It may be a tricky task to find a good viewing point to watch the Ladbrokes Trophy – once the owners of leading contender Cabaret Queen have taken their positions at Newbury.
With almost all the Syndicates.Racing group’s 69 members – who own the Willie Mullins-trained seven-year-old – set to descend on the Berkshire track on Saturday, it will be standing room only as they try to catch a glimpse of their pride and joy in action.
One member of the raiding party set to be in attendance is London-based Mairead Ni Cheoinin, who is dealing with big-race nerves already before Cabaret Queen attempts to join a roll of honour featuring such greats as Arkle and Denman.
She said: “We thought she would give us some nice days out, where you meet a nice group of people at the races, and I didn’t think any more of that.
“There will be more than 60 members of the syndicate there. Some are flying in the morning – and I think there maybe three-quarters of an Aer Lingus plane landing at around 8am at Heathrow!
“The group is made up of people from every walk of life, from postmen to agricultural workers, from all over the globe. There will be grannies, second cousins and third cousins once removed all cheering her on as well. It will be like having our own mini-Cheltenham there.”
Picked up for £13,000 out of the Dan Skelton yard at the Goffs horses in training sale in May, Cabaret Queen has already given the group a day to remember – running out a stylish winner of last month’s Munster National at Limerick on her second start for Mullins.
Cheoinin said: “She was great at Limerick. At no point did she look back. Once she cleared the fifth-last and got into her long stride with her tail back and ears up, that was brilliant.
“I was envious of everyone in the syndicate that was there, because it was a beautiful day – we frightened some of the punters in the bar we watched it in with the roars we were crying out at one stage!
“I’m of a certain age where I’ve had to put up with people showing me pictures of grandchildren and children, but I’ve gone round showing the video of the last part of the Munster National and pictures of Cabaret Queen – so I’ve got my revenge in that way.”
Although used to dealing with horsepower of a different kind in her international maritime marketing role, Cheoinin is now only too happy she took the advice of a friend and answered to the call of racing manager Jack Cantillon searching for new syndicate members.
She said: “I’m not from a racing background at all – I would know more about boats than animals. The nearest thing I ever got to the horse was my neighbour’s Connemara ponies.
“When I showed a friend who buys and sells horses what Jack was doing, he said he was a good guy and that it was the type of thing I would enjoy and get access to, something I have never done before.
“It was a good opportunity to gain a little step into a horse racing and dip our toe into the water – so far it has worked out well.”
Having caught a glimpse of a number of Cabaret Queen’s rivals – including ante-post favourite OK Corral from the yard of Nicky Henderson – during a gallops morning at Newbury, Cheoinin is keeping her fingers crossed Syndicate’s bargain buy can deliver again.
Cheoinin said: “We just want her to have a race that she enjoys and be healthy at the beginning and the end – and that Mr Mullins is happy with her performance.
“It is a very big challenge, but if she approaches it like she did the Munster National she will compose herself well.”
Racing is all about daring to dream big, and Cheoinin hopes a good performance from Cabaret Queen at Newbury may be the next step towards a potential outing at National Hunt racing’s holy grail later in the season – the Cheltenham Festival.
She added: “It would be the ultimate thing to run her at the Cheltenham Festival. I’m not saying it has to be the Gold Cup, but it would be great to run her in a race that suits her.
“The Gold Cup is a frightening prospect, but if she can do it and Mr Mullins is happy with her then why not?”