Stories such as those of the late Tom Foley and Oliver Brady or Mick Winters or Anthony Knott across the water are what make National Hunt racing the special part of life it is for so many of us.
For those of us imbued with a love of racing running through our veins, stories like those of the people mentioned above offer hope that some of us might someday get to where we want to be in the sport.
Even if a soul is fortunate enough to get into a position to have a go at it, while the aforementioned cases prove it can be done, breaking into the inner sanctum can make getting out of Alcatraz resemble a picnic.
Now, akin to comments made by Dublin GAA chief John Costello a few years back, those who are currently setting standards cannot be expected to alter what they are doing for the benefit of the chasing pack.
Which means, in one way at least, the onus is on those trying to catch up to try and up their games. Or at least put processes in place to go about it. In racing terms, that generally means having a big enough cheque book.
Even your best, though, still mightn’t be able to compete to compete with some of the major benefactors in Gordon Elliott’s yard or – even more so – that of one William P. Mullins.
After all, at the time of typing, Gordon has amassed over €3.5M in prizemoney, Henry De Bromhead has 100 winners or more and both of them are like Wile E. Koyote trying to catch the Roadrunner, comparative to the success the master of Closutton continually seems to be able to create. Look no further than the fact the man in the trilby hat recently sent out his 5,000th winner. This is somebody who only began training in 1988.
So it wouldn’t take Stephen Hawking to decipher that usurping him is beyond the capabilities of a lot of his contemporaries. Not, in any way, pertaining to their abilities as trainers. Merely that they are not in a position to acquire the equine ‘machinery’ comparable to what the great man has in his yard. It would be akin to asking a farmer to cut 100 acres in a day with an old Deutz Fahr 3580 and its 12ft cut.
All of the above would be difficult enough to get past if the superpowers were firing singular bullets at the big targets. Let alone when the likes of Willie and Gordon can be mob handed in the bigger races.
Presently, as it stands, there are no stipulations pursuant to the number of horses a handler can run in a particular race. Which, naturally, allows for the possibility of (one of) a trainer’s lesser fancied representatives scoring at the expense of the favoured one.
That, consequently, leads to punters with burnt pockets and other disgruntled owners in the same yard, possibly. Not that any of the sport’s authorities concern themselves with either of the above.
They should, though, you’d imagine, be slightly miffed when unexpected results crop up. As they did with several Mullins runners over the course of the two days of the Dublin Racing Festival. As touted ‘Good Things’ Lossiemouth, Blue Lord and Facile Vega got turned over by roomates of their own in the Mhuine Beag talent academy.
With the exception of Rich Ricci’s first named juvenile hurdler, who encountered ferocious trouble in running, there didn’t appear to be any explanations for the flops of the other hotpots.
Granted, it must be pointed out that the trainer didn’t spare Paul Townend from critical analysis in relation to his piloting of some of the usurped Galacticos, but, that will most likely be the end of the matter.
In other words, there will be none of the exhaustive investigations into the running and/or riding of some of the hotpot flops. I’m sure it must make other people stop and think.
Cast your mind back to the last offering on affairs of the turf that appeared in this space. It didn’t take long for one viewpoint expressed therein to be proven correct.
Specifically, that there tend to be very different reactions to occurrences of the same thing depending on who’s involved. Anyway, it goes without saying that with the unexpected results in the Leopardstown races, there have been alterations to thoughts about races at the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival.
Most notably relating to Honeysuckle. The Irish queen of the track went down on her sword once again, which thankfully prompted the announcement that she wouldn’t be having another crack at the Champion Hurdle. Something which should have been done after Teahupoo claimed her scalp in the Hattons Grace Hurdle prior to Christmas.
If I was Kenny Alexander, taking her out of the Champion Hurdle, could only be followed by the retirement. Look, I can entirely understand the lure of giving the super mare one more spin around the hallowed ground. To let her go out in the blaze of glory she absolutely deserves.
However, superstitious, worry-prone me cannot escape the memory of horses such as Dawn Run and Harcon and Istabraq and George Washington that went to the well once too often and met an ill-fitting end. Not to insult the race named after the late David Nicholson but is it worth risking a Galactico like Honeysuckle one more time for?
From another angle though, with her no longer in the Champion picture, she was vacated the title, meaning there will be a new ruler of the two mile division declared.
Mind you, is it as cut and dry of a walk over for Constitution Hill as is being proclaimed to be the case? This corner is not entirely convinced. Yes, Nicky Henderson’s charge has looked imperious in anything he has done so far. My doubt surrounds the quality of opposition he has conquered.
Last year’s was the worst renewal of the Supreme Novices Hurdle in quite a few years. Best evidenced by the fact that the majority of those therein haven’t exactly set the world alight since.
The thus far awesome Michael Buckley-owned steed may well turn the Champion Hurdle into a procession and if such is the case, this sports fanatic will be the first to doff the cap to the new champ.
Something in my gut, though, tells me that man Mullins might have something to say about the narrative. The lightly raced and therefore slightly under-the-radar State Man has been improving with each run.
You might say the Honeysuckle he beat was only a shadow of her former self, but that’s not a fair appraisal. If anything, I thought the 9-year-old improved from her Fairyhouse run to last week.
As for the other Festival contenders, Mighty Potter continues to make jaws drop, I remain convinced that Energumene is still the one to beat in the two mile chase division.
Personally speaking, the other major talking point out of the two terrific days racing in Foxrock related to my favourite race of the entire Festival – the Champion Bumper.
Not surprisingly, the solution to that puzzle largely revolves around yes, you’ve guessed it, WPM. Normally, whatever Patrick chooses to partner is a good guide.
Except this year, the best amateur rider there’s been (statistically, that is) seems as puzzled as the rest of us regarding what the most potent weapon in his father’s bulging batalion of budding stars is.
If going on visual impression created, then yes, It’s For Me is a worthy favourite. Akin to Constitution Hill however, question marks over the quality of opposition faced tempt this punter to look elsewhere.
Better Days Ahead (10/1) is definitely overpriced while at 20s, both King Of Kingsfield and Fascile Mode would represent value if lining up. Now all we need is February to buzz off out of the way!