Basing your game plan for life on an old saying may not be a common or wise thing to do. However, if it’s a point which retains credence then surely it is worth sticking by. That said, even if the road does veer in what turns out to be a pleasant direction, any deviation from the original intention may still stir mixed emotions. Now read on…
For an all too brief period, yours truly in as many ways as possible lived the racehorse ownership dream. Fate decreed that heartache would be the ultimate outcome in terms of taking the venture to desired levels. It was also, though, on that basis that belief in the old maxim about the Almighty not closing one door without opening another was reinforced.
The most recent New Years Day fixture in Fairyhouse was very much a case of recalling poignant memories whilst making new ones. For, four years to the day since myself, my dad and our dear departed friend Ollie Cunningham were in situ to see Andrew McNamara partner Spruce Cottage, it was great to be there – if only on the periphery of matters – for another special local story as Mydor sluiced in for the Dunboyne based Mulvany’s Bar Syndicate.
It’s at such times that the pining for the racing dream tends to be at its most acute. Though obviously and genuinely delighted for those involved, when withdrawn from the buzz and reflecting quietly the gut feeling was very much one of what might have been or so near and yet so far.
Still, it’s beyond doubt that had the horse dream been chased, the farming one would’ve been put permanently beyond resuscitation. It’s at that point that pangs of sadness are assuaged by a realisation that the old tale about the spirit in the sky and the doors has more than a few grains of truth to it. Who knows, maybe farming will enable a revisiting of the racing ambition. One must never say never.
It’s always uplifting to see people known to me do well at sport at the same time, regardless of what code it happens to be. Mydor certainly didn’t lack for encouragement before or congratulation after his second victory. Indeed, such was the authority with which Shane Shortall’s mount did the needful that the inclination was to order one of the black and red scarves off Des McCaffrey as there’s surely more to come from the Stormy River 5-year-old.
Mind you, a selection of silks from Meath trainer’s yards could’ve been justifiably nailed to masts over the Christmas period. Mydor’s trainer, Tony Martin, enjoyed a very bountiful festive season as Blair Perrone and – more significantly – Living Next Door gave the handler and owner John Breslin and rider Denis O’Regan a day in Dublin 4 to remember.
Equally of note, for all that, was Gordon Elliott cementing his standing as currently the most tangible competition to the Willie Mullins juggernaut with a succession of impressive winners while the belief long held by Noel Meade and others – including yours truly – pertaining to Road To Riches was further validated when the Gamut gelding annexed his third major monetary haul of the season in the Lexus Chase. Thus keeping the Cheltenham dream still very much on the road. The Castletown handler enjoyed further success when the consistent mare Down Ace enjoyed an overdue success while Russian Bill looked a promising sort when benefitting from all Nina Carberry’s class to nab a Leopardstown bumper on the line.
There’s something even more special, you know, about seeing a smaller establishments enjoy moments of prominence at some of the headline moments in the season. To that end, special mention must be afforded to Ratoath’s Dermot McLoughlin. Westerner’s Son provided him and rider Conor Maxwell with a St Stephen’s Day winner at Leopardstown.
However, in many ways the performance of the battle hardened veteran Vics Canvass in coming third in the Paddy Power Chase should direct as much if not more praise towards the man in whose care the horse resides. Especially given the problems the horse has obviously endured during his career. Starting a horse off over fences as an 11-year-old is no easy call but it’s a move which has rewarded his owners – who include At The Races anchor Gary O’Brien – handsomely and you sense the story may not be concluded yet.
Ordinarily, the latter would be a fitting concluding point to any locally centred success laden story. Consider for a moment, though, Moynalty trainer Des McDonogh. Someone who enjoyed success at the highest level many years ago, it’s fair to say the father of top flat rider Declan hasn’t been as prominent in recent years.
That may be about to change. Prior to Christmas, his Ring Chief – in the famous silks of Mrs JS Bolger ran a very creditable second in a competitive contest. Over the holiday season, however, Fiscal Focus was a shock winner of a top Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown – defeating the presumed unbeatable Kalkir – while Theophilus also looked a useful recruit to jumps when scoring at the Dublin 4 venue.
In the wake of the successes, McDonogh commented that he hadn’t had a runner in Cheltenham since 1987. The gap may be about to be bridged.