Racing: Hardy Eustace keeps the quiet man happy

Hardy Eustace, the Champion Hurdler, circled slowly in the indoor school at the Osborne Lodge yard of Dessie Hughes in Co Kildare yesterday. Through the open door, great sheets of snow could be seen coming down, but there was no blizzard of words in the sports arena.

Hardy Eustace, the Champion Hurdler, circled slowly in the indoor school at the Osborne Lodge yard of Dessie Hughes in Co Kildare yesterday. Through the open door, great sheets of snow could be seen coming down, but there was no blizzard of words in the sports arena.

Hughes does not do braggadocio or hubris. In fact, he does not do words much at all. The 61-year-old, though, is fluent in quiet confidence. He looked over at his little squirt of a creature and smiled. "You can't be confident, not in a race like the Champion Hurdle," he said, "but I'm very happy with the horse. He is a special horse, the best horse I've ever had."

When he sees Hardy Eustace, Hughes also sees an alternative vision of himself. The equine hero possesses the singular faculty - as his name suggests - of great durability. It was the same with another beast with which Hughes was once associated, one whose name immediately invokes the echo of a different, but splendid, era. Monksfield, Night Nurse and Sea Pigeon tangled thrillingly for the title of champion hurdler in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the first named was Hughes's indefatigable partner.

It was Monksfield's gift, or burden, that he responded to every crack that Hughes ever put on his hide. The little monkey never had a little race. He suffered what, by contemporary levels, would be considered systematic abuse. Yet he always came back for more.

Hughes rode Monksfield to dead-heat with Night Nurse in the 1977 Templegate Hurdle at Aintree and that remains perhaps the most exhilarating hurdles race of all time. Two years on, he rode the little bruiser to his second Champion Hurdle. Exactly 25 years later he was in the winners' enclosure after the same race, this time by Hardy Eustace's heaving quarters.

Dessie was born in 1943 in Dublin's Whitehall area, where the only horses he saw pulled milk floats. By the age of 14 he was apprenticed to Dan Kirwan in Kilkenny and a great journey had started, one which reached the sunlit uplands in company with a shrewd little man called Mick O'Toole.

O'Toole was volatile and mercurial, Hughes the taciturn iceman. Big races and big betting plunges became the norm. Hughes still remembers most fondly the day when Davy Lad won the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle 30 years ago. "He hadn't run since November," the trainer said yesterday. "But he still went off at 5-2."

Two years ago, Hardy Eustace won the same race. It may be because of his reclusive trainer, or the horse's blue-collar style of running, but there is little recognition that Hardy Eustace is on the same petal-strewn path as Istabraq. If he wins on 15 March, the eight-year-old will be one step away from statistical legend. But then they do not do bombast very well at Osborne Lodge. It is in his nature, and also in the Hardy Eustace story, for Hughes to be phlegmatic. The gelding, who is now so purposefully ridden by Conor O'Dwyer, was originally the mount of Kieran Kelly, whose greatest moment came in the Royal & SunAlliance. Just months later, though, Kelly was killed in a fall at Kilbeggan.

Hughes has had other empty times too, most notably the void between his first Festival winner - Miller Hill in the 1982 Supreme Novices' Hurdle - and Hardy Eustace. "When I first started training I preferred the riding, but now I have got a horse like him I'm beginning to enjoy the training more," he says. "He's an easy horse to train. He doesn't overwork himself and he must have great big lungs because he never blows hard after a piece of work. He's honest. He's straightforward."

Hardy Eustace remains third favourite with Coral to retain the crown he collected so tenaciously in the Cotswold last spring. As the snow piled up yesterday, it was a persuasive thought that the little horse - the one apparently constructed from sheet metal like an earlier rugged Hughes associate - had seen and done it all before. So too has the figure who guides, the one recognised before in Ireland, the quiet man.

* Martin Pipe and jockey Jamie Moore will not appeal against the Jockey Club's decision to fine the trainer £3,000 and suspend Moore for 21 days over the running and riding of Celtic Son at Exeter in October.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments