Double all the sweeter on home ground
Published 21/10/2011 | 05:00
This day last week I was over in Cheltenham selling a horse at the Brightwells Sales after racing. I had three runners in Downpatrick the next day, but I was facing into an overnight drive if I was going to be there in time to saddle them.
The thought crossed my mind to make camp where I was and maybe take in the racing at Cheltenham on Saturday.
Just as well I didn't. Streamtown won the first beginners' chase at Downpatrick under my brother Steven, and Call Box then won the second for my other brother Ben.
Winners are hard enough to come by, so to get two in the one day at your local track, and for two of my brothers to ride one each, was an unforgettable feeling. It was actually a miserable day -- it rained heavily -- but I hardly even noticed.
And despite the weather, we got a great reception after Call Box's triumph. Because we are based just down the road in Larne, obviously we would have known a lot of people there on the day, and it's always nice to do well in front of your home crowd.
It was my first double in Ireland, though I did have one at Cartmel earlier in the summer. Our yard is situated just three miles from the docks in Larne, so it is easy for us to jump on the ferry and run horses at the northern England and Scottish tracks.
If we have to go south of Punchestown, timewise it's probably as handy to head across the water, and there are more opportunities to be had over there. Not every race is less competitive, but certainly at the lower end of the scale it is easier to win.
From a practical point of view, it just makes sense to travel if the opportunity presents itself. It's a family-run operation that we have, so we are all eager to make it work.
I'm the eldest of four of us that are involved, with Steven next, then Ross and Ben. Up until a few years ago, eventing was where it was at for Ross and myself.
Eventing can be a very hard thing to make a living out of, though. We both represented Ireland and had good success, but it was hard to make money.
You are caught between producing a nice horse to ride for yourself, or, if you want to earn some money, selling it. More often than not, we were having to sell our potential stars, so it became very hard to realise your own competitive aspirations.
In racing, owners seem to be more prepared to follow the dream, and it has worked out well for us.
All four of us are very much hands-on, which makes life easier.
When I was at Cheltenham last week, I didn't have to worry about what was going on at home.
The lads can tell me exactly what's happening, so you're not having to run around checking things -- you know that everything is under control.
It also made for a good night on Saturday night. Seamus McAlister, who owns Call Box, has The Morning Star pub in Belfast, and he put on a bit of a spread for the four of us.
We certainly made the most of it, although, after my long night on the road on Friday, I was definitely ready for the bed by the time I eventually got there!
With four of us involved, the load can be spread about, too. Yesterday, I drove to Thurles with Aibrean, which finished a really pleasing sixth in the conditions hurdle.
There was also a launch of the November Festival at Down Royal, so Stephen and Ben went to that.
Killyglen will run there in the JNWine.com Chase on November 5. He has been one of the leading lights for us, falling four-out when bang in contention in the Aintree Grand National this year.
Suffice to say, we were just starting to get excited when he tipped up, but that's racing; I'd like to think that the experience will stand to him when, all being well, he goes back to Liverpool next year.
While that's the big long-term plan, we have more modest engagements at the point-to-points this weekend, when Onefortheroad Mac is probably our best chance of a winner at Lingstown.
Point-to-pointers remain an integral part of the operation, so the long journey to Wexford will be well worth it if he draws.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie