Over the past few days Andrea and Graham Wylie have seen their famous silks carried to success by a host of classy types, all seemingly destined for great things.
The equine journey began back in 2001, when the North-East businessman purchased Lord Transcend. The classy grey proved a wonderful introduction to the sport, winning four of his five hurdle starts before a successful career over fences. Good enough to finish fourth in a Hennessy Gold Cup, his most prestigious victory came in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in 2005.
The new venture became a dazzling success when he then purchased four more outstanding talents in Royal Rosa, Inglis Drever, Arcalis and No Refuge. All claimed a host of graded events prior to a sensational Cheltenham Festival in March 2005. During a breathless few days at Prestbury Park, Arcalis took the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle; No Refuge the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle, and then arguably his greatest ally Inglis Drever stormed up the famous hill to win the first of his three World Hurdles.
The Wylies have been fortunate to own countless successful racehorses, but the association with Inglis Drever was to prove a career highlight. In an interview last year with the Northern Echo Graham Wylie spoke of those early days and of his famous staying hurdler: “He was the horse of a lifetime really, and I guess I’ve been trying to find another one like him ever since. If I hadn’t had those big winners’ early doors, and experienced the thrill of having a horse like Inglis Drever, would I have all the horses I have today? I had that great success early on, and really got a passion for it. I’ve been trying to emulate it ever since.”
Tidal Bay was the next star to carry the famous Wylie silks. Second in the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle (now the Neptune) at the 2007 Festival, he returned to Cheltenham 12 months later and stormed to victory in the Arkle Chase. That win remains one of my personal favourites from years of visiting Cheltenham’s famous event. Indeed, the 2008 Festival was jam-packed with outstanding performances. (Check out You Tube for an emotional account – Cheltenham Memories 2008).
Tidal Bay was to give the Wylies many more memorable moments, none more so than when winning a thrilling Lexus Chase in Ireland at the age of 11. That race in December 2012 must go down as one of the most dramatic in recent times, with four horses hitting the line in unison. How on earth did Tidal Bay get there?
Over the past few years the likes of Boston Bob, Briar Hill and On His Own have continued to capture major prizes. Over a decade of success shows no sign of stopping, indeed this winter may prove to be the greatest of all for team Wylie. Many would argue that they have already surpassed previous campaigns with the performances of Nichols Canyon, Shaneshill, Bellshill, Yorkhill and Up For Review.
Nichols Canyon has added two Grade 1 victories to his mounting tally. He caused a major upset first time out when getting the better of Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle, and followed up with a gutsy display in the Ryanair Hurdle at Christmas. He’s a realistic contender for the Champion Hurdle in March.
Shaneshill has already impressed over fences having attained a high level as a novice hurdler last season. He won at Naas yesterday, and although he’s not the biggest chaser we’ll see this winter, he is proving a neat jumper, possessing a lethal kick at the end of his race. Whether he’ll take on Douvan in the Arkle is questionable, and he appears more likely to head for the JLT at The Festival for which he is generally a 5/1 favourite.
However, it is the Wylie novice hurdlers that have caused the greatest stir in recent days. Yorkhill took the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on Saturday and is now fancied for either the Supreme or the Neptune in March. Willie Mullins appears adamant that he is horse with plenty of speed, though his pedigree suggests the Neptune would be a more suitable target.
Bellshill is a similar sort to Yorkhill, and was no less impressive when winning at Naas yesterday. Installed as favourite for the Neptune at The Festival his trainer hinted at the Deloitte Novice Hurdle as his next target. He’s by King’s Theatre, and you’d expect him to improve for a sounder surface.
Arguably more impressive than either of the two was Up For Review when winning the Dorans Pride Novice Hurdle at Punchestown last week. His best performances have come on heavy ground, yet he is by Presenting which again suggests a sounder surface would suit. A relentless galloper, we can at least be sure that he will head for the Albert Bartlett in March.
Graham Wylie’s association with Willie Mullins always promised plenty. And it has certainly proved to be the case in recent years. With the Riccis and Gigginstown in opposition, major prizes can never be guaranteed. But the current firepower at his disposal promise to deliver a most memorable winter. This could well prove to be their greatest period since that incredible spring of 2005.