Poetic Rhythm and Waiting Patiently hailed from a crop of just three
Martin Stevens speaks to in-form Wexford farmer Vincent Finn
If success is measured by strike-rate, surely the jumps breeder of the season is Vincent Finn. The County Wexford farmer produced just three foals in 2011 and two of them – both sons of Flemensfirth born in midsummer and sold within 32 lots of each other at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale three years later – turned out to be Poetic Rhythm and Waiting Patiently, who each landed Grade 1 prizes in the space of seven weeks this winter.
Now Finn is in the enviable position of approaching the spring festivals with two top-level winners who look capable of giving their records extra polish.
Poetic Rhythm, a determined winner of the Challow Novices' Hurdle at Newbury for Fergal O'Brien in December, is around a 12-1 shot for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham on Friday, while Waiting Patiently, who cruised to victory in the Ascot Chase last month, could go to Aintree or Punchestown if trainer Ruth Jefferson deems he has returned to peak fitness having ruled him out of this week's festival.
“You wouldn't know what to say, you'd be lost for words,” says the diffident Finn, when asked for his reaction to such a magnificent double.
“Really a lot of the success would have to be credited to my parents, who initially started off the families. Both have passed away and Dad died just in January last year, so you could say it's been bittersweet.”
Indeed, the presence of Poetic Rhythm's family on the farm predates the birth of Finn, 44. Edward 'Ned' Finn and wife Margaret bought the Cheltenham contender's fourth dam Frances Pet more than half a century ago.
The Finns bred Mister Donovan, the first horse to carry JP McManus's green and gold silks to win at the festival when he scored in the Sun Alliance Hurdle in 1982, by sending Frances Pet's daughter Petmon to the Pinza stallion Choral Society. They were also responsible for Bog Frog, a prolific winner of high-class hurdles and chases in France who was by Phardante out of Mister Donovan's half-sister Vinegar Hill.
Poetic Rhythm is in turn out of Sommer Sonnet, an unraced Taipan half-sister to Bog Frog who has also produced McManus's smart hurdler Forthefunofit, another son of Flemensfirth.
“If you were only breeding horses for money, you'd have had the Poetic Rhythm family gone years ago, as a good horse seems to pop up only every 20 years or so,” says Finn. “But I wouldn't get out the family as it's been here so long. I'll be persisting away with it for a while yet.”
Good job, too, as the breeder can now look forward to producing siblings and close relations to an exciting young Grade 1 winner.
“Sommer Sonnet is in foal to Mahler, and has a yearling colt by Mahler and a three-year-old by Milan who I'm thinking of breaking in myself and trying to get him to win a point, with a view to selling him on,” Finn says.
If Poetic Rhythm wins on Friday that will likely seal a return trip to Flemensfirth for the 16-year-old dam.
Waiting Patiently's family, meanwhile, are relative upstarts at Finn's farm compared with the Poetic Rhythm clan as his granddam Sparkling Opera was bought from Richard Morrow in the 1980s.
The Finns bred the useful winners Ciara's Prince, Jo Jo Boy and Yankee Jamie from Sparkling Opera, and Cue Card's conqueror Waiting Patiently is out of that trio's unraced half-sister Rossavon.
The 13-year-old Rossavon, a daughter of Beneficial, is not in foal but was due to be covered by Flemensfirth again in the past few days.
Explaining the fruitful association with Flemensfirth, Finn explains: “My father went to him a good few years ago when he was starting out and very cheap, and we went back to him again a while after when he was more proven.
“He was a good man to pick stallions when they weren't too dear, and it would have been hard for him to go back to Flemensfirth after he'd gone up in price, but I'd have given him a bit of a push.”
Other than the shrewdness of supporting the great Flemensfirth – the source of Flemenstar, Imperial Commander and Tidal Bay who is standing his 21st season at Beeches Stud in County Waterford this year – what does Finn credit his farm's recent purple patch to?
“I'd be sort of doing things a little bit the old fashioned way,” says Finn. “All winter I have the horses in at night and let them out in the grass paddock during the day – they can do with that bit of handling on them. They'd all be in individual stables rather than loose sheds, so they all get their own share of feed.
“Do I do anything special apart from that? No, it's mostly down to luck.”
Remembering Poetic Rhythm and Waiting Patiently when they were benefiting from those traditional rearing methods, Finn says: “They were comrades out in the field and went to the Derby Sale together.
“They were grand, there was no badness in them – not like those horses you'd be afraid to walk behind for fear of getting kicked.
"Ivy Rothwell, who bred Road To Respect, does the horses for the sales for me and I remember we were discussing at Fairyhouse which we thought would go on to be the standout horse. I preferred Poetic Rhythm and she liked Waiting Patiently more.”
As it turned out, of course, both debaters were proved correct. Not that Finn would boast about that.
But he can afford to be self-effacing when he has a pair of Grade 1 winners from a single sales draft of two to do the bragging for him.
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