Seddon Lights Up Christmas At Leopardstown 29-12-22

29-12-22

Seddon produced an astonishing performance to claim a thirteen-length victory at Leoparadstowns Christmas Festival. I have been attending the Leopardstown Christmas Festival since 1989 with my family. It has been as much a part of our family Christmas tradition as Turkey and Ham. I can remember clearly in 1990 as a Sixteen-year-old young punter learning the ropes having winning bets on Ebony Star trained by Jim Dreaper and on Rawhide who took the feature Findus Chase for Mouse Morris. The bumper was won by a horse called Back Door Johnny trained by Jim Bolger and ridden by a Mr Aidan O'Brien (I wonder what ever happened to that jockey?). Since then, a lot of water has passed under the bridge with myself and Leopardstown. It was a long, winding, bumpy at times road to the parade ring at the Christmas Festival as one of Seddon's proud owners.

The Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate have had plenty of attempts at Leopardstown on the flat with Fastman placing twice. This however felt different Leopardstown at Christmas is massive huge crowds, major coverage everywhere with brilliant racing. We headed to Leopardstown with plenty of supporters, family and friends. I got to Leopardstown early maybe around 1030. I wanted to take in the whole day. I also felt we had a chance of pulling it off. Every time you start to think about it you say to yourself " Hold on Seddon already won at Cheltenham maybe that was our day slow down" As the race got closer I got more nervous no questions. I have to say my faith in Seddon, John McConnell, Ben Harvey, Amy Crook and the team at Rockview Stables never dropped for a second.

Seddon is very talented in my view, he had done everything right in the build-up. This race had been our plan since we got Seddon. In my mind, the opposition had to go and beat a Cheltenham winner who had his form franked. My only concern was switching from hurdles to fences. Leopardstown is not to be taken lightly plenty of good horses have got a Leopardstown fence wrong and come down. Even my beloved Florida Pearl (my equine hero) a winner of four Irish Gold cups had his only career fall at Leopardstown. That was it in my mind if Seddon got into a jumping rhythm he would run well. I was not worried about the ground. The Leopardstown chase track is a law unto itself. There had been very few runners over the four days over fences. The going on the chase track is always better than people factor in unless there is a deluge during racing. It does not get a chance to drain away in those circumstances.

The last time we saw Seddon in action on a racecourse he stormed to a spectacular five and half-length victory at the home of Jumps racing Cheltenham. Seddon was value for a much bigger winning margin at Cheltenham, he had annihilated the field he was heavily eased down at the line. Seddon had travelled like the wrath of God at Cheltenham when he strode on the race was settled in strides. The UK Handicapper had stuck him up eleven pounds over Hurdles to a mark of 140 after Cheltenham. Seddon got to race at Leopardstown from an Irish chase handicap mark of 123 with Ben Harvey taking two pounds off with his claim. Seddon would race from 121 on the day. On figures his chance was obvious, however, racing does not work like that. There is nothing given over fences, nothing preordained, nothing guaranteed. The horse and jockey have to go and do it. What followed from Seddon was an astonishingly good performance, he simply took the race apart from the front. To win in this manner at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival was beyond anything we could have hoped for.

Before the race, there was nervous excitement in the parade ring. Family and well-wishers reached over the parade ring fence to offer support. We had made it! The Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate at The Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Seddon made his entrance to the parade ring. Seddon has a condition called Stringhalt which essentially means he has an unusual walk. Seddons walk will always attract comments from racegoers and paddock watchers. As John McConnell said to us from the start " Seddon is not in a walking race and he can run very fast" The usual rituals of chatting with Ben and John McConnell. Ben looked confident and calm, but John was a little nervous. In fairness to John McConnell, his worry was ground-related, having nothing to do with the ability of Seddon or the race he was facing. There was confidence among the Syndicate, you could feel it from people's energy in the huddle. We all kind of got separated leaving the parade ring as a consequence of people coming up to us and wishing us well.

The story of the race was Ben Harvey went wide early as agreed and got plenty of daylight. Seddon got into a nice rhythm jumping beautifully. Seddon measured his fences really well early on. At the top of the home straight on the first circuit with the fence in the straight omitted due to a dangerous low sun. Seddon strode on as they passed by the winning post for the first circuit taking a four-length lead, he was tanking along. Seddon attacked the two fences past the stands with real intent and began to open up a significant advantage. Because Seddon was going so well my heart was in my mouth a little, as sometimes when a horse is travelling that well they can lose concentration for a second and fall. As Seddon headed into the back straight the lead was seven lengths and growing rapidly. A brilliant jump at the first fence in the back straight saw the lead grow to over ten lengths. The second last open ditch of the race came up with seven furlongs to race. Seddon pinged it, they quickly crossed the road that goes over the racecourse. It was at this point. I started to believe this is really going to happen if he does not fall Seddon is going to win!!

Three fences from home Seddon still had a huge lead. There was a loose horse knocking around. I was starting to get anxious about him. As Seddon headed for what would be the second last today, the open ditch. A fence that has to be respected many a race at Leopardstown has changed here. Ben gave Seddon a chance to get organised and get a breather. The lead was four lengths, and the loose horse rushed up on Seddons inside. Seddon jumped it well, he began to open up again going seven lengths clear. As Seddon shaped up for what would be the last fence the loose horse swerved across his path. Ben was alive to the danger avoiding the loose horse and catastrophe with a great piece of jockeyship. Seddon took dead aim at the last fence, soaring over it.

Ben took a long lingering look behind for potential dangers. He would have liked what he saw. With no jumping left because of the low sun Seddon powered around the home bend ten lengths clear. The punter's cheers rose up from the stands. Seddon was still on the bridle he had galloped the field into submission with a brilliant display of jumping into the bargain. Seddon posted a winning margin of thirteen lengths however it could have been much more. Watching Seddon galloping up the home straight was just a beautiful feeling impossible to get into words. You hope someday it might happen, and then it unfolds in front of your eyes it is even better than you could ever imagine. A moment you will never forget it was an impossible dream, but Seddon delivered it.

The scenes in the parade ring were amazing. The syndicate, family, friends and supporters mobbed Seddon and Ben. At one point Seddon ended up wearing a hat but that's another story. He took it in his stride perfection in equine form. Amy Crook watching the apple of her eye beaming with pride.  Seddon was of course wearing Mokhalad's browband as he does in all his races. It was lovely that a piece of Mokhalad was with us. Like the sky, Mokhalad's presence is spread over everything we do. Our numbers swelled as family members and friends joined in everyone included as has been our way since the start of the Syndicate. Cheltenham was emotional this was more euphoric. Everybody knew they had witnessed a special performance. 

John McConnell was generous with his press interviews below taking the light off himself. This was despite it being an incredible moment for him personally, Amy and his family. John's humility was for all to see. You would be proud to be associated with him at any time.

“It's all down to the lads in the syndicate that wanted to run because I was getting very watery about the ground. It seemed to make no difference to him,” said McConnell.“He jumped great, Ben was always happy that he was going the right pace and it's great to have a guy with a brain and a clock in his head. I was never worried he was going too fast because Ben is such a good rider.“On his handicap mark, compared to his hurdle mark, he was entitled to run very well.“When he won in Cheltenham this was always the plan to come here. We thought we'd get nice ground here and then it started to rain. We got a little bit worried but what a horse.“Mr handicapper is going to have his say now! He's going to get into the hurdle race in Cheltenham off the mark he's on now and probably the chase as well so we can do what we want and he doesn't owe us anything now.“For some of these guys having a Leopardstown winner is as good if not better than having a Cheltenham winner as they've been coming here all their life. It's brilliant.“He's really easy to train and I don't think we need to run him again. If we want to have a go at a real big one we'll leave him on whatever mark he's going to get.

Although John McConnell was correct the Syndicate wanted to run. The bottom line is that John McConnell and his team had Seddon primed and ready to run a brilliant race. That is really all any owner can ask and to be honest all that really matters. It does not matter how you end up in the right place just as long as you are in the right place at the right time. John McConnell has his own way of working, he is a brilliant trainer, but, he is an equally brilliant person. We have gone on a journey with John McConnell as our syndicate went through a transition. There has been plenty of tough times along with the glory. John McConnell has been a calm conveyance through good and bad times. Always available, always communicating and always with a genuine interest in us as a group. John McConnell will probably never fully understand the pleasure it gave us to give him his first Leopardstown Christmas festival winner.

Leopardstown could not have been better accommodating to our small army in the winner's lounge. I had some magical moments with my Mum and Dad as well as my wife Siobhan. I could not help but think of those Easter Mondays when Mum and Dad loaded the five kids up for Fairyhouse. Two of those kids are in Seddon and the other horses. I had a few moments with Johnny Maher my fellow co-founder of the syndicate. Sometimes no words are needed you just look at each other smile and sip your drink.  It was that kind of day.  The whole Syndicate journey has been a dream since the start. The good days, the bad days, in between days. Johnny and I have seen it all and we know how hard it is, to win races and compete. From Down Royal to Listowel we have gone all over the country with the syndicate's horses. We kick every ball, feel every setback and try to keep the spirits in the group up in down times. 

You can do nothing in life without a team. There is a big team of people in the syndicate who all play a role, they are an exceptional group of people. There are Dave McGeehan, Connor D'arcy, Gerry Murphy, Gavin Byrne, John Byrne as well as Johnny's wife Grace there since the start with Mokhalad.  The aforementioned group have seen it all, they have stayed the course. They have backed us up in tough times.  There are the new brigade Gary Evans, Ian Griffiths and Sharon Monahan who has added hugely to the group and have brought the best of themselves to Galaxy. We are just so pleased for the old guard and new brigade that we have all had this day.

Johnny has started to work in the racing industry recently full-time. Something he has always wanted. As his friend, I am truly delighted for him. This win was the cherry on the cake. I now along with the team have to try to get Johnny Maher his other racing dream a Curragh winner. My dream was always a Leopardstown winner, it came through which I am so grateful for. I think my mother Pauline summed up the day best " That went well, very well actually" mothers always know.

Christmas is a time when people look back at the year gone by. The Galaxy Horse Racing Syndicate was enduring a horrible time for the first part of 2022. We lost Trading Point, Mokhalad and Parkers Hill to injury and had to retire them all. Three very good horses all of who had given us great days. These were tough times, it was just bad news after bad news.  There were times we wondered how we would make it through, how would we ever compete again. Stanhope won 23-4-22 at Navan and the fightback started. Stanhope was a horse that the Syndicate decided to stick with even before we lost the three horses to injury. Seddon came into our lives in August, the Syndicate backed John McConnell. Seddon has changed everything at the back end of 2022. Fastman and Stanhope both won after Seddon arrived. Numoor has been knocking on the door. From the ashes of the start of 2022, it is a credit to John McConnell and the syndicate where we sit now. Many people will face changes in their lives as they head into 2023 which will be more significant than trying to win horse races. What I would say to anyone worrying about change, it is painful of course. Don't give up after a few setbacks, you just never know when your Seddon is coming along in life.