Listowel hosts its annual festival this week
PICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
By David Ashforth 5:27PM 11 SEP 2016
TEN years ago I drove to Listowel, for a day at the Festival. It was pouring with rain, as it had been for several hours. The roads were being used by streams and cows with short legs were being lifted up by farmers.
There was no point living the dream any longer so I stopped in one of the smaller lakes and phoned the racecourse. After apologising for asking a silly question I was given a silly answer, that of course they were racing.
I drove on, as did the rain and, half an hour later, phoned again. The answer was the same although the tone was slightly exasperated. The lady confirmed that it had been raining there, hard, for a long time but seemed to think this was no reason to question the sanctity of the racing.
Curious as to the sight that would await me, I splashed on. The River Feale was swollen and parts of the racecourse seemed to be in competition with it. The track, officially heavy, was soggy to sodden. It was still raining.
In deference to the height of the flood, racing was put back 30 minutes and, during the course of the afternoon, 34 runners were converted into non-runners. Even so, the full race programme was completed, the horses coped very well and the crowd was jolly. I left feeling admiration for everyone there and that I had learnt something about the Irish and Irish racing.
So if it should bucket down and change the going from its current mixture of soft and heavy to something wetter, don’t worry, I’m confident they’ll race and that everyone there will enjoy themselves.
Burns makes the trip
One trainer without a runner at Listowel is R P Burns, who poses one of life’s many puzzles by running Abrahams Blessing at Wolverhampton (6.25), with Silvestre de Sousa booked.
Is R P Burns Robbie Burns, who in the late 1990s rode for Noel Meade?
I can reveal, possibly exclusively, that Burns trains at Collinstown in County Westmeath, that his sole previous runner on the Flat in Britain was Vinorine, also at Wolverhampton, in 2009 (unplaced at 100-1) and that his last winner on the Flat in Ireland was in 2006.
Burns’s last winner over jumps was at Bellewstown last year, with Nautical Nitwit. It’s a small stable and it would be great if Abrahams Blessing won but Abrahams Blessing is an eight-year-old maiden who has never finished in the first two. We can only hope.
Griffiths back in the fold
As we can that Welsh Designe (Worcester 3.20) will give Sirrell Griffiths his first winner since U B Carefull won, then dropped dead, at Ludlow in 2012. Griffiths, now in his mid-70s, is more a cow man than a horse man but Norton’s Coin’s 100-1 triumph in the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup has rendered the name of the Welsh dairy farmer and permit holder immortal.
So a toast to Sirrell Griffiths and a welcome back to Adam Wedge (Worcester 2.45) who has been out since May. May the sun shine on you, and on Listowel.