Sport Horse Racing

Sunday 16 December 2018

Nursery of champions

Trainers often spot rising stars on Fairyhouse's quality track

Samcro, with Lisa O’Neill up, won by 17 lengths at Fairyhouse last Easter. The novice also triumphed at Cheltenham this year and is considered to be one of Irish racing's best prospects in recent years
Samcro, with Lisa O’Neill up, won by 17 lengths at Fairyhouse last Easter. The novice also triumphed at Cheltenham this year and is considered to be one of Irish racing's best prospects in recent years
Balko De Flos has won at both Fairyhouse and Cheltenham
Cheltenham star Presenting Percy ridden by Davy Russell jumps the last fence to win at Fairyhouse
Fairyhouse veteran Shattered Love after victory at this year's Cheltenham

Daragh Ó Conchúir

Fairyhouse is long established as a place where dreams come true, horses become champions and add to their lore.

Arkle, Flyingbolt and Fortria were among those that followed up Gold Cup or Champion Chase triumphs at Cheltenham with spectacular feats of weight-carrying around Ballyhack and its environs in the BoyleSports Irish Grand National. 

Tied Cottage added his name to the roll of honour after falling at the last when in front of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  

What is sometimes forgotten however is the venue's role in giving birth to the dream itself and then testing it out.  

With the quality of the track and the absence of hiding places, luck is less a factor in Fairyhouse than most other tracks. The best horse tends to win. 

That is why in the 170 years since the Ward Union Hunt ran the first meeting at the Ratoath racecourse in 1848, trainers have always brought many of their better youngsters to be trialled there. 

You tend to know what you have when you leave Fairyhouse for the first time. It is a proven nursery. 

Prince Regent won the BoyleSports Irish Grand National in 1942, the first of Tom Dreaper's record 10 victories in the race. World War II prevented Jimmy Rank's gelding from challenging for the major cross-channel prizes in his pomp but he still claimed the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1946 as an 11-year-old. 

Bobbyjo (1998) and Numbersixvalverde (2005) are two winners that went on to be triumphant at the following season's Aintree Grand National. 

The Ryanair Gold Cup has proven a wonderful pointer of the years too. Captain Christy claimed the honours in 1974 and 11 months later, was the toast of Cheltenham. Carvill's Hill and Rince Ri are just two others that went on to enjoy further success. 

Last year's winner, Road To Respect ran a cracker to finish fourth in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year on unsuitably soft ground. 

One of the favourites for that race was the 2017 BoyleSports Irish Grand National victor, Our Duke. He was never happy in the conditions but at just eight years old, the imposing galloper is sure to be back for another go. 

There were plenty of graduates from the Fairyhouse academy that travelled to Cheltenham with significant prospects of glory and quite a few of them rubber-stamped their qualities, and that of Fairyhouse as a producer of champions. 

Those that attended the 2017 Easter Festival were lucky enough not just to see Our Duke and Road To Respect hit new heights, but at the completely novice level, Samcro winning a bumper. Trained not far away by Gordon Elliott, the son of Germany showcased his massive engine by bounding clear under Lisa O'Neill to win by 17 lengths.  

He went to Cheltenham this year and won the Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle as he liked. He is considered one of the best prospects Irish racing has seen in recent years. 

Samcro, Road To Respect and Our Duke could be joined in future Cheltenham Gold Cups by Presenting Percy, who was one of the most impressive winners of the entire Cheltenham Festival when steaming away from a quality-laden field in the RSA Chase. 

Pat Kelly's charge won the At The Races Hurdle at the track in February 2017 as his final prep race before registering a facile victory in the Pertemps Network Final at Cheltenham. So it was no surprise that he would return at the Winter Festival last December, this time for the Bar One Racing Porterstown Chase, which he garnered with 11 lengths in hand. 

Coral Cup winner Bleu Berry won his maiden hurdle at Fairyhouse and returned to bag the Grade 2 Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Novice Hurdle. Thursday really advertised Fairyhouse's role as a maker of champions, with three horses that won their beginners' chases at the track going on to major success, and another confirming the extreme promise she had shown over hurdles. 

JLT Novice Chase heroine, Shattered Love has run at Fairyhouse more than anywhere else and is two for three, bagging the Grade 3 Coolmore Soldier Of Fortune Novice Hurdle in February 2017 before getting her chasing career off to the perfect start eight months later. 

Balko Des Flos got off the mark over the larger obstacles on New Year's Day 2017 and he, of course, bagged the Galway Plate before lowering the colours of the brilliant Un De Sceaux to give Michael O'Leary a first success in the Ryanair Chase. 

And Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate winner The Storyteller did the business last December. 

Meanwhile, Laurina treated her opposition with complete contempt in the Mares' Novice Hurdle, in much the same manner as she had done in taking the Grade 3 Solerina Hurdle in January. 

On Friday, Blow By Blow never saw the opposition in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle. The future Grade 1 victory won a bumper at Fairyhouse and finished third and second in two maiden hurdles to indicate the ability he possessed. 

The evidence just keeps stacking up. You cannot beat Fairyhouse form. 

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