Would you stake your claim?

It may have been mentioned here in the last few months, but, I haven’t been able to watch a cattle mart since da went ringside up yonder. Tried watching Carnaross again last night – the minute an Angus heifer entered the ring Niagra Falls emerged from behind my glassess.

Horse racing has remained a constant however. In that case, a mixture of comfort, happy mekories and utter heartache. The first part of that hardly needs elaboration, the other bit does however. The amoint of times I’ve gone to head for the kitchen or to ring him wwhen a winner had been either tipped or backed would go a fair way into the total number of balls in the Lotto.

Also poignantly doing laps of the head ldtely has been the all too brief period when I was a kind of ad hoc Racing Manager for Ollie Cunningham. And most likely himself as well. Though that was never admitted. It was, though, probably the nearest I will ever to get to even partial racehorse ownership.

Not that opportunities haven’t arisen. There were chances which could’ve been offered in this direction but weren’t and that fact will hurt as long as these wheels are turning. There is another avenue which could be explored and may well be which would leave chances not offered in the shade.

However, if any stock related happiness is to be re-captured, gut feeling is it may come via bovines or poultry. Though lately another possible avenue into the Sport Of Kings has both re-ignited a little bit of spark and stoke a sense of intrigue and curiosity in this seat – Claiming races.

Admittedly not a whole lot was known about tbe concept of claiming races until recently. Indeed, there are still aspects of the system I’m a bit confused by but at this point in time feelings would be very mixed about the concept.

With respect, it would be regarded as the lowest grade of racing. Put it this way, in Britain they are known as ‘Selling’ races. The idea being that there’s an auction after the race in which bids can be placed on steeds who partook therein. Which is where the conundrum as to their merits arises for yours truly.

They are very much a doubled edged sword. If you are lucky enough to own a racehorse – or even a few hairs in the backside of one – a Class 7 handicap or a point-to-point is as important and special as the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In fact, for those it is their Gold Cup.

Last Sunday, Dunboyne’s Darren ‘Red’ Dunne had his moment when his Magheralagan claimed the 5-yo+ Maiden at Tattersalls ‘Point’. Trained by Alison Murphy and her partner Mick Reilly, the jubilant scenes at the Ratoath venue were in celebration of a long term project coming to fruition.

The winning owner reflected “What a day. Our first day at a Point-To-Point in over two years and we go and get a winner. Massive thanks to Ally, Mick, Neil (Gault, winning jockey) and Aileen (O’Sullivan) for making it possible.

It may only have been a Point-To-Point but it means as much to me as the Gold Cup”. I hear you Red, as will anybody who has ever shared the same dream. It was your Gold Cup. But hopefully just another step on the ladder for a training operation going places.

Owner Darren Dunne (right) and other connections following the victory

That represents one avenue by which people can get an ‘In’ to racehorse ownership. Claiming races are another. If my reading of them is correct – and please advise in the comments below if otherwise – horses entered in such contests are affixed with a price – presumably their estimated market value. In the aftermath of the heat, then, an auction takes place wherein if anyone is willing to meet the asking price they can claim the horse. However, here’s the bit that I’ve no problem admitting confuses me – when vendors (sellers)can ‘buy back in’ their own animal. Does that not equate to paying for the same horse twice? Again, any education gratefully received.

After debating the issue in my head, I still can’t decide am I a fan or not. The factor doing most to bring me down in the negative column is the following: if you’ve had a horse for some time, and invested time and money into the bloodstock, if your patience has paid off in the shape of a winner, how big of a letdown would it be to have to it go with it having, albeit belatedly, got the head in front.

There is a school of thought – easy enough to enroll in too I suppose – that if a horse is running in Selling/Claiming company it’s on the downgrade. Viewed through a different lens, though, those type of races can just as easily be a stepping stone onto betterment. Now, by no means am I saying the likes of Hunt Ball started at such a level but it does demonstrate that even in horse racing incremental progress is possible.

James McAuley does exceptionally well with economical purchases

For the best example of this, look no further than James McAuley (pictured above). His orange silks with green and gold cap are familiar on the Irish scene for as long as yours truly has been properly attuned to such things. If memory serves me correctly, Mr McAuley used to have his horses in training with a number of different trainers.

Whereas now he has own training licence though he also still has a few in the care of Denis Hogan. There may in fact be some sort of joint operation between the two. Whereby horses are bought for minimal outlay with the intention if winning a few races and then – as the Americans would say – flipping them on in similar contests. The intention being to turn a profit in the process.

On current evidence they have it down to a fine art. As for me, I’m still not convinced, but, then again, if the opportinity to get a steed into yellow jacket with black sleeves, black star, green cap and gold star it might make my mind up for me!

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