O'Sullivan trained two Cheltenham winners in north Cork 29 years apart

O'Sullivan trained two Cheltenham winners in north Cork 29 years apart
It Came to Pass and Maxine O'Sullivan won for trainer Eugene O'Sullivan at Cheltenham. Picture: Healy Racing.

TRAINER Eugene O’Sullivan and his daughter Maxine combined for a fairy tale victory with It Came To Pass in the Foxhunter Chase at Cheltenham recently. 

History was repeating itself as the O’Sullivan family won the race in 1991 with Lovely Citizen owned by his late father Owen O’Sullivan, trained by Eugene and ridden by his brother William. 

The O’Sullivan family are well known in point to point circles and have sent plenty of very good horses across the water over the years. 

Despite the horse drifting out to a starting price of 66/1 the winning trainer was expecting a huge run.

“After watching the recording so many times we’re starting to believe we won now alright," O'Sullivan said. 

"We certainly fancied the horse to run a very big race. I thought the horse had a big chance and the 5/2 favourite Billaway was behind us last year at Mallow. 

"Gerard O’Sullivan, originally from Newmarket, owns the horse and he has been a great supporter of mine for many years. Obviously, any and all celebrations were put on hold until after this health crisis.

“We watched the race in the parade ring together or should I say we started standing together anyway. As the race progressed I was all over the parade ring I’d say but I found him again for the last couple of fences. 

"Maxine had a lovely position throughout and was making eye-catching ground on the second circuit.

"For a split second I could see Jamie Codd and Derek O’Connor staying on behind us but they were riding to get into the race. 

"We were really cruising and I knew if we were in the first four turning in the horse would fly up the hill. 

"His jumping was exceptional over the last few fences and it all comes easy to him as he’s a fine athletic horse. 

"Maxine was so focussed going out and did us all proud with such a brilliant confident ride. Everyone was in a bit of shock including myself and Gerard but it is so hard to win around there. 

"It is the Olympics of our sport and even if you are training an even-money chance you still need everything to go your way. 

"Just look at Goshen for the Moores in the first race, he looked a certain winner and disaster struck at the last hurdle. 

"Everything has to go right on the day and no matter how good your chances are it is still a shock when you win around Cheltenham. It really was an amazing feeling.” 

Tomás Singleton and trainer Eugene O'Sullivan with the Foxhunters Chase Trophy won by 66/1 shot It came to Pass at Cheltenham.
Tomás Singleton and trainer Eugene O'Sullivan with the Foxhunters Chase Trophy won by 66/1 shot It came to Pass at Cheltenham.

When It Came To Pass crossed the line in front the Irish racing media were certainly aware that history was repeating itself. 

But it came as a shock to many of us that it was all the way back to 1991 when the Sullivan’s last won the race.

“The years have certainly moved on all right. People were looking for similarities but they were two very different horses and the expectation levels with both were very different. 

"Lovely Citizen had won four point-to-point races and a couple of hunter chases. He was winning better quality races as the season progressed so he qualified for Cheltenham as a result. 

"Now to be brutally honest we never expected to win the race with Lovely Citizen. My parents used to take their holidays to Cheltenham every year and my father had been going for about 10 years at that stage when he decided it would be great to have a runner there some day. 

"It wasn’t going to cost a fortune to go over, we were qualified and the horse had won six races that season. 

"We went off a 14/1 chance on that day but we were shocked when he won it. It Came To Pass would be a far superior horse really. 

"Now I’m not taking away from Lovely Citizen who just performed on that day and for the whole season really. 

"We came back and won at Fairyhouse and finished runner-up at Punchestown with him.

“It’s a family business and Maxine works here full time also. 

"It was fantastic for my mother to witness it again and due to the current health situation she didn’t travel over but she is obviously very proud of us all really. 

"Our yard is a point-to-point yard which concentrates on young horses. We bring them along nice and slowly and get them to the point-to-point fields. 

"When a young horse wins a point-to-point it is very hard for the owners to turn down big money. Chris’s Dream, Springtown Lake, Getaway To The Rock all started off their careers down here with us and ended up running in Cheltenham this year. 

"All these horses won plenty of races along the way. It’s great when we hold on to the good horses but it’s very difficult when a big cheque is waved at someone to turn it down.” 

Finally, with a complete racing shutdown, it may take some time before we see It Came To Pass in action again.

“Fairyhouse and Punchestown will be cancelled for this season anyway. We went to Killarney last year so that race might suit as we haven’t had too much racing this season. 

"The horse likes good ground so hopefully we’ll get back racing at some stage. But the health of the nation is the focus for everyone right now. 

"We appreciate all the goodwill messages and the message from here is stay safe everyone.”

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more