BANDON-BASED trainer James Dullea is enjoying a terrific run in recent seasons with plenty of winners inside the rails.
During a very busy Christmas/New period his horses meet various targets around the country. There is racing at Cork and Tramore over the new year while the P2P circuit takes in Dromahane and Lisgoold. While the whole country takes a break the racing community are extremely busy providing entertainment during a hectic period.
“Ah it's always been the way so we are flat out as it’s our busiest time of the year. This whole period is massive for us and we have about 10 runners over the holidays. In general our horses are very fit coming into Christmas so it’s been a lucky time for our owners.
“Maybe it took us awhile to get going but the horses are running great at the moment. We didn’t have too many summer horses so we had to wait for the heavier ground. Now the rain hasn’t stopped for a couple of months so that winter ground suits our horses.
“I suppose Rocky Silver has been our stable star and has won four races for his connections, with a very impressive victory at Punchestown lately. He’s certainly improved with age as he failed to win a P2P as a younger horse. Patience is the name of the game with most horses so hopefully the owners will have plenty of more fun with Rocky Silver going forward.”
Dullea is always a man to keep on your side at this time of the year. Targeting certain meetings is what keeps most trainers in the game. Although it is still extremely difficult to win any race in Ireland the amount of meetings over the Christmas holidays levels the playing field a little.
“Tikkanen Express went up to Leopardstown on St Stephens Day and ran a belter to finish fifth at 33/1. But when you are going up there all the top yards are represented. It's more difficult to win against the big yards.
“But Limerick is also very competitive so placing horses has become very important for all of us. We will run plenty of horses around the early days of the new year at Tramore and Cork.”
The national hunt game has seen a massive promotion of syndicates lately. For relatively small money anyone can get involved in a racing club. These clubs can provide great entertainment for groups of friends who can follow the progress of their horse at a local trainer. Dullea is one of the new breed of trainers that has embraced this concept.
“There is such a massive interest in jump racing here in Cork we decided to set up a club which made it accessible and cheaper for the ordinary man on the street. I remember reading a piece by the great Australian trainer Gai Waterhouse and she explained how so many people out there have a share in a horse. So I decided to set up a club here with two horses under the guidance of Horse Racing Ireland.
“It’s a pilot project but something we are keen to develop. But it is an easy way to get involved in owning and following a nice racehorse. Moscowsowhat is our first club horse who was second the last day at Limerick.
“The syndicate is great fun actually and is a real gathering of all types of characters from tradesmen to stud owners and I think people are enjoying their experience. Of course winning a race or two along the way will certainly put smiles on people’s faces.”
While a small few owners dominate the national hunt game at present the P2P circuit is still the real shop window for selling young horses. A very good horse that can win a point can make anywhere between 60k to 400k. It’s an incredible incentive for the small trainers.
“The P2P fields are still a massive shop window and all the leading owners would have agents there. My background would be from the local P2P circuit and our own meeting in Bandon is very popular every year and a place we love to have a winner at. It’s such a brilliant day out.
“Honestly, I would urge anyone who hasn’t been to take a day out at a P2P meeting. Now from a commercial point of view it is getting tougher to win but there is a reason for that as it’s so competitive and the big money owners are out there waiting for the next Denman.
“Trainers like Denis Murphy Colin Bowe, Pat Doyle and Donnacha Doyle brought the game to new heights which means there is a serious level of competition. They have raised the standard to a whole new level which is great for our sport. If you win a maiden against these boys you know your horse is top class.
“Finally it would be remiss of me if I didn’t mention my amazing staff who keep this show on the road. We go over to Conor Murphy’s gallops in Upton to work the horses a couple of days a week which is a brilliant facility and has helped us train so many winners over the years.”