One of racing’s most evocative names returns as Tom Dreaper set to start training career at Navan

Inspections to be held on Saturday morning to decide if Navan and Leopardstown can go ahead this weekend

One of the most famous and evocative names in Irish racing history reappears on race cards this weekend when Tom Dreaper sets out on his training career.

The 40-year-old grandson of the man who trained Arkle is taking over from his father Jim at the family’s renowned Greenogue stables in Co Dublin and is due to saddle a pair of runners at Navan on Saturday.

Historians of the game will be keeping their fingers crossed Navan passes a 7.30am inspection as echoes of the past drip from the programme.

One of the scheduled features is the Grade Three Flyingbolt Novice Chase, named after a horse that was once Arkle’s next-door neighbour in Kilsallaghan.


The pair remain the highest-rated steeplechasers of all time on Timeform figures, part of a remarkable dynasty built up by the late Tom Dreaper before he died in 1975, aged 76.

His five Cheltenham Gold Cup victories — including Arkle’s hat-trick — remains a record as does a haul of 10 Irish Grand National victories, including seven in a row from 1960 to 1966.

Dreaper’s 26 Cheltenham Festival victories overall included half a dozen Champion Chase wins, most notably with Flyingbolt in 1966. A day after landing the two-mile crown in a canter, Flyingbolt was third in the Champion Hurdle.

Jim Dreaper took over at the helm in 1972 and his first runner was a winner, a feat his son will hope to emulate with El Capitaine in Saturday’s handicap hurdle. It will be a first start in over a year for the Chris Jones-owned horse.

Even with March coming in like a weather lion there are hopes the Navan card will get a green light. The track was fit to race on Friday after avoiding the worst of the snowfall that hit other parts of Leinster. Quite a lot of it fell on south Dublin, though, enough for Leopardstown to hold an 8am inspection on Saturday morning to evaluate the prospects of racing on Sunday.

“Following a further 13mm of precipitation which has fallen as snow since 8am this morning, Leopardstown is currently unfit for racing as the track is covered in snow,” reported clerk of the course, Lorcan Wyer, in the afternoon.

“Temperatures are currently rising, and the snow is already starting to thaw and is turning to rain with bright spells and temperatures of seven degrees forecast for tomorrow. With the current situation we feel it is prudent to call an 8am inspection tomorrow to determine the prospects for the fixture scheduled to take place on Sunday,” he added.

Considering how much effort has gone into irrigating the famously quick steeplechase course at Leopardstown, it is ironic how watering is the last thing required for the track’s final two jumps fixtures of the season.

Testing conditions at Navan are arduous by any standards and in the Flyinbolt that could mean Spillane’s Tower confirms Punchestown form with Blood Destiny despite a drop in trip and the latter enjoying a 3lb swing at the weights.

Saturday’s Grade Two Boylesports Webster Cup is the other main event with Journey With Me making his comeback against the Galway Plate winner Ash Tree Meadow.

On Saturday, Kelso gets its place in the spotlight as part of British racing’s “Premier Raceday” model with a valuable card featuring the Bet365 Morebattle Hurdle.

In 2021, Emmet Mullins trained The Shunter to land the prize en route to picking up a six-figure bonus by also coring at the Cheltenham Festival. Denis Hogan’s Little Mixup is the sole Irish hope this time.

However, there are a trio of Irish horses raiding a Grade Two novice hurdle at the Scottish track with Stuart Crawford sending his Dublin Racing Festival winner Brucio for that option rather than the Morebattle.

John McConnell will be doubly represented in it through Dripsey Moon and Intense Approach who is an intriguing starter.

The highly regarded bumper performer fell on his only start to date over flights at Wexford in November and connections might have opted to draw stumps for this season.

Instead, Ben Harvey’s mount is taking his chance against quality opposition such as Jango Baie. With ground conditions on the Scottish borders set to be decent compared to most everywhere else, Intense Approach could start living up to his bumper reputation.

Kelso also has a Grand National trial that includes the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Monbeg Genius, one of the favourites for Aintree, who races for controversial owners Baroness Michelle Mone and her husband Doug Barrowman.

In other news, Ashdale Bob is one of a pair of intended Jessica Harrington runners at Sunday’s Leopardstown fixture although the trainer has a very different, and much sunnier, priority on Saturday.

Harrington’s talented flat mare Trevaunance will take her chance in a mile-and-a-half Group Two in Meydan (1.50 Irish time) where Shane Foley does the steering.

It is a second start of the winter in Meydan for Trevaunance who finished runner-up in a Group One in Germany last September.

Another Irish interest on the Meydan card is Johnny Murtagh’s Ladies Church which goes in a five-furlong sprint (1.15) under English rider Saffie Osborne.

Ashdale Bob skips Cheltenham this year and will don first-time cheekpieces for a drop in trip in a conditions hurdle if racing goes ahead. Testing ground will help him although maybe not enough against Dee Capo who has Danny Gilligan’s valuable 5lb claim to help him regain winning ways.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column