Saturday 25 March 2017

The bishop comes up trumps

Sunday was one of those great days when a plan comes to fruition. The Cork Grand National is a race that I've always targeted if I had the right type of horse. Aka Jake finished second in it for me in 2007, a year before Alickadoo was awarded the race after a stewards' inquiry, having been badly hampered.

The Bishop Looney is classier than either of those and for the past year I knew that it would be the race for him. On the day, I honestly felt his only danger was himself.

He has a tendency to switch off when it comes to jumping, but we've worked hard at addressing that problem. Richard O'Dea, a young amateur who only started with me in September, has done an awful lot of schooling on the horse.

In the week before the race, Richard might have schooled him on four or five separate days, but only over three or four fences each time. Once he did it well, we'd stop.

The final part of the jigsaw was Tom Doyle, who took the brave man's route down the inner on The Bishop Looney. Although he is a small horse, I just felt that, if he was tight against the rail, he would have to stay switched on to what he was doing.

Tom executed the plan to perfection, as he always does. Richard Dunwoody used to ride for me many years ago and Tom reminds me of him an awful lot; he's the ultimate professional, immensely focused, and there is never any nonsense with him.

I managed to get on at 8/1, so I was glad not to have to go through the rigours of an inquiry before getting the result this time. More than that, though, it was a hugely satisfying win because we bred The Bishop Looney ourselves.

His dam is 25 years of age now, so is retired from breeding, but the line continues on through The Bishop Looney's sister Bonnie And Bright, which produced Acey, a horse that won two bumpers for us last year. Right now, I'm gearing up a four-year-old sister and three-year-old brother of Acey's for their first runs.

We only have three broodmares, so to have them producing such quality is brilliant.

My own family played a big part on Sunday as well, with my wife Una preparing The Bishop and my eldest son David leading him up. The whole thing couldn't have been more memorable, not least because we are based just a few miles away in Kilavullen.

After racing, we stopped for a bite of grub in Springfort Hall, before joining in the celebrations at the local pub. Suffice to say, I was a popular man in there!

The show continued on as normal on Monday. The Bishop pulled out none the worse for his exertions, so myself, Richard and Tahir Aszal, a Pakistani who answers to Bobby in these parts, busied ourselves riding out.

I have 15 in at the moment, a large proportion of which have yet to run. American Touch -- which is in at Limerick on Monday -- is one that has run before, though he has been disappointing since winning a point-to-point on his debut at Dromahane in March.

The inside track at Limerick may be a little sharp for him, but I'd still be relatively hopeful. My only other runners over the weekend will be at Dromahane on Sunday.

Zardsky and Callhimwhatyouwant are two horses that Richard finished second on first time up and both could go one better now. In fact, Callhimwhatyouwant worked really nicely alongside The Bishop last week, so that augurs well for him.

To finish with, a short story about our holiday in Sorrento this summer. On a couple of evenings over there, we had a drink with people who have horses in training up the country -- and remember at this stage that The Bishop had run just once over fences.

I won't name names, but we had a lovely time with this couple, and I said to them that if the horse won The Cork National in November, they'd know I was able to train, the idea being that they might then send me a horse.

We had a good laugh about it at the time, but it's five days now since I kept my end of the bargain -- no doubt I'll get the call any day now.

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

Irish Independent

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