TRAINER Michael Winters looks to have a potential star on his hands with Sayce Gold who really impressed in a couple of races recently.
Already a point-to-point winner at Boulta last November she certainly caught the eye under Brian Hayes at Thurles recently. She runs in the famous green and yellow colours of Trevor Hemmings who recently bought Cork City FC.
Hemmings has had a long association with these parts and had plenty of good horses reared in north Cork over the years with Eugene O’Sullivan. Sayce Gold won a bumper race easily a few weeks ago but she followed that facile victory up by taking a mare’s maiden hurdle by eight lengths which had plenty of punters talking.
Winters knows a good one when he sees one having trained Rebel Fitz and Missunited to consecutive victories in the Galway Hurdle in 2012 and 2013. The Kanturk handler certainly doesn’t get too carried away as he knows that this horse has along way to travel to reach such lofty heights and this game is fraught with danger.
“We probably had a couple of quiet years, but we have a lot of nice young horses coming through now including Sayce Gold. She won well at Boulta and winning on the point-to-point circuit down here is a tried and trusted way of testing a horse.
"She then won her bumper very well and everything is floating along nicely with her after winning a maiden hurdle. The Hemmings family have a stud farm in Scotland and trying to get a bit of black type would probably be part of the plan.
"But she is a fine tough mare and likes a jump. The way she jumps and gallops would certainly be a positive.
"The horse is built like a three-mile horse, but we’ll see what trip suits her best. There are plenty of mares races coming up in the next few months so we will find a race soon.
"Obviously, the bigger yards like Willie Mullins, Henry De Bromhead and others have plenty of good mares too. We’ll find our way but talk of these big festivals is unrealistic talk at this stage. She is a mare that likes soft ground, so we’ll have to mind her.
"I mean we discovered that Missunited could go on any ground in the end which was a big advantage for the bigger meetings.”
Winters' horses are finding a nice run of form and Chatam Street Lad ran out a convincing winner at Cork last Sunday. While most people will be wishing this year away due to covid the Kanturk handler felt it gave some of his horses a chance to develop.
“The start of the lockdown certainly helped Sayce and Chatam as they had a bit of breathing space. They were horses that needed a small bit more time and they had a couple of small issues.
"The owners are very good, and they understand the game. You need patience in this game at times, so we are very lucky with the owners we have. It’s been fantastic to have racing on and the authorities deserve great credit for keeping the show on the road.
"We are now heading into the national hunt season proper so hopefully the horses will stay sound and healthy.”
Elsewhere, there is Grade 1 action across the weekend on both sides of the Irish Sea. We have the big Ladbroke Trophy at Newbury which is always a magnificent spectacle over the fences there.
Aidan Coleman has the plum ride on Epatante in the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle. Following the retirement of Barry Geraghty this is a tremendous opportunity for Coleman as the defending Champion Hurdler was magnificent all last season. The ground can get very testing at Newcastle but a clear round should see Epatante consolidate her position at the head of the Champion Hurdle betting.
There is also graded action at home with three Grade 1 races at Fairyhouse on Sunday. The Royal Bond Novice Hurdle has always attracted some of the best horses in the country and the entries are high class. Gordon Elliot has struck up a terrific partnership with Cheveley Park Stud whose colours are more associated with flat racing.
It promised to be quite an afternoon for the owners with Ballyadam putting his lofty reputation on the line in the Royal Bond. Envoi Allen won the Ballymore at last years festival and jumped superbly at Down Royal on his reappearance. He is already a short-priced favourite for the Marsh Novice Chase and is a short-priced favourite to win this on Sunday.
Finally, the other intriguing runner on the card is the brilliant mare Honeysuckle. Henry de Bromhead has reported Honeysuckle to be in good form as she gears up for her seasonal reappearance in the BARONERACING.COM Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse on Sunday.
The unbeaten six-year-old rounded off a flawless campaign with victory in the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham in March and is likely to go down a familiar route before returning to the Cotswolds next year.