Thursday 22 February 2018

We're so proud of Maarek -- he's put us on the map

Days at the races don't come much better than Newmarket last Sunday. Maarek has developed into the horse of a lifetime for me over the past couple of years, to such an extent that I ran out of suitable races for him in this country. For a restricted trainer that only has a licence a short time, that's a nice complaint to have.

There isn't a huge selection of sprints for highly rated handicappers here in Ireland so once Newmarket looked set to come up soft, we made for the boat.

The Guineas festival in England is a bit like The Curragh on Derby weekend. All the big boys are out in force and everything looks ship-shape, but Maarek did us proud, powering home for Joseph O'Brien in the Qatar Racing Handicap.

He has put my stable in Mocklers Hill -- in between Fethard and Cashel -- on the map.


And to think I nearly moved him on at the sales after last season. He is an extremely laid-back horse that works the same alongside a point-to-pointer as he would beside another sprinter, so it can be particularly hard to gauge how much more is in him.

I'm just so glad he wasn't sold and I'll be forever grateful to Peter McCutcheon, who is my fiancee Evanna's father, for finding him for me. Peter does a lot of our buying, and still has a share in Maarek, so he made the journey over at the weekend as well.

Because I had a runner at The Curragh on Monday, we had to make a beeline for the boat from Newmarket on Sunday evening. We landed back in the yard at 9.30 on Monday morning, and by 11.30 the lorry was back on the road to headquarters.

While Elwazeer, which had been in super form at Dundalk, simply didn't cope with the soft ground there, I was humbled by the reception I got at the races. People I thought didn't even know who I was congratulated me, which was lovely.

Racing can be a lonely game when things are going badly, but it's the best game in the world when things are going well. To be able to walk around The Curragh with your head held high like that is a wonderful feeling.

Evanna and I run the yard together, although it's fair to say that she is the backbone of the whole operation. She rides out, mucks out, does the paperwork and is plucky enough to ride in a lot of the cross-country races as well.

We are very fortunate to be situated at the heart of Irish racing, with the use of superb facilities nearby at Dick Lalor's, Willie Browne's and Thomond O'Mara's. Dick's daughter Liz and Seamie Heffernan often help Evanna with the work-riding.

Imagine having a two-time Irish Derby-winning jockey telling you what's what, and Liz is a top-class amateur to boot. On Wednesday morning, we took a few sharp two-year-olds to gallop at Thomond's.

Riding in a three-mile chase might be more Liz's thing, but she was there with bells on, happy to help out any way she could.

To have such quality riders at your disposal is vital. We have made real progress here in just a couple of years and Evanna, Liz and Seamie have played a huge part in that.

Maarek has the option of turning out at York again next week, with Long Strand and Rathkenny Flyer pencilled in for Killarney on Monday. Rathkenny Flyer probably needs the ground to dry, but he wouldn't be without a chance in the bumper if it does.

For once, I won't be in attendance, as on Monday I begin a five-day course at The Curragh for my full licence. That is a big commitment to take on but, as the fella says, there isn't much point in doing things by half.

For more information on racing

in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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