Al Ferof's Cheltenham win puts yard in shop window
When you sell horses for big money, they have to do well – that's the bottom line. After Al Ferof won a good bumper for me at Fairyhouse this time three years ago, let's just say he was sold for a sum that reflected his potential.
A few months later, he finished second in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, he won the Supreme Novices' Hurdle a year later, and on Saturday he won the Paddy Power Gold Cup.
They can't all do that, but it is so vital that they train on if an owner has put their neck on the line.
After Cheltenian left my yard two years ago, he won on his first start for Philip Hobbs and then won the Champion Bumper next time out – he kept improving.
If they don't, not only does it not advertise that you produced the horse, it can have a negative effect. Buyers need to know that you have left something to work on.
If an agent has success with a horse you nurtured, they will come back for more but, if they haven't been lucky, they won't put their hand up at the sales for one of yours. They would rather buy off someone else – it can be as simple and as silly as that.
Al Ferof's season tailed off last spring, but horses can take a bit of figuring out – even if you are Paul Nicholls. On Saturday, the soft ground was especially key, and horses by his sire Dom Alco seem best fresh. Who knows how far he will go now?
When I had him, he was owned by Martin Murphy, an uncle of my other half, Barry, who is a son of Ferdy Murphy. He was the first horse that Martin ever owned.
Ferdy actually looked at Al Ferof at the Brightwells Sale after he won his point-to-point. He was interested but felt he was a bit small – which he was at the time – so the horse was led out unsold at £62,000. Martin had a reserve of about £70,000 on him then, and I'm sure it's a day Ferdy regrets not handing a few quid to his brother!
Anyway, everyone – including Ferdy – has been delighted to see how Al Ferof has showcased what we do here.
Michael, another Murphy brother, has a nursery with about 60 babies 25 minutes away from where I am based in Crossabeg, Co Wexford.
He sources horses in Ireland and France, where the former jockey Guy Petit, who is married to Ferdy's daughter Caroline, does all the buying, mainly of foals and yearlings. They are raised at Michael's, and then I get a lot of them to train and sell.
Martin's current horse is Thekingofconnemara, which was meant to run at Cork on Sunday. We pulled him out because of all the rain that fell, but it was nice to meet up and have a drink and a chat about the previous afternoon's events.
Thekingofconnemara was second on his debut at Cork last month, and should go close wherever he goes next. When people give you horses like that to develop, you must fulfil your brief with each individual, because you are running a business.
On the other hand, the competitive side of you wants to participate at the top level, and the hope would be that an organic consequence of our produce doing well will be that more owners leave horses here. Of the 30 we have now, half are here to stay.
Penny's Bill, which gave us our biggest win in the Boylesports.com Hurdle in 2009, is still on the go, and Kauto Grand Mogol is one of the younger brigade that is not for sale.
A half-brother to Kauto Star, he won a bumper at Limerick in March and is one we are really looking forward to running over hurdles in the next few weeks.
If Gowran Park beats the weather tomorrow, Reality Dose should go close for us in the Irish Racing Yearbook Chase, but the horse of ours to watch out for is a beautiful three-year-old by Martaline. Take note if he turns up in a bumper in the new year.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie