Brendan Duke: It’s au revoir Nina and Katie, and well done to Willie (again)

Brendan Duke looks back at his week, which saw Katie Walsh and Nina Carberry retire, and Willie Mullins claim another Trainers Championship...


My seven-day racing odyssey planned for last week fell at the final hurdle. Battered for two days by the prevailing wind at Navan before Punchestown threw mostly wintery conditions at me, fatigue took over. Despite not making Saturday it was an enjoyable week. My financial adviser could probably come up with another word to describe it though. Winners proved elusive.

The journey to the races on Tuesday proved surprisingly eventful.

A friend was picking me up at the Red Cow roundabout. He had given me a lift last year and was driving one of those people-carriers. I just assumed he was still using the same car. There are many life lessons in the films of Steven Seagal. Probably the most sage advice comes in Under Siege 2: ‘Assumption is the mother of all f**k ups’ says our hero’s nemesis at one stage.

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My friend rang to say he was just pulling up outside the bank. Seeing a people-carrier pulling up I ran down to it in the rain and jumped in the front seat. Just as I got in the driver door closed. I assumed, again, that my driver had just run into the bank or bookies next door. You get to a certain comfort level with people where they don’t have to give you a running commentary on their movements so I thought little of it.

About two minutes later the phone rang. My driver was wondering if I’d got lost.

“Sitting in your front seat,” I replied.

“Don’t think so,” says he. “I’m four cars back in the line of cars outside the bank. Silver Passat.”

I jumped out of the people-carrier and ran back to him. The alarm on the first car was ringing in my ears. All very strange. In the unlikely event the driver of the people-carrier is reading this, I apologise for the accidental car-jacking. As you can see it was a perfect storm of confusion.

Willie Mullins flexed his considerable muscles and powered past Gordon Elliott to retain his trainer’s title. I didn’t see it coming and after Tuesday’s shenanigans was convinced Gordon would win. Not to be but a marvellous season for the Meath man. Hopefully this season’s title race will be just as compelling.

The other major news was the retirement of Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh.

Bumpers tap into the psyche of Irish punters more than any other type of race. Possibly because of the fact it’s the last race of the day or, more likely in my opinion, the importance of inside information. Nina became the go-to jockey in these races. While it’s impressive to be known only by your given name – Cher and Madonna spring to mind – to have your surname changed is possibly the ultimate accolade. Nina Carberry to her parents. Nina In The Last to the gambling public.

Katie Walsh didn’t have quite the same impact but like Nina won an Irish National and enjoyed success at the Cheltenham Festival. They pushed passed preconceptions based on gender and were respected as top jocks. It’s not hard to imagine their legacy being felt for generations of female jockeys.

Hopefully summer will start at Newmarket this weekend. The Guineas clues have left me addled. Wouldn’t have a strong opinion in either race. It seems like John Gosden is going to let Without Parole take his chance on Saturday. In his two starts this horse has displayed serious potential. Of course the 2000 Guineas is a fair ask for a horse who only made his debut in December. I place great faith in the G-man though, and if he poses the question perhaps WP can find the answer. Worth chancing a small bet on him at a double figure price.

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