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Irish Champions Weekend - The 5 Defining Moments

Rarely, if ever, does Irish Champions Weekend disappoint and this year was no exception with two days of quality racing that drew in some of the best Europe had to offer. Six Group 1 races were held over the two days, and whilst they served up smaller fields than many people were hoping for, they still delivered some brilliant finishes. Keep reading for my five favourite moments from the weekend...

5. The Juvenile Colts Deliver a Thriller
If this weekend has confirmed one thing, it is that the 2019 flat season looks set to be an absolute thriller. We were treated to two electrifying performances on Saturday from Too Darn Hot at Doncaster in the Champagne Stakes as well as easy win for the Kevin Prendergast trained Madhmoon in the Champions Juvenile Stakes. This string of impressive juvenile successes did not stop there, as on Sunday we saw a tussle all the way up to the line in the National Stakes between Anthony Van Dyck and Quorto for the connections of Coolmore and Godolphin respectively. It is not the first time, and surely not the last, that we have seen strong competition between these two powerhouses of racing and they both look to have smart juveniles to go to war with in the not so distant future. In winning by just over a length after asserting his dominance late on, Quorto has maintained his unbeaten record following an impressive success in the Superlative Stakes last time out and is sure to learn plenty from this run and improve further, is he your idea of a classic winner next season? If there's one thing to get excited about for now, it's this: next year's three year old colts will include Too Darn Hot, Madhmoon, Advertise, Quorto, Anthony Van Dyck, and Calyx. What a fantastic classic generation it promises to be.
Quorto gets the better of Anthony Van Dyck in the National Stake - Image from Sporting Life

4. Ballydoyle Flag Flying High in St Leger
It's not often that you get to say you won two St Leger's in the space of just over 24 hours. Fortunately for Aidan O'Brien, Ryan Moore and Coolmore, they get to boast that exact feat following a dominant performance from Flag Of Honour in the Irish St Leger following Kew Gardens' win in the English classic on Saturday. They completed the double last year with Capri and Order Of St George, but with the latter of that pair being retired just a few days ago a new star needed to take centre stage at The Curragh: enter Flag Of Honour. His form has improved dramatically of late following a step up in trip and proved himself at the top level today with a first group one success. It also provided his sire Galileo with a record-equalling 73rd individual winner at the highest level, he only has to get one more to beat his own sire, Sadler's Wells, record. In the meantime, Flag Of Honour looks like the perfect candidate to challenge the money maker that is Stradivarius in the staying series throughout next season, yet another exciting category to look forward to next year.
Flag Of Honour is an all the way winner in the Irish St Leger for Ryan Moore and Aidan O'Brien - Image from Sporting

3. Skitter Scatter's them in the Moyglare
Remember back in July when a 10/1 outsider who had only won a Dundalk maiden won the Silver Flash Stakes and surprised everyone when beating a top class field. Surely a fluke, right? As it turns out, that form has proved to be far from a fluke as on Sunday that consistent and tough filly Skitter Scatter won her first group 1 in the Moyglare Stud Stakes. Ten fillies went to post and it looked to be a tight betting contest with three co-favourites minutes before the race. The money kept coming for Skitter Scatter, though, and she was sent off the 7/2 favourite today and registered an impressive two length victory over Lady Kara in second. It was also a first group 1 success for her trainer Patrick Prendergast and young jockey Ronan Whelan who were understandably thrilled with the success and can now set their sights on bigger and better targets.
Skitter Scatter provides Patrick Prendergast and Ronan Whelan with their first group 1 winner in the Moyglare Stud Stakes - Image from Sporting Life

2. Laurens Digs Deep at Leopardstown
Heart, courage and determination. Just three of the qualities that the lovely Laurens shows time after time in her races. She needed all three of these qualities and more during the best performance of her career to beat the brilliant Alpha Centauri in the Matron Stakes on Saturday. Jessie Harrington's star of the season, Alpha Centauri, was expected to continue her incredible run of form in this group 1 contest and easily so, but if one filly could beat her surely it had to be the Karl Burke trained Laurens. John Dance's filly was sent to win it by jockey Danny Tudhope as they turned for home and Alpha Centauri came to catch her but had no answer as she lost her action slightly close to home and couldn't go past the ultra-tough Laurens who kept finding more and was not for passing. Due to injury, regular jockey PJ McDonald was forced to sit on the sidelines and watch as his filly was steered to victory by Danny Tudhope, but he seemed in great spirits when interviewed on At The Races following the race and is surely looking forward to being reunited with Laurens when he makes his return. A fairytale success for one of the stars of the season.
Laurens shows a brilliant attitude to beat Alpha Centauri in the Matron Stakes - Image from Sporting Life

1. A Roaring Finish to the Champions Stakes
The feature race of the weekend, the Irish Champions' Stakes, always manages to serve up a thrilling finish. Whether it's The Grey Gatsby catching Australia on the line in 2014, Sea The Stars dominating in 2009, Almanzor and Found closing late on in 2016, or even Fantastic Light and Galileo fighting it out back in 2001, it never fails to disappoint. This year was no exception. Roaring Lion has been improving all season and his quality came to the fore in the Irish Champions' Stakes when he was forced to work for his victory by the admirable Saxon Warrior. Sent for home by Ryan Moore as they entered the straight, Saxon Warrior looked to have Roaring Lion beaten up until deep within the final furlong. Somehow, though, Roaring Lion got up in the dying strides off a pace that didn't suit to register his third straight success at the highest level in a truly stunning race that I recommend you watch if you haven't already, or watch again if you have. Saxon Warrior gave everything he had on the inside rail, and battled on despite suffering a career-ending tendon injury in the process and truly doing his name justice as he bravely fought on to only be beaten narrowly by a horse for whom the sky looks the limit.
A thrilling finish in the Irish Champions' Stakes sees Roaring Lion swoop late to catch Saxon Warrior in the dying strides - Image from Sporting Life

This weekend did not come without its lows though, as sadly the news broke on Sunday that both Alpha Centauri and Saxon Warrior suffered career-ending injuries and therefore have been retired. It is unfortunate that we will not get to see these two, who have brought so much joy to so many people this season, light up the racecourse again. They have been truly awesome. From everyone on the Hacked Up Racing team, we wish them a very happy retirement.

Catching Up with Hayley Moore

A regular face on At The Races and with one of the brightest personalities in the sport, Hayley Moore is an immensely popular icon within the racing world. As her dad, Gary Moore, is a renowned trainer, and her three brothers have all made their names as jockeys, it is no wonder that Hayley has found herself in the industry, but paving her own way as a presenter for At The Races. I was lucky enough to spend a day with her at Brighton racecourse last week and she very kindly agreed to answer a few questions about herself and how she found herself regularly with a microphone in hand standing in front of a camera.

How did you decide you wanted to be a TV presenter?
I suppose it was after a good few things there was the opportunity. When I was younger I thought it would be really cool to cover a sport that I really enjoyed and was passionate about. So from the age of about 14 I did a bit of work experience at the racing channel and then from there started working behind the scenes and built up from work experience, to making the tea, and going through that process. I knew I wanted to be involved in horse racing from watching it on the TV, watching my brothers, watching my dad’s horses, so I suppose that’s how it came about really, by just being quite involved and watching our runners and my brothers.

Were there any particular horses when you were younger that caught your imagination or any people you aspired to be like?
Weirdly I watched the Breeders Cup, I think I enjoyed staying up and watching the Breeders Cup because it meant that I could stay up late since the Americans are behind us, when you’re a kid you’ll come up with any excuse to go to bed late! And basically, I was watching Cigar win at the Breeders Cup. So I just thought that this horse was amazing so I got a picture of him and put it up on my bedroom wall and then when I was old enough I actually flew out to Kentucky and I went and visited him at the Horse Park just before he passed away. Cigar was the horse that when I was quite young I just remember watching him and thinking, ‘wow, what an amazing horse!’ He was brilliant, and he was an international superstar in the horse world so he was a horse that I was really captivated by when I was a kid. Another horse I really liked was the horse for the Godolphin team that won the Derby, Lammtarra. That was the next horse that I just thought was unbelievable. So those few horses, I found them really quite influential. And then of course there was good old Desert Orchid as well. On my pony I would always pretend I was on one of them! I guess that the rider, it always would have been Frankie Dettori because he was such a big character and riding winners all the time. So, Frankie Dettori, and Lammtarra – all the big names!

Cigar wins the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1999, he was one of Hayley’s favourite horses. Photo from Blood Horse

What is your favourite racecourse and what do you like so much about it?
I just don’t think that you can beat Ascot; that would probably be my favourite one. And then Brighton, because it’s my local track that I’ve grown up on and it’s just been really enjoyable having started off from a youngster going racing there, watching my dad’s horses racing there, riding there, so Brighton as well.

So, are you excited for the new Sky Racing format to pick up Ascot in the New Year?
Yeah, definitely. I used to work in the gallery when we covered Ascot before and I just thought that the presenters and the producers did a really good job of covering Ascot so I was quite shocked and gutted when we lost it when I worked behind the scenes. They did a really good job of covering Royal Ascot and when I heard we were getting it back I wasn’t surprised because I just thought that we’ve got a bigger audience and the job that we did before was actually very good. Racing UK have done a great job of covering it, but hopefully it will be available to more people to watch so I’m really pleased about getting that back because everyone in the racing world just wants to be a part of running their horses at Royal Ascot and it’s one of the biggest weeks in the racing calendar, so it’s great that we’re going to be covering it.

What is your favourite racing memory?

It would be riding a winner at Ascot on board Captain Ramius on King George day, that was a really enjoyable day. It was a race that I’d always wanted to win and the race went to plan. It was just brilliant to go back to the winners enclosure at Ascot on such a big day. That meant a lot to me and I was just really thrilled to win a race that I’d always wanted to win. 

Hayley winning at Ascot on King George day in 2011 with Captain Ramius. Photo from Zimbio

What aspect of your career have you been particularly proud of?
I suppose getting out and about on course and presenting for At The Races. I’ve had some really good, fun days, some good interviews and chats with jockeys that I’ve really enjoyed and walked away from and thought, ‘I can be proud of that’. Just going out and becoming a broadcaster, doing it from the other side instead of riding or travelling up.

Are there any moments on air when you have had to improvise or think on your feet?
Yes, there’s been quite a few! Just short moments where I haven’t got communication back with the gallery so I’ve just kind of filled it out for a bit and hoped that my timing was about right before throwing back to them. And then there’s been the odd moment where I’ve gone to speak to someone and they’re not ready or they’re busy doing something and instead of giving up or not speaking to them I just keep talking and hope that I can bide a bit of time until they’re ready to speak to me. So there’s plenty of those moments as well!

What do you tend to do in your spare time?
I do a lot of running. I ran my first marathon in April at Brighton which was really good. It was good to have that focus and be dedicated and disciplined away from horses. I like to play a bit of tennis and then obviously doing a bit of eventing which is still horse related but a different kind of area. So yeah, a lot of exercise really. I play around with Sire De Grugy and then I’ve got another ex-racehorse as well that’s just been retrained to do a bit of low level eventing, so that’s really nice. It keeps me busy.

What career do you think you would be doing if you hadn’t become a TV presenter?
I would have loved to have been involved in the theatre. That’s my passion away from racing. I like going to watch things that take place in the theatre, whether that’s an opera, a musical, or something like stand-up comedy. I just love the theatre, you can just switch off and escape and it’s just quite a nice thing to go and do. I think I probably would have liked to work behind the scenes at a theatre.

What is your favourite race meet to go to and why?
Favourite race meet would probably be the Tingle Creek meeting at Sandown at the beginning of December because it’s an exciting time of year, you’ve normally got a good race to look forward to, you’ve got a big handicap to look forward to, and it’s also quite Christmassy, you’ve got the build up to Christmas so it’s just quite a fun time of year. It’s a festive afternoon and lots of fun, just a nice time of year really since Christmas is just around the corner and you’ve got some really good racing on that day.

Sire De Grugy won the Tingle Creek Chase twice and is now enjoying his well-deserved retirement. Picture from 
 Course Specialist

Do you prefer the flat or jumps season?
So, in the height of the flat season I don’t want to see any jumping. I love the middle of Royal Ascot, all of the festivals that I think we do really well like Goodwood and big events like the Derby, and I couldn’t think of anything better than flat racing. But then, this time of year I know we’ve still got the Leger to go but I’m just really ready for the jumps to come back, all of my dad’s jumpers are back in and they’re just familiar faces, they’re lovely and big and it’s just an exciting time of year and I want the jumps back. And then in the height of the jumps season I just don’t want to see a flat race! 

With the jumps season coming up very quickly, are the vibes all good from home? Do you think your dad will have some nice winners this year?
Yes, we’ve got a really nice bunch of some new horses coming in. We need to get a new stable star to replace Sire De Grugy and Ar Mad, both horses that have been amazing or are sadly not with us. We just feel like we’ve got some really nice ones.  Benatar looks really well and he’s been jumping out of his skin, so hopefully he’ll be pretty competitive this year and we’ll have a bit of luck with him. You need the good horses to give you that encouragement, otherwise it’s quite a long season – it’s a long winter if you haven’t got those stable stars! Hopefully we’ve got some nice new ones coming through, we’ve bought some horses from Ireland and France, we get them anywhere and if we think they’re the right ones we’ll get them wherever as long as they’re the right horses. It is a really exciting time of year as long as it all comes together!

A bit of fun now - if you were holding a dinner party and you could invite four people from anywhere in the world, who would you pick?
That’s really hard, four people… I would have Usain Bolt, I really like Usain Bolt, I know that’s random, but he is cool. I would also have James Corden because I think he’s hilarious, George Ezra and, umm… This is great fun so far. I would have Cameron Diaz. Those would be my four people. I think that would be an amazing dinner party. 

And finally, what would your go to advice be to anyone who wants to go down a similar career path to yours?
Don’t be afraid to work from the very bottom up and believe in yourself and have confidence because it can be a very intimidating world to go into, but if you’re passionate about what you’re doing then it’s a great career to go down. Just give it a bit of time.

Thank you very much for your time, Hayley!

Going for Gold at York

 The Ebor Festival has gifted us some brilliant races so far this week including runaway performances from Roaring Lion and Sea Of Class, a heartfelt and record-breaking success for Poet’s Society and Mark Johnston, but it has also provided plenty of drama including some big priced winners. But there are two horses racing on Friday that are looking to continue this historic week with some golden performances.
Gold is defined as “something considered to be precious, beautiful, or of the most superior quality”, and this definition can also be applied to two of the stars of tomorrow’s show at the Knavesmire.

Stradivarius will look to take home a £1million bonus if he can lift the Lonsdale Cup following his successes at Ascot and Goodwood so far this season. He has been an exceptional horse this year and faces only the eight rivals in this two mile contest, most of whom he has already beaten. He is truly a golden individual and matches the definition of being simultaneously ‘precious’ and ‘beautiful’, and there is very little doubt in the mind of any racing fan that he holds the same ‘superior quality’ as that precious metal. If he can be the first horse to be awarded the million pound bonus, then he will be confirmed as one of the best stayers’ we have seen this century.

And that’s just for starters. Little over an hour following the Lonsdale Cup, the fastest horses in Europe will blitz the Knavesmire turf – and one of these horses is the king of speed, the quickest horse in the world, the brilliant Battaash. With golden coloured horse shoes, Battaash treated racing fans to a heart stopping performance at Haydock earlier in the season before bouncing back from Ascot disappointment at Goodwood 21 days ago with a simply phenomenal ‘needs to be seen to be believed’ performance that will live long in the memory. However – there is no dead certainty of a victory today, no matter how unbelievable his previous performances might have been. He is re- opposed today by his Kings’ Stand conqueror, Blue Point, as well as a number of other quality speedsters who are bound to make this a true test for the champ. Whatever happens, it is bound to be a truly golden renewal of the Nunthorpe.

Whether you’re at York tomorrow, or just watching the racing on the TV, it is truly a day not to be missed. Whether it’s Battaash aiming for redemption following his disappointing performance in this race last year, or Stradivarius looking to become the first winner of the Stayer’s Bonus, you can be guaranteed that it will be another day of racing of a superior quality and golden entertainment.


HUR5 From Goodwood Preview – 4th August

It’s the final day of the Qatar Goodwood Festival and that can only mean one thing… HUR5! This preview will serve as a guide to each of the five races featuring in Saturday’s competition and outline the key contenders to hopefully give you a better chance of winning. The ground at Goodwood looks to be good to firm for Saturday’s racing – a perfect racing surface that looks set to serve up some quality racing.

1:50 Goodwood – Qatar Stewards’ Sprint Handicap

A six furlong consolation prize for those who did not make the cut for the Stewards’ Cup later on the card – the first cavalry charge down the straight six furlongs of the day. Classic Seniority ran a good second in the Scottish Stewards’ Cup last time out 15 days ago and has been running consistently enough this season despite not having won yet – but he is running from a lower mark now and could be dangerous. Oeil Du Tigre has been running very consistently this season and is unbeaten here at Goodwood, notching a hat trick of wins here this summer. Despite being up in the weights now, the course form could be a massive player in this handicap and he could step up to the plate in this. Boy In The Bar is another course and distance winner and has got Ryan Moore on board today. He is on a good handicap mark here and couldn’t get a clear trip in running on his latest start at York. Tommy G has champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa on board today and has course form, having finished second in this last year – he could run well again after some good performances this season.

2:05 Newmarket – Chalice Stakes (Listed Race)

The second race in today’s competition is the listed Chalice Stakes over a mile and a half at Newmarket’s July course. Some quality fillies line up today including the John Gosden trained Highgarden who finished second over course and distance on her last start in the Aphrodite Stakes and looks a prominent contender in today’s race. Crimson Rosette is in good form after finishing second in a group 3 at Haydock and third behind Second Step over this course and distance in June, however, the hood is removed today which presents an unknown. Buildmeupbuttercup has run well over this distance at Goodwood in May but was largely outclassed behind Crystal Ocean at Newbury but a return to this class could help her run for a place. Another classy filly is Melodic Motion who was very consistent last season, including a second place finish in the Park Hill Stakes at Doncaster – she was badly hampered last time out which could be used as an excuse but will have to improve on the bare form she has shown this season.

2:25 Goodwood – Qatar Summer Handicap

A staying handicap at Goodwood now, over 1 mile and 6 furlongs – many of these here have featured in races such as the Northumberland Plate and the Chester Cup, a field of 14 look set to go to post which should serve up a decent race. Walton Street runs for Godolphin and was 3rd at Royal Ascot in the Duke of Edinburgh and brings some good form to this race. He is lightly raced and the trip should not be too much of a problem, he will also improve for his first run back after a slight lay off and can go well again. Platitude has seen a lot of improvement for his new yard this season and registered a second success at this course in May, it would be no surprise to see him put in another huge effort here. Soldier In Action is another with proven form at Goodwood and won this race last year off a higher mark. He has been running below-par this season but has got the champion jockey on board and a return to this course might bring out the best in him. 

3:00 Goodwood – Qatar Gordon Stakes (Group 3)

The group 3 Gordon Stakes has thrown up some good winners in the past, including two time group 1 winner Ulysses. Only four horses contest the mile and a half contest this year including Dee Ex Bee who was second in the Derby and if he can return to that form he should find this race easy enough to add to his record, but his last two runs at group 1 level have been below that Derby level but a drop in class should help with that. Cross Counter is lightly raced and has won three of his five starts, he also ran a great race in the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot when he finished fourth behind Baghdad and that form looks strong. He needs to step up again but if the favourite is unable to dominate then he could take advantage and improve again. Sun Maiden is the only filly in the line up and therefore gets an allowance – she is very lightly raced and will improve from her third placed finish in the Ribblesdale and it will be interesting to see how well she does here. The outsider of the field is Bombyx who has been running in the best form of his career but will need to improve significantly again here if he’s to play any part in the finish.

3:40 Goodwood – Unibet Stewards’ Cup Handicap 

The feature race of the day is the Stewards’ Cup over six furlongs, last year’s winner Lancelot Du Lac is back for more, despite not having run as well this season a return to this course and distance could bring out the best in him again. Spring Loaded won last time out over five furlongs at Ascot and despite a large weight to carry, he’s got Ryan Moore booked and a return to six furlongs shouldn’t be a problem. George Bowen won the Scottish Stewards’ Cup last time out and has great form over six furlongs this season and is capable of another strong run off of this mark. Aeolus has better form on soft ground of late but he finished second in this race last year and won earlier in the season – he has been a talented horse in the past and is capable of running a good race again at this level with the maestro Gerald Mosse on board. Growl was thought to be a group level horse in the past but has not quite lived up to that form, however he has been fourth in the last two runnings of this and could run well again this year now that he is 10lb lower in the weights than he was this time last year and was a good fourth at York last week. Lower in the weights is the filly Foxtrot Lady who won the Bet365 Handicap at the July Festival last time out. She is only a 3 year old and therefore open to further improvement which could come to the fore in this race now that she has got more experience in these big field handicaps.

Make sure you keep your eyes peeled. The entry form goes live Friday night.

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The Sussex Stakes
Welcome to my first blog post on the new website – well done to Gaz and the Hacked Up team for putting this new site together. They all put in an incredible amount of hard work and effort into this project and it looks like a very bright future ahead.
Don’t forget to get involved in the Naps League, HUR5 and of course the wild child, IR7. Watch this page for racing previews, my thoughts and opinions on current affairs within the racing world, and of course little memoirs and insights into my horse racing experiences. 


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