Trainer Gearoid O’Loughlin hopes the success of Space Cadet in the Ulster National is a sign of things to come when racing returns to normality.
The 10-year-old won just his third race under rules in the Downpatrick feature, having threatened to be a classy chaser for Gordon Elliott a few seasons ago.
Given a new lease of life at his new yard, Space Cadet obliged at 25-1 under amateur Ben Harvey. O’Loughlin is operating out of owner Chris Jones’ yard in County Meath.
“In his last season with Gordon he pulled up a few times so Chris decided on a change of scene,” said O’Loughlin, who like everyone in the sport has had his season put on hold amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’d hunted him a few times and he went pointing just to freshen him up. He won twice.
“He was given an exceptional ride by Ben on Sunday, who gets on really well with him for some reason. Ben rode him to win on his first run for me so it was nice he was on him again.
“I don’t know what we’ll do now. Without the virus we might have thought about the Scottish National, something like that.
“We took him over for the Welsh National and it was his only poor run for me, whether he didn’t like the travelling or what I don’t know, but other than that and a fall at Punchestown he’s done well.
“He ran well in the Troytown and his last run in the Leinster National was encouraging (fifth). It was a great race to win, especially because he hadn’t won (under rules) for over 1200 days.”
O’Loughlin may not be a familiar name to all punters, but he has learned his trade with some shrewd handlers.
“I’ve been at the yard nearly three years, I took over from Andy Lynch. I was pre-training, that was my main job. I had six riding out up to three or four weeks ago, but I’m up to 11 now,” he said.
“It’s going good, it’s Chris’ own place and it’s working out well.
“Cederwood Road would be my best horse. He won a Listed race at Naas. I’ve been brought up the old school way having worked for Enda Bolger and Martin Brassil, so he’ll probably go straight chasing net year.
“Should Punchestown be on he could go for the Grade One. I ride him out myself and he’s absolutely bouncing.”
In these strange times it is hard for trainers to make plans, but O’Loughlin praised the efforts of the Irish industry who raced behind closed doors for a short while.
“Downpatrick was the first day I’ve been racing behind closed doors and I have to say what a great job the Irish authorities did. Apart from signing my name in a book I didn’t have to go near anyone,” said O’Loughlin.
“No time of year is good for something like this to happen, but with the sales coming up too, it’s a massive blow. We have to just get through it.”