Dairy farmer and breeder reflects on fairytale Cheltenham Festival glory
Wichita Lineman the first of three Festival winners bred by Pat Tobin
For many small-scale National Hunt breeders, producing a Cheltenham Festival winner is the ultimate goal but for County Cork dairy farmer Pat Tobin, that dream has become a reality a remarkable three times.
The most famous name to come off the Tobin production line, Wichita Lineman, provided his breeder with a first festival success when powering clear to win the 2007 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle by 12 lengths but it was his exploits two years later that will ensure he is remembered for many years to come.
Under an unforgettable Sir Anthony McCoy ride, the popular chaser became a dual festival winner when landing the 2009 William Hill Trophy [now Ultima] Handicap Chase, downing Maljimar in a thrilling finish etched in Cheltenham folklore.
Tobin says: "It was like a dream come true to have a Cheltenham Festival winner, and then when he came back and won two years later.
"It's probably regarded as the most famous ride at Cheltenham - McCoy kept driving and he came from the clouds that day."
Wichita Lineman was the first winner at the meeting for his sire King's Theatre and he shared his dam with dual Grade 1 hurdle winner Rhinestone Cowboy.
"King's Theatre was a horse that Frank Motherway and I went down to see and was a horse that we loved, so we both sent a mare to him," Tobin recalls. "We used him again after that with different mares."
Tobin did not have long to wait before his name appeared on the Cheltenham scoreboard again, when the Emma Lavelle-trained Pause And Clause made light of the soft conditions to win the 2010 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle under Johnny Farrelly.
Pause And Clause was a Saddlers' Hall brother to ten-time winner Bescot Springs, out of the unraced Roselier mare Silver Glen.
"Saddlers' Hall was by Sadler's Wells, whose line was working very well at the time, and he was an up-and-coming sire," says Tobin.
Cheltenham Festival winners bred by Pat Tobin
Wichita Lineman (Brit Insurance Novices' Hurdle - Gr.2, 2007, William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase - Gr.3, 2009)
Pause And Clause (Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle, 2010)
On The Fringe (St James's Place Foxhunter Chase, 2016 and 2017)
Completing Tobin's winning trio is On The Fringe - an admirable performer who finished in the frame on all five starts in the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase, claiming back-to-back renewals in 2015 and 2016, and he is entered again this year.
Remarkably, from a broodmare band averaging three at any one time, Tobin looked to have a live chance of breeding a fourth individual winner at the Festival before Coney Island was ruled out of the Timico Gold Cup and Ryanair Chase after pulling up in the Betfair Chase at Ascot.
"I'd be delighted if On The Fringe got a place, though age is probably catching up with him at this stage," says Tobin. "The going might be a bit on the heavy side as well for him, even though he would like a bit of cut in the ground.
"It was unfortunate the way Coney Island pulled up in the Betfair Chase."
The ill-fated Wichita Lineman carried the same green and gold silks as On The Fringe and now Coney Island, with JP McManus continuing to source good stock from Tobin, who consigns through neighbouring Yellowford Farm.
"JP McManus is a huge help to the industry," says Tobin. "He was buying good quality foals every year, and we were lucky enough in that we were breeding foals good enough to fit into the bracket for him.
"Happily nearly all the horses they've bought off me at this stage have won."
On The Fringe was bred by Tobin out of Grade 3 chase winner Love And Porter. She also produced the Graded-placed hurdler Give Me A Break, another to be owned by McManus and who shares her sire Scorpion with this year's Gold Cup favourite Might Bite.
"I've been very lucky with the number of mares that I've had and the winners that we've bred," reflects Tobin.
Tobin has three foals on the ground so far this year including a Gutaifan colt - an example of his venturing into Flat breeding - out of the Canford Cliffs mare Colgin, an unraced daughter of Full Mandate, a Group-placed half-sister to King's Stand Stakes scorer and sire Profitable.
Millys Gesture shares her dam Monumental Gesture with Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman and is the dam of Coney Island. She is in foal to Walk In The Park and due at the end of May.
"She'll probably go to either Walk In The Park or Getaway," says Tobin.
Dreambaby, a Yeats mare out of Monumental Gesture who won twice for Willie Mullins, is also set to be covered for the first time later this year.
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