Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 22 February 2018

Angel delight makes the hard work worthwhile

You'd hear people talking about what it's like to train a winner at Cheltenham, but I don't know if even that could touch how I felt after Ambush Angel won the bumper for me at Tramore on Sunday.

She was my first winner on the track since Golden Gazelle won at Killarney 20 years ago. What's more, Ambush Angel is owned by Gus O'Mahony, whose family I've had dealings with for 30 years.

The O'Mahonys are from Ballinhassig in Cork and the first horse I bought from Gus' father Willie was Slippery Princess in the 1980s. She won a point-to-point before giving Philip Fenton his first winner in a bumper at Roscommon, so that will give you some idea of the time that's passed in between.

Apart from the O'Mahony connection, Sunday's win was especially sweet because we knew Ambush Angel was going to win. She had worked well a couple of times alongside Cathy Harrison's Hang On Groovy, which won a bumper at Cork recently.

We backed her accordingly. All the boys got on in the betting offices in Thurles and Clonmel at 25/1. I got 20/1 on the track myself, and had €25 each-way on the Tote for a bit of fun. The dividend paid €42.40, so I collected a tidy €1,290 on that one alone.

It was important to get what we could out of it. For someone like me, with just a handful of horses, you could be a long time waiting for the next one to come round.

Thankfully, Ambush Angel was much too good on the day. Damien Skehan took the shortest route around on her, a move that might have been the winning of the race.

Damien is 30 and this was only his fourth winner on the track, but he is a seriously cool and dependable rider. I've used plenty of good jockeys over the years, including Fenton in his pomp, and I can't understand how this guy doesn't get more rides. After all, he rode Mossey Joe to win two point-to-points and a hunter chase.

He is a hard worker, too. Along with Eddie Power and Bill Shanahan, he comes into my place in Borrisoleigh to ride out during his lunch hour every day.

I drive a lorry part-time, so I'd often be gone at 4.30 in the morning to ensure that I get back in time to do the horses. We only ever have six or seven on the go, mainly point-to-pointers, and my wife Chrissie looks after them when I'm away.

Most of what I have gets sold to England. I have regular clients there, and I'd tell them what a particular horse amounted to before putting it on the boat. I pay the fare, and the agreement would be that they'd put the horse back on the boat if they weren't happy, or else send on the cheque. Thankfully, few ever come back!

There are times when I think I might like to expand a little, but I don't know if I need the hassle at 60 years of age. I might be better off keeping things as they are.

Besides, when you can have a day like we did on Sunday, why would you change anything? It was a great occasion for the whole yard, although my 10-year-old son Hugh went with Eddie Power to the All-Ireland hurling semi-final in Dublin instead.

Needless to say they were delighted with the result up there, but they were both a little disappointed afterwards that they hadn't travelled to Tramore instead. Imagine!

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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