By Michael O’Leary
Following the wonderful and amazing success of Thyestes Day where 12,500 spectators were in attendance, attention has now turned to Connolly’s Red Mills Day on Saturday 18th February in Gowran Park where even bigger numbers are expected on another major race day at the Local Track.
For the Second consecutive year, Connolly’s have generously sponsored the day with Free Admission for all spectators, and at time of writing a Second batch of Tickets has been completely sold out with more Tickets possibly distributed ahead of next weeks meeting.
Champion Trainer Willie Mullins will go into The Red Mills Meetings on a high after having won The Thyestes Chase for a 9th time, when Carefully Selected under The stewardship of Champion Jockey Paul Townend prevailed in a thrilling photo finish.
Two days later in Fairyhouse, Willie trained the 4000th winner of an incredible career and with Cheltenham just over a month away, he holds a lot of the aces in several of the feature races.
He has a terrific record in the featured Red Mills Races having won both the Red Mills Hurdle and Red Mills Chase on 6 occasions.
His first winner of The Red Mills Hurdle was Balla Sola in 2000 with Conor O’Dwyer on board, while further victories came courtesy of Zaidpour(2012), So Young (2013), 10 times Grade 1 winner Un De Sceaux(2014), Sempre Medici (2016) and Cilaos Emery(2020).
Mickos Dream provided The Champion Trainer with the first of his half dozen Red Mills Chase Triumphs in 2000 as he completed The Thyestes Chase/Red Mills Chase double & further victories courtesy of J’y Vole(2010), Twice Cheltenham Festival winner Champagne Fever(2015), Ballycasey(2017), Bachasson(2021) and Melon(2022).
Willie is more than likely to have strong fancies in both feature races next weekend, and could Twice Ryanair Chase winner Allaho possibly and belatedly make his seasonal debut having picked up an injury earlier in the season?
Also, don’t rule out Klassical Dream, Saldier and Sharjah among the entries for The Red Mills Hurdle.
Looking back on the 40 plus years of Red Mills Day, the two featured races have produced an illustrious roll of honour with many well known horses who have won plenty of major races.
The Red Mills Hurdle has been won by the iconic Danoli(1996) who won at the Cheltenham Festival in 1994 and twice won the Aintree Hurdle Winner in 1994 and 1995, while also memorably won The Hennessy Gold Cup in Leopardstown back in 1997.
Other well known winners of the race include Three Times Champion Hurdle Runner-Up Theatreworld(1997 and 1998), Twice Champion Hurdle Winner Hardy Eustace(2005), Three Times Grade 1 winning Hurdle and Champion Runner-Up Macs Joy(2006), Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Newmill(2007), World Hurdle winner Solwhit(2009) and the afore mentioned 10 times Grade 1 winner Un De Sceaux(2014).
Last years race was very impressively won by The Gordon Elliott Trained Teahupoo with the now retired Robbie Power on board who this season ended the unbeaten run of the Brilliant Mare and Twice Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle in The Hattons Grace Hurdle in Fairyhouse, while at The Thyestes Meeting he was a most impressive winner of The Galmoy Hurdle.
Teahupoo now heads the market at 3/1 for The World Hurdle on Thursday 16th March.
Meanwhile, The Red Mills Chase has been won by Thyestes Chase winners like Nuaffe(1997) along with Bob Treacy who won both The Thyestes Chase and The Red Mills Chase in 1999 and 2001.
Other winners of the race include Galway Plate winner Moscow Express (2002) when ridden by Ruby Walsh, while Grade 1 winners Rathgar Beau – Trained by Graignamanagh native Dusty Sheehy – and Forget The Past – who was a close Third in the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup – were successful in 2005 and 2006 respectively.
One of the most thrilling finishes came about in 2018 when 2017 Irish Grand National winner Our Duke prevailed narrowly Twice Cheltenham Festival winner Presenting Percy who also won The Galmoy Hurdle in Gowran Park on Thyestes Day in 2018 & 2019, while last years race was won by now retired Melon trained by Willie Mullins.
Unsurprisingly, Connolly’s Red Mills in Goresbridge employ or have employed several people from Gowran and Neighbouring Parishes throughout the year, among them Podge Gill who had great success as a Jockey that included victories in the Thyestes Chase and Galway Plate among others.
Indeed, his 1988 Galway Plate win was very special as he was aboard Afford a King for his neighbour Tony Mullins and Podge continues to maintain a keen interest in Racing and is an ever present at Race Meetings in Gowran Park.
Highlighted by The Two featured Red Mills Races, it’s a Superb days Racing that is scheduled to commence at 1.42pm with The Sea Moon and Jukebox Jury At Burgage Stud Maiden Hurdle.
Races are due to be run every 35 minutes with The Red Mills Hurdle timed at 2.17pm.
The Hurdle Races will be complete by The Tote Jackpot Is Back Handicap Hurdle at 2.52pm.
The Red Mills Steeplechase is the most contest of The Afternoon prizewise and The Grade 2 feature is scheduled for 3.27pm.
Two further Races over The bigger obstacles follow, with The Irish Injured Jockeys Fund Beginners Steeplechase at 4.02pm before The Careys Cottage Cup International Jockeys Invitational Handicap Steeplechase at 4.37pm.
The finale on the day will be The Ronan Lawlor Memorial Mares Flat Race at 5.12pm.
The Mares Bumper is run in honour of Ronan Lawlor who died tragically in an accident in the stables of Trainer Pat Fahy back in 2010.
Connolly’s Red Mills Day is a major event in Gowran Parish and gets massive support from within the parish and beyond, and it’s a wonderful family day out that usually happens during The Mid-Term Break like it does again this year.
It’s a huge week in Gowran as The Pantomime makes a most welcome return after a three year hiatus next Tuesday Evening -14th February (Valentines Day) – with it’s staging of Hansel & Gretel.
Hansel & Gretel continues throughout the week – except Thursday – that includes a show on Saturday Night that is expected to be Sold Out and no doubt there will be several people in attendance who will have attended the Race Day earlier on in the day.
Overall, a Supberb days entertainment lies in store in what is one of The biggest days of the year in Gowran Parish.