It was just over two years ago that we paid this tribute to the remarkable Wicklow Brave.
He was the toast of Ireland at the time, or at least of the many fans of his hugely popular trainer, Willie Mullins, having just won the Grade 1 Punchestown Champion Hurdle, which helped Mullins clinch the Irish trainers’ championship, overtaking longtime leader Gordon Elliott in a thrilling final-week surge.
“Is this the world’s most versatile racehorse?” we asked of an 8-year-old who had run in 32 races of all shapes and sizes, including a Melbourne Cup, and had won ten of them, the highlights of which were a G1 on the flat (the Irish St Leger the year before) and that Punchestown championship event.
That was back in April 2017. You might have thought that would have been about that for owner Nick Peacock’s gelding.
You’d have been wrong.
Wicklow Brave has run another 25 times since then, winning six, being placed in seven, and finishing fourth four times. Eight of those runs have been in Group or Graded flat races, four of them G1s, and he has also competed in four at the top level over hurdles. Oh, and he’s been back to Australia, where he ran twice, and he’s raced at Belmont Park in New York.
At some stage or other through his career, he’s lined up at most of the biggest racing festivals in Britain and Ireland - as well as those two overseas - as the tables below illustrate.
But, incredibly, he’s now been reinvented. The veteran ten-year-old has begun a new lease of life that could lead to more Grade 1 success - as a chaser.
Mullins sent the son of Beat Hollow over fences for the first time in May, and he won a beginners’ chase nicely at Ballinrobe. Last week, he was back at a big festival - Galway this time - cruising home impressively in a Grade 3 novice event.
The trainer told the Press Association afterwards: “He is unique and has won bumpers, on the flat, over hurdles and chases. [Owner] Nick [Peacock] said he’d love to win a Grade 1 chase, so the obvious thing is to go for the Drinmore Chase at Fairyhouse in early December with him.
“He was very slick over his fences and [jockey] Paul [Townend] said he has a lot more respect for fences than hurdles. At one or two of the fences, he said if they were hurdles, he would have landed in the middle of them.
“He is so versatile and is himself at home. We only do what Wicklow wants to do and he is so laid back. We have got used to him and he has got used to us at this stage, but I don’t think anyone queues up to ride him out in the morning. He is getting more unique as he grows older.
“I don't know if any horse has done it before, but we’d like win a Group 1 on the flat, over hurdles and now over fences. If any horse has, it was a long, long time ago.”
A successful season novice chasing would surely see Wicklow Brave back at the big jumps festivals at Cheltenham and Punchestown once again next year.
WICKLOW BRAVE AT THE BIG MEETINGS
PUNCHESTOWN FESTIVAL (April)
GALWAY FESTIVAL (July/August)
CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL (March)
ROYAL ASCOT (June)
WELCOME TO YORKSHIRE EBOR FESTIVAL (York, August)
IRISH CHAMPIONS WEEKEND (Curragh, September)
BRITISH CHAMPIONS DAY (Ascot, October)
CHESTER MAY MEETING
QATAR GOODWOOD FESTIVAL (July/August)
MELBOURNE SPRING CARNIVAL (October/November)
BELMONT STAKES RACING FESTIVAL (June)
YORK DANTE FESTIVAL (May)