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Westport Cove all set for Cheltenham


OFF TO A FLYER Cathal Hughes and his daughter Emma are pictured at Fairyhouse back in January with jockey Patrick Mullins and a member of staff from the Willie Mullins yard after Westport Cove won the bumper on the card in fine style. Pic: Healy Racing

Michael Gallagher

IT’S the home of jump racing, the Mecca of chasers, and the dream destination of every man, woman and child with a love for equine excellence. Cheltenham is where it’s at.
Cheltenham is the Holy Grail and tomorrow (Wednesday) a Westport man will watch his horse race around the famous track set deep in the rolling Gloucestershire countryside.
Cathal Hughes loves sport. When he’s not embedded in business, he can be found engrossed in sporting endeavours of all kinds, and there will be no happier man in Cheltenham when his green and red silks make an appearance on the back of Westport Cove for the Champion Bumper on Wednesday evening.
“We’re very excited. It’s great to have got there and our wish is he runs a good race and comes back safe and sound. We’re mad into sport and to have a horse in Cheltenham is great. “We’ll enjoy every second,” Cathal told The Mayo News.
The well-known businessman will be trackside for the big race but he’s not encouraging punters to lay out too much on the five-year-old.
“He ran in Fairyhouse in January and won there, but there’s no way of knowing how good he is and, of course, he’ll be coming up against really good horses in the Bumper, so I wouldn’t be punting too much on the outcome.”
The bay gelding’s breeding hints at a bright future with his sire being Muhtathir, a top-class miler in his day and his dam a French racer Reine Pieuse.
“The genes are good surely, but in racing you never know from one day to the next what fate will throw up. We had other good horses, ‘Westport Lady’ and ‘Frere Tuck’ but freak injuries ended their careers, so we’re taking nothing for granted,” Cathal continued.
Of course, one of the joys of owning race horses is the opportunity to christen them – if they haven’t already raced.
“Yes, we love to promote Westport wherever we can, and we wanted to call Westport Cove just Westport, but the authorities wouldn’t allow it, so we had to add Cove on the end.
“As I said, we had Westport Lady previously and we’d love to have named Frere after Westport too, but he had already raced by the time we got him.
“We’re very proud of our local community and it will be lovely to see a horse with Westport in its name running in Cheltenham this week.”
Hughes will be accompanied by his sons, Cathal Jnr and Conor at the biggest flat race in the National Hunt calendar.
Over the years, the contest around the Old Course in Cheltenham has been won by a host of future stars, including Florida Pearl in 1997 and Cue Card in 2010.
At the moment, Westport Cove is a long way removed from such esteemed company, but with top trainer Willie Mullins guiding his fortunes, and Danny Mullins in the saddle, anything is possible.
“Willie is a first class man with a first class establishment and a wonderful team behind him,” said Cathal. “They’re really decent people and their success speaks for itself.
“Willie will have a number of runners in the Bumper and we really enjoy working with him.”
Finally, thoughts turned to the colour of Hughes’ racing silks and there never was any doubt about his preferred option when he first entered racing – they just had to be green and red.
“There never was going to be any other combination. We’re very proud of our heritage,” he concluded.

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