Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Day at Curragh was like winning lotto

In the 30-odd years that I've been training racehorses, I've never enjoyed as much success as I have lately. Since late May, we have had a Sligo double, a winner at Ballinrobe, and Six Of Hearts has won twice. On Sunday, he won the valuable Paddy Power Sprint at The Curragh. That was some day.

After the race, I described it as being like a win in the lotto, which is how it felt. There were nearly 30 horses in the race, but absolutely everything went right for us.

Of course, it was Irish Derby day, too. The last time I was at the Irish Derby was when Chamour won for Phonsie O'Brien in 1960. It wouldn't normally be on my agenda.

The day that Six Of Hearts won at Naas a few weeks earlier, I was at a point-to-point in Ballingarry, and I was quite happy there. That's my scene. We've just ended up with the few Flat horses by accident really, so Sunday was a rare day out.

My wife Carol is a mainstay at the yard and she got a great thrill out of it all, too. I saw her jumping nearly six feet in the air, roaring the horse home. Where we were up in the stand, I reckon people were watching her as much as they were the race!

She even got phone calls to say she looked very well turned out on RTE -- and she did.

Our outfit near Mullingar is far from glamorous, but Carol gets stuck into everything.

Aside from the horses, we farm dry cattle as well, so every day is different. One morning this week I was up in my neighbour Paul Flynn's putting a couple of horses through his stalls and the next morning I was mowing hay.

Before the racing at the weekend, I was at Tattersalls' Derby Sale. Although the purpose of that particular trip was to find a couple of pointers, I couldn't buy. Trade was too strong.

Now, I wouldn't be going there with big money, but the nice horses were very hard to purchase, and that has to be a positive sign. It wasn't much good for someone like me trying to buy one, but it is encouraging that things are starting to look up again.

It was actually my nephew Anthony -- who used to ride -- that picked out Six Of Hearts at the sales in Doncaster four years ago. John Butler, a great fellow who runs the Round Tower Syndicate and the restaurant of the same name in Kells, met him over there, and Anthony put us on the right track, as he often does.

It's hard to believe that Six Of Hearts has now won us nine Flat races, including a Group Three, having been bought to go jumping. He did pick up a knock on Sunday, but hopefully he'll be okay for tilt at another Group race at The Curragh in two weeks.

And it would be nice if Anthony's brother Willie could be there this time. Willie runs the show for me here, so he was devastated when he realised that he had booked a holiday that clashed with last Sunday's race -- he nearly didn't go at all!

In the end, he went, but he still texted me at 8.0 on Sunday morning to say: "Got here, seems not a bad spot, ground changed to good."

Now, I'm not sure exactly where he is -- somewhere off the coast of Africa, I think -- but that he knew more than I did about the going at The Curragh tells you how much all this means to him.

It's a bit of a miracle the way the horses are running right now, but Willie has a lot to do with it. I should also pay tribute to Michelle O'Connor, an equine physiotherapist who has been treating Six Of Hearts lately. Suffice to say she isn't doing any harm.

All told, the small team that we have here, including many decent local owners, work well together. Days like Sunday don't come around too often for an establishment like ours, so we are thankful for it -- the lift it gives you is unreal.

We take immense pleasure out of winning even a point-to-point, but it was nice to get a taste of what it is that drives the people who win these big prizes week-in, week-out. It's the kind of thing you can only dream about.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie

Irish Independent

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