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'We're roaring at each other with FaceTime on during the races. It's a dream come true.'

The syndicate with modest ambitions have seen their horse reign at Leopardstown and Cheltenham, with Punchestown next up.

IT IS THE name that is most arresting in this sporting story that yielded Christmas success, a March milestone and now aims to round off the winning run next week.

danny-mullins-on-flooring-porter-celebrates-as-he-crosses-the-line-to-win Danny Mullins celebrates after Flooring Porter's success. Source: Dan Abraham/INPHO

As Ned Hogarty outlines, there was no complexity in the selection when himself, Tommy and Alan Sweeney, and Kerril Creaven were considering the horse their syndicate had purchased.

“There wasn’t any much debate. I’ll tell you what happened, we didn’t bother naming him after he’d done his pelvis. I said until we see that fella ready to rock we won’t bother.

“So Gavin (Cromwell, the trainer) rang up and said we have him right, stick a name on him, get the colours.

“I said, ‘Look it we’re in the flooring business, the two boys have the pub, Flooring Porter, we’ll call him that.’

“Then black and white, the same colour as porter, for the jockey.

“We weren’t anticipating all this but now that we have it, we’re embracing it.”

Leopardstown was conquered through the Christmas Hurdle and then Cheltenham surpassed that with the capture of the Stayers’ Hurdle, the showpiece event on the Thursday of the festival.

Now this group from East Galway and South Roscommon are aiming for Punchestown glory next Thursday.

“We’ve a horse that’s on the brink of winning three Grade 1s in a row. I don’t think anyone from the West of Ireland ever owned a horse that’s after doing that. 

“It seems to have captured the imagination of a lot of people. We have people buying a can of paint, rugs, flooring or whatever through our shops, and they’d be telling you Flooring Porter is paying for it. It’s a great story.”

Lifelong racing fans, they set out with modest ambitions. Ned runs a family carpet and flooring business, based between Ballinasloe and Galway city. He’s been friends for years with Alan who was running The Countryman pub in nearby Creagh. Tommy is Alan’s father and Kerril is his uncle.

“I spotted the horse, said it to Alan and we said we’d buy it. Then he invited in Kerill and we invited in Tommy, so it was like a leg apiece. 

“He was actually bred in Monivea and subsequently I know the man that bred him, Sean Murphy. He’s actually related through marriage to Kerril. We didn’t know this at the time. The horse was relatively small money, went through the ring, he didn’t make five and a half, it was five grand in the end.

“Gavin got the horse to find a customer for him and I just saw it on Facebook, he’d two horses advertised for sale. I made contact with him. 

“He said come up and we went up on a Sunday morning to his yard in Meath. They were being broken by Andrew Lynch at the time. We looked at them and we bought one. I often meant to ask him what became of the other one.

“So we were hoping to pick up a handicap in Kilbeggan or Ballinrobe or Roscommon or somewhere. As it transpired no one knew what he had in him.”

gavin-cromwell-celebrates-espoir-dallen-winning Trainer Gavin Cromwell. Source: ©INPHO

Hogarty had been an admirer of Cromwell as a trainer. In 2018 the partnership took flight. A year later the fluctuating emotions of the sport surfaced when Cromwell’s Espoir D’Allen produced a terrific performance to upset the form and land the Champion Hurdle in March but that August the five-year-old sadly had to be put down.

“That was an awful hard-luck story,” reflects Hogarty.

“Delighted he’s got a bit of luck, his horses seem to be going well. He’s a great yard with everyone up there, seems to be happy place anytime I’m there.

“I find Gavin to be very straight and very able. He’s big enough to compete with everybody but he was small enough that you could pick up the phone after to him, that kind of way. We get on well, there’s no bother.”

And Cromwell has delivered for them in steering Flooring Porter (12/1) to that success at the Cotswolds with the Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier (14/1) offering further proof of his prowess.

“We were hoping to go juvenile hurdling with him (Flooring Porter) but he did his pelvis and that set him back a good bit. We had to be patient, we got him handicapped, he won an unplaced maiden in Bellewstown in August 2019.

“Then went to Downpatrick, he was fancied, just didn’t handle the hills and hollows well. He wound up winning below in Cork, a good galloping track. Then we went to Leopardstown that year, we decided the further the better, that’s when the three mile thing came in.

“We were beaten by a horse in Gowran Park (in October 2020) called the Streets of Doyen who went off winning at Cheltenham, think he won four on the bounce. I was saying ‘Jaysus Gavin, we’re sitting at home and this fella is going around winning.’

“But Gavin had a bigger plan and he went for the Grade B handicap in Navan.”

danny-mullins-on-flooring-porter-comes-home-to-win Danny Mullins on Flooring Porters comes home to win at Cheltenham. Source: Francesca Altoft/INPHO

That was on 5 December last at the Meath track, the springboard for prestigious races and memorable wins.

The backdrop is that this meteoric rise has unfolded in part away from the glare of the public spotlight. It’s 14 months since a different race in Navan when the Flooring Porter syndicate could last provide an eyewitness account of how their prized horse was running.

“Look it’s been challenging, the only negative to the whole thing is not getting to the racecourse,” says Hogarty.

“We’re roaring at each other with FaceTime on during the races. It’s a dream come true, great excitement.”

“All I can remember for the Cheltenham one is, ‘Fill him up, fill him up!’.

“I can genuinely say after the first circuit, I never thought losing was an option because I know he’ll stay and his jumping has improved. It has been documented that he is quirky but all that sort of craic seems to be gone, he’s matured.

Source: Racing TV/YouTube

“And we’ve something to look forward to. If this horse remains sound, he’s just gone six, you could get four years out of him. You’re not going to bring him to the well every week, he could only be campaigned three or four times a year. I’d say he’ll be getting his holidays now after this and you won’t see him again until Christmas.”

There is another key player in this rise. Jonathan Moore was not in the saddle for the Cheltenham breakthrough, standing himself down after a heavy fall at Navan the Sunday before with Danny Mullins deputising superbly.

But Moore’s role is valued greatly by the owners.

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“My heart went out to Jonathan, he’s been a major player in this story. Without Jonathan campaigning for him to be supplemented for Leopardstown, we would never have been in Cheltenham.

“I’d been in contact with him since he fell on the Sunday, how was he keeping. His back was very badly bruised, he said he would be fine, but Gavin rang on the Thursday that he wasn’t right.

“I spoke to Jonathan then myself, he said he was upset but he just wasn’t able. It was very mature of him, he knew the horse had such a live chance. Danny was excellent on him.

“But we will be eternally grateful to Jonathan Moore. He knows we appreciate that very much. He’ll be back on him now come Punchestown.”

jonathan-moore-on-flooring-porter Jonathan Moore celebrates Leopardstown glory with Flooring Porter in December. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The blow of watching all this success from afar is softened by the deluge of well-wishes they have received. Hogarty was thrilled recently to see another syndicate with a local connection triumph through Roscommon native Cathal McHugh, the Abu Dhabi-based teacher who is involved with Fairyhouse winner Skyace.

“I was delighted to see that, another fairytale story with the whole background of Shark Hanlon and a small money horse. You don’t have to be a sheikh to win a Grade 1.

“There’s two different crowds with links to South Roscommon here that have them with small money horses. It must be the luckiest part of the country in the land.

“The whole community is behind Flooring Porter. It’s a great story. Everyone seems to be embracing it around the place, far and wide in Galway city and Ballinasloe. There’s not an hour that he’s not mentioned to us by somebody.

“My own son Ned is 12, he’s such interest now. My father Sean wouldn’t have looked at a race meeting and now he’s watching TG4 most Sundays for that racing programme. It captures the imagination.”

They have all been enthused by the experience, stirring joyous emotions at a time when there is enough uncertain disruption elsewhere in everyday life.

“I’d encourage anyone to get involved in a horse racing syndicate. It’s a great thing but don’t take it very seriously, punch at your weight and cut your cloth to suit your measure. Get involved with people that are like-minded like yourself. You can’t have a panicker, you have to just wait. It’s a patience game.

“There should be more big days out provided he remains sound. It is disappointing we couldn’t be there, the ultimate feeling is leading in a horse with the tricolour around your neck at Cheltenham but hopefully next year.

“When the rewards come, there’s no better feeling than having a winner with the camaraderie.”

One more shot at glory to round off the season next Thursday then, cheering on their star from the couch and counting down the days until they can gather together in person.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Murray Kinsella, Bernard Jackman and Gavan Casey look at the bigger picture for Irish women’s rugby, the disconnect between the amateur and pro games, and the anticlimactic ‘northern’ Rainbow Cup.

About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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