Sport Horse Racing

Thursday 12 December 2019

Far more than Scintilla of hope with dad pulling the strings from on high

A few years ago, my father John told me that Scintilla, a broodmare we had at home on the farm in Kilworth, would be the making of me.

At the time, he had just presented me with her first foal for us, a mare by Blueprint that I named Caoimhe's Delight, after my daughter.

His words seem almost prophetic now. Dad died in October and, within a few weeks, Caoimhe's Delight won a bumper at Punchestown. Then Golantilla – by Golan out of Scintilla – hacked up on his point-to-point debut in Dungourney.

That was the toughest day I have put down since burying dad. He knew as well as I did what Golantilla was capable of, so it was a pity that he wasn't there to see it.

I took the horse to Brightwells Sale in Cheltenham a few days later. It has been said since that I was brave to turn down big money for him, but dad would have done the same.

This was a horse of a lifetime. He'd have said: "No, bring him home and win a bumper with him." Golantilla did just that at Cork on Saturday.

The place just erupted when he hit the front. My mother knew what was at stake, so she came along too. A Gold Cup winner wouldn't have got the reception we got – I've never seen anything like it. We're a close family, and I think people appreciated what we'd been through.

The next morning we struck a deal to sell Golantilla to Barry Connell for €375,000 and he left for Tony Martin's yard on Wednesday.

Finding a horse like him is all we ever dreamed of, so it was bittersweet to see him go. Selling is what we do, though. I never doubted Golantilla, but a horse can knock a leg in a box and I wanted to get the job done for my mother, so it was a relief to conclude the deal.

It was a long few weeks since Brightwells and I just hope he is as lucky for Barry and Tony now.

Wilde Wit Pleasure won for a first time in three and a half years for us on Saturday as well, so it was a great day at our local track. People have been saying to me that dad must be pulling a few strings from on high and how could you argue with them? The horses are running great.

Over Christmas, Caoimhe's Delight won again at Limerick and Wedding Present was just touched off at Leopardstown. I'd expect him to go one better next time.

A couple of years ago, we had up to 100 horses, but we are down from 15 broodmares to five, with about 30 on the ground in all. However, our philosophy is the same and it won't change now. Dad paid £600 for Scintilla and we look for similar value with stallions – Golantilla's sire Golan stood for just a couple of grand at Grange Stud.

My uncle Dick and I ride out the eight we have in training and Ciaran Fennessy, who does such a good job on everything he rides for us, helps out on work mornings.


Having worked closely with Joe Crowley during my time with Aidan O'Brien many years ago, I, like dad, always love the challenge of readying one for a bumper. Joe was the bumper king back then, and I'm sure much of what I learned from him in Piltown stood to me in recent weeks. In Kilworth, horses and hurling are everything.

Last year, our hurlers won the county intermediate title, so what has happened this week is the second big lift for the village in the space of a few months.

Everyone has been unbelievably supportive and I have also been touched by the generosity of spirit we have been shown in recent days from people who I would hardly know.

It has been a roller-coaster since dad died, but I have seen a lot of good in people this week. In times like these, that has been as much a source of comfort as anything.

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