Newcastle-based businessman Graham Wylie, and his wife Andrea, are living the dream and surely grateful for the day they decided to have horses in training with Willie Mullins.
The Wylies, originally, were best known as the owners of the great Inglis Drever, the first horse to ever win the Ladbrokes’ World Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival on three occasions. That feat was later achieved as well by the mighty Big Buck’s.
Graham Wylie bought his first horse in 2001 and, of course, was very much associated with the Howard Johnson yard in the north of England. Johnson trained Inglis Drever and the Wylies were his principal patrons.
But when Johnson was banned for four years in 2011 by the BHA, immediately announcing his retirement, the Wylies decided that they would move their horses to what they regarded as the best trainer in England, Paul Nicholls and to the best in Ireland, Mullins.
What has followed with Mullins has been quite extraordinary, with the Wylie colours now being sported by some very high-class horses.
Graham Wylie was co-founder of The Sage Group in 1981, the largest software business in the UK. In 2003, he sold his stake in Sage and is said to have made his money in that deal, some £180m.
Also in 2003, Wylie founded Technology Services Group and reportedly expanded the business primarily through acquisition. The millionaire businessman clearly has a huge love of racing, especially the National Hunt variety, and has been a massive plus for the Mullins operation.
Mullins buys the horses for Wylie and the last couple of weeks have emphasised just what a dream team this connection has become.
All being well, the Wylies can look forward to the likes of Nichols Canyon, Shaneshill, Bellshill, Yorkhill, Up For Review and Black Hercules sporting their famous colours at the Cheltenham festival.
At the weekend, Wylie indicated that he basically leaves the decisions to Mullins and if two of his horses were to run in the one race at Cheltenham would have no problem with that.
Nichols Canyon clearly rates as the main danger to stable companion, Faugheen, in the Champion Hurdle.
Not the biggest horse in training, he had to dig deep at Leopardstown at Christmas to beat Identity Thief, in terrible ground.
That success was one of a number of excellent results for the Wylies over that period. Their Yorkhill proved a snug winner of the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown last Saturday, even if not finding as much as he threatened to do from the back of the final flight.
Shaneshill is a real favourite of mine and the two and a half mile JLT Novices’ Chase shapes as his most likely target at Cheltenham.
He won well at Naas last Sunday and will have learned from a mistake two out and guessing somewhat at the final fence.
Bellshill too did the business at Naas and you just cannot crab a performance that came on really bad ground.
You couldn’t fail to be impressed by Up For Review at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve, galloping Jetstream Jack silly to beat him by an unflattering 13 lengths in a three-mile novice hurdle.
The Albert Bartlett is on his agenda and he just seems to possess what is best described as endless stamina.
And then there is Black Hercules, a spectacular winner first time over fences at Navan in the middle of last month, who has RSA Chase written all over him.
The Wylies aren’t short of a few bob, aren’t short of a few good horses and not short of a trainer either. They are lucky, lucky people.
At the start of next year the coverage of racing on terrestrial television in Britain will move from Channel 4 to ITV.
There has been so much waffle on the subject of late that one is almost tempted to wonder who cares. Hardcore followers of the game — and here’s one of them — those with access to both ATR and Racing UK, will lose little sleep over this.
I have long got out of the habit of watching either Channel 4 or RTE, when it comes to racing. Of course one dips into them from time to time, but if they both pulled the plug tomorrow it wouldn’t be regarded as a big deal by many of us.
Terrestrial television, however, is obviously vital to promote the sport and vital, one suspects, as far as sponsors are concerned. For terrestrial television to attract a decent audience, it needs to go after much more than the hardcore, there simply aren’t enough of them.
Where Channel 4 went wrong, presumably, is that they got rid of the less-than-politically-correct characters they had, the likes of McCririck and Francome. In RTE’s case get rid of Ted Walsh and most of the humour will go with him.
I see very little wrong with Channel 4’s coverage and like Racing UK also, although you won’t be treated to many laughs on that channel.
If ITV wants to jazz it up then they could do worse than watch some of what’s available on ATR.
They have Matt Chapman who, love the man or hate him, is highly entertaining. And the fun produced by Jason Weaver and Luke Harvey on Friday nights on ATR is the stuff of legend.
There are so many different ways to watch racing now that ITV is going to face an uphill task.
John Francome went on record earlier in the week saying this could be the final hurrah for racing on terrestrial television, in Britain. They could be prophetic words.
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