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Roadtoabbeyfeale keeps me dreaming

For a boy who grew up just over the road in Ballyduff, the Listowel Harvest Festival is still one of the biggest weeks of the year. Back in the day, you'd get the week off school and we'd always head for the races to watch our heroes.

My father Liam was a butcher, but his father Bob kept ponies and he was a big influence on me and my three brothers, Robbie, Willie and Gerry. We all got into pony racing and worked our way through the system before embarking on riding careers in England.

I began with the late Arthur Stephenson in 1987, and to this day he is the trainer whose methods and philosophy I adhere to as best I can.

He was a fabulous man to learn from, a natural around horses who knew how to get the best out of them. What might now be considered old-fashioned staying chasers were what he lived for and, while times have changed and you have to move with them, they are still the sort of horses that stir the most excitement in me.

Roadtoabbeyfeale is one such individual. Since I took the job as Johnny Byrne's private trainer here at Feale View Stud in Duagh three years ago, we have done our best to concentrate on quality rather than quantity, and this fellow is exactly what we are after -- a genuinely exciting chasing prospect.

He'd been running well in maiden hurdles, so we brought him to Listowel on Sunday with a degree of confidence that, once he handled the testing ground, he would nearly win. In the event, Eddie O'Connell hardly had a moment's worry on him.

Kilcara Boy won for us at the festival last year as well, so it meant a lot to be able to take something out of the meeting again.

If I've learned nothing else about life in racing, it is that you must celebrate the good times when they come round, and I enjoyed a few drinks with my partner Lorna at Johnny's place on Sunday night.

Lorna and I run the operation together. We met 16 years ago when she was head girl at Muriel Naughton's yard in Yorkshire, so she knows as much about the game as I do.

Training is not easy, but we are settling in nicely, busy trying to get established. I always believe that, if you work hard and keep at it, the breaks will come.

Wednesday's Kerry National result proves as much. Eric McNamara was at the height of his powers when winning two-in-a-row with Ponmeoath a few years ago, but the job got tough since and he has endured a few hard seasons.

He kept the faith, though, and Faltering Fullback and Questions Answered's one-two was an incredible feat. It's funny, but Listowel just seems to be lucky for some.

During my time as Ferdy Murphy's head lad, I used to ride Macs Supreme in all his work.

When the horse ran in the Kerry National in 2000, I was the one that came over with him, so the place was kind to me before I ever trained myself.

Unfortunately, Gerry had no such luck when he brought David Pipe's Premier Dane over for the big race. A bit like myself -- and unlike Robbie and Willie, who both had fantastic riding careers -- Gerry had a solid rather than spectacular time in the saddle.

However, he has forged a great relationship with the Pipe family and is one of David's right-hand men these days. Premier Dane took a heavy fall early on after travelling all the way over on Wednesday, but that's the nature of the game.

Still, it was good to catch up with Gerry, and the hope would be that some day we might have one good enough here at Feale View to justify its place in a Kerry National. Right now, we are a small fish in a big pond, but you've got to dream.

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

Irish Independent