Kinsale-based Robert Tyner has enjoyed his best season in 30 years as a National Hunt trainer. Now, as the National Hunt season makes way for the GAA championships, he's hoping similar success will come Cork's way.
Robert, who currently has 60 horses in training, is recognised as one of the shrewdest trainers in the business with virtually of his flag-bearers having graduated from the point-to-point arena to the race track proper. At the time of writing, he was on course to win the prestigious point-to-point leading handlers title for 2013/14 and had enjoyed notable successes with the JP McManus-owned Byerley Babe in Thurles, Sir Abbot in Ballinrobe, Pulled Muscle in Cork and Knock Beauty, who won three races on the trot.
In March, Robert and stable jockey Philip Enright won a first ever treble under rules with Who Let De Dogsout, Tooreen and Kandinski in Clonmel, bringing up a memorable 404/1 treble for the pair in the process.
"It's been our best season yet," the affable trainer enthuses.
"We've had a good run of form on the track and in point-to-point. We won the leading handlers in 2009 and are in a strong position to win it again. Staying chasers are a type of horse I like to have and they're ideally suited to point-to-points."
Robert had been a point-to-point rider before obtaining his trainer's licence three decades ago. His first winner under rules was Dream of Gold at Thurles in February 1989. Since then, his yard has turned out some of the biggest names in National Hunt, including Spring The Que, Call Me Dara, I Can Imagine and Footy Facts.
Call Me Dara and I Can Imagine claimed back-to-back victories in the prestigious Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in 2000 and 2001, while Spring The Que landed the Pierse Hurdle at the same venue in 2007. Multiple hurdle and chase winner Footy Facts also came through from the point-to-point field.
Robert also had near misses in the Paddy Power Chase with Camden Tanner and Sound Witness who finished second in 2005 and 2007 respectively.
"I started off riding in point-to-points, but from a young age, I had always been involved with horses. My father was associated with horses for most of his life and I suppose I gained an interest from that and I just kept it going," he explains.
Robert employs a staff of 10 at his yard in Shippool, Kinsale where Melanie Forbes is head girl. Robert's wife Mary is an integral part of the team, driving the boxes and riding out every day, while daughters Kate, Joan, Clare, Dara and Geraldine are all keen horsewomen. Tragically, Robert and Mary's only son, Jack, died from head injuries sustained in a fall at Dungarvan racetrack in 2011.
The 19-year-old was an up-and-coming jockey who had ridden two racecourse winners and had four point-to-point wins to his name. Poignantly, the teenager had ridden a winner â€“ Exitnell â€“ on the day of the fall.
Turning to GAA, Robert's local club is Valley Rovers which supplied Alan Quirke to the Cork football team for over a decade. An All-Ireland winner in 2010, the veteran goalkeeper announced his inter-county retirement last autumn along with a host of other stalwarts of the team, including Graham Canty, Noel O'Leary, Paudie Kissane and Alan O'Connor.
Despite the spate of retirements, the Rebels have regrouped impressively under new manager Brian Cuthbert and are viewed by many as the biggest threat to Dublin in their quest to retain the Sam Maguire.
"A lot of supporters were fearing the worst after the mass exodus of players at the end of last year but, in fairness to Brian Cuthbert, he has brought a number of very good youngsters into the set-up and they have performed better than anyone expected.
"They had a great run in the league and I'm hoping they will be there or thereabouts in the championship. I'd expect the Cork hurlers to be in the mix too, especially after coming so close to winning the All-Ireland last year.
"I'd like to take this opportunity to wish both teams the best of luck in this year's championship," the highly-regarded handler concludes.