Byrne confident Recall can get it right this year
The Irish National Stud shared a photo of two of its most famous residents, Hurricane Fly and Hardy Eustace, during the week, nose to nose, possibly reminiscing about the four Champion Hurdles they shared evenly between them.
It brought a smile to the face of Lar Byrne, in whose colours Hardy ran, and it means the world that the 22-year-old is enjoying his retirement.
Byrne's eight siblings - Joe, Pat, John, Alicia, Ger, Bernard, Michael and Catherine - didn't share his passion for racing initially but as Hardy repelled all challengers when winning three times at the Cheltenham Festival, they contracted the fever.
So Byrne shelved his own silks and the Slaneyville Syndicate was born, named in honour of the Tullow home they grew up in.
Schindler's Hunt and Acapella Bourgeois provided numerous opportunities for them all to catch up, and there were significant triumphs too. The latter has had plenty of issues but is pleasing the Willie Mullins brains trust with his work and still holds an entry in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
So too does Total Recall, who was tanking along in the race last year when coming down at the third last, but subsequently failed to justify favouritism in the Aintree Grand National when pulled up.
Prior to that, he had shown phenomenal improvement in his first season at Closutton, winning the Munster National, the Ladbrokes Trophy and the William Fry Handicap Hurdle, bagging more than €200,000 in the process.
Byrne was quick to hail Mullins' prowess but also to emphasise the patience shown by the late Dessie Hughes, who bought him, and his great friend's daughter Sandra, who took over the licence when the trainer died, before herself handing in her licence.
When Total Recall followed up Aintree with another below-par effort at Punchestown, Byrne and Mullins were scratching their heads, but the 10-year-old's runner-up finish to stablemate Al Boum Photo at Tramore on New Year's Day confirmed his well-being.
"It was a super run," Byrne agrees. "He ran a super race and we were thrilled to be second in a very competitive race. His highlight last year was the big one in Newbury. Willie had him 100 per cent spot on that day. Then he won that very valuable William Fry handicap in Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival.
"We went on to Cheltenham and he was running a huge race. I think he was fierce unlucky the way he spilled over the third last. I believe he would have been involved in the finish. I'm not saying he would have won but he certainly would have taken third spot, and maybe second.
"We all thought he was OK but he went on to Aintree and he never jumped a fence. I think the horse could have been hurting. After that we should really have called it a day but as Willie said to me coming up to Punchestown, if there was a race for the cat out of Closutton, it was going. We certainly weren't going to stand in his way (chasing the trainer's title)."
Byrne is optimistic about the son of Westerner's chances in today's Grade Two Horse and Jockey Chase at Thurles - the Kinloch Brae to you and me.
"He's fit and well now. The ground has held it up but that's the case for everyone. He's now rated 156. Realistically, he's a few pounds short of being a Grade One horse that we'd all wish for.
"You'd imagine this race is up his street. The weight and conditions are very favourable to him. So let's go and see what he can do and map it from there. Fingers crossed, we'd all still wish to get across the water to Cheltenham in March."
Byrne favours choosing one or the other, rather than taking in both Cheltenham and Aintree, as happened last year.
Catherine passed away 12 months ago, placing even more value on the family gatherings.
"The usual posse will all line up in Thurles. The weather is meant to be fine, and what else would you be doing on a Sunday?"
Sunday Indo Sport