Rugby stars are living Leopardstown dream
Ian Madigan and Dominic Ryan are dreaming of glory in the Leopardstown Christmas festival's richest race - putting their trust in "a genius" to deliver.
Co-owners of The Crafty Butcher, the rugby stars were thrilled with his finishing third at Navan on Sunday and the sponsor believes the horse may well go off favourite in the €190,000 Paddy Power Chase on December 27.
If things go to plan, he could tackle the Cheltenham festival and the €500,000 Irish Grand National later in the season. Irish internationals, Bordeaux-based Madigan and Leinster's Ryan, cannot wait for Christmas.
Mutual friend Paul Byrne sourced The Crafty Butcher and is co-owner. Byrne recommended trainer Willie Mullins Rockyaboya - which went on to win the Paddy Power - in 2013.
Ryan said: "Paul, Ian and I are good mates since school days and all have an interest in racing. Paul has taken us down to Willie's around Cheltenham over the last few years.
"We always said we'll have a horse down there but it was about waiting for the right horse. Paul has incredible knowledge of horses and sourced The Crafty Butcher as a perfect horse at the right price (£11,000)."
Madigan, who says he is "really enjoying life in France", is placing his faith in the champion trainer to produce The Crafty Butcher in peak shape in Foxrock.
He said: "I've such fond memories of going to Leopardstown for Christmas and always dreamt of having a winner there. My granny, granddad and uncle John would collect me on St Stephen's Day. My granddad used to give me £1 per race, £2 for one I really fancied.
"Willie is an absolute genius; what he has done in recent years is incredible. He's been great talking us through the horses' routine and son Patrick is co-owner too."
The out-half will be back from injury for the upcoming European games before Christmas. Afterwards, he is hoping that he can join Byrne and Ryan to cheer on The Crafty Butcher.
"We were over the moon with Navan," he said, Ryan adding: "He was highly enough rated to enter some bigger handicaps but not too highly rated that he couldn't win. He seemed a perfect horse to go in on together and have fun on the way."