

By Ciaran Hanley
Gordon Elliott Racing Club Club Member
Follow on Twitter – https://twitter.com/CiaranPaco