Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Son of former Taoiseach and quiet man from Galway aim for Festival glory

Philip Reynolds will be hoping for more reasons to celebrate at Cheltenham. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE
Philip Reynolds will be hoping for more reasons to celebrate at Cheltenham. Picture credit: Seb Daly / SPORTSFILE

Johnny Ward

The iconic image of the three of them jumping the last almost at exactly the same time will ever linger in the recollections of racing fans in Ireland.

There was Hardy Eustace, sporting the skyblue and yellow of Lar Byrne; Harchibald in between in the Des Sharkey silks of purple and gold; and the syndicate-owned Brave Inca on the stands' side in similar colours to 'Harchi'. None of the owners was shy of a few bob but the diversity compelled.

It is a common enough sight for a horse to be distinguished merely from the others in contention coming into the straight now in a major jumps race by the colour of his or her hat.

The 'New York Times' says the richest 1pc in the United States own more wealth than the bottom 90pc.

Jumps racing may not be quite as extreme in its inequality, but it seems to be getting there.

Michael O'Leary brazenly scoffed at the notion he might stay at Navan for the bumper eight days ago. Many of us will trundle away after the card's jumping is done - but, unlike O'Leary, we don't have a hot favourite (Poli Roi) for which we paid 300 grand.

Still, jumps racing throws up anomalous alliances; that of Pat Kelly and Philip Reynolds, son of former Taoiseach Albert, amounts to one.

Reynolds may seem the right fit for a racing owner but even he must marvel at the luck that has lingered in recent years.

It wasn't always so. Their nexus goes back over two decades and Kelly, who nowadays tends to run away from journalists after he wins a race, was probably never rambunctious - but in those days, he was a little less reserved.

The father-and-son team had a horse with Kelly in the '90s, Sovereign Parade. "He was running in what used to be the Albatros Chase on the Tuesday of Galway in 1999, ridden by Jason Titley," Reynolds recalls.

"Dad and I backed the living daylights out of him. He was coming to the second in the dip bang there, about to win, and as I still tell Titley, he jumped off him! We went to the Corrib Great Southern that night and Pat had a sister of mine on his shoulders. 'I'd hate to see ye hoors if ye won', he told me."

The alliance ran its course. Years later, Reynolds was walking out of Mallow's parade ring when he bumped into Kelly, who said that they should buy another - thinking of old times. Philip agreed. Kelly wouldn't call him for another two years.

"He told me to come down to Tom Costello's. We went down to Tom Junior and he had three to look at. The one I liked was Mall Dini."

Remarkably, Mall Dini would go on to win the Pertemps at Cheltenham last March under Davy Russell, who was asked at a Nenagh preview night on Wednesday what did he make of the horse's prospects at the Festival a year on.

"Well," Russell said, "not only is Pat the sort to tell me nothing: he tells himself nothing too."

Indication

Mall Dini is a maiden over fences but likely to go to the Kim Muir, with no indication as to what lucky amateur will ride, Reynolds and Kelly having spoken about the best option yesterday.

He is a leading fancy but even shorter in the betting is Presenting Percy, which goes for the Pertemps having bolted up on Saturday at Fairyhouse.

Like Mall Dini, he was bought out of the famous Costello nursery near Newmarket-on-Fergus.

Remarkably, Reynolds also owns Tin Soldier, the win of which in Thurles' feature on Thursday suggested he could be competitive in a Grade One at Cheltenham - and Willie Mullins is not ruling it out.

I have found Kelly perfectly reasonable in a few chats we've had this year about Mall Dini, though maybe being a fellow Galwegian helps.

"I do think he is just a very quiet man, schooled in the old ways of 'tell 'em nothing'," a journalist said to me recently.

For a man who trained two Galway Hurdle winners in the '90s and then all but disappeared, to go to Cheltenham with two big fancies cannot but captivate.

"He really loves 'Percy'," Reynolds says. "But as he said himself, 'I'll never forget what Mall Dini did for me'."

That's what jump racing is all about though it increasingly seems it is not all about ante-post betting.

Bookmakers said that the shock withdrawal of Thistlecrack from the Timico Gold Cup on Tuesday meant very little to them - simply, punters do not want to bet ante-post any more until there is a 'non-runner, no bet' concession.

RIDE OF THE WEEK

Ruby Walsh waited, waited and waited on Pleasant Company at Fairyhouse on Saturday in the Bobbyjo. Equine poetry.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"Prognosis isn't too bad. I've a slightly collapsed lung and cracked rib."

- Barry Geraghty after his Kempton fall aboard would-be Cheltenham fancy, the four-year-old Charli Parcs, on Saturday. The rider will now miss Cheltenham.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Acapella skates in Phil Smith puts him in at 193

- Barry Doyle (@onthebridles), tongue-in-cheek at Navan last Sunday after Acapella Bourgeois's win.

GAMBLE OF THE WEEK

Earlier 9/2, the Tom Gibney-trained Agent Boru was sent off 6/4 in Punchestown's opener on Wednesday, cutting out badly after looking likely to win for Davy Russell.

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