Grogan takes matters into his own hands to live the dream with Katla

One of the beauties of this game is that you cannot, whatever the marketeers insist, construct or predict a narrative, you have to wait for it to unfold. And sometimes it does to such enchanting effect that you start to believe you have strayed into the realms of fairy tale. You would swear the leprechauns had a hand in the story of John Grogan, the dairy farmer from Co Tipperary, and his filly Katla.

Grogan milks 60 Friesians every morning and like many of his kind, he has always had a horse or two about the place, as a hobby that might turn over a few euros. At the moment, the two horses that matter are the broodmare Bratislava, bought cheaply five years ago, and her two-year-old daughter.

The point is, he should not really still have Katla; the idea is to sell the horses he breeds as yearlings. But the little bay's pedigree was so undistinguished when the time came for her to go to market a year ago that none of the equine auction houses would have her. When he did finally get her into a catalogue in the spring, sod's law decreed the fixture was cancelled.

So, the only thing Grogan, based near Cashel, could do was to take his baby home and try to turn her into an athlete himself. He could not afford to send her to a professional yard and though he approached a few trainers with the offer of a half-share in lieu of fees, they declined. But he has a licence from the racing authorities that allows him to run his own animals, something he had previously done with success. Well, a single success, six years ago.

Katla takes her routine exercise on a circuit ploughed on one of Grogan's 120 acres, ridden by local horseman Christy Ryan, who pops in before he goes off to his day job. For more serious galloping, she goes off in the horsebox every so often to nearby trainers, the Stacks at Golden or the Marnanes at Bansha.

This one horse from a one-horse operation has turned out to be rather good. In July, she finished second to Misty For Me, subsequently a dual Group One winner and Ireland's best of her age and sex, and on Saturday she came over to York to tackle the Listed Rockingham Stakes, driven across Ireland, onto the ferry, across England, and back, by Grogan himself.

The little expedition left Milestream Farm before dawn on Friday and returned – victorious by six lengths – just as the sun was setting on Sunday. In the saddle had been little-known Irish journeyman Billy Lee. "Jeez," he said, "I'd have walked there to ride her."

Katla has now earned nearly £50,000 and Grogan has ambitious plans for her, a Group Two contest in France. But he is a little dumbfounded by the reaction to his unlikely success.

"When I went into Cashel," he said yesterday, "a trip that would normally have taken me five minutes took about three hours, there were that many people wanting to talk about it all. But what I've done is just what we all try to do. I'd say 80 per cent of Irish breeders are little men like myself, and we're all trying and hoping for that one good horse to come along."

Grogan paid €8,000 (£7,000), buttons in bloodstock terms, for Bratislava, who had finished nearer last than first in four runs. "I'm at the low end and can't go for fancy breeding," he said, "but she was a lovely individual with a pretty head, a big arse, and a good mover."

Katla's efforts alone have made her and her dam worth considerably more than buttons, but the tale gets better. Bratislava's young half-brother Wootton Bassett has turned out to be one of the season's best juvenile colts.

One of the first people to phone with congratulations was Misty For Me's trainer Aidan O'Brien, whose mighty 200-horse empire is just a couple of miles down the road from Milestream. "The whole thing is a dream," said Grogan. "We went to York hoping for some place money. But I've stuck with the horses for 25 years and they do say good things come to those who wait."

Injury ends season for Arctic Cosmos

The St Leger winner Arctic Cosmos is out for the season after surgery at a Newmarket veterinary hospital to repair a cannon bone injury suffered on the gallops. But the three-year-old is expected to race again next year. "He's recuperating and will return to us in a few days," said trainer John Gosden yesterday. "It's a common injury and the prospects are good."

Turf account

Sue Montgomery's Nap

Heirarch (4.40 Lingfield) Drops in grade in search of his first win and a boost to his rider's title challenge after a decent effort when apprentice-ridden last time against a rival who had the run of the race.

Next best

Sweden (5.00 Wetherby) Irish point-to-point winner was running a decent race in a Cheltenham hunterchase in the spring until his rider fell off. In professional hands for rules debut.

One to watch

Dunraven Storm (P J Hobbs) Made a smooth start to his hurdling career and is the type to rack up a sequence, particularly with a test of stamina.

Where the money's going

Majestic Concorde, stablemate of Totesport Cesarewitch favourite Universal Truth, 11-1 from 14-1 with sponsors for Saturday at Newmarket.

Chris McGrath's Nap

Perfect Friend (4.05 Lingfield)

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'