Week 7: Affane and Corbeagh House
Corbeagh House, Co. Longford
The Hunt responsible for this fixture has been plagued with bad weather in recent years with only one previous autumn meet to their credit in 2010. Corbeagh House represents a new venue and a very poor entry of just 34 participants points to potential shortages in runners as a result of the major cull in broodmare numbers in Ireland in 2009/10 brought on by the recession that ravaged the country back then. 2010 did see both a four- and five-year-old maiden on the card won by lowly-rated horses that both went on to modest handicap success under rules and, coincidentally, local trainer Gordon Elliott was responsible for the 4yo winner.
What is one of the ultimate in self-indulgences in racing? Spending $13.1m on a yearling? Buying a foal at any cost to deny a competitor? Retaining a jockey based on loyalty rather than ability? Obviously there is no precise answer in this sport-of-kings but for me it could be the sheer luxury of covering a national hunt mare with a top-class, nay world-class, flat stallion. However, one word of caution is that you probably need to be on first name drinking terms with one John Magnier if Sadler’s Wells was your chosen poison or, indeed, Galileo today.....and, yes, it most definitely happens.
We know that Sadler’s Wells is the progenitor of world class flat stallions (Galileo, Montjeu, High Chaparal etc) and this sire-of-sires is also responsible for many of the leading jumps stallions of today in Old Vic (r.i.p.), Milan, Kayf Tara etc so it was probably inevitable that at some stage he would be sent a national hunt mare or two to see if he could produce a champion hurdler or Gold Cup winner from a “genuine” jumping pedigree. He has obviously produced many jumping stars (none better than Istabraq) but what intrigues me is the record of the few mares that were not visiting him to produce flat winners but the specific ambition was a jumping star. Not many breeders got this opportunity and it seems to have been restricted almost entirely to the occasional mare owned either by Magnier, J P McManus and the occasional wealthy “outsider”. The results were as expected and J P produced a Gold Cup winner in Synchronised while Magnier bred an Irish Grand National winner in Cane Brake from a relatively small sample size.
There is also an element of this indulgence involved today with Galileo and David Johnson sent his multiple-winning jumps mare Lady Cricket in 2006 and it produced Swing Bowler who won his first five races for Johnson and David Pipe including a lowly Wincanton bumper on his debut in 2011-what a certainty that was! I imagine Johnson paid handsomely for this privilege whereas I wouldn’t be so sure about McManus in earlier times.
In a very roundabout way this brings me to the winner of this 4yo maiden which was Cogryhill (by Presenting) trained by Gordon Elliott. Cogryhill, out of a Shalford mare, is already a full-brother to two female bumper winners for Elliott and Nicky Henderson and a half-sister by Revoque has won four races for Fergal O’Brien. The second generation is eye-popping in that the dam is a half-sister to the McManus/Jonjo stalwarts Wichita Lineman (won twice at the Festival) and Rhinestone Cowboy (won everything bar Cheltenham success). This is an exceptional pedigree for the point-to-point scene and a further half-sister to Cogryhill’s dam is by Galileo (from a 2007 cover and which started my delve back into Sadler’s Wells pedigrees) but, unusually this gelding, named Wild West, could only manage four places from eleven starts for Jackdaws Castle connections so it doesn’t always work! Cogryhill was a €26,000 purchase by Wilson Dennison (more usually associated with Colin McKeever) and it will be a major surprise if this winner (given a promising rating of 90) isn’t already in a horsebox on his way to Jonjo’s.
Far more prosaic material in this race won by the 6yo Court Frontier (by Court Cave) and trained by a relatively unknown Alan Fleming who trained privately in the UK for a spell. He is owned by Barry Connell (of Our Conor fame) who is a bit of “a law unto himself” when it comes to spending his money on racehorses. Court Frontier is already handicapped over hurdles (103) (placed four times from 11 starts under Rules for Conor O’Dwyer) but I’d rather not see him so exposed to be of interest.
Affane, Co. Dungarvan
Jetstream Jack (by Beneficial) trained by Eoin Doyle (rated 91)
With a rating of 91, a sire of some substance in Beneficial, a race with a record of consistently throwing up horses of quality (Rule The World, Western Warhorse, Ballysteen, Lackamon and Benbane Head) this Eoin Doyle-trained winner simply has to be followed. Out of a winning dam (bumper and two hurdles) who is a half-sister to four other winners he cost a hefty €36,000 at last year’s Derby Sale. What’s not to like?
For the remaining unconvinced or unconverted Doyle has previously trained and sold point winners of the calibre of Champagne West and Village Vic-both high class scorers for Philip Hobbs-so when Doyle says “he could be as good as any I’ve sold” we probably should pay attention.
Heron Heights (by Heron Island) trained by Donal Hassett (rated 88)
It’s taken this horse five starts to win his maiden which is always a concern. A €12,000 3yo, on the plus side is his half-brother Witness In Court, a point winner who’s been a good servant to Donald McCain (3 wins from 2m-2m5f) and a horse who convinced me I had the game by the throat the day he won his maiden hurdle at Sedgefield in December 2012. The unraced Dr Massini dam is a half-sister to Make A Stand (also by Witness Box) who won no less than 16 races for Peter Bowen all over distances in excess of three miles. One can see why Witness In Court was by Witness Box but, ironically, it was only when he was dropped in trip that he seemed to shine. In my experience the “distance” predictability of jumpers is a far less certain outcome than a flat counterpart pedigree.
The sire does get bumper winners and the statistics on previous 5yo winning maidens are as follows: from 15 such winners 12 have run under rules with 9 winning. Just over half contested bumpers and Otago Trail (rated 90) and Bishops Road (rated 91) were the only two successful in this sphere. The point ratings of the two winners suggest that the horses had a touch of class between the flags and I venture that Heron Heights, on 88, would not be in this category. Heron Island’s track-winning 5yo maiden pointers tend to be a middle-of-the-road bunch on the track in general. Derek O’Connor seemed to suggest on Sunday that the horse appeared to have bumper ambitions (take with a pinch of salt?) but he has some serious stats to overcome to justify this remark.
Horses To Follow: