• In The Stables with Mark McNiff

    The Strandhill trainer with a sniff for success 

    On weeks like this, when the weather is so wonderful, our place here in Standhill is as close to paradise as you would find anywhere in the world. We are right under the mountain and just 50 metres away from the beach. It's magical, although if you visited us in the middle of December you might not think so!

    The sun certainly shone down on me at Downpatrick on Saturday as well. We sent a team of four and came home with a 145-1 treble thanks to Atlantic Breaker, Andratx and Ashjan. 

    I was actually mad on Atlantic Breaker. I thought that he had to win on paper on a line through Tom Gibney's horse Penance. We were just behind him on our last visit to Downpatrick and he was six lengths ahead of Great Khan who was fighting it out for favouritism so I couldn't really understand why Atlantic Breaker was twice the price of him. I always knew he was up to winning a maiden hurdle, but I thought it would have happened about seven runs ago. We changed the bit in his mouth and that made a big difference. 

    I fancied Andratx too, but as a trainer, you begin to wonder whether you are looking at races with rose-tinted glasses. You start to doubt yourself and question whether your heart is ruling your head. Thankfully, he got the job done in great style. 

    Steven Kelly, the young lad who rides Ashjan, was sure that we needed to step him down in trip after he was collared late by Station Closed over 2m5f at the track last month and he was on the money. The 2m2f trip was exactly what the doctored order and he won nicely. It was a great way to end the day. 

    It's funny, I probably don't take as much pleasure out of winning as I should. You would think that after having a treble at Downpatrick that I would be on cloud nine but all I could think about on the way home was where I could send each of the horses next to try and get another win somewhere. In my head, it is all about the next day. I always try to think ahead. 

    Downpatrick is a terrific track and I'm not just saying that because I had a treble there. They cater brilliantly for owners and all my owners love having runners there. More tracks should take notes on what Downpatrick do. There is always a brilliant atmosphere there too.

    Hopefully my local track Sligo will be back in action for their next scheduled meeting. Its temporary closure due to drainage issues has been a big blow to me as I love having runners there and I have a lot of local owners. The good news is that I walked the track ten days ago and I have no doubt that it is ready to go. It is quite remarkable how much it has improved over the last month and I cannot wait to get back racing at Sligo.

    We have already had six winners over jumps in Ireland this season, double what we managed last year but we did have two Flat winners last year and two across the water as well so we are roughly on a par at the moment. We had a lot of placed horses last year, which was very frustrating, but here's hoping that those seconds can be transformed into winners this term. I have about 15 or 16 riding out at the moment and I think every one of them is capable of winning a race. 

    Our British raids have been reasonably successful over the last few years and Hexham and Uttoxeter are two tracks I love to visit. You can always be guaranteed safe ground at those venues no matter how dry the weather is. I am not afraid to travel. If I think a horse is capable of winning somewhere, away we go!

    I am 35 now and I would obviously love to have more horses but you need big owners with lots of cash to splash. Horses have never been more expensive. The three horses I won with at Downpatrick would have not have cost €30,000 between them but you wouldn't get a decent horse for €10,000 now. That’s how strong the market is. It makes it more difficult but I love the challenge. 



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