Someone more seasoned in the fluctuations of his chosen vocation might have been tempted to take Robbie Hennessy aside here yesterday and offer some quiet counsel. Not, perhaps, that it would all be downhill from here; but certainly to savour the moment, because joys like these tend to become brief succour against a perennial state of siege.
Someone like Henry de Bromhead, perhaps – another young trainer, who watched wistfully as Hennessy was hugged and cheered, celebrating an achievement presumed to be without precedent. For to have your first ever success in a Grade One race, as did Hennessy with Sublimity in the December Festival Hurdle, hardly prepares you for the sort of brutal disappointment De Bromhead had just experienced with his own flagship, Sizing Europe.
This was the horse who had cruised into contention in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, at Cheltenham in March, as Katchit and company toiled inelegantly. In the end, of course, Sizing Europe staggered home last, but he made such a promising comeback at Punchestown that he remained the obvious favourite here, even against three former champion hurdlers.
A reunion between Hardy Eustace, Brave Inca and Sublimity could hardly have been more cheering on this raw, grey day had they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. True, the two who disputed the early lead, Hardy Eustace and Brave Inca, did so at a fairly elderly tempo. And sadly, as matters became more urgent, Hardy Eustace dropped away very tamely. Any assumption of decrepitude should naturally be qualified by the many times he has been written off. But the old king does now seem deposed for good, and it is also becoming difficult to envisage Brave Inca retrieving his best, despite his characteristic rally for third after struggling to hold his place on the home turn.
Sublimity and Won In The Dark were powerfully joining issue at that stage, but once again Sizing Europe was travelling better still. Just as at Cheltenham, however, the candle would abruptly flicker and die, as though a bitter wind had flung open the window. Suddenly he was running on the spot, and instead Sublimity was followed through by an apparent interloper in Won In The Dark.
That rival did not go through with his effort quite as wholeheartedly, however, and Sublimity was driven out by Philip Carberry to win by half a length. No doubt the intrusion of Won In The Dark contributed to Ladbrokes' decision to cut Binocular to even money for the Champion, with Sublimity next at 10-1.
Hennessy was not standing for that, and why should he? For this breakthrough, with just his seventh runner, was an audacious vindication for the rookie, whose father, Bill, owns Sublimity and had transferred him from John Carr. However enviable the privileges of nepotism, to some degree they left Hennessy jnr on a hiding to nothing. If Sublimity excelled, it would be down to the horse; if not, well, it would obviously be down to the trainer.
"I'm still shaking," Hennessy admitted afterwards. With his fondness for being delivered late, Sublimity will never be good for the nerves, but Hennessy marvelled at a ride that might have been borrowed from Carberry's nerveless brother. "Philip's nearly as cool as Paul, isn't he?" he said. "He got there a bit too soon at Wetherby [when just beaten on his debut for Hennessy] but he took his time today, and gave him a perfect ride. I did have a few butterflies, but I have been with Sublimity since day one. I was working with John Carr before, and saddled him at Cheltenham, so it's no different really."
On that authority, he declared that Sublimity "had to be backed" at the odds now offered for Cheltenham. "Binocular didn't get up the hill that well at the Festival last season," he noted. "Our lad has been there and done it, and shown today that he is as good as ever. That's a great price."
In the meantime Sublimity is likely to return here for the Toshiba Irish Champion Hurdle, though Carberry emphasised that good conditions like these are crucial. "The ground is important to Sublimity," the jockey said. "He jumped superbly on it today, making ground at every hurdle. I kept having to take him back. And fair dues, when it came to it, he put his head down and ran to the line. When he won the Champion, in 2007, it was down to natural ability. He's more experienced now and that has to help."
In contrast, Sizing Europe does not seem to be building on the foundations of his talent. Horses that stop so quickly have often burst a blood vessel, and prove best fresh, but for now De Bromhead is at a loss. The poor fellow handled the inevitable inquisitions with his usual courtesy, but could not disguise his dismay. "The only thing I do think is that he needs a fast-run race," he said. "But so does Brave Inca, and we got past him – and then just emptied. He did have the little problem with his foot. Who knows? Perhaps that had something to do with it. It would be lovely if it did." He gave a rueful smile. "But these are the joys of it."Reuse content