LIAM BURKE’S horses are in great form and the Cork trainer enjoyed a memorable Tramore festival, last weekend. He saddled four winners on the spin.
Trees Valley won twice in three days. She got off the mark in a two-and-a-half-mile maiden hurdle, on Friday, before following up in authoritative style, under a 5lb penalty, when making all to win a two-mile handicap hurdle by 10 lengths, on Sunday.
The well-bred daughter of Mahler is a relative of the graded-winner, Valley Henry, whom Burke saddled to win a Carrigtwohill point-to-point, and a Leopardstown bumper, 20 years ago, before the gelding went on to race in the UK, for the owner-trainer combination of Paul Barber and Paul Nicholls.
Trees Valley has been hit with a 14lb hike in the ratings for her Tramore success. But her trainer believes she could have more to offer yet, as he has finally found the key to her.
“She just needed a bit of time and she takes a lot of work. I’ve had a few Mahlers and they seem to be better from the front,” Burke said.
“We did that in her point-to-point (at Lismore) and she was fierce impressive. The first day in Tramore, she wasn’t as good in-behind. But Donagh Meyler only got the ride at the last minute, as Robbie Power got injured.
“She won on Friday, but she was much different on Sunday, when he rode her from the front.
“She has gone up a stone, but I think she should go in again, with the way she won on Sunday,” Burke said.
“She’s rated 101 now and she should be capable of winning off 109. She’ll be qualified for those rated novice chases. That might be the road I’ll be going. We had a couple of good days.
“I was hopeful of Trees Valley. I’ve been lucky with that pedigree.
“But I wasn’t as hopeful with the other two. I was hoping they might be placed,” Burke said.
Burke produced a great training performance with Yaiza, given the horse has had his injury problems.
The mount of Darragh O’Keeffe got the better of City Limits, in a late drive to the line at the seaside venue, to win last Friday’s two-and-a-half-mile handicap hurdle.
“Yaiza had been off for a good while with injury and he had only had a run back (when a luckless ninth at the track in July). He’s just not easy to keep going,” Burke said.
“So, we didn’t know with him. I was hoping he’d run well.”
Raven Rule rounded off a mighty weekend for the local trainer, when winning the two-mile mares’ bumper, on Sunday.
The daughter of Court Cave had finished fourth over a slightly longer trip, at Ballinrobe, last month. She stayed on well to claim her first career win, under jockey Tom Feeney.
“Raven Rule ran well in Ballinrobe. On the day, he just made a small bit too much use of her. She’s a good work horse, but not over-big. The last day (in Tramore), I told (Tom) take his time and he did,” Burke said.
“At the same time, I was only hoping for a place because there were a couple of good ones, like John Kiely’s and Willie Mullins’, who you always have to respect in a bumper.
“The funny thing is, the same people (Kenilworth House Stud) bred my horse and John Kiely’s horse, who was second,” the trainer said.
At this early stage of the National Hunt season, things are going well for the Burke yard.
The Galway Plate-winning handler now sits on five wins for the campaign and is operating at an impressive 24% strike rate.
His charges have been in fine fettle since the restart, and he has a lot of young horses coming through, at his Curraglass stables.
“The horses are healthy, which is half the battle. We had a good summer last year, too. Fingers crossed, we stay going,” Burke said.
“It’s bad at the moment, when owners can’t go racing. But, still, they are getting a bit of prize money and there is something happening.
“It’s not a great atmosphere at the races, but they have it well-policed and they know who’s on-site. At least we are racing.”