TRAINER Kevin Coleman won his first race on Irish soil, last month, with a horse that nobody else wanted.
The former jump jockey, who hails from Innishannon, saddled Red Vermillion to win division two of the Meath Handicap, at Fairyhouse, which in turn gave the trainer a breakthrough Irish success.
This was a milestone. But it was also a big training performance, considering that Coleman had previously been trying to sell the five-year-old chestnut filly, unsuccessfully, for the mere sum of €500.
With no buyers, the Tipperary-based handler persevered with training the daughter of Excelebration. She subsequently outran whopping odds of 22/1 to take her maiden victory, under jockey Sean Davis, in the one mile, five handicap, which carried a first prize of over €5,000.
Reflecting on the landmark win, Coleman said: "I’m happy to get it. I didn’t think it would be with her, but that’s horse racing; anything can happen.
"She was for sale. But I couldn’t get €500 for her!
"I put her up for free lease as well, but no one bit. Nobody wanted her. She’s a five-year-old filly and they are not worth much – until they win!
"She’s probably a 10 grand filly now. I have her since she was a yearling.
"I was adamant that she’d win something, but I didn’t know how long it would take. Other than that, I wouldn’t have persevered with her. Plenty of lads rang me and said that they wished that they had bought her now!
"It worked out for me anyway. But they are not all fairy-tale stories like that. We have to look to the next one now."
Red Vermillion was due to reappear on Thursday, in a mile and six handicap, at Bellewstown. Her trainer could also be represented at his home track, this coming weekend.
The former Galway Plate-winning rider could rely on his leading hope, Swiss Army Officer, in the seven-furlong Cork Handicap, at Mallow racecourse, on Sunday. A son of Swiss Spirit, he was seventh in a Fairyhouse handicap over six furlongs – on the same day as Coleman recorded his first winner in Ireland – on his first outing of 2020.
Well regarded by his trainer, the five-year-old gelding was a runner-up at Dundalk, last winter, and he could be seen to good effect again when he gets his favoured conditions.
‘‘He just needs soft ground. He can’t handle quick ground. He was drawn wide the last day and he got no run. He’s a massive horse; he’s the size of two horses. He takes a bit of running to get him ready.
"He’s a decent animal, but he’s a character. He needs his own way; to get to the front and to get soft ground. Then, he’d win a little race," the trainer said.
After his race-riding days were cut short, owing to injury, weight struggles and a lack of big-race opportunities, Coleman returned to college and subsequently graduated from university with a sports science degree.
The Cork man then took out his training licence, in 2018, and based himself on the Curragh, in Kildare. He recorded his first winner as a trainer in the UK, last summer, when Allhallowtide triumphed in a sprint contest, at Beverley.
Since last autumn, Coleman has been training from his new base, in Carrick-on-Suir, where he has a string of eight runners, while other horses in his care are being prepared for the breeze-up sales.
The trainer is pleased to be back racing after lockdown, even if it means continuing behind closed doors.
‘‘The atmosphere has changed [without the crowd at the races], it’s not the same.
"But I think everyone is just delighted to be back. We are not in the business of selling cars; these are animals that you need to feed and exercise.
"To keep the whole thing going, to keep ticking over is what we are aiming to do, and if we can keep the thing going, we’ll do everything we can to abide by the Covid-19 guidelines.
"I love it here at the yard. It’s six in the morning until eight or 10 at night.
"When you’re doing it for yourself, you don’t mind it,’’ Coleman said.