Please forgive the fact that a piece very similar to this appeared in this space at the same time last year. Indeed, comparable offerings could reasonably be put together around now during every National Hunt racing season. Now read on…
Some will doubtless scoff at such an assertion in the case of people like #WillieMullins and #RichRicci. But the headline is essentially true – when it comes to getting a horse to the #Cheltenham Festival, the ups and downs of racing impose themselves on folk within the fraternity whether they have one horse or a hundred.
Now, before any high or low horses are mounted, of course the flamboyant – and from my own brief encounters with him – affable American is in the fortunate position of being able to reroute some of his vast equine artillery when things go wrong. He is not, though, immune from feelings of upset or disappointment when one of his horses gets injured. Nobody of any acceptable level of reason can countenance any animal being hurt.
Faugheen’s defection after picking up an ailment in training will, from the perspective of many punters, have put paid to a lot of ante post wagers (both singles and multiples). On a simpler, non monetary terms, it has devoid the showpiece event on the opening day of its star attraction.
That said, as was stated earlier, the owner’s considerable resources allow him the not inconsiderable luxury of – as looks most likely – create a diversion in the probably long held plans for his prodigiously talented mare, Annie Power. And such is the talent pool which goes into battle in the famed pink and green-spotted silks, they will still be live contenders in many of the major races during the third week of next month. However, the possibly precocious talent of the vastly touted Min notwithstanding, it must be conceded that what currently must rank as the greatest of all the owner/trainer combination’s equine excellence will be missing from the action.
All of which, you might think, could open the door for someone else to a bountiful spring harvest. In one sense, it does, as it increases the chances of success for owners such as Andrea and Graham Wylie and Wicklow Bloodstock – owners of Nichols Canyon and Arctic Fire respectively. Except they, too, do business under the mighty Mullins banner.
If one was to try and ascertain to best chances of Irish winners outside of Closutton, it’s probably instructive enough that Gordon Elliott and Henry De Bromhead are his nearest, albeit somewhat distant, pursuers in the Irish NH trainer’s championship. Waterford’s De Bromhead will most likely send over hopes with genuine chances in the form of Smashing, Sizing John and Supasundae.
Such is the array of quality available to Elliott – main sponsor to Summerhill GAA Club – that it’d be hard to put a definitive handle on the best chances of winners coming from Cullentra Stables. Don Cossack and No More Heroes are the obvious start point for any such assessment though. From a personal point of view, I’d love to see Jetstream Jack go well were he to pitch up in any of the races as he was, of course, on my list of horses to follow put together at the start of the jumps season.
It’s often been said before, but, Elliott is undoubtedly the rising star within the Irish training fraternity and even though it might seem odd repeating that given that he’s fairly well established at this stage, it may be a cliché but the sense is the best is yet to come. While the Mullins juggernaut shows no signs of easing up anytime soon, Elliott’s coronation as training kingpin is surely a triumph waiting to happen.
Recently, he achieved another milestone in his already burgeoning career when amassing his 100th winner in Ireland in a season for the first time. No matter what numbers a handler may have at his disposal, clocking up such numbers takes talent and skill and judgement and skill and it would appear that, at present, for Elliott, the possibilities are endless.
Yet, one of the best aspects of NH racing is what makes the words atop this piece ring true. Indeed, it’s perhaps one of the most special parts of the lure of Cheltenham – to see someone of lesser profile get their chance to mix with the elite. Think of Tom Foley with Danoli years back or English farmer cum trainer Anthony Knott with Hunt Ball.
Well, this year, Meath’s Gavin Cromwell may get his chance to live the dream as his talented juvenile mare Jer’s Girl may well rock up in some of the contests in her bracket. Her doing so would recall the glory day for another local small trainer John Carr who annexed Champion Hurdle glory with Sublimity.
Carr was amongst the winners on a great day for Meath racing at Naas recently, as were jockeys Andrew Lynch and Robbie Power (both in great form lately), as well as another Royal County trainer, Cathy O’Leary. It’s the fact that all sorts of people have a chance in National Hunt that makes it so wonderful.