Purchasing the very best young Irish Pointers, and switching them to race under rules, has become a yearly obsession for numerous top stables and their wealthy owners.
Faugheen is the perfect example of the talent available in Irish point to point racing. A winner at Ballysteen, Co. Limerick, back in April 2012, he was snapped up by the Ricci’s. Simply sensational last winter, he is now the current favourite for the 2015 Champion Hurdle.
O’Faolains Boy was another picked up from the Irish pointing scene in 2012. A winner at Inch in County Cork, he progressed to win the RSA at Cheltenham in March for trainer Rebecca Curtis. Simonsig was yet another in recent years to make a similar huge impact.
Willie Mullins will again be training his fair share, no doubt hoping to find a horse half as good as Faugheen. Au Quart De Tour will run in the famous Ricci silks. Only a four-year-old, his targets, as ever with the Mullins team, are uncertain. The Irish Champion trainer has won the Cheltenham Bumper a record eight times, and four of those wins have come with ex-pointers. This fella has a lovely pedigree being the son of Robin Des Champs out of a Poliglote mare. If he is kept to bumpers, he’s certainly a horse to follow.
Stone Hard is another son of Robin Des Champs who finds his way into the Willie Mullins yard. He changed hands for £215,000 as a three-year-old. Gordon Elliott handled him whilst ‘pointing’ and he impressed when winning at Oldtown in Co. Dublin. Owned by Gigginstown, he’ll make a chaser in time, but before then should make a cracking novice hurdler.
Alpha Des Obeaux is another owned by Gigginstown House Stud. Trained by Mouse Morris, he has already had a run under rules, finishing second at Cork when seemingly out-sprinted. I was impressed with the way he jumped his hurdles, and am sure that in a truly run race, or even stepped up in trip, he will soon be winning races. He won his point in the mud, though he moved beautifully on good ground at Cork.
Irish Pointers have even been known to travel over the Irish Sea. This winter Nicky Henderson will be training Birch Hill for Ronnie Bartlett, who is also the owner of Simonsig. Purchased for the small sum of £160,000, he looked to have gears when winning at Loughbrickland in April. He’s entered at Cheltenham this weekend.
Another that has already impressed on the track this season is Free Expression, who is trained by Gordon Elliott for JP McManus. A son of Germany, as is the aforementioned Faugheen, he won with plenty in hand at Naas over the weekend. He’s out of a Bob Back mare, which suggests he’ll have no problems stepping up in trip.
Finally not to be outdone, Paul Nicholls has taken charge of Present Man, who won at Wincanton on Saturday. He’s not had his hands on a top Irish pointer since the mighty Denman. Like the former Gold Cup winner, this fella is another giant son of Presenting. We may not see the best of him until he fills out that huge frame, but he certainly looks a horse with heaps of potential.
And so as the season progresses we will watch with interest to see which ex-pointers do justice to their lofty price tags. It’s a tried and tested route to success, and there’s no reason that this winter should prove to be any different.