Saturday 22 July 2017

Realt provides the father of all wins

I have been involved in racehorse ownership for 10 years but last Sunday at Leopardstown tops anything I have experienced before. Realt Dubh, my only horse, beat Noble Prince, which is owned by my father Des, in a thrilling Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Chase.

Dad actually won the race in 2000 with Frozen Groom, so it was lovely to see his name inscribed on the trophy when I received it. It is a fantastic perpetual trophy that you get to keep for a year, and I can assure you it has pride of place in my study now.

The whole experience at Leopardstown was memorable, with my wife Joan and our three kids also enjoying the day out. I have lived in Dublin all my life and have been going racing at Leopardstown for 40 years, so it means a lot to win there.

Obviously, beating dad's horse in such a prestigious race by just a short head added to it all. We knew Noble Prince would get closer to Realt Dubh than he did when they finished first and second at the track over Christmas because the better ground was going to suit him, but I was quietly confident that we'd confirm the placings.

I have to say, though, dad had a bit of a twinkle in his eye afterwards. Beforehand, he and his trainer Paul Nolan had been thinking about running Noble Prince in the new two-and-a-half-mile novice at Cheltenham but Barry Geraghty was impressed on Sunday and advised them to consider the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.

The good ground that you usually get at Cheltenham would suit him and 20/1 does look a great price. He should have a serious chance. Unlike Noble Prince, which was a smart horse on the Flat in France, my fellow is a real National Hunt type.

He won a point-to-point before I bought him and he likes to get his toe in. I know they have a good watering policy at Cheltenham but we would have to consider the two-and-a-half-miler if the ground comes up on the quick side.

Maybe the sensible thing to do would be to keep the two of them apart but it could also be interesting to see them take each other on again. We certainly wouldn't mind facing each other again, as it always makes for some healthy banter.

Having owned horses like Harchibald and Nicanor, dad has been down this road before. The whole family enjoyed many wonderful days following both horses.

I was down at Noel Meade's over Christmas and it was great to see Harchibald still there, enjoying his retirement out in the field. He was a notorious old rogue but he was part of a vintage generation of Irish hurdlers and we had great fun with him.

Brave Inca, Hardy Eustace and himself are all invited to parade at Cheltenham this year. Noel joked that Harchibald will probably be the first horse to parade there that hadn't won at the Festival but I guess it's a measure of what they brought to the game.

It's disappointing that depth of quality isn't there anymore, as the atmosphere just isn't the same. When you see Hurricane Fly starting long odds-on for the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle -- and winning comfortably -- it doesn't reflect well on our muscle at the highest level. That said, Hurricane Fly is a brilliant horse.

Since I became involved as an owner myself, I've been lucky, although I have never enjoyed a more profitable day's investing than the day I had my very first runner at Downpatrick in 2002.

The horse was called Jolly Sharp. We had bought him out of Henry Cecil's yard and Kevin O'Brien trained him to land a real old gamble. Kevin was confident that he'd win, so we backed it from 14/1 into 5/1. Suffice to say we had enough on to put one or two bookmakers out of business!

Whether a similar payday awaits at Cheltenham in March remains to be seen. Dad's Frozen Groom famously fell there in the Arkle after he had won at Leopardstown, so maybe the Sharkey family has unfinished business in the race. High time one of us put that right.

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

Irish Independent

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