Horses for courses

On the road bright and early last Sunday hitting north for the border and the town of Dundalk to see history made when Minister Dermot Ahern opened Ireland’s first all weather track.             Having won the first trial race on the Polytrack a couple of weeks ago, Johnny Murtagh brought Ms Victoria up on the line in the first race run on Ireland’s first all weather track at Dundalk on Sunday afternoon at odds of 14/1. The winner was trained by Michael Halford.             Only a short head separated the winner from Mist And Stone trained by Ger Lyons and ridden by Eddie Ahern, an Irishman based in England and easily the most experienced jockey on all weather surface riding at the meeting.             Murtagh’s double came in the third race on the Ger Lyons-trained Leandros, who won a trial two weeks ago, in the seven furlong colts and gelding maiden. Murtagh had an easier task here, as the winning margin was 2½ lengths from Mr Medici. The Aido McGuinness trained five-year-old Rainbow Rising got up on the line to win by a short head from Benwilt Breeze in the six furlong MCR Environmental Mourne Premier Handicap with Pat Smullen in the plate.             In the other Premier Handicap ran, the MCR Group EBF August Handicap over one mile two furlongs, the 12/1 shot Emmpat gave Charlie Swan’s yard their first flat winner of the season. Jockey Billy Lee just held on from the Eddie Ahern English challenger All The Good by a head.             Jim Bolger’s Solas Na Greine made it a pillar-to-post victory in the juvenile MCR Security EBF Fillies Maiden. With son-in-law Kevin Manning in the saddle, the two-year-old was impressive in this seven furlong race winning by 2½l.             Division One of the MCR Civil Engineering Handicap over one mile saw Roy’s Delight and Colm Donoghue stayed on to hold off even money favourite Zaharathgot Al Bustan and Kieren Fallon by the shortest of short heads. The winner was fortunate as the runner-up boxed in and didn’t get a gap until late in the race.             Champion jockey Declan McDonogh was aboard the David Marnane-trained Vanishing Causeway in Division Two. Prominent throughout, the Giants Causeway five-year-old won by a length from the fast-finishing Due Respect. Declan completed his double in the last on Davidii just holding on by a head from Mamma Morton ridden by Colm O’Donoghue.             The busiest man on the day was Judge Brendan Sheridan who had to decide five of the eight races, one without the aid of the photograph when the gremlins hit. It was an enjoyable day for a once-off experience with tight racing the order of the day but I, as a National Hunt enthusiast, I would not be going out of my way to return.             It will provide a great facility for anyone who wants something different for a night out with racing, dining and a few drinks (if you are not driving) on offer under cover. Take a mini bus and everyone can enjoy themselves.             If there is one complaint it is that there were 7,000 people present Sunday and viewing facilities were scarce. The stand is primarily designed for viewing from behind glass where there is a restaurant, which was and probably will be at most meetings, booked out.             The draw makes a major difference and the first three races were won the horse drawn three and the 4th race by the horse in the four stall. Even in the longer 1m 2f races, the high drawn horses have a short run to the first bend. The rest of the 11 cards scheduled for 2007 are night racing under lights. The lights will be switched on the Thursday night the 28th September.             On with the show and on opening the Racing Post on Monday there on page 7 was Ben Keegan, formerly of Bank of Ireland, Roscommon and now of Tyrellspass, and John Mahon from Longford, owner of the famous Langan’s Pub, among others, in the Big Apple, photographed with the winner of the oldest race in Britain. Lease, trained by John Carr in Maynooth, who won the Town Plate at Newmarket on Saturday over 3m 6f and ridden by accountant Derek Jackson and the connections had a nice touch at 7/1. The race was originally the Twelve Stone Plate for aged horses, instituted by Charles II in 1665 and was the first race ever run under written rules in Britain back in 1666 and is now known as Newmarket Town Plate run on the Round Course.             The winning owners receive £200 and the Derek Jackson gets the Goldings Perpetual Challenge Plate, a Powters Memento, a £125 Gouldings Voucher and a box of Powters Celebrated Newmarket Sausages, which can be assumed were eaten by all before returning home due to FMD embargo.             The earliest reference to the Newmarket’s Town Plate appears on page 22 of Muir’s Ye Olde New-Markitt Calendar under Results of Newmarket Matches. The result, which appears amongst those of the 1680 Spring Meeting, reads – "Town Plate. Mr. Griffin’s horse – 1. Three lords and two other gentlemen’s horses competed. The prize was afterwards presented to the town by Mr. Griffin". Please forward comments on the column to the e-mail: