Tuesday 23 January 2018

Nandiga proof things are on the up at Melitta

Much about what we do here in Melitta Lodge is designed to create a calm sense of security for the horses. It's a philosophy that takes time to achieve, but there was a serenity about the place before I ever took over, given that it's one of the oldest yards on the Curragh.

Now, with my father Paddy, who preceded me here, as an invaluable assistant, and a brilliant six-strong team of staff, we have a wonderfully cheery and relaxed environment. That is vital for me. I don't even like to hear voices being raised in the yard, so, if you had the wrong personality, you just wouldn't fit in.

It may be a cliché, but we wouldn't be enjoying the success we are, if it weren't for the lads that we have. My wife Grainne ensures that I leave the house properly dressed every day -- which is no small task -- but it's the staff who set the tone in the yard.

I don't employ any jockeys, for example, so the grooms do all the riding out. Chris Hayes and Niall McCullagh ride work for us once or twice a week, but our two-year-olds invariably go to the track with a bit to learn because of the way we do things.

To that end, for Nandiga to oblige at the first time of asking at the Curragh on Saturday says much about her capabilities.

A trip to Royal Ascot might eventually be an option for her, but she is still so babyish in her attitude that I have put her in the Listed race at Naas on Monday to give her more experience. That will effectively be a trial for Ascot.

Coral Wave is another that may head for the Royal meeting, but she would need a cut in the ground. Third on her re-appearance in the 1,000 Guineas trial at Leopardstown, her form is working out well, so I'd love her to have a tilt at the Coronation Stakes.

If there isn't enough give, though, she'll wait for the Pretty Polly Stakes instead. Sean Coogan, her regular work-rider, did a lovely breeze on her on Wednesday morning and I'm convinced there will be a big day in her, so she'll be trained accordingly.

For me to be even talking about horses of the quality of Nandiga and Coral Wave is incredible. In 10 years training, my best year was in 2005 when we had nine winners, but I was heavily reliant on the building trade for owners at the time.

As a result, I was one of the first to feel the effects of the recession and my accounts looked pretty ugly for a couple of years. Now, I have mostly foreign owners, with Rick Barnes, an American who owns Grangecon Stud in Wicklow, but lives in the Bahamas, one of my main patrons. Thankfully, things are back on the up and up.

Coppertop, which finished second on its reappearance at Gowran Park in May, is another of Rick's that will go close at Listowel on Sunday if she gets a nice draw.

Then on Monday, as well as Nandiga, we've got Canary Row in the colts' Listed race, so it promises to be an informative day for a couple of our better juveniles. After that, I will be looking forward to running my old friend Wandering Aengus, which was second at Cork last week, in the maiden hurdle at Tipperary on Thursday.

While my grandfather, 'Darkie' as he was known, famously specialised in Flat horses, my father did well with jumpers, and I love keeping one in the yard. Dad, Grainne and our three kids share ownership of Aengus, so he's a horse that means a lot to the family, although he has had more than his share of problems. He's overdue a rub of the green.

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

Irish Independent

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