Week ending 12 October 2014: Action from Loughrea and Tinahely
One of the few older horses to catch my eye last season was triggered by the arresting comment of his unheralded trainer that he had a very bright future and was a possible future winner of the Foxhunters. Aintree is not a possible interpretation as the Foxhunters venue in these circumstances.
The horse is Need To Know (a 6yo gelding by Definite Article out of a four-time winning mare) and the trainer is Wexford-based John Paul Brennan (a former Jim Bolger pupil) who has been very sweet on this horse since his maiden win in his home county (Ballinaboola) last January. He followed this up with a Winners-of-One victory in Tinahely in March and he thereafter became expensive for me! Brennan has been a reliable source of modest young winning stock for a few years (no standout rules representative from the sales ring in the past few years) so the Need To Know project will be causing plenty of anxious moments at home as he is carrying a lot of latent hopes (from blood, sweat and tears).
Following his “winners” success Brennan subsequently sent him hunter chasing on five occasions between April and June this year and they yielded two fourth placings and one third. He was solid in the market on every occasion, ran reasonably well but perhaps showed that he still has a level of maturing to do. He was given an early re-introduction this season last Sunday, again at Tinahely, and managed to upset a long odds-on favourite (and one of last season’s leading lights in p-2-p Open events) when scoring in the feature race of the day on very good ground and seems to travel on everything but extreme conditions. The stardust was again being sprinkled in the aftermath of Sunday’s race and whereas I do believe in racing dreams coming true I will be following this horse faithfully once he returns to the track at less salubrious venues than Cheltenham.
To the best of my knowledge Foxhunter qualification requires two Open or Hunter Chase victories in the same season so Need To Know is probably half-way to the Cotswolds at this stage, probably about 70 miles south-west of Angelsey on the Irish Sea.
4yo maiden Tinahely
Last week’s nomination, Jack Steel, got an early boost when fourth-placed Gingili (6L in arrears of Jack Steel), trained by Colin Bowe, scored in a close contest in the 4yo maiden. This merely reinforces my faith in Jack Steel and in a double coincidence during my week I happened to run into Jack Steel’s gregarious trainer, Martin Hassett, and the following day I got to chat with the owner of the Pat Doyle-trained Fact Of The Matter winner of the 4yo maiden at Loughrea last Sunday.
Hassett was thrilled with the performance of Jack Steel and confirmed that he had been working exceptionally well prior to Castletown-Geoghegan. One report I read suggested the horse had completed another circuit of the track prior to being pulled up and this was confirmed and explained by the fact that he was passed by a riderless horse shortly after the winning post which brought out his competitive streak. Interestingly, the horse is bound for the Brightwells Cheltenham sale in November and his connections are slightly concerned that the Craigsteel “unfashionable” sire-line might detract from his value such is the high regard in which they hold him. When I informed him that Donald McCain and Jonjo O’Neill are recent supporters of the stallion with acquisitions costing €30,000, £40,000 and £45,000 from the pointing field last spring it should give them a fighting chance of a decent payday. Hassett seems confident that the horse will have the toe to win a bumper and provide a deal of enjoyment to his next owner. Good luck to all concerned.
In another story from the same trainer’s yard that would take too much telling a shorter version is that Hassett has charge of the ex-Ballydoyle invalid Master Speaker who in my opinion is due a decent flat race over five or six furlongs some time soon. I hope I may be forgiven in suggesting that they may have been campaigning him a little too honestly this year but his form in good quality sprinting races bears close scrutiny and perhaps heavy ground conditions (beloved by his sire) or a trip to the all-weather will see him reward their patience. (He finished a close up sixth at Cork this weekend and probably needs to drop 10-12lbs now).
I am not putting my main future faith in Gingili ** from this contest but rather in the second-placed Beneficial gelding Tiger Sam (rated 86) purely on the basis that he is trained by Noel Meade making a rare foray into the pointing field with a young horse. In researching Meade’s previous pointing exploits with a 4yo I lighted upon Corbally Ghost who also finished second on his only start in a point at Lismore (a track with a good reputation) in March 2011. A run in a bumper that same spring behind the mighty Simonsig saw him put away until the following autumn when he collected a bumper and two hurdles in quick succession. As you would expect of any horse from these quarters Tiger Sam has a very likeable pedigree and his two half-brothers Macgeorge (won 14 staying chases) and Chief Dan George (won Aintree’s top novice hurdling prize in 2007 and 8 other races) have plenty of quality. My one concern is that Tiger Sam’s dam (a half-sister to an Irish Champion hurdler in Deep Idol) was all of 24 when he was born but let’s not be ageist! If Tiger Sam can follow in the footsteps of Corbally Ghost or his illustrious half-brothers we should all be happy.
** In an attempt to keep my list at manageable proportions I will try not to recommend too many horses to follow although one is always concerned that future winners are discarded on a whim. Gingili’s (rated 88) rather strong case for support is aided simply by the fact that six of the last seven winners of this contest have all tasted success at some stage under rules with Tammys Hill (7 wins including the 2014 Cheltenham Foxhunters), Lough Derg Way (four-time winner for Jamie Snowden) and Dawn Commander (six-time winner and has been a credit recently to Renee Robeson ) being the most prominent. Coincidentally, the afore-mentioned John Paul Brennan (Need To Know) trained Four Shuck Men to win a division in 2012 and this subsequent £42,000 purchase won a bumper on his first start for Tim Vaughan.
Gingili, as I mentioned above, improved from his seasonal start behind Jack Steel to score here and was immediately nominated for sale which is no surprise as he is owned by winning trainer Colin Bowe’s head lad. This is probably as useful way to keep your staff happy with such intangible bonuses that can quickly become tangible and someone else pays!
Gingili (GB-bred by Beat All) seems to have been bought privately at Doncaster as a 3yo after he failed to sell in the ring and chances are that he will now make a multiple of his unsold price of £14,000. He’s out of a three-time winning Generous mare who scored twice over hurdles for Donald McCain (she was bred to be a flat mare and has some salubrious relations such as Ascot Gold Cup winner Celeriac) and it will be very interesting to see if McCain buys Gingili because he originally bought his dam (Gentian) because she was related to a mare (Calomeria) who won a Wensleydale (Listed Juvenile Novice Hurdle run at Haydock) for him in 2004 and threatened to be very good for a while.
If Gilgili’s sire, Beat All, were a footballer he would be a journeyman as he has spent his time at three different studs in his lifetime and is steady and reliable cover at a certain modest price range. His record with winning 4yo pointing maidens offers some conditional hope in that his best two graduates in the past, Jarob and Mr Tingle, sold very well at public auction following their maiden victories and went on two win two races each under rules. I would suggest that this will probably be the case with Gingili i.e. he will sell for £40,000+ at public auction, join a leading trainer and will win his share of races. I would also venture that good ground will be required for his stock to show their best form.
5yo maiden Tinahely
A somewhat common theme from the maidens I have been analysing here in the past two weeks is the relatively surprising number of early autumn contests run over the past five to six years that have produced winners who regularly transfer their flag-work to track-work when they graduate to the racecourse. (Pointing can sometime be referred to as racing “between the flags” due to flag markers replacing fixed rails in many instances.) I believe this occurrence is largely explained by commercial reasons in that trainers of four-year-olds are desperate to grab an opportunity to sell a “young” winning horse in the pre-Christmas sales (predominantly Brightwells-Cheltenham and Doncaster-Newbury) and they will be trying to make up for lost time if their charges, for whatever reason, missed a winning opportunity earlier that spring. Similarly, an unexposed national hunt horse aged five is a far more appealing prospect to most owners/agents than one aged six or older and this can have dramatic economic consequences in the sales ring-the ultimate arbiter of “fashion”.
Tinahely’s 5yo maiden is no different and since 2010 has produced four winning recruits from five divisions with Nigel Twiston-Davies five-time winner According To Trev being easily the best. The other winners are more modest performers although three of the four winners all won on their very next appearance.
This year’s winner is Colin Bowe’s Black Jack Rover (by Vinnie Roe) who was bringing up a double for his handler on the day. This horse failed to sell for just €600 as a yearling but that was before his half-brother, Kilgefin Star, managed to win two hurdles for Northumberland-based Michael Smith and it now looks a stroke of good luck for his owner/breeder. My guess is that Black Jack Rover will be good enough to win at his grade in the UK and just might manage to keep up the reasonable bumper-winning record of previous winners from this race.
4yo maiden Loughrea
Sam Waley-Cohen is what I would consider the leading example of a perfect lifestyle many in Ireland discovered many decades ago namely, combining the ownership of racehorses with the Corinthian spirit involved in riding them competitively and all the while keeping down a full-time job to keep the show on the road. The top Ballydoyle vet, John Halley, is probably a version of Ireland’s foremost example of this and his opposite number across the pond might currently be John Ferguson. Halley combines one of the most interesting and demanding jobs in racing with running a point-to-point yard (with the occasional runner under Rules) and his success over the years is surely matched by the satisfaction achieved. Producing Noel Meade’s Pandorama in his early days was his most successful training achievement to date.
This all brings me to Gerry Spain who combines a career as a pharmacist with riding out for Pat Doyle in Tipperary and investing (wisely) in promising young maidens (sounds like a medieval bodice-ripper tale) for sale to Britain. Spain broke his duck in points as a jockey some years ago on the ex-Paul Nolan French Accordion and is hoping that another ex-Nolan horse Noble Prince might work the oracle for him in Open events this season. Pat Doyle should need no introduction as he is tasked (along with Gordon Elliott) with educating the young Gigginstown 4yo’s and a fine job he makes of it.
From a punting perspective I am interested in the Spain/Doyle winning maidens and prior to Fact Of the Matter winning impressively on Sunday their only two previous investments – both 4yo maiden winners - had been Measure Of My Dreams (now starring for Willie Mullins) and Throthethatch who has joined Lucinda Russell and “probably needs good ground” to be seen at his best after disappointing in an Ayr heavy-ground bumper on his only start to date. These two investments have returned a tasty profit and that will no doubt be augmented by the proceeds from Fact Of The Matter who is also likely to sell at Brightwells next month. When I met him earlier, Spain explained that they were very tempted to run in a bumper rather than going the pointing route and that he gives the feel of a genuine track performer with plenty of speed.
This maiden, prior to 2012, was nothing to write home about but Ted Walsh’s prolific winner Foxrock (beaten favourite in this year’s Cheltenham four-miler) and the ill-fated bumper winner Uppertown Cave from last season– trained by Donald McCain – have given the race a better recent complexion.
There is one concern that attaches to this horse and that is his sire Brian Boru. A Coolmore luminary at one time he was recently demoted to stud duties in Wales and although the sire managed the feat of siring the first three home in this bumper Brian Boru has been a disappointment at stud and that will probably depress his potential value. For a stallion that would have covered literally hundreds of mares from his time in Coolmore’s Grange Stud it does seem remarkable that he has only sired three previous 4yo maiden point winners prior to Fact Of The Matter. Only two of these are worthy of comment: On Your Eoin was subsequently bought by Gigginstown for £55,000 and has yet to win for Noel Meade whereas Billy Twyford joined Nicky Henderson for £30,000 and following a bumper win joined Lawney Hill where he has won three handicap hurdles.
Fact Of The Matter is unlikely to set the sales ring alight next month but if their respective connections are correct both Jack Steel and Fact Of The Matter should be winning under Rules before long.
5yo maiden Loughrea
This maiden has produced three top-drawer winners (from 5 contests) in just the last four seasons headed by Cheltenham winner Brindisi Breeze so it’s right up there for potential-Just A Par (P Nicholls) and Master Of The Game (N Henderson) also deserve the utmost respect. However, I just don’t like the profile of this year’s winner Teds Island (very cheap foal) who took four runs to get his head in front and his handler, John Martin Walsh, has not tended to produce anything of note over a number of years.
Horses To Follow:
Need To Know
Fact Of The Matter
Black Jack Rover