Weekend reports that Joe Keeling is expected to be confirmed as Denis Brosnan’s successor as HRI chairman may not quite have been greeted with cries of ‘Joe Who’ but it does seem to be a choice from left-field, so much so that more than one insider queried this space as to whether an eye has been taken off the ball down Tipperary way.
For those whose awareness of Keeling extends little further than his blue and yellow racing colours, some early enquiries yielded reports of a successful businessman with no particular affiliations to any of racing’s major power-brokers and a reputation for a low bullshit threshold.
In charge of a large Fruit & Veg’ distribution business in Dublin, Keeling’s personal wealth was estimated by one national paper at nearly E60 million just a couple of years ago.
He has a history of racehorse ownership, but with a variety of trainers, from Paul Stafford to Dermot Weld.
They might not seem obvious credentials to head the seething volcano of HRI’s myriad of sectional interests so it is interesting to speculate as to whether Simon Coveney’s path as Agriculture Minister may have crossed with a food businessman such as Keeling on the conference circuit.
Whatever the reason, it appears that someone with an analytical business mind, and a reputation for following his own instincts, is in line to politically lead racing into an uncertain future.
Whether he will be, or allowed to be, more than a figurative head remains to be seen.
What will also be established sooner rather than later is whether or not Flemenstar stays three miles. And if he is capable of carrying the quality he showed in the Durkan over the longer trip, then the sky really is the limit.
What is encouraging stamina-wise is Andrew Lynch’s confidence about the issue. This time last year, the same three-mile question was being posed about Rubi Light, and Lynch expressed similar confidence. But after the Lexus, the consensus seemed to be he’d got it wrong. Except did he? It could be argued running second to the Gold Cup winner was a career best for Rubi Light.
Lynch’s position in the jockey-tree is a reflection of how his judgement is right more often than it’s wrong. Mind you, Willie Mullins’s isn’t bad either. And no way is Sir Des Champs out of the Gold Cup picture after his first defeat for the champion trainer. Mullins’s observation that three miles will bring improvement in Sir Des Champs was a masterful piece of understatement.
In fact it could be we look back at the Durkan as the first of many clashes between these two brilliant young stars.
The most anticipated prize at the HRI awards is usually “Horse of the Year” which this time is between Camelot, Dawn Approach, Excelebration, Sizing Europe, Quevega and last year’s winner Hurricane Fly.
It will be interesting to see who comes out on top of the votes but really, if Camelot doesn’t scoop the pot, then there’s something wrong.
OK the three year old crop were mostly rubbish in 2012. And his story is hardly the heart-warming type. But this is a colt that became just the third in forty two years to complete the Guineas-Derby double. And he also threw Ireland’s premier classic into the mix for good measure.
Yes, the Leger was a let-down, and the Arc notable only for who rode him, but in terms of quality, there really can only be one winner – right?
However as Mick Channon memorably pointed out, while everyone’s got an opinion, everyone also has an arse. And it’s hard not to wonder sometimes if some opinions come from a particularly sheltered spot.
Take for instance the view expressed by some in the immediate aftermath of Sprinter Sacre’s Tingle Creek victory that he is the best steeplechaser they’ve ever seen. This is from people who’ve been around for a bit, and not just the last five minutes.
Sprinter Sacre is a genuinely brilliant horse with the sort of unlimited potential that is truly exciting. But he’s run over fences half a dozen times. Greatness demands more than mowing down a head-case like Sanctuaire.
Besides which, what was that other French bred that could go a bit? Retired there recently? Oh, yes, Kauto Star. He wasn’t too shabby. And he won two Tingle Creeks, not to mention a few other races.
Time for some people to take a pull.