independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

You have to be selective – bad horses and bad owners are no use

Lord Windermere will run in tomorrow's Boylesports Novice Chase at Leopardstown. Every yard needs a good horse – and he is our one.

I fancied him for a three-miler at Naas last week, but scratched him because of the bad ground. While it won't be as deep tomorrow, it's a pity I won't get to try him over three miles before Cheltenham.

He shapes like a horse that would be suited by a staying trip and the Jewson Chase could be a hot race this year, with so many two-milers likely to swerve Simonsig in the Arkle Trophy. We'll keep our options open and see how tomorrow goes first.

Our base (Churchtown in north Cork) got hit quite badly by the frost and snow earlier this week. That meant I had to box anything that is close to running to our gallop when things thawed out in the afternoons, but horses like Lord Windermere are already race-fit, so it is just a case of keeping those ticking over.

Legal Exit and Hard To Swallow are others that I would expect to go close if we run them in their maiden hurdles this weekend. Like Lord Windermere, though, it will be as novice chasers next term that I'd expect them to really excel.

Old-fashioned chasers are my passion. They take time to become the finished article, but the few owners that I have are very patient and happy to follow my advice.

I like to start the horses off in point-to-points and build up from there, but I'd have about 10 four-year-olds that won't even run this season.

Half of those would be horses that I still own myself as I buy a bunch of foals each year, so the priority is to try and find owners for those that will be worth persisting with.

We have developed a state-of-the-art facility here and I'm lucky that I can be selective about what we train. Bad horses and bad owners are no good – there is little profit in mere training fees and an owner who doesn't pay isn't worth the hassle.

Similar to my time with Henrietta Knight and Best Mate, quality over quantity is the idea and the dream would be to somehow unearth a Gold Cup horse. That is all!

Having seen the big-race action at Christmas, I think the Irish Gold Cup prospects will have it all to do to beat Long Run in March. He has looked lairy since that hard race in defeat to Kauto Star at Haydock last term, but I doubt anything would see which way he went if they put a pair of blinkers on him at Cheltenham and give him the sort of aggressive ride that Mick Fitzgerald gave See More Business in 1999.

While that's unlikely to happen, he still looks a better horse this season than he did last season, so our contenders have lots to do to get near him.

Needless to say, getting up to that level is not easy, but I love the job of trying. Every day, I feed the horses at 6.0. My six staff begin at 7.0, the first of four lots pulls out at 8.0 and that part of the job is usually done by 12.30. We don't cut corners. The horses are schooled well and I think we have lots to look forward to this spring.

It is not something I have had occasion to say before, but I am also looking forward to seeing my first flock of sheep begin lambing. Sheep are great for the land, so I came to an arrangement with a neighbour this year for us to keep 100 sheep on my patch.

If I'm honest, I am a silent partner in terms of the workload, but the horses will benefit when they are let out out on lush grass this summer. The way I see it, small details like that are all part of the process of producing proper racehorses.

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

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