Trainer Peter Fahey joined Friday Night Racing on Off The Ball after the success of his enigmatic stable star Belfast Banter at Cheltenham and Aintree.
Prior to the Cheltenham Festival, Belfast Banter was often referred to in unkind terms, with question marks raised over how 'genuine' he was. The horse having frequently not 'finished out his races' despite travelling well.
🌟Land Rover Winner🌟
BELFAST BANTER returns from a Cheltenham Festival win to land the Gr1 Top Novices’ Hurdle @AintreeRaces for @PeterRacing & Direct Bloodstock
Sold by Pine Tree Stud to Patrick Turley & Mark O’Hare #TheNewBest pic.twitter.com/kWIByMV2Zv
— Goffs (@Goffs1866) April 9, 2021
The trainer admitted he had doubts himself during the County Hurdle when Belfast Banter appeared to be travelling strongly as usual, but was pleasantly surprised when he continued to go through with his run, all the way up the hill, and win.
Penny Dropping at Cheltenham
Jockey Kevin Sexton said "The penny is dropping with him" in the wake of the County Hurdle win.
That suggested the horse hadn't figured out what he was supposed to do previously, having only been successful once in 14 starts before Cheltenham.
Fahey though, just feels it is the way the races are run in Britain that suits his horse better than Ireland, rather than a character flaw.
"In England, they go very fast early on, whereas in Ireland they go slow early and build it up and build it up. Here the last couple of furlongs are the fastest," Fahey said.
"Over in England they go a very strong pace early on and the last couple of furlongs would be the slowest. So that gives our horse a chance to settle as they are going a stride quicker early on. He can settle and breathe better and relax.
"Then he doesn't have to quicken to get into the race because they are coming back to him. So it is easier for Kevin to hold on to him and give him more confidence through the race."
Bridle Horses 'give everything'
Horses that require a fast pace have historically gotten a bad reputation with most famously Harchibald in the Champion Hurdle being outbattled by Hardy Eustace.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 2, 2021
When Harchibald and Paul Carberry seemed to be travelling the better, but could not get past Dessie Hughes' horse.
Punters called Harchibald dishonest and callow. However, Fahey feels the opposite is the case for a horse like Belfast Banter, who sometimes doesn't find much for pressure from the jockey.
"Every trainer has horses you'd call 'bridle horses,' they find very little off the bridle [i.e. when the jockey is pushing and asking for more].
"Some horses that don't finish out their races, you would say they have issues with their wind [breathing] or physical issues.
"With him when we got him we thought he had a wind problem because he wasn't finishing out [his races]. So we did a 'galloping scope' where you put a camera scope up his nose when he exercises and it sees what way he is breathing. He was perfect.
"Even half-way through the season, in September I think. We said, 'there was to be something wrong with his wind and we did it again. He was fine.
"He is just one of those horses that actually gives everything without even asking him. Other horses race lazily, the public sees a horse race lazily and see the jockey working on him and he gives more. You give the horse a lot more credit, thinking 'he's very tough.'
"Our lad is just the complete opposite, he gives everything without having to be asked," Fahey said.