GETTING horses fit has been even more challenging than usual for local trainer, Ken Budds, this season.
But he could be set for a prosperous couple of weeks and months ahead, with horses such as Here For The Craic and Getaway Queen, who is entered in the 4.35pm at Leopardstown today, both progressing nicely.
Although the lockdown period led to a quiet spell at a number of racing yards around the country, the east Cork-based handler has found himself to be busier than ever. He currently has a string of 12 horses to work with for the rest of the year, while he has also had an increased number of breakers for pre-training in his yard. It means that it is very much a case of full-steam- ahead at Budds’ stables.
‘‘Lockdown wasn’t a bit quiet (at my yard). I was very, very busy. I’d never really break many horses and I’d about ten or eleven breakers in over the period of lockdown. That would be a lot for me! The time went quick,’’ Budds said.
On his current team of horses: "Trying to get them fit (is the challenge). They were a bit behind. But they’re getting there slowly. I’ve 12 horses riding out; six for the Flat, two point-to-pointers and a few for over hurdles. I’m kept going now."
Stable favourite, Here For The Craic, ran a very promising race on his first start of 2020, when a recent fourth over hurdles, at Mallow.
The evergreen 13-year-old veteran, owned by the Connery Family Syndicate, could bid to add to his tally of six career wins – and a further 24 top-four finishes – before the year is out. His trainer believes that the Millenary gelding has at least another big run in him this season.
‘‘He needed the run the last day a little bit. Again, he was in a little bit late. He kind of got tired between the second last and the last. He ran a cracker. I haven’t a race in mind for him, but I’m trying to find races for him.
"I’m trying to pick races that will suit him. If I find the right race for him, he should nearly collect the next day. (Jockey) Jonathan Moore couldn’t get over how fresh he was for a 13-year-old. And how enthusiastic he was about the whole thing,’’ he said.
Getaway Queen won a brace of 12-furlong Dundalk handicaps for the trainer, at the back end of 2019. The Mark Landers-owned filly was third on her most recent start, at Ballinrobe, and is set to take her chance, at Leopardstown, on Friday evening.
Budds is expecting a big run from the daughter of Getaway, when she lines up in division two of the mile-and-a-half Leopardstown Club 30 Handicap, which is due off at 4.35pm.
‘‘She has taken a while to get fit. She’s in on Friday at Leopardstown. I’d be hoping she’d be very close. She was third last week and that will have brought her on a lot now. Esthers Marvel is entered this weekend (in handicap hurdle contests at Kilbeggan and Cork) but I’m not sure if I’ll run her yet,’’ Budds said.
Elsewhere, local trainer, Denise O’Shea, landed her first winner of the year, when 66/1 shot Getaway Glenda sprang a huge shock in the mares’ maiden hurdle, at Tramore, last Saturday.
The five year daughter of Getaway, who is owned by Gerard O’Leary, was having her third start under rules, and she stayed on well to take the lead after the last flight of hurdles, to land the spoils under Cork’s Darragh O’Keeffe.
Meanwhile, Cork plays host to a jumps card, on Sunday afternoon. Racing continues behind closed doors at the Mallow venue, where the first race is due off at 2pm.
The most valuable contest on the card is the Thank You To Our Frontline Staff Hurdle of €17,000.
Former Melbourne Cup third, Max Dynamite, and 2017 Galway Hurdle winner, Tigris River, are among the entries for the three-mile feature. Among the horses on the race’s roll of honour are Cheltenham Festival winner, Arctic Fire, and Royal Ascot victor, Simenon.