independent

Tuesday 20 August 2019

Holywell has gold in sights

McLernon in confident mood

Richie McLernon and Holywell in action last year
Richie McLernon and Holywell in action last year

Shea Tomkins

And they're off! Wexford racing connections have their feet under the tables about the stables, inns and hostelries of the spa town of Cheltenham, and are once again in the thick of the hunt for top honours at the greatest horse racing show on earth.

Cheltenham preview

For the next four days, a number of our local trainers, jockeys, horses (and punters) will burst every last sinew in an effort to bag what we all want to achieve at Cheltenham - a winner. Or two. Or three...

The Model county has a formidable record at the mid-March meeting which captures the attention of racing fans in all pockets of the globe.

Take the four major races alone - since the turn of the Millennium, Wexfordians have returned home with three Champion Hurdles (jockey Conor O'Dwyer in 2004 & 2005, with Hardy Eustace, and trainer Colm Murphy with Brave Inca in 2006); a Gold Cup (Conor O'Dwyer - his second after Imperial Call in 1996 - on War of Attrition in 2006); a Queen Mother Champion Chase (trainer Colm Murphy, again, with Big Zeb, in 2010), and a World Hurdle (the Top of the Hill syndicate-owned Solwhit) in 2013.

And that's not to mention the other scalps taken by the likes of Paul Nolan, Jamie Codd, Daryl Jacob, Mick Fitzgerald and the newest kid on the block, last year's Martin Pipe winner, Mikey Fogarty. The list goes on.

To begin our look at the team carrying Wexford hopes in 2015, we start with the story of a breeder and an outstanding horse, with franked Cheltenham form, who is currently second favourite for Friday's Gold Cup.

Killurin's Paddy Doyle, dad of Irish international soccer star, Kevin, is responsible for bringing Holywell into the world, and the experts are giving the rising star every chance of taking home the Blue Riband. Out of Hillcrest and by Gold Well, Paddy sold Holywell on when the recession hit in 2009. Ballindaggin's Seán Doyle snapped him up and in turn sold him on for a nice profit to Jonjo O'Neill's yard in Gloucestershire.

Holywell will be partnered for the big race by Richie McLernon, who has already enjoyed three winners at The Festival, one each year from 2012, all trained by Jonjo O'Neill.

Alfie Sherrin was his initial winner at The Festival, taking the handicap chase now called the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase in 2012. The other two victories at The Festival have both come on Holywell.

In March, 2013, Holywell captured the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle and last year progressed to win the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase.

McLernon says: 'I am very much looking forward to partnering Holywell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. He is a great ride to get. The horse has been brilliant for me already at The Festival so I am really, really looking forward to the day.

'He is always a better horse in the spring and it was good to see him win the last time at Kelso. This will be my first ride in the Gold Cup. He loves Cheltenham. He is only a small horse but he has got a massive heart and a lot of class.

'He's a real little character, a lovely and very kind-natured horse - a real dude. I rode him when he first ran for Jonjo, at Plumpton where he finished third (January 2, 2012). He always felt like a nice horse and just had something about him.

'It was brilliant to win twice on him at The Festival and last year was very special - he had the form but people had questioned his jumping though it was never a negative for me. He proved that day he was a really good horse.'

Holywell is currently 8/1 with Paddy Power to win the Gold Cup.

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