It is not only among horses where bloodlines count. But even given that human dynasties are more the rule than the exception in racing than in any other sport, the Carberry family from Co Meath is some act. And today, brothers Paul and Philip and sister Nina will be the first trio of siblings to ride in a Champion Hurdle.
There can be no disputing their pedigree for the job. Their father, Tommy, a former Irish champion jockey, won the Gold Cup three times, the Grand National once and trained Bobbyjo to win the Aintree marathon.
Their mother, Pamela, is a Moore, daughter of Gold Cup and Grand National-winning trainer Dan (Carberry's boss as a rider) and sister of leading trainer Arthur. Riding came as naturally as breathing.
Paul is the oldest of the trio at 34, the most successful, and the most extrovert. One of the most naturally gifted riders in the weighing room, he gained his most famous victory aboard Bobbyjo nine years ago. He has had nine wins at Cheltenham, but not yet in any of the showpieces.
He came closest three years ago on the enigmatic Harchibald, agonising runner-up in the Champion Hurdle. Like his rider, the horse has an abundance of innate natural talent, but he, too, is something of a free spirit, and it will require maximum tact – and the proverbial balls of steel – to get him to put his head in front on the line.
Paul had to sit out last year's Festival with a foot injury but could not have been more delighted when his two siblings both made the leaderboard. Philip, 27, had his first Cheltenham winner a year ago today, on today's defending title-holder, Sublimity, in the Champion Hurdle, no less, and four days later followed up by giving Pedrobob an inspired ride to win the County Hurdle in the shadow of the post.
Nina, at 23 the family baby, is universally judged the best woman to ever cross an obstacle in anger on a racecourse. She, too, has ridden two Festival winners, Dabiroun in the Fred Winter Hurdle three years ago and Heads Onthe Ground in the cross-country chase last year.
She partners a 150-1 outsider, Salford City (who was fifth in the Derby four years ago), in the Champion Hurdle.
A clean sweep for the trio this afternoon in a field of 17 would defy even the most fevered imaginings of the Brothers Grimm, but their presence takes sibling rivalry to a new level.
"We're a close family," emphasised Paul, "and we'd always encourage each other and help each other when we can. But if we're together in a driving finish, there's an extra edge. You would definitely be wanting to get one over on the other one."
Three To Follow At The Festival Today
It seems that as soon as a horse becomes a record-breaker in the sale ring, he must carry an albatross round his neck as well as a jockey on his back. And after being sold for 530,000gns at Doncaster four years ago, and thus becoming the most expensive jumper ever auctioned, Garde Champetre found the burden too much. He had all the credentials to make a star novice chaser when he went to market as a five-year-old after beating Monet's Garden and Inglis Drever at Aintree. All the high rollers wanted him; J P McManus (above) got him. What happened next was anticlimax upon disappointment. He missed the following season, ran only four times the next, and did not win until taking a small race at Carlisle in 2006, prior to earning the dread Timeform 'x', which denotes a bad jumper. But luckily his owner doesn't bear a grudge. Last month at Punchestown the nine-year-old was back in the winner's circle, re-invented as a cross-country chaser by the master of the art, Enda Bolger, and today tries his luck over Cheltenham's unique infield course.
Winning over a sprint distance as a juvenile is unusual for a chaser, but clearly no bar to success, as one of the best jumpers of a fence in history, Red Rum, showed. Leslingtaylor (right), who runs in today's Arkle Trophy, started his winning ways over six furlongs. And he has something else in common with the triple Grand National winner. A race at the Cheltenham Festival as a six-year-old is the 43rd outing for Leslingtaylor, just as it was for Red Rum when he ran unplaced in the Mildmay of Flete Chase in his second season over fences. Leslingtaylor will be racing over the larger obstacles for the fourth time, but his record on the Flat and over hurdles makes him the hardest-working novice of the week. The tough gelding, owned by 84-year-old Marie Taylor, will be aiming to provide his trainer John Quinn with his first Festival victory.
Don't be surprised if Rippling Ring looks a bit shivery before the Supreme Novices Hurdle. A year ago the South African-bred five-year-old was enjoying the sunshine in his native land, a few days after winning a race at Vaal. His body clock still says winter is coming, not spring, and he had to have his thickening coat clipped off a couple of weeks ago. Rippling Ring found his way to Paul Nicholls almost accidentally. On his way with two stablemates to carry on his Flat career in the United States, he spent 60 days quarantine with Newmarket trainer James Eustace and, while on the gallops, impressed with his size, scope and athleticism. He had 'jumper' rather than '10-furlong dirt runner' stamped on him and, hearing the word on the street, agent Anthony Bromley came calling one morning. He liked what he saw and today Rippling Ring has a bright chance of giving owner Andy Stewart a longed-for first Festival win.
What's in a name?
*PIGEON ISLAND (Supreme Novices Hurdle): Like so many horses owned by the wealthy, a piece of Caribbean geography, situated in Portland Bight on the south coast of Jamaica.
*MOON OVER MIAMI (Arkle Trophy): Charming 1941 musical romance, starring Betty Grable, Carole Landis and Charlotte Greenwood, about three sisters who go fortune-hunting in Florida.
*CAPTAIN CEE BEE (Supreme Novices Hurdle): Named after his trainer's grandfather, Captain Cyril B Harty, an international showjumper with the Irish Army team and trainer of the 1944 Irish National winner Knight's Crest.
*KING HARALD (William Hill NH Chase): Norwegian monarch. The first was killed by the English at Stamfordbridge in 1066, the fifth is on Oslo throne.
*SIZING EUROPE (Champion Hurdle): A company name, one division of his millionaire owner's empire. Used in mining, a sizing machine reduces ore-bearing rock into manageable pieces.
*ASHKAZAR (Fred Winter Novices Hurdle): In common with many Aga Khan horses, bears an Islamic place name, in this case a town in the Kerman province of Iran.