Farrier Tom Mellerick off on the right foot with National favourite Cloth Cap
Irishman bought the smart jumper for just €7,000 as a foal
Millions should know the name of Cloth Cap by Saturday with the flamboyant front-runner set to be one of the shortest-priced favourites in Randox Grand National history.
A great deal fewer would have ever been familiar with his dam, Cloth Fair, whose sole victory came on a low-key card at Tramore one Sunday in April 2008.
Tom Mellerick, who sees a lot of horses in his job as a farrier around southern Ireland, was one to remember her and it was that little nugget of embedded knowledge that enabled him to secure her Beneficial son for a mere €7,000 as a foal at the Goffs December Sale a few years later.
"She was in training with John Kiely, she came out of there and I was working in another yard where she came to before becoming a broodmare," Mellerick recalls.
"She was by Old Vic out of a Jurado mare, a nice-looking mare and there were a couple of good horses in the back of the pedigree. So I went to see him at the sales to see what kind of a foal she’d had."
Cloth Cap was Cloth Fair’s first foal and was offered by Joseph Pratt through Amber Lodge. The back pedigree to which Mellerick refers includes his granddam’s half-brother, the Charlie Hall Chase winner Strath Royal and another sibling, who produced the Irish National hero Niche Market. Go even deeper, and Ginger McCain’s Aintree marvel Amberleigh House even features.
"He cost €7,000, which was a lot if something had gone wrong with his wind or something as a three-year-old and he hadn’t made it," Mellerick chuckles.
"He was a nice foal and he turned out to be a fairly nice horse, about 16'1, and I sold him back at Goffs in 2015, consigned under Bishopstown Stud, and he left a nice bit of profit."
Mellerick just buys a foal or two a year and keeps them at home in Killeagh, County Cork where his wife, Dara, is a riding instructor. They have the odd showjumper and point-to-pointer but he modestly describes it all as just "fooling around with them".
"I don’t pay an awful lot of money for foals, they’ve gone very expensive at the moment," he says. "There’s a big divide between the ordinary foal and a good foal, and they’ll cost you a lot of money. I just do it as a hobby."
There have been a couple of other decent results from a small outlay, turning over a profit on Commandingpresence, who ran in the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle for Henry de Bromhead, and King Leon, winner of a Mayo National for Aidan O’Brien and JP McManus.
Neither, though, rank anywhere near Cloth Cap, who was picked out for Trevor Hemmings by Highflyer Bloodstock for €46,000 and has burst on to the scene in recent months through victories in the Ladbrokes Trophy and the Premier Chase at Kelso.
Although the couple say they mainly coached him through a standard sales prep, Cloth Cap was lunged over poles to lay down the first foundations of a skill which has become his hallmark.
"We watch all his races," Mellerick says. "It’s nice to have a horse go on and do something afterwards. He was brought along nice and slowly, which makes a big difference I suppose.
"The one thing about him was he was a brilliant walker and a brilliant mover, he made great use of himself. I suppose if they can do that, and they’re athletic, then they’ll be able to jump anyway, won’t they?"