Last Sunday, Gordon Elliott saddled 14 runners for the Bar One Racing Troytown Handicap in Navan, his local and beloved racecourse.
A 15 strong charge from the Cullentra yard were declared, with Cavalry Master, the Gigginston owned, ex in mate of Henry de Bromheads, getting withdrawn at the start on veterinary advice after receiving a kick from another horse, seeing Charlie O’Dwyers dreams of landing the Grade 3 race dampen very quickly.
6 of the 20 participants were not trained from the Cullentra yard. Henry de Bromhead was represented by a 3 strong charge, leaving 3 more runners from 3 more yards.
Is 14 too many? Ideally, yes, I would love to see a field of 20 runners from 15 or 16 different yards. BUT, realistically, No. If Gordon had declared 3 of his horses, there would have been 9 runners for a Grade 3 feature race in Navan that Sunday. 9 doesn’t sound too bad, but in the cold light of day, 9 runners in a race awarding €59,000 to the winner, doesn’t sound that great either, especially in the same week as Dan Skelton trained Pembroke was awarded a walkover in Warwick for their feature race on the card, worth £18,000. A month since Neil Mulhholland trained Any News was handed a walkover in Wetherby in a £12,000 novice handicap Chase. Granted, the differing jurisdictions are pestered by different problems from day to day, the reality is glaringly obvious from those contrasts. Where the better prize money is on offer, the better horses are going to turn up. One thing avid racing fans do not want to see is diluted racing, races with less quality in than could be in it, because one yard has a limit on what they can represent themselves with.
Some of the smaller trainers feel a little hard done by, and I can understand how looking at Gordon and Willie with a numerically strong team for the big race days is hard to swallow, but the reality of that is that they have the owners to support the Industry. Gigginstown were represented with an 8 strong charge for Gordon in the Troytown, large owners, who previously had horses in a lot of different yards, and have put a lot of money into an industry that quite frankly needs it, before now. Bective stud had a trio of opportunities to win the race, Noel and Valerie Moran of Bective stud have become huge supporters of the Cullentra House stables since they arrived on the Horseracing scene, they have horses with numerous trainers, but again, huge supporters of the industry. J.P. McManus had 2 of the 16 that weren’t from the Cullentra stable, with Gavin Cromwells Limerick Lace finishing second, the only horse of the first 5 back not to have been saddled by Gordon. Brian Acheson of Robcour was represented by Rachael Blackmores mount Ain’t that a shame, another huge supporter of the industry with horses in numerous yards including both Henry and Gordon. Chris Jones’ Horse Largy Debut was the most unlucky of the day when brought down at the first fence under a very frustrated Darragh O’Keeffe. Chris is another huge supporter of the industry, he has horses in various yards and the industry needs owners like these people.
Are we going to start punishing the owners for the magnitude of the yard they have their horses in by restricting numbers of representatives for a race? I hope not! If we do that and the bigger trainers get smaller in numbers, do the smaller trainers get bigger? Or do the bigger owners get smaller? If the bigger trainers get smaller, the owners will get smaller, which means that the industry will financially suffer everywhere. Stud fees, foal sales, store sales, Point to point trainers, pre trainers, the list goes on. Like everything, it’s a supply and demand curve, bigger owners downsizing means less demand, which means less supply. It’s effectively a way of the industry saying to the wealthiest contributors of it, ‘don’t worry about it, we don’t need all the money you are spending, spend a bit less’, And as an industry, we are never going to be in a position to do that!
As I sit here and proof read this, hoping that it makes some sort of sense, I found something occurred to me whilst reading about the owners of the Troytown runners. Gigginstown usually have a dispersal sale and anything that is struggling to earn its keep in Ireland goes to the HIT sales and finds a new home in England, those staying in Ireland have the luxury of the care of Ronan Cullinane at Gigginstwon stud, a beautiful place that I am fortunate enough to have been to. J.P. McManus, Chris Jones, Bective Stud and Robcour all have stunning, purpose-built yards for their own horses, they all have holiday homes for their breaks from training, retirement homes and the very best of care from these magnificent owners. This is what we want to see for horses, it’s what the outside world wants to see for our horses, and I’m quite sure, it’s what the horses want to see.
Ultimately, as sad as it is to see 14 of 20 runners come from one big yard, is It too many? I don’t think so, Is it ideal? Not really. Does it look great? No. Has it got anything to do with anyone else? No, because the same people are supporting the industry so well.
I would actually like to round off this article by saying ‘well done’ to Gordon and his team, not only for winning the Troytown, but for turning out 33 runners last Sunday, they all looked amazing and it was a credit to everyone involved.