Racing: Taaffe ready for high Kicking aim

It was probably a champion we saw down in the blasted low paddock of the Portree Stables just outside Straffan in Co Kildare yesterday. Kicking King got down slowly and rolled on his back, a posture which his rivals in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown the previous day must have felt like adopting.

It was probably a champion we saw down in the blasted low paddock of the Portree Stables just outside Straffan in Co Kildare yesterday. Kicking King got down slowly and rolled on his back, a posture which his rivals in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown the previous day must have felt like adopting.

Now it is not ridiculous to mention his name in conjunction with the finest races. The King George VI Chase at Kempton is next and the Cheltenham Gold Cup shimmers on the horizon.

These are contests to which Tom Taaffe, Kicking King's trainer, was born. The surname has been an ivy around success for decades in Ireland. There is a museum in Taaffe's swish new home, clippings and souvenirs of perhaps the greatest eras of Irish racing. There are memories of leviathans past, the flying Captain Christy and the ultimate yardstick in this game, Arkle himself, the first trained by Tom Taaffe's legendary father, Pat, the second ridden by him.

Daddy, as Tom Taaffe refers to him, passed away in July 1992, but one of his final acts was to survey the sweep of Irish sod that his son was to turn into a training centre. Taaffe junior has been impaled on the comparison with his father too may times, both as jockey and trainer, which has led to a natural reservation about his horses. Now, though, there is a sense that finally another winged one has come, a horse to stand comparison with others in the family album.

It was a beguiling thought yesterday from the high vantage point of a yard where keen eyes could locate the Hill Of Allen, the K Club, the next venue for the Ryder Cup, and a private graveyard for the Guinness family.

A hot toddy with extravagant use of Irish whiskey was served dead on nine, to the accompaniment of home-made brown bread, still warm from the oven. Pâté or in-house strawberry jam were the spreads. Dick Hern never used to take this trouble.

Tom Taaffe has nurtured the expectancy which now envelops his stables from the moment his eyes met the yearling Kicking King at Fairyhouse sales. "He's a particularly good-looking horse and that day I wasn't going home without him," the trainer said. "He had everything you'd look for in a young horse. He had size, substance and depth. He was this great athletic walker and there was charisma. Most importantly, there was this great presence about his head. All the real good horses have that."

Taaffe has known the experience all his life. The first horse he ever sat on as a two-year-old (him not the horse), was Arkle. "I didn't even know if he was a horse or a cow,'' he said.

Now that the Kicking King team have identified the attacking tendency which best suits the six-year-old, whimsical comparisons with the great horse can be idly allowed.

Taaffe blames himself for the Down Royal defeat by Beef Or Salmon. "We tried to settle him, but you can't be pulling a horse back on the flat after he's made two or three lengths at every fence," he said. "Yesterday the plan was to rock and roll and not allow Beef Or Salmon to show-jump his way round. Our horse was very stylish. You'd have to love the way he was jumping, almost hurdling his fences."

The jumping also occurs in Taaffe's mind, first to Kempton, where he has never had a runner, and on to the greater distance, the greater test of the Blue Riband. "I hope and believe we will not see the best of Kicking King until he is eight or nine, but if it was genuine good ground I would love to run him in the Gold Cup this season," he said. "I have no doubt he can do it. Whether it's '05 or '06 is the question."

Fifteen-miles south but still in the county of Kildare, there was another horse of quality getting back to nature yesterday. Moscow Flyer was getting down and personal in the mud in a paddock at Jessica Harrington's premises in Moone.

The trainer remains ambivalent about Kempton and a first foray at the three miles of the King George while the alternative of the Leopardstown race Moscow Flyer won 12 months ago exists. Certainly, the horse's wrecking-ball performance in the Tingle Creek Chase on Saturday proved the instant electricity was still there even as his 11th birthday approaches.

"Barry [Geraghty, the jockey] feels he is as good as ever and that he might even be better," Harrington said. "He has not had a lot of hardship. Saturday was probably his best performance, probably the best quality field he has taken on and probably the first time he has had to battle over fences. He has always won rather snugly."

Moscow Flyer was back in somnolent mood yesterday, the one he carries everywhere but the track. "He is the quietest horse around but he is a great character at the same time," Harrington said. "He likes to go out into his paddock, where he walks, rolls and watches the traffic. At the track he's different. As soon as I get him into the saddling boxes, he tries to kill me or squeeze me against a wall. I suppose he gets an adrenaline surge and gets himself keyed up." It is the same for all of us who get to see the fast horse at work.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower