PAT Downey has always liked Little Big Rocky. He broke the horse in himself, watched him grow and develop, and with each passing day, he liked him even more.

On the way to Fairyhouse for his second run in a bumper, he got a call from one of his owners Jimmy Owens asking him does he fancy the horse?

“I told Jimmy there would be more behind him than in front of him,” Downey recalls now. “Jimmy told me he was a fair price just to be in the top six. He was 250/1 on the day and I backed him to be in the top six, top five and top four.”

Little Big Rocky had all but one horse behind him that day and that one horse was a good horse, O’Toole, who went on to finish second in the Punchestown Champion Bumper. The prize money for second place was €1,900 but Downey and his owners probably made multiples of that with their bets. Second place never felt as good.

“I probably ran him back too quick the next day at Navan,” Downey says. “But Derek O’Connor got off him and said, ‘please, please mind this horse, he’s a good one’.

“He’s virtually 17hh now and I only had the ‘back’ man in here the other day and he said he’s spot on. He has the most fabulous attitude of a horse I’ve ever had. He had a little problem when he ran at Fairyhouse next, and then he ran okay in maiden hurdles on his next two starts but once he had that experience, he was a different proposition.

“I meant it when I said it on television after he won at Killarney, the only thing I was worried about was the traffic on the way down!”

Little Big Rocky was a smooth winner at the Kerry track alright, more or less doing it on the bridle for Conor McNamara and it was more of the same at Cork next time, where he easily defied a stone higher rating.

Pending that he isn’t sold in the next few days, he now goes for the €100,000 Grade B Listowel Ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle on Friday, bidding for easily Downey’s biggest career win.

“The handicapper basically made our minds up for us,” Downey says. “He gave me 28lbs so we’ve no other choice. We were looking at a beginners’ chase for him next week. I’ve schooled him and he has jumped electric and he will go chasing eventually but I just thought it was definitely worth having a go at the big pot.

“One of the owners came in there just before you called and said he’s 8/1. It’s amazing to be going down to Listowel with a big chance in one of the big races.”

Meath man

Downey trains in Slane, Co Meath. He broke and pre-trained horses for years, but always wondered about training. As faith would have it, he took the plunge right before the crash in the late noughties, but he’s stood the test of time and he says he’s on track to be as healthy as he has ever been as a trainer.

“We’ve got a few new horses off the back of Little Big Rocky and few other winners we’ve had,” he explains. “I’ve redone the gallop here off the strength of those wins and we’ve three orders already for the sales at Newmarket. We’re looking to buy a few three-year-olds who could be dual purpose horses.

“We’ll probably buy a couple more on spec as well. Please god by the end of October we’ll have more horses than we ever have had in the yard. We’re at 15 at the moment and we’d be hoping to be up to 21 or 22.”

Downey could also be represented by two other horses at the Harvest Festival this week.

“We’ve Penny Jar going on the Saturday as well and I think he’s going to have a hell of a chance going in the 80-95. Company Keeping might run as well, if he gets in, and he won’t be far away if he does.

“We’d love to have a first winner there. It would be great to go down and keep Pat Healy quiet!”