Point taken as Bowe keeps churning out champions
Point-to-pointing has always been a breeding ground for future champions. One of the greatest producers of all, the late Tom Costello, was responsible for six individual winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup alone, three-in-a-row legend Best Mate included.
In recent years however, what was largely a sport in the Corinthian sense has become an industry, with unbroken three-year-olds being bought and educated by trainers with the express purpose of selling them on for profit.
Only on Friday, Angel's Breath, the 12-length victor of a Moira maiden last April when under the guidance of Pat Doyle, won a Grade Two hurdle on his racecourse debut at Ascot, now trained by Nicky Henderson. While such an immediate high-level return isn't the norm, owners shelling out increasingly eye-watering sums of money for young horses are doing so with the intention of being able to go racing quickly.
Colin Bowe has been leading point-to-point handler six times, and graduates of Milestone Stables in Kiltealy have been victorious at five of the last six Cheltenham Festivals. After spells with fellow Wexford natives Jim Bolger and Aidan O'Brien, Bowe struck out on his own but despite enjoying a fair degree of success, could not make ends meet.
"When I was after winning the championship for the second time and I wasn't able to pay the nut bill, that's when I changed," says Bowe. "At the end of it all, there was no money in the kitty.
"The first horse that got me going was Desoto County, who I bought for seven grand six years ago, and Donald McCain bought him off me for a 100 grand. That got me going to be able to buy a few more and we built it from there."
Now, Bowe has 75 horses, the vast majority of which will be moved on. There have been some red-letter days at the sales ring. Envoi Allen was sold to Cheveley Park Stud for £400,000, a week after bolting up by 10 lengths in Ballinaboola, while Samcro went to Gigginstown House Stud for €335,000 a couple of years ago.
Western Warhorse, Snowy Morning, Clondaw Warrior, Shinrock Paddy and The Druids Nephew are just some of his former protégés that went on to flourish for new owners, while Getabird, The Glancing Queen, Port Stanley, Court Liability and Ramses de Teillee will be advertising the credentials of the Bowe finishing school in the near future.
"You'd like to tick all the boxes but I'd rather have a big, fine horse after winning well. Having a horse is the number one, though a (pedigree) page always helps.
"Stores are very dear now but you can't buy them all for 50 and 60 grand, or you wouldn't have very many. You have to have horses for every market and for all the expensive ones that make a lot of money, there are more of them that don't, while sometimes the cheap one can get you the return.
"The Glancing Queen only cost eight grand, she made 80 and she won a listed bumper at Cheltenham in November. She ran against the big boys (on Friday) and ran great, she was beaten less than three lengths. So that's the other side of it.
"The key is to have them jumping really well. Once they do that, they have a chance. That's where the staff come in. We have 10 lads and eight of them would school over a fence on any given day. That is so important; it needs to be done right from the start. Any bad experience early on could ruin a horse."
Bowe is delighted with the progress of his battalion for the spring campaign and reels off a list of names, pedigrees and achievements before being prevailed upon to be more selective.
"We have a very nice crop of horses that will hopefully go well. I have a Presenting horse that's a half-brother to King Roland, who won a bumper for Harry Fry (on Friday) that's very nice. Ballymorris Rosie is a daughter of Askanna, who won graded races for me over hurdles and fences, and is by Getaway and she's going well.
"Lady Plumette is out of a smart filly and is doing nicely while Doyourjob is a gorgeous Fame And Glory we've high hopes for who is turning five."
He does have four to compete under rules and is optimistic of a bold show from Western Victory for owner Seán O'Neill on New Year's Day. But producing future superstars greases the wheel.
At least now he can pay the nut bill.
Sunday Indo Sport