Leading the way for jumps trainers in Northern Ireland is Co Antrim based trainer Stuart Crawford.
With a well-run stable with brothers Steven, Ben and Ross. It is very much a family centred operation at the stables, that chemistry between them can bounce off on the horses and make them thrive.
Many syndicates own horses with the well-liked trainer, including Realtra horse club. The small syndicate had a big day out to the Cheltenham Festival a couple of years ago, when their horse Danielle’s Journey ran in the Mares Novice Hurdle.
Another one of Team Crawford’s best horses looks set to head to the Festival too. Fine Rightly has been a fantastic flag bearer for the yard, winning Grade 2 bumper and the Grade 3 Imperial Call Chase has been his career highlights so far.
The biggest win of his training career came at the Punchestown Festival in 2008, when the determined ten-year-old Mare Oh Jackie won the prestigious La Touche Cup. It was a victory that really put Stuart into the spotlight.
It is more difficult training up north, with many big racecourses in Ireland a long drive away.
It takes nearly three hours to get from Antrim to Leopardstown, and nearly six to get to Cork, where Fine Rightly won in 2016.
That is where Stuart’s excellent ability to place horses comes into play.
He loves nothing more than sending a couple of horses across to Scotland or Haydock. And many times, it has paid off.
Although it is winners on home soil that are most special, and their will be many more to come at Down Royal and Downpatrick I’m sure.
Article by Jamie Lindsay