Keith Donoghue National Hunt Q&A

By Keith Donoghue
 |  7 mins
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Keith Donoghue National Hunt Q&A

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It was a good week of racing and it was brilliant to get back into the winners enclosure with Joseph Conrad at Cork.

This week we decided to do a Q&A with the general horse racing public on Twitter and some of the questions are brilliant. Thanks to everyone for taking part.

Winning In Cork

It was great to add another winner to my haul for the season and Joseph Conrad could not have done it any better than he did.

He jumped smoothly and really stayed on strongly to win by 7 and a 1/2 lengths in the end. It will be interesting to see how high he can go, but I think he'll be interesting in novice handicap hurdles at the end of the season. He's very tough and is very likable, which is always a great combination.

Away from Cork, Gordon had a good week and I was particularly impressed with Andy Dufresne and Conflated.

Andy Dufresne is a very good horse, who might just be difficult to place as he will have the likes of Envoi Allen and Easywork to contend with and that's only counting the novice chasers from our yard! He beat a good horse though in Embittered at Navan and will have learned plenty from that.

He's a very good one to have, and will win plenty of races, it's just this season I'd worry about him at Grade One level. I think he's one who'll prosper in open company as there is more variation as to where he can actually go.

Conflated won very well at Navan, where The Big Getaway was extremely disappointing for Willie Mullins. To my eye The Big Getaway may just be a bit soft at the minute, but the same definitely cannot be said about Conflated.

He can only go left handed this horse, and can have his own way of doing things at times as at Leopardstown last year for example he veered right under pressure, but when you catch him right he is a good horse. He's another one who could be difficult to place, but he adds a lot of strength in depth to our novice chasing team as he's no back number either!

Finally, Homme D'un Soir, who I put in my five to follow this season, was unlucky at Punchestown to bump into a good one in Cape Gentleman, but he'll win plenty this year at his own level. He's not one to give up on just yet!


Thanks again to everyone for taking part in this week's Q&A. I have answered these questions from my own perspective, so just a warning that as always I'm not speaking for Gordon Elliott or anyone else.

Richy (@RichyShea) asked: "Does he think keeping Sir Gerhard in bumpers as a 6yo is an awful waste given he won a 4yo ptp? Long Run won a Gold Cup at that age."

This is a great question, Richy and I agree overall that some horses could be doing more earlier in their careers. Of course every horse is different and some take longer to come to the fore than others, but I'm not someone who thinks bumpers are the be-all and end-all. If Sir Gerhard was mine I'd probably go over hurdles at this point with him as I think he's going to be a brilliant chaser so I'd use this time to get him jumping the smaller obstacles.

Saying this Gordon and Cheveley Park Stud have got nearly everything right so far with their horses, and they definitely know more than me!

Stuart Akister (@StuartAkister) asked "Does he still think Samcro can be a Ryanair horse?"

I definitely do, Stuart. We've learned over the last year or two that ground is just so important to Samcro and he's a much better horse on good ground. If it were to come to up good at the Cheltenham, I would definitely fancy to win there again. I certainly wouldn't mind riding him!

Yow Tran (@YowTran1) asked: "Hi Keith. Fakiera beat Farouk D'Alene last time out. Was that Farouk's true running or is Fakiera now a better prospect for Cheltenham and which race would they likely be aimed for?"

A bit of both actually. I don't think for a second that this was Farouk D'Alene's true running. He just never looked comfortable at all in the race and I'd forgive him that. Nothing has shown up in his check ups afterwards so we have to just get going again with him and hope it was a once off. If he can leave that behind him he is definitely one to be in the reckoning for an Albert Bartlett.

Fakiera really impressed me, but he's one who will be much better over a fence and I'm not sure whether he would actually want to go to Cheltenham this year. He might be better off avoiding that this year, but he's definitely good enough.

John Wilson (@JSHWILSON) asked: "Would you ride Quilixios or Zanahiyr in the Triumph given a free choice ?"

I'd love to have this choice, John. It's a very tight call, but based on what Zanahiyr did last time, I'd probably just be leaning towards him. Both are very good juveniles though and both are real strong gallopers who will be suited to the likes of Leopardstown and Cheltenham.

Don't forget as well we have a few more juveniles who will hopefully make the track this season, we seem to be very strong in this division this year.

Noel Duggan (@noelduggan) asked "Keith's thoughts on Galvin for the National Hunt Chase?"

I think he has a great chance, but I'd be worried if a proper Grade One horse ended up in the race. This race hasn't been attracting top class horses of late, so he might just get away with that. He's very good though, jumps great and showed he stays well last time. Imperial Aura has definitely franked the form from his festival run last year too and he deserves to be favourite.

David Weldon (@theweldon88) asked: "How far could Matthew Smith go as a trainer? Already equalled his best tally this season."

I think he's brilliant, David. I'm not just saying this as I ride a lot for him, but Matthew Smith could be one of the best trainers in Ireland if he was given the right ammo. He gets the absolute most of every horse he has, and this is shown with how much he is getting out of Ronald Pump, who is improving with every run. Like jockeys, a trainer is only as good as the horses they have, and if Matthew Smith had the same ammo as Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott I'd have no doubt he would be doing as well as them.

The McNeill Family (@McNeill_Family) asked about their horse: "Where It All Began"

I like him a lot. He is showing plenty at home and is a really relaxed horse, in fact he can be a bit too laid back at times! He will give you a lot of fun in bumpers and he'll win plenty in time with everything going right for him.

Andrew Black (@3_blackie) asked: "What’s Keith’s thoughts on Couer Sublime and would better ground help him!"

Coeur Sublime is in great form and as I said on this column, I was over the moon with him last time out. I completely agree that good ground will bring about improvement as he travels so well and Gearoid O'Loughlin is doing a great job with him. He needs to step up and show us though on the track what he shows us at home.

Jay Dutton (@JayLfc94) asked: "Where are we next likely to see Easywork, hopefully over a bit further than we seen him last time?"

I agree, Jay, I think Easywork is well worth trying up in trip. At the end of the day he's not a quick horse and going up to 3 miles could really suit him. I haven't heard anything, but you'd think he might go for the 3 mile chase at Leopardstown at Christmas.

Steve Ryder (@SteveRyder13) asked: "I notice Commander Of Fleet is entered in a Pertemps Qualifier on Sunday, is the plan to go back over hurdles with him given his chasing debut last month?"

Steve, I think he is going back over hurdles alright. It's disappointing that as of yet he doesn't look the same horse as he was before the injury, but Gordon is great at getting a horse back in form and he could be very interesting for races like this. Only time will tell though!

Rory Fitzgerald (@roryfitz15) asked: "Are ya well, Keith. Thatsy, intended runner the weekend? If so, and he gets himself a mark this side of Christmas, could that 0-150 handicap chase (2m3f+) at Limerick be a possibility, seen as you tested the waters in a 0-150 h'cap hurdle after he won his maiden last year."

That could well happen, but I'm losing a bit of faith in this horse. Thatsy is really talented and I've fancied him a few times now, but he just always seems to be a nearly horse. If he ever puts it all together he could well win a few, but the jury is out on him after a really bad run at Punchestown last time. I hope he proves me wrong as I've no doubt he has the ability, he just actually has to go and do it now.

Kieran Canavan (@KieranCanavan8) asked "How has Ballyadam been since the Royal Bond? Thanks"

Ballyadam has been in great form and he went back into work this week and has been great. He's a very exciting horse to have and all roads seemingly lead to the Supreme at Cheltenham.

Victor Antony (@AntonyGeorgeVS) asked: "How’s Fury Road looking ahead of the Christmas period?"

Fury Road has been great and he's a very exciting horse who always gives you a great feel at home. I'm not exactly sure how much of an out-and-out stayer he is in truth, and I can't wait to see him over a fence. Gordon and Gigginstown are adamant he is a proper stayers hurdle horse though and they don't tend to get much wrong. He has so much class that he will be a real force in this division, but I quite fancy Ronald Pump at Christmas.

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Keith Donoghue is one of the top National Hunt jockeys in the world, famed for his partnership with Tiger Roll winning two Cross Country Chases at the Cheltenham Festival. Keith also boasts a Grade 1 winner over fences, and is a great writer to boot. Keith covered the day to day of being a jockey in his weekly blog exclusive to Bookmakers.

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