Blog Post 2015 repeat
Last year I gave my band of loyal follower’s a few tips about two horses that were strongly fancied by their connections to win at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. The horses ran absolute stinkers!
The two horses in question were Hoof Hearted and Ice Melted and even though they are entered again this year I would suggest keeping well away from them on medical and financial grounds!
For those of you not familiar with national hunt horse racing, let me tell you that it all started in Cork in the year 1752, when two riders on horseback decided to race between Doneraile and Buttevant, two towns in Co Cork. I am sure that there was a little wager involved but am not suggesting for a second that the local priests were involved in that! The race did however have a strong religious background as the race was run from the steeple of Buttevant Church to the Steeple of St Mary’s Church in Doneraile cross country. Hence the term steeplechasing was created and national hunt racing as we know it today had its origins.
The Irish national hunt racehorse is world renowned and my father always maintained that it was from eating grass grown on limestone soil that helped the development of the good bone of the young national hunt horses that have to carry a jockey weighing up to 12 stone over a trip of 3 miles or more and often over rain softened ground.
Naturally as racing developed the rivalry grew between Ireland and our near neighbours England and the annual Cheltenham festival held in March each year became over the years the focus of good rivalry between our sporting nations. Cheltenham has an atmosphere that is unique and very special in racing. Ruby Walsh said recently when asked where was his favourite place in the whole world replied “the winner’s enclosure at Cheltenham”!
I mentioned in a previous blog my favourite racing story as told to me by my dad that happened I think at Cheltenham in 1948 when Vincent O Brien sent a horse called Cottage Rake from his stables, which were at that time based in Churchtown in Co Cork, to contest the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The horse had to travel by rail, road and ferry. His jockey was the legendary Aubrey Brabazon who was married to a cousin of my Dad’s Eithne Dwyer.
My Father made the trip that year to Cheltenham on the boat The Innisfallen and his friend Dr Paddy Kiely who was known simply as PK was also on the boat with them. PK was probably the most renowned and best loved medical man in Cork. PK also loved to have a bet.
When they got to Cheltenham on Gold Cup day before the racing started a friend of PK’s, Mick Sheehan the coal merchant from Cork introduced him to William Hill the bookie. He said to Mr Hill that he wanted him to meet Dr Kiely from Cork and said to Hill that he was good for whatever bet he wanted to have on during the meeting.
PK didn’t have any bet with William Hill up to the race for the Gold Cup when Vincent O Brien’s Cottage Rake was priced at 7 to 2. PK and Vincent were good friends so presumably the information from the stable was positive.
And so just before the off PK as was his wont slipped quietly up to Hill and said that he would like to have “2 to win 7 on Cottage Rake”. Certainly, Hill replied and said to his clerk “£200 to win £700 on Cottage Rake for Dr Kiely from Cork”. “No no laddie” says PK gently to Hill “Its £2,000 to win £7,000”.
Back then that was an extraordinary bet but William Hill had no problem taking it and advised his clerk accordingly.
As PK walked away from the bookies he looked around out of curiosity to see what price Cottage Rake was now after his bet was placed. Hill was naturally just about to chalk the price lower but he sees PK looking back and out of bravado and to show the doctor from Cork that his bet was only chicken feed to him he increases the price from 7 to 2 to 4 to 1.
This naturally puts the dander up on PK and so he turns back again to William Hill and says a little more firmly “in that case Mr Hill I will have another €2,000 on, but to win €8,000 this time”.
According to my dad Cottage Rake won easily and won the Gold Cup again the following two years in 1949 and 1950. It was around this time also that the great Irish trainer Vincent O Brien started to become really successful in sending Irish trained winners to Cheltenham and indeed did much to promote the popularity of the annual Cheltenham festival to Irish racing fans. For some it became profitable too!
The following year he sent three horses to Cheltenham, by plane this time which was the first time horses were transported from Ireland by air. That year 1949 Cottage Rake, again won the Gold Cup. Hatton’s Grace the second horse sent over won the first of his three Champion Hurdles and the third horse Castledermot won the National Hunt Chase. What a trainer, imagine sending over just three horses which were all successful and indeed won the top races at the meeting.
Photo of Cottage Rake on the right with Aubrey Barbizon up winning The Cheltenham Gold Cup
But what about this year who will win the Gold Cup? We heard recently that the most successful national hunt successful jockey of all times Tony Mc Coy retires at the end of this year. He rode a horse called Carlingford Lough to win the Galway plate in 2013 and again recently in February of this year the same horse, again with Mc Coy in the saddle won the Hennessy Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
He is entered in the Gold Cup this year priced today at around 11 to 1. Would it be too much of a fairy story if Mc Coy were to win on him in this his last season riding? And what about Carlingford Lough’s trainer who coincidentally is the wonderful trainer John Kiely from Dungarvan in Waterford who just happens to be a nephew of the same Dr PK Kiely mentioned above. The one sure thing is that if PK were around today and decided to have a bet on Calingford Lough the 11 to 1 would quickly disappear although… just maybe Mr Hill might then go 100 to 8!
Ted Dwyer Family Business
It’s now March 2016 and the great Tony Mc Coy has retired and I am sorry that Carlingford Lough didn’t win last year, he finished 9th. He is 20 to 1 this year and won recently at Leopardstown coming from well off the pace to win the Irish Gold Cup quite comfortably. Maybe this is his year!
Last year I saw a very promising horse Articulum trained by Terence O Brien winning a point-to point in Liscarroll. He subsequently won a bumper earlier this year but before that was beaten by a horse trained by Jessica Harrington called New to this Town. Subsequently Harrington’s horse beat a fancied horse trained by Willie Mullins Avenir D’une Vie who subsequently won his next race, another bumper by a whopping 14 lengths. At 10 to 1 New to This Town might be a bit of value in the bumper on Wednesday.
My final interest in Cheltenham this year will be in one of Ireland’s youngest rising stars jockey Jonathan Burke and I will watch every race he rides in with interest. I have known Jonathan and his dad Liam the trainer for many years and 3 years ago Jonathan rode his first point-to point winner on a horse I had a leg of. He has some very promising rides this year and one that caught my eye was Supasundae who runs in the first race of the festival. Yes he is up against one of Willie Mullins hotshots Min but this is the unpredictable sport of horse racing and at 16 to 1, I think Supasundae might just be a little value.
Good luck to all!