Prendergast sure about Supposin

Richard Edmondson on Ireland's chief challenger for the Champion Hurdle
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The Independent Online
It has been a frequent scene in Irish fields in recent years. A well-dressed pairing of English owner and trainer has bought a horse for a six-figure sum from relatively scruffy local chaps in turned-down Wellingtons. The people on one side of this bargain are, by great taproom wit, reputed to be daft and easy to fool. A dispassionate observer of these outdoor transactions might find it a little more difficult to find the dupe.

Nicholas Cooper can certainly be considered no dolt as he has built up a serious fortune in business, but he had to lay out a goodly slice of his profits last month on an Irish novice hurdler called I'm Supposin, who had run just once over timber.

The portents though are good that this money will not be chasing the poorly-speculated rest as it cascades down the grids. On his second outing, I'm Supposin waltzed away from Finnegan's Hollow at Naas, and that runner- up then all but beat the highly-rated Istabraq at Leopardstown.

I'm Supposin may now have posted just two runs over hurdles in his life, but his form and promise mean this useful former-Flat performer is a 7- 1 chance with Coral for the Champion Hurdle itself.

I'm Supposin will not need a return portion on his ticket to Prestbury Park. Win, lose or draw he will be transferred from his current digs with Kevin Prendergast in Kildare to Cooper's favoured trainer in Britain, the Sussex-based Richard Rowe. It will be an unusual journey to one of Britain's brightest freshman talents from one of Ireland's most venerated racing families.

Kevin Prendergast, who will be 65 this year, is the son of the legendary P J Prendergast, and brother to Paddy, a fellow trainer. A former leading amateur rider, he lists his interests as farming and breeding, which is quite understandable when you learn that he has been on the lookout for seven brothers. Andrea, Penelope, Louise, Norma, Anne, Amanda and Natasha are the seven brides he has been seeking to bankroll.

Down the years Prendergast has won plenty of his domestic Classics and, in 1977, he sent Nebbiolo over to Newmarket to win the 2,000 Guineas. Most recently he supervised Oscar Schindler's dramatic campaign last year, when the huge chestnut finally fulfilled the high expectations that have always been held for him.

The first Oscar nomination this season is Epsom's Coronation Cup and he will compete with the very best throughout the year. "You don't expect to see Eric Cantona playing in the Third Division so we'll be there in all the big races," the trainer said yesterday.

I'm Supposin actually met his more celebrated stablemate in the Irish St Leger in September and was far from humiliated. "If you take Oscar Schindler out of the Leger he was beaten only four lengths by Key Change, who had won a Yorkshire Oaks, a Group One," Prendergast said. "You can't get any better than that in terms of a Champion Hurdle horse.

"Some of the horses he'll be running against will be just old bumper horses and I think the last time that anything ran in a Champion Hurdle with the sort of Flat rating [115] he's got it was Alderbrook. This is not just an ordinary horse you know."

I'm Supposin may not have won many times last year but he did capture a Derby, even if it was the Ulster Harp handicap version at Down Royal.

There were also notable efforts in defeat, including a length and a half second to Pilsudski, the subsequent runner-up in the Arc and winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf, in a Group Three event at the Curragh. Perhaps most significantly of all he ran more frequently than an Eskimo's nose to prove his durability for a winter job.

I'm Supposin's National Hunt logbook may have limited entries, but Prendergast believes the five-year-old has already displayed what it takes to win at the Festival. "He's like Alderbrook because he just jumps for fun," the trainer said. "He's only had two starts over jumps but he's already beaten the best novices here by seven lengths.

"And how many races do they need before they learn? I tell you they're either good at it or they're not. Schooling doesn't make them that much better because they either have a natural appetite for the game or they don't."

Prendergast regrets his horse is moving on but, like all Irishmen, understands the sale as part of the sport's economics. "The owner is the all-powerful man because he pays the bills," he said. "This was done for the betterment of the owner and the betterment of the horse."

David Brennan, I'm Supposin's former owner, could be said to be awash in betterment. His little horse is reported to have moved on for a price some way past the first six-figure mark.