Cee Bee key as Harty weathers chill and meltdown
Published 04/12/2010 | 05:00
Given the prevailing economic and meteorological conditions, Eddie Harty is happy with his lot. We may be in the midst of the worst financial meltdown in the history of the state but, at Naas last week, Harty brought his cumulative tally for 2010 to 11, equalling his previous best, which he achieved in 2009.
As he hunkers down for the winter, he does so having assembled his biggest National Hunt team since he began training in 2004.
While he may have come to prominence by dint of Captain Cee Bee's accomplishments over the sticks, residential numbers at his Pollardstown base on the Curragh dictated that the Flat held the balance of power.
Not any more, a reality borne out by the fact that Carrigmartin's impressive win at Naas tilted the winners ratio for the calendar year in favour of his NH contingent for a first time.
And while the week's Arctic elements have not made any trainer's job easier, Harty has been able to gallop his horses.
Being one of a handful of jumping handlers operating on the Curragh, he benefits from the labours of the hired gallop men who have been working round the clock to keep a mile-long stretch of polytrack open.
It is a slow procedure because of the logistics involved in boxing horses to and from the facility, but that's no price to pay.
Inches of snow and icy paths have rendered many of Harty's counterparts around the country helpless since Monday, so he is thankful for small mercies. Of course, it also helps that Captain Cee Bee is one of the horses that needs exercising.
JP McManus' 2008 Supreme Novices' Hurdle hero came back from a year on the sidelines last term.
He won three times in five starts, including a Grade One at the Punchestown festival, and he might have won another Grade One at Leopardstown at Christmas had he not fallen at the last. All told, it was a satisfactory return.
Captain Cee Bee reappeared for the new campaign at Naas just over a month ago, scoring with ease under Mark Walsh.
If the weather relents, next stop will be the Grade One John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown on Thursday. The nine-year-old is an invaluable asset to a yard that is still in the foothills of its ascent, and Harty knows as much.
"To have one of the top-rated horses in the country," he admits, "is fantastic. I mean, it heightens your profile and it lets you consider races that you'd normally only be sitting in front of the fire watching."
Harty is by no means immune to the recession, though. While his NH team has a healthy look to it at the moment, that is offset by the fact that his Flat string has been diminished.
This year he has run just 15 horses on the level, the fewest since he set out with nine six years ago, and down from the 23 that represented him for three years in succession up to 2008.
An improvement in the quality of horse has allowed Harty to rack up those two personal bests, but one or two injuries would quickly stretch the reserves.
He elaborates: "It is tough, there's no getting around it, and unfortunately the chances are it will get tougher before it gets better. But it has been as good a year as we've had, winners-wise, and I am pleased that we have strengthened the National Hunt side of things. Thinking about it logically now, and looking at the way things have gone, I want to build up the NH team even more.
"Even when times aren't tough, it's very hard to compete with the big strings on the Flat. I'm in a lucky position now where we've got one of the quality jumping horses in the country.
"Obviously I'd like to expand on that -- and we have to an extent. We've a few nice horses coming through, so you just hope to keep building on that."
While Harty's progression to the training ranks coincided with the boom years, he is far removed from the glut of gravy train licence-holders that descended on the game on the strength of the short-lived dalliance of flush builders and copious syndicates.
When John Oxx spoke earlier this year of the "explosion of trainers" during that time, and how standards dropped to the level of "slapdash" and "rough and ready", Eddie Harty is definitely not the kind of 'Johnny Come Lately' which he had in mind.
A grandson of Cyril B Harty -- an Irish Army captain who rode on the first team to represent Ireland in the Aga Khan Cup, trained an Irish Grand National winner and after whom Captain Cee Bee is named -- Eddie's ancestry is steeped in horses.
His father and namesake, who bought Captain Cee Bee as a foal, also trained, though he is best known for partnering Highland Wedding to success in the Aintree Grand National in 1969. He also represented Ireland in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
In light of the country's current predicament, it's easy to understand why Eddie steered clear of the game for so long. He turned 21 in 1982, not a good time, by all accounts, to be starting out any business here.
That year, his younger brother Eoin made for America, where he has since become a top trainer, while Eddie made for the hustle and bustle of London's financial sector.
He returned before the decade was out to work for the infamous Ansbacher banking group, and finally gave in to the lifelong urge to get back to his roots when an opportunity arose in 2004 to buy the bit of land on which his domicile now stands.
While Harty's lineage was no guarantee of success in his new venture, his background certainly meant that he had credentials solid enough to give it a good go.
Cheltenham success or not, he is adamant that he has not had a moment's regret since leaving the rat race.
"If I go broke, which is getting more and more imminent by the day, I still wouldn't regret doing what I did," he says. "I mean it's in my blood.
"And we've done well. It would be nice to have a bigger string, but everybody is in the same boat.
"The only time I regret leaving the financial institutions is on the 20th of every month. Payday. You got a lump of money and that was it.
"I never really wanted to go into the money business, but if you think things are bad now, they were equally bad in the '80s, and that's why I started doing what I did.
"The thing was then, as you can imagine, you're married, you've a young family and you've just bought a house, so you have to stick with what you're doing.
"I always wanted to train, though, and when the opportunity came up to buy this place, I took it."
Just as he has, you might argue, every opportunity that has subsequently come his way.