You would always like to be involved in something as big as Dublin Racing Festival but there was nothing really suitable for Colreevy so we will be watching the quality racing instead.
You would always like to be involved in Cheltenham too but that is up in the air, something that we are still thinking about, given that the Mares’ Chase is the only real option and she is still a novice.
We always felt she would be a better chaser than hurdler given how big she jumped over the smaller obstacles but that said, she has exceeded expectations by winning the Grade 1 in Limerick at Christmas.
People will point to Asterion Forlonge falling and obviously it was a factor, but she beat Pencilfulloflead, who had won a Grade 2 before that, beating Latest Exhibition by seven lengths. And she had to fight hard to do it, after that shuddering mistake at the second last. That said a lot about her determination.
It was a rare mistake for her. She really relishes jumping. When you look back now, it was fantastic to win a Grade 1 bumper at Punchestown, when she beat Abacadabras, and win her maiden over hurdles and be placed in graded company. Chasing was always going to be her game but she has exceeded expectations without question.
There’s a nice story behind her name. Both my late parents are from Leitrim originally and we went up a lot to visit family. My mother’s maiden name is Gray but when her sister died, we saw the name Colreevy on the gravestone. So we made enquiries and it emerged that her family’s original name was in fact Colreevy but at the time, the British were still in Ireland. They were giving out land and having an Irish name would make it less likely that you would get it. So they changed their name to the more English-sounding Gray.
So we wanted to honour the name and it’s great that it worked out that Colreevy has turned out to be so good. It doesn’t always work out that way so we’re fortunate.
Her story with me started with Aries Girl. Aries Girl’s dam, Ravaro was a brilliant mare trained by the Joe Crowley, who won the Irish Cesarewitch off 9st 12lbs, the biggest weight carried to victory in the race for 15 years. She was runner-up in the Stayers’ Hurdle and in the Queen Alexandra Stakes and won nine races.
My brother John bought Aries Girl with Wally Sturt and she won eight times in training with Pat Flynn, including four bumpers, which would have been almost unheard of at the time. She was also second in the Champion Bumper. My breeding started with her and we have been lucky.
We run the mares. They run in my wife Claire’s colours but under the name Mrs N Flynn, keeping the name we always had when my parents ran the horses. They loved it, had a lot of good horses. Meladon won the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham in 1977. They had all the Shuils and Liss A Paoraigh was another fantastic mare trained by John Kiely.
Next Destination, who we bred and has continued his excellent form since transferring from Willie Mullins to Paul Nicholls is from the same family. Liss A Paoraigh is actually the dam of Goodbye Someday, who has won three times for us.
Pym is another gelding we bred who won a Listed Chase in England for Nicky Henderson and Patricia Pugh, the Altior connections.
We had more or less decided to give the Mares’ Chase a miss at Cheltenham with Colreevy, but the manner of her victory at Fairyhouse last week has made us think again. She couldn’t have done it any easier and did not have to race coming home to win by 12 lengths.
The conditions of the race mean that she would actually have to give Benie Des Dieux seven pounds, as a winner of a Grade 1 chase this year. As a novice that is quite an examination and probably tells you the way we might be leaning, particularly with races to run in back in Ireland not long after with very good prizemoney.
Another factor is that she has run at Cheltenham twice and while she hasn’t run deplorably, she hasn’t run up to her best either, finishing seventh in the Champion Bumper in 2018 and fifth in the mares’ novice hurdles last year.
The truth is though, no decision has been made yet.
We have really enjoyed what she has done and when you breed them, it makes it that extra bit special.
We are very lucky that racing is continuing and should always be aware of that. My brothers are all into it but while I have a dairy farm and am kept going anyway — the breeding is a hobby as much as anything — they are hoteliers and are closed down at the moment. The racing is a godsend to them. As my mother always said, it gives us something to talk about anyway. Long may it continue.