The Aintree Grand National witnessed a remarkable result this year if you are a fan of walking in muddy fields with the rain pelting down, otherwise known as point-to-pointing, writes David Skelly. I must admit I am partial to that particular day out and I love to scamper out into the countryside to watch the horses jumping at full stretch. An occupational hazard is keeping a weather eye out for loose horses galloping gaily on without their original riders.
The headlines that delved a little deeper into this year’s National result told us that for the second year in a row Lucinda Russell’s winner had learnt his tradecraft in the Irish point-to-point nursery scene and One For Arthur’s victory followed that of Rule The World in 2016. For the record, since 2000 a total of three other Irish point-to-point graduates have collected the winners’ garland and these were Bindaree (2002), Monty’s Pass (2003) and Silver Birch in 2007 for the relatively unknown Gordon Elliott who continues to train the odd winner..
The disclosure that One For Arthur had won his four-year-old maiden at Lingstown in November 2013 was enhanced by the fact that he beat Saturday’s National favourite, Blaklion, by eight lengths in that maiden and repeated the winning distance in the “world’s favourite steeplechase” with Blaklion finishing fourth, eight-and-three-quarter lengths behind One For Arthur. Blaklion was then trained by Colin McKeever: he won his, now, five-year-old maiden a couple of months later before joining Nigel Twiston-Davies in a private deal. One For Arthur – probably forgiven the fact it took him five attempts to win his maiden on account of his sire, Milan – left Liam Kenny’s Enniscorthy base and cost the Two Golf Widows £60,000 before heading for Russell’s Scottish base. It seems an expensive gesture on behalf of the male widowers to placate two unhappy spouses but no doubt they are patrons of an all-male club!
The part of my brain that occasionally sees a bottle as half-empty immediately prompted the questions: what finished second in that fateful Lingstown maiden splitting these two top chasers and how has his career prospered since?
The answer to the first question is: The Wexfordian.
It’s fair to say that this race did not especially catch the eye of the race readers back then with the first three home rated 86, 83 and a relatively lowly 78. Today, an impressive winning four-year-old will be rated in the low nineties and a small degree of rating inflation has crept into being, probably in direct proportion to the rising prices achieved for winning point-to-point graduates at public auction. Whether or not the increase in ratings is justified remains moot.
The Wexfordian was then trained by Liz Doyle in, where else, but Wexford and never ran in a point-to-point again. He was despatched to the Brightwells Cheltenham Sale the following month and joined Martin Keighley having been secured by the agent, Gerry Hogan, for a bid of £45,000 which was a decent return for the owner-breeder of this Shantou gelding.
You pays your money and you takes your chances in this game and The Wexfordian has run fourteen times for Keighley and, whilst running respectably, has yet to get his head in front whilst wearing an assortment of head gear. He has finished second on four occasions, including his last three starts in handicaps over hurdles and fences, his last start being in a seller, and his owners probably hate Wexford people at this stage.
In an interesting postscript I picked up the following from Keighley’s blog after The Wexfordian last ran on Tuesday, 11 April: “Sadly, The Wexfordian yesterday failed to frank the form of his debut Irish point to point (Nov 2013) with Saturday’s Grand National winner One For Arthur, who won that day, and Grand National fourth Blaklion, who finished behind him in 3rd, when only managing to finish 2nd in his Selling Hurdle at Exeter yesterday! He’s had his problems and hasn’t been the easiest to train but has been pretty frustrating. He was claimed yesterday so we wish them luck with him.”
And so say all of us!
David Skelly is a chartered accountant and Ballydoyle/Coolmore graduate who now dispenses pearls of wisdom to private bloodstock clients. Likes to look beyond the headline and the obvious to offer insights to professionals and punters alike. David can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via twitter @djskelly1