Sky’s the limit for Gigginstown

IRISH racing may have its share of problems at the moment, but one of the more positive stories has to be the growing success of Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud.

Gigginstown is a name which is becoming increasingly influential and the organisation’s ability to source the right kind of raw material becomes more apparent as the years roll by.

Gigginstown, of course, is relatively new to the game, but has made quite phenomenal strides over the last ten years.

The first horse O’Leary owned was called Tuco. He won the Land Rover bumper for him at Fairyhouse in May of 2001.

Davy Russell, who was later to replace the retired Conor O’Dwyer as first jockey to Gigginstown, recalls winning a point-to-point on Tuco at Tallow.

After the Land Rover, the next occasion Tuco tasted success was in a maiden hurdle at Thurles in February of 2002.

He beat subsequent Aintree Grand National hero, Hedgehunter, that afternoon and was, by now, sporting the Gigginstown colours. Tuco was subsequently killed at Fairyhouse.

It has, however, been onwards and upwards ever since. War Of Attrition, of course, is Gigginstown’s leading light so far, beating Hedgehunter in the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Already this year, though, there are definite signs that the best of Gigginstown may well be yet to come.

At Punchestown on January 8, for instance, they enjoyed a first ever treble with Tillahow (Mouse Morris), Joe Smooth (Noel Meade) and Samain (Willie Mullins).

And then, just eight days later, repeated the dose, this time with Sam Adams (Paul Nolan), Beautiful Sound (Gordon Elliott) and Lovethehigherlaw (Willie Mullins).

Sending horses for the first time to champion trainer Mullins was a real statement of intent. Three Gigginstown horses have now run for Mullins and they have all won.

When it comes to buying horses insiders say that O’Leary’s brother, Eddie, is the key player and clearly he knows just what is required.

Sir Des Champs, the third horse Mullins has for Gigginstown, is a real case in point. Ex- French, he made his Irish debut at Navan last Tuesday and looked to have a lot of potential, cruising to a two and a half lengths success.

Gigginstown now has a wealth of talent at it’s disposal and Russell is thrilled to be part of the team.

“I love it, it is a real pleasure to be riding those horses’, says Russell. “The O’Learys are sportsmen.

“Obviously, they love to win, but you won’t see any sad faces when they are beaten, they are great losers as well.”

AT Thurles on Thursday I couldn’t help feeling how sad it will be if that track ever closes. We have been told in the past that will be the situation if the green light is ever given to the proposed massive undertaking at nearby Two-Mile-Borris.

Perhaps, a racecourse near a casino will be a major success but, call me old fashioned, give me Thurles every time.

Thurles had a fine crowd on Thursday, creating an excellent atmosphere, and none of the hardy souls in attendance seemed to give a thought to the cold or the lack of facilities.

The racing was excellent and the food on offer at Thurles is, people keep telling me, the best around.

Indeed, one rotund member of the press corps says he never leaves the track without having one of his favourite meals - sausages and chips!

The essence of Thurles was surely captured with the reception accorded to For Bill after she had won the Grade 3 mares chase.

She was led in by her 84-year-old owner, the remarkable Donie Sheahan from Killarney. Sheahan is a character and one of the most popular figures on Irish racecourses. As fit as a flea, he was showered with congratulations and days like this, at a course with a rich and proud tradition, are to be savoured.

The racing authorities should never allow Thurles to close, to do so would be nothing short of a disgrace.

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