Paddy Corkery bids for Grade One honours at the Dublin Racing Festival just a couple of months after securing his first winner under rules with Master McShee.
The trainer – a mechanic by trade who runs a farm in Cappoquin, Co Waterford – had a successful association as an owner with Mrs Mac Veale, who won seven races culminating in the Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle in 2015.
That day remains fresh in the Corkman’s memory as he said: “To go up there to Naas and take on the best, and to beat them, is a fantastic feeling when you do it.
“Mrs Mac Veale was an exceptionally good mare with a bad temperament! Every horse has their own quirks.”
Watching didn’t prove to be enough for Corkery, though, who took out a restricted licence and has had a couple of point-to-point victories.
“Any sport, I preferred to be hands on rather than a spectator. This sport is no different and I enjoy getting the horse out in the field in the morning and seeing how he progresses,” he explained.
“I’ve had the licence four or five years – one or two horses at a time. The horse racing is my golf, my enjoyment. I’m under no pressure to win races and it is a great enjoyment when I do.”
This brings in current stable star Master McShee.
The Malinas gelding showed he had plenty of engine to work with when runner-up to Appreciate It in a maiden hurdle at Cork in November.
The tune became sweeter when he impressively shed his maiden tag by eight and a half lengths at the same track the following month.
He then ventured into handicap company at Leopardstown over Christmas and scooted away by five lengths from a big field to reach a mark of 143, and a shot at the Grade One Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle on Sunday.
Another clash with the top-class Appreciate It, who has since cruised home in a Grade One, looms at Leopardstown, but Corkery is embracing the challenge.
“Whatever he meets, he will have to go and take his chance. Appreciate It is a very good horse and will be very hard to beat, but we won’t be going to the Dublin Racing Festival as spectators for the scenery,” he said.
“We are depending on the horse telling us how good he is. He’s going for a big step up and he’ll answer a few questions. He has been going nicely.”
But how does a trainer with one horse prepare for battle at the highest level with the biggest juggernauts of National Hunt racing?
“I get the horse as ready as possible and, when he is ready, (ex-jockey) Jimmy Moloney sits on him and tells me how the horse is,” he said.
“I go up to Michael Griffin’s (stable) and I work him off the clock there. I would have a good idea myself and Jimmy is very good on pace.
“I call Jimmy my work rider! It is very few fellas have a work rider for one horse. He’s retired a good few years, but has a lot of experience.
“It is no kind of fluke to get a horse to run in Mallow and come second and run twice more and win. I need to be ticking the boxes at home and I need to be ticking the boxes when Jimmy rides him. It is part of a box-ticking exercise and if you miss a box, you won’t get there.”
With success comes attention and, as Master McShee runs in the colours of Corkery’s wife Deirdre, talk inevitably turned to offers.
“I do have a tendency not to keep them too long if they are not showing something. I didn’t encourage any offers, but I had one. I’d probably never get one as nice as him again, though,” Corkery said.
Thankfully, Master McShee is showing more than enough to remain in Cappoquin among the tractors and cows.
Jockey Ian Power has been entrusted with the steering again and Corkery emphasised his loyalty to the partnership.
“Ian will be riding at the weekend. He knows the horse now and, to be honest, it wouldn’t be fair to change jockeys when he hasn’t made a mistake,” he said.
“It’s nice see a Waterford horse and a Waterford jockey doing well and keeping that combination together.”
Come what may this weekend, the plan is to keep the home fires burning as Cheltenham is not on the agenda.
“I have no ambitions this year to go to Cheltenham, I’ve made up my mind. I’m in this for the fun of it. For me, to head to Cheltenham with a horse would be taking me out of my comfort zone and bringing the horse out of his comfort zone,” the trainer added.
“I think there are plenty of races at home – I’d be hoping to maybe go to Fairyhouse and Punchestown.”