Hogan hopes for a Silver lining to brighten dark days

Tipperary trainer aims to capture major hurdle after death of stable stalwart
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The Independent Online

For a small yard, the loss of a flagship horse is felt keenly. The high-class hurdler and promising novice chaser Kalderon, for instance, winner of eight races and some £170,000 since he joined Tom Hogan three years ago, had to be put down just before Christmas, the result of fracturing an elbow in a fall at Punchestown in October.

"He was making a good recovery," Hogan said, "but in getting to his feet one day he dislocated the plate that was stabilising the bone, and the break reopened, and there was nothing could be done. He's left a huge gap here and I'm happy to admit that I'm a sentimental sod with my horses; they all know me.

"But any jumper who raced like he did for three or four seasons without injury is doing well. These things happen and you have to move on." The news of the death yesterday of the respected Irish bloodstock agent Brian Grassick from skin cancer was a catalyst in that respect. "Something like that helps you keep it all in perspective," Hogan said, "and last year wasn't a bad one for us. We did have a Cheltenham winner, after all."

That very horse, Silver Jaro, may be the one to show the way forward. The six-year-old, the 50-1 winner of the County Hurdle, contests the valuable Pierse Hurdle at Leopardstown on Sunday, carrying the same Margaret Masterson colours as did Kalderon.

Silver Jaro, third 12 months ago, will be accompanied to the fray by stablemate Kirbybroguelantern. Both are among the high-weights in a classy, competitive handicap and to field two such is no small achievement for a 35-horse establishment.

Hogan has had charge of Silver Jaro, to be ridden on Sunday by Noel Fehily, for 15 months; previously the chestnut had been with Jonjo O'Neill. "He was slightly unlucky at Leopardstown last year," said Hogan. "He rather missed the break; the starter said take a turn and – unlike the local boys – Noel took him literally."

The French-bred warmed up with a respectable seventh to Numide in the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham in November. "I was happy enough with him," said Hogan. "He was crowded out and bullied to the outside, and chopped off once or twice. But he was staying on well at the end and I'd say he's a very much improved horse since last March. He's not the biggest, but is much stronger, maturing all the time."

Since Silver Jaro last appeared, syndicate-owned Kirbybroguelantern, the mount of John Cullen, has run twice, most recently when seventh over two and a half miles at Punchestown nine days ago. "He's a stuffy sort of horse and it takes a while to get him right. He's dropping back in trip and a strongly run two miles should suit."

Hogan is based near Nenagh, in the north of Co Tipperary, on land that has been farmed by his family (his father James bred the 1972 Cheltenham Gold Cup heroine Glencaraig Lady) for over 400 years. After a spell as a successful bloodstock agent he started training 12 years ago, almost by accident. "I had a filly with problems that needed to be fixed," he said, "and I thought I may as well do it myself."

Hogan coaxed four races out of his unpromising athlete, who was not the last he patched up to top effect on his learning curve through the ranks. Horses like Penny Rich (12 wins, 97 runs), Common World (two Group Threes), Rooftop Protest (10 wins, 82 runs), County Captain (five wins, 34 runs) and Sonnyanjoe (seven wins, 57 runs) are testament to his skill.

"Penny Rich had problems with his hamstrings and pectoral muscles. Common World hadn't won for two years for Noel Meade when we got him. Sonnyanjoe broke down on both front legs and we got him back to win five. County Captain cost 400 quid, had tendon problems, laminitis, a lung allergy, you name it. He'd been a perfect subject for students at a vet college.

"Horses are a bit like cars. If you buy a new, clean one you will learn very little about them. But with an old banger you have to fix it every week, and that teaches you an awful lot."

Back to Sunday, when the Pierse weights are set to be headed by Newmill. "I hope they don't go up," said Hogan. "Silver Jaro on 11st 5lb would be bearable, but Silver Jaro on 10st 11lb is much better. It's a competitive race, but both mine travel well and jump well, and that's what you want."

No weather problems are envisaged at Leopardstown, but prospects for Britain's feature card tomorrow, at Warwick, look bleak. The track was unraceable yesterday and is subject to an inspection this morning, but jumping at Ayr look set to go ahead.