Sport Horse Racing

Friday 18 January 2019

Burke hoping Sumos Novios can call tune in Thyestes

Got Away, with Leighton Aspell up, clears the last on the way to winning the Maresâ Steeple Chase at Leicester yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Got Away, with Leighton Aspell up, clears the last on the way to winning the Maresâ Steeple Chase at Leicester yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

"I'm afraid not," trainer Liam Burke chuckles when asked if he will recite the words of Sumos Novios, the same name as his Thyestes Chase runner tomorrow, should his ten-year-old upset the applecart and claim the €100,000 Gowran Park feature.

He might not wish to attempt the song, which has been recorded by none other than Elvis Presley, Shirley Bassey and Andrea Bocelli, but there may be another 150 people who will as Sumos Novios will be 'owned' by the Gowran Park Racing Club for the day.

Burke, who also owns Sumos Novios, will lease him out for the day, offering the club a chance to experience the buzz of watching their own horse compete in one of the most lucrative handicap chases in the Irish racing calendar while carrying their colours.

As part of the 'Experience It' campaign launched by the HRI last year, the owners will get the experience of being in the parade ring, and possibly the winner's enclosure, without parting with any money as part of an initiative hoped to encourage more owners to catch the racing bug.

For trainers like Burke, it could also offer a lifeline. The Cork trainer recalls My Murphy's success in the Thyestes two years ago as one of his career highlights (along with the Galway Plate win for Sir Frederick in 2007 and the Irish Arkle Novice Chase victory of Thyne Again a year later) but admits life is getting tougher for smaller trainers.

With 15 horses in training at his Conna, Co Cork yard, the fact that Sumos Novios translates as "It's Impossible" from Spanish to English is poignant given the unprecedented level of success and support of owners presently being enjoyed by top trainers like Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott.

"It's very hard to compete at that level at the moment but it's nice to have a horse in it with a chance because it's next to impossible nowadays," Burke said of the 10/1 shot.

With Gold Cup-winning jockey Robbie 'Puppy' Power in the plate - as he was two years ago when My Murphy prevailed - anything is possible however, and this has been the plan since he was just touched off in a Punchestown handicap chase two months ago.


Notoriously difficult to keep sound, Burke ran Sumos Novios at Christmas but he was "stuffed" when trying to concede just over two stone to De Benno in a Limerick handicap chase, However, he's happy with what his charge has been showing on the gallops at home and believes a fairytale success is a small possibility.

"He's a huge horse, 17.3 hands and it's been hard to keep him right. Every other year I've had problems with keeping him right but, touch wood, everything has gone right this year. We always had high hopes for this lad but he's so bloody fragile," Burke said.

"He had the potential to be top class but he had so many niggly little problems and the handicapper probably has him. His two seconds this year have seen him go up seven pounds.

"That could cost me in the long run but he's a big horse and he can carry it. He has a nice racing weight in the Thyestes and ground is the key to him. He's able for that type of heavy ground."

Elsewhere, racing has been plunged into sadness as English trainer Richard Woollacott, who landed his most high-profile win with Beer Goggles in the Long Distance Hurdle at Newbury last month, passed away aged 40.

Champion jockey Richard Johnson led the tributes to Woollacott. "He was a lovely fellow to have around and always good fun. He always had a smile on his face at the races and it's just very sad. He hadn't got many horses but had just started to get a couple of nice ones and everyone is in shock."

Meanwhile, the outstanding quality of two Irish Group One races have cemented their place in racing's history as the Irish Derby and Matron Stakes were ranked the best races in the world in their respective categories for the past year. Yesterday's 2017 Irish, European and World Thoroughbred Rankings rated the Irish Derby as the leading three-year-old race, while the Matron Stakes was voted the best fillies and mares' race.

Irish Independent

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