JAMES MOTHERWAY is readying a small but select team of summer horses to compete over the weeks and months ahead, as racing in Ireland nears its return.
The Irish Grand National-winning trainer currently has six horses in training at his yard in Cloyne, with the rest of his string out at grass in anticipation of the winter National Hunt season.
Motherway is relishing racing’s return, and particularly jump racing’s resumption date (June 22), following what have been a couple of very challenging months.
“It hasn’t been ideal,” he said.
“But, like everyone, we just have to cope with it. When racing got shut down, there was a good majority of the horses had to be left off.
“We just kept going with the summer horses. There were a few youngsters that had little niggles during the winter that we caught up with, with little bits of work and that.
“They are gone out on a little break now. Look, it’s been challenging, trying to keep the whole thing ticking over.
“We are nearly through it now and nearly back racing, so we’re not too bad. I won’t really be up and running until the back end of June, as we have predominantly jumpers. We have only one or two Flat horses.
“But it’s great to have a target. We’ve been trying to do the guessing game all along; we’ve kept horses ticking over. Now we have a target, we can push on.”
Racehorse trainers have had to weather a number of storms in modern, from the Foot and Mouth outbreak through to the current pandemic, not to mention the recession sandwiched in between.
So what has been the extent of this latest challenge so far?
“It’s definitely been one of the biggest challenges,” says Motherway.
“The last thing I remember of the calibre is the Foot and Mouth, which would have affected us back then as well, as we had to leave horses off that time for a while.
“The biggest problem with Covid-19 is that it is affecting everyone.
“I’m hoping that the industry as a whole will get back moving, as quick as we will with racing, because otherwise, it will make it hard for owners to keep going.
“The biggest fear that I would have would be that (whether or not) people will be able to stay at the game. To get the whole economy moving is very important.”
Motherway enjoyed a fruitful summer in 2019 with another small team of horses, and he is looking forward to sending out stable stars Na Trachtalai Abu and Goodnightngodbless to plunder some more prize money at the upcoming series of summer festivals.
Na Trachtalai Abu was a winner of the Midlands National last year and ran into the money in national-type races at Killarney and Listowel.
The 10-year-old son of Beneficial, whose most recent outing came at the Showcase meeting in Cheltenham last October, is set to line up in similar ‘national’ contests again this summer.
“He flew the flag again last season in fairness to him. He’s been a superb horse for the yard. Hopefully, he can have another good — whatever will be left of it — summer,” says Motherway.
“That’s the danger for the summer horses. The faster we can get going, the better for them. He is ground-dependent, like some of the other summer horses I have.
“The one that stands out for him at the moment is the Kerry National — he was third last year. It would be nice to get him back there again and, hopefully, ground might hold for him.”
Goodnightngodbless is another leading light at Motherway’s Ballyregan Lodge stables. The Yeats mare was a winner over hurdles at Roscommon in June of 2019, and made the frame on her next three outings — Killarney, Galway, and Listowel.
She has since switched to fences and was most recently fifth, at Thurles, just days before the shutdown.
“Once we get back up and running, we’ll pick out a few targets for her,” says Motherway. “She’s been good to us. We are doing plenty of work at home, but we want to get the horses going again and start making plans with them.”