It’s just like Arkle all over again at Tipperary!
It harks back to the time of Arkle carrying huge weights and it may even be one for the record books at Tipperary on Tuesday afternoon, with a horse set to carry 12-11 in a handicap chase.
The horse is Usa, and the race in question is the 4.55 Tipperary Handicap Steeplechase over 2m1f.
Usa was allocated 13-2 by the handicapper, but the booking of Donagh Meyler takes five pounds off that burden.
Nonetheless, Galway-based trainer Steve Mahon has admitted he can't recall a horse running off that sort of weight before. A quick trawl through the record books and a straw poll of Irish racing's historians seem to back up his Mahon's recall.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, the trainer said he "used to listen to the old boys talking about Arkle", and the famous two-weight system employed in an attempt to level the playing field, but can't recall a horse running off almost 13 stone.
"I thought my eyesight was gone when I saw the weight," he said.
The next two horses in the race are down to carry 11-7, giving almost a stone and a half to the top weight.
Usa was running from a mark in the high 'teens' for most of the summer, but was given 11lb after finishing a close second to the Gordon Elliott-trained Realt Mór at Ballinrobe in August.
This rise brings him up to a mark of 129, and is a bone of contention for Mahon.
"Some of the handicaps need to be reviewed," he said.
"There's no way he has improved 11lb at 9yo – Usain Bolt won't take a second off his time in two years time.
"Horses aren't machines. You need so many things to go right on the day."
However despite the weight, and the less than ideal ground conditions, Usa is expected to take his chance tomorrow.
"At 9.50am this morning I was going to have no horses running, but the owner [Tom Quinn] wanted to send him out.
"Next week the ground will be softer and he wouldn't get a run.
"If the ground was good I wouldn't be worried but if we get heavy rain he will struggle and may not run – the welfare of the horse is first."
Usa's last win came in a 2m1f novice chase at Tipperary in April 2015, on good to yielding ground, and Mahon admits if he wins tomorrow it will be one to remember.
"If he was able to win it he'd have done something no other horse has done."
While racing anoraks may be keeping an eye on proceedings from Tipperary, Mahon expects the handicapper to also be on the look out.
"If he does win, the horse that comes second should by rights be put up to 128," he said, wryly.
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