A WEEK is a lifetime in the world of a horse.
In this column a fortnight ago I alluded to how ‘the dream’ is an essential part of this sport and last week, I previewed the Thyestes Chase.
It was an exciting time at home in Conna as we had a live contender of our own. Remember, it has been 10 years since Whinstone Boy! I was guarded in my words, not wanting to tempt fate on the build-up, as we know all too well that anything can happen.
My exact words were, “Castlebrook remains a possibility for the race and while he would carry Whinstone Boy on his back, this could be a year too soon for him.” At the time of writing, I was secretly praying that he would get to Gowran Park yesterday.
I went on to explain that Castlebrook had a few more tests to pass before he would get the green light for the prestigious handicap. The main test being his final piece of work which was due to take place last Sunday morning. Provided that went well and that our team of Patrick Murphy, Tara O’Flynn and my parents were satisfied, we could all continue to dream.
However, in a matter of seconds on Saturday morning, during a routine canter —that dream turned to a nightmare. The wheels came off our bandwagon and while we are surrounded by horses every day, the one who possessed the raw ability to take us back to the main stage was in trouble.
It’s interesting how people react in these situations. Some bury their head and think of what’s been lost. More step forward and concentrate on what can be salvaged. Our attention quickly turned from the shattered dream to care for the gentle giant who has served us well from when he entered our yard as a foal.
We’re blessed in Ireland to have a veterinary health system of which the HSE can only dream. Brilliant efficiency combined with unwavering support from the Potts family — nothing was spared. Not a moment wasted in making Castlebrook comfortable.
Now, after a few days of digestion and contemplation, we are forced to regroup. Roger Crawford’s words come to mind, “being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.”
Regarding Castlebrook’s future, I am guarded once again. We will be guided by our vets. Horses of his ability and character are extremely rare and even if we do manage to unearth a diamond in the rough, they are usually and understandably sold to join bigger and more powerful connections.
This is just one of life’s cruel blows but in perspective of real issues, it pales in comparison. We don’t have to travel far to find serious domestic tragedies here at home not to mention the wildfire flames burning through a nation on the other side of the world.
In the words of Voltaire, ‘The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.’
We will regroup and push forward. What else can one do but continue to look ahead?
With that sentiment in mind, it’s time we take a look at Cheltenham Trials day tomorrow featuring Paisley Park’s attempt at back to back Cleeve Hurdle’s.
Unlike the Champion Hurdle, the World Hurdle revolves around one horse. Paisley Park appears rock solid and his comeback performance in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle was encouraging, especially as the third-placed horse (The World’s End) has since won the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot. Tomorrow’s assignment should solidify his position as firm favourite to retain his crown in March.
Tomorrow’s feature race is unquestionably the Paddy Power Cotswold Chase, which is essentially shaping up to be a proper Gold Cup Trial. The home challenge is lead by Bristol De Mai, Santini, Slate House and Ladbroke’s Chase winner De Rasher Counter.
However, it is the possibility of Gordon Elliott sending over recent Savills Chase winner Delta Work that really adds star quality to the mix.
Worried about the prospect of drying ground at the Dublin Racing Festival, Elliott has toyed with the idea of running his young Gold Cup prospect over course and distance – a move that could provide his challenger with essential experience ahead of the main showpiece in March.
Considering things didn’t go to plan in the RSA Chase at the festival last term, this could prove a shrewd move by Elliott. This is a wonderful stage of the season. Keep looking forward.