FLYING HIGH?Balder Succes, with Wayne Hutchinson on board, is pictured winning a Novice Chase at Aintree last April.?Pic: The Racing Post
Achill's Michael Masterson hoping for Cheltenham success
IF you are watching the Cheltenham Festival on television this week and notice a number of people wearing green and red, chances are they will be celebrating a victory with strong Mayo connections.
Masterson Holdings Ltd, a construction firm based in England owned by Achill native Michael Masterson, have up to four horses listed to race in the festival, including Balder Succes who runs in the Ryanair Chase, the main race this Thursday.
The Alan King-trained seven-year-old is currently listed as the third favourite in the Grade 1 race. Having won the Betfair Ascot Chase on St Valentine’s Day, his owner thinks he’s worth a flutter.
“Balder Succes is 95 percent certain to run in the Ryanair Chase and I think he has a good chance,” Michael Masterson told The Mayo News. “He previously ran at two miles and had a good track record, coming second at Kempton [last December], but has since moved to two miles five furlongs and is seriously moving.
“I know some of the pundits talk about him unseating his rider at Cheltenham [in 2013] and while I would not put the gable of the house on him, I believe on form he has a good chance.”
Like all of Michael’s horses, Balder Succes will be wearing the green and red of Mayo, and the Masterson entourage will also be donning the county colours.
“Everyone will be wearing red and green scarfs on Thursday and if you see someone with red and green on television they will probably be one of us ... Mayo have not won a lot lately, unfortunately, and we hope to have someone wearing green and red with more success,” he joked.
Michael and his wife Mona (a Fermanagh woman) established Getjar Ltd in the 1980s which specialises in groundworks and reinforced concrete frames operating across the south of England. Getjar Ltd is now part of the Masterson Holdings Group, which has a €100m per annum turnover.
He has been going to Cheltenham for the past 20 years but readily admits that he got involved in racing due to business — ‘a lot deals are done on the racetrack’.
Mr Masterson says he was ‘more of a Mayo and Arsenal fan’ but his sons are now looking after the business, which has given him more time to enjoy racing. While he does not bet on his own horses, Michael says he gets a real thrill from watching them race and feels very fortunate to have successful horses.
“It is an unbelievable feeling [seeing your horse win], especially in a big race,” he said. “I had a winner in Cheltenham before about six or seven years ago with Silver Jaro and it is a great feeling ... It would be like winning the FA Cup. They say the first time you win it is a blur and you want to win another one.
“It would be great to win with Balder Succes, but racing is racing and Cheltenham is Cheltenham. He is doing well with us, he is a star, and there are not many owners who can say they have won grade one races. But if he is coming down the hill and not winning, we won’t kill him. If he wins it will be great, but if not, he will be going to Aintree and Punchestown,” he explained.
Michael has three other runners in the Festival; the two he says we should keep an eye on are Fletchers Flyer (named after his grandson), running in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and Seventh Sign in the Foxhunter Chase, both on Friday.
Masterson Holdings Ltd have been the main sponsors of Achill GAA for 20 years and Michael and his family return to the island every two months.
If any of his horses come good in Cheltenham, Michael will be the toast of Achill for weeks to come.