The final flight for Flooring Porter, he led by three lengths, to Beacon Edge in second, then Sire Du Berlais. Flooring Porter, wandering, but still leads by three lengths to Sire Du Berlais in second. But they won’t catch Flooring Porter, he makes every single yard for Danny Mullins and Flooring Porter has won the Stayers’ Hurdle.
IT’S not every day that a Facebook advertisement leads to Cheltenham Festival glory, and that level of success didn’t really cross the mind of Ned Hogarty and what would become the Flooring Porter syndicate when they purchased an unnamed Yeats gelding from Gavin Cromwell in June 2018.
Hogarty, who runs a flooring business in Ballinsloe and Galway city, was joined by former publicans Alan Sweeney and Kerril Creaven in the syndicate, along with Alan’s father Tommy. Combine the two trades and you get the name, and indeed the black and white colours as well.
The dream began in August 2019 when the horse gained his first success in a Bellewstown maiden hurdle. Fast forward 19 months, and Flooring Porter was bolting up the Cheltenham hill to glory.
It was an amazing achievement, an outrageous. But it was simply Sod’s Law that the syndicate couldn’t be there to experience and enjoy it to the absolute maximum. You have a horse of a lifetime who goes and wins the Stayers’ Hurdle at Cheltenham, and a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic comes along at exactly the same time.
It didn’t stop the lads enjoying it though.
“It was great. The only negative was that we couldn’t be there to cheer him in, but we would settle for it again,” said Hogarty.
“We were gone mad. We’d two televisions in the house, one was a few seconds behind the other, so some cheered it in before others, but it didn’t matter, at that stage we knew, and we were just gone mad.”
Flooring Porter began to enter the Stayers’ Hurdle picture when he dismantled a quality field at Navan in December, and just over three weeks later, he put in the display of his life to land his first Grade 1 in the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown, a race the syndicate bravely supplemented him for at a cost of €10,000.
He was now a real threat to the staying hurdling division, and as Cheltenham grew closer, the more confident connections got.
“The horse traded for so little money, and as I told RTÉ that day in Leopardstown ‘You don’t have to be a sheep to win a Grade 1.’ The whole thing is just great.
“We put him away then for a while. We knew we had a right one, but never did we think we’d be winning a championship race at Cheltenham.
“We went to Cheltenham with him hopeful rather than confident but the closer we got the more confident we got, he just improved so much. Gavin had him bang there.”
Going back through the years in Ballinasloe and South Roscommon, when people heard the expression Flooring Porter, it was a bar counter lined up with pints of Guinness. That was certainly the case for Sweeney and Creaven, when they ran the Countryman Pub in Creagh.
But now, the old expression has been etched in stone around South Roscommon and North Galway, as they can now hold the accolade of a Cheltenham Festival winner.
“He’s a household name now in Ballinasloe,” says Hogarty. “We’ve a shop in Ballinasloe and in Galway City, in the carpentry and flooring business, and I’ve a picture of him above the till in both shops, and you’d even have people buying a can of paint saying: “Flooring Porter paid for that”.
“It was great that he won at nice prices too, double figure odds a few times, it’d be ordinary folk backing him, and to see the joy it brought to the community was fantastic.
“It certainly gave the whole community a lift. Even my young kids and their friends got a kick out of it. Everyone became involved in it, people you wouldn’t have thought to be into racing,” Hogarty continued.
Now just shy of a year later, Flooring Porter is gearing up for another crack at the Stayers’ Hurdle title.
His preparations this year differ slightly to that of 12 months ago and truthfully it hasn’t gone to plan but importantly, the bookmakers make him a chief contender to defend his crown.
Flooring Porter began his season at Navan again in the Lismullen Hurdle, where he fell when challenging two flights from home.
He then went to Leopardstown to defend his title in the Christmas Hurdle, but after a controversial start, he couldn’t catch and get by Klassical Dream
That Willie Mullins-trained gelding has been a revelation stepping up to three miles, and the 2019 Supreme Novices’ winner will have a strong hand to play when he tackles the Stayers’ Hurdle. However, the defeat hasn’t altered the spirits of the syndicate, and they will be going all guns blazing to Prestbury Park.
“We were hoping to get back to winning ways the last day and the horse showed to be in great fettle, the race just didn’t work out for him, but we lost nothing in defeat. It would’ve been nice to get the ‘1’ beside his name again, we were gathering a few letters so we were hoping that would change,” joked Hogarty.
“He ran a great race at Christmas. You’d liked to have seen him jump off in front or jump off upsides Klassical Dream, and even passing the stands the first time I was hoping he’d ride up on his girth, not look him in the eye but just be that little bit closer.
“I don’t know did Danny (Mullins) not want to cut his throat either, but they were two good horses battling away, and Klassical Dream was never going to stop.
“It ended up a little bit of a two-horse race, but they were well clear of the remainder, and it should leave him spot on for a repeat bid at Cheltenham.”
Klassical Dream is not the only new name to appear into the staying hurdle division. Nicky Henderson’s decision to revert Champ back to hurdles has paid dividends so far, with a win in the Long Walk Hurdle, and the 2020 RSA winner will be more than up to the task he will face on St Patrick’s Day. You also have a few more familiar names in Thyme Hill and the 2020 winner Paisley Park.
“The staying hurdling division is probably more competitive this year,” Hogarty adds. “Klassical Dream of course and now you have Champ thrown into the mix, it’s going to be a brilliant renewal at Cheltenham.”
The advantage Flooring Porter will have this time around is that he is returning the defending champion, and has proven himself leading from the front around Cheltenham’s new course.
“We were going to Cheltenham last year a little bit into the unknown, now we’re going there with a course-and-distance winner and bidding for back-to-back Stayers’ Hurdles, so he has to be respected.
“He’s in good form. Some people were saying maybe he was a flash in the pan, but I don’t think he is. It’s all about keeping him sound. He’s a hardy horse so it’s easy in that regard, but we’ll keep the mileage low enough and keep him interested.”
Hogarty, Creaven and the two Sweeneys will be present this year, alongside Gavin Cromwell, and they will not be going to just take part.
“With the help of God now we’ll be carrying him up the hill in Cheltenham again,” Hogarty concluded.
Last year in spirit. This time for real.