Dis­co­rama just might get Nolan back in the spot­light

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RACING - DARAGH Ó CONCHÚIR

HE HAS seen too much to be com­fort­able with talk of a re­nais­sance, but Paul Nolan is look­ing for­ward to hav­ing a Grade One run­ner again. Dis­co­rama takes his chance in a white­hot re­newal of the Baronerac­ing.com Drin­more Chase at Fairy­house this af­ter­noon, need­ing to pro­duce a whole new level of form to win.

But given the five-year-old’s raw­ness as a chaser, show­ing that he would not be out of place in elite class would be more than enough for his trainer.

There was a time when Nolan dined reg­u­larly at the top ta­ble. Jon­col, Dabiroun, Ac­cor­dion Etoile, Cloone River, Cuan Na Grai, Noble Prince and Shin­rock Paddy yielded many of the top prizes in Na­tional Hunt rac­ing, mul­ti­ple Grade One and Chel­tenham pots among them.

Defy Logic was the last high-class res­i­dent of Toberona Sta­bles, which is si­t­u­ated in David­stown, just out­side En­nis­cor­thy, but the JP McManus-owned geld­ing suf­fered a fa­tal in­jury on the gal­lops.

It was dev­as­tat­ing for Nolan and his brother James, who shares train­ing du­ties, prov­ing symp­to­matic of a wane in for­tunes that hit a nadir of just five win­ners for the 2015/’16 sea­son.

This from a high of 38 from a cam­paign that in­ci­den­tally yielded the Drin­more Chase via Kill Devil Hill 13 years ago, and a reg­u­lar re­turn in the 30s through­out the noughties.

It said a lot that 13 win­ners last sea­son was an im­prove­ment and to be on 11 al­ready, just en­ter­ing the lat­ter half of the cur­rent term, con­firms the pos­i­tive trend. Nolan isn’t los­ing the run of him­self though.

“There’s no point be­ing in a Grade One if you’re not go­ing to run well or be com­pet­i­tive in it. He de­serves to take his chance but I’m not go­ing to say I’m back in the big time. You’re not back in the big time un­less you win it and even then if you do, you’re not.

“You need num­bers. I’ll be go­ing up there with two run­ners for the two days. There’s other lads go­ing up with 10 run­ners each day, and if they have one win­ner, they’re com­ing home happy.

“But lis­ten, it’s good to have them. For a good few years, we hadn’t got any­thing that would be hardly com­pet­i­tive in a maiden hur­dle or a bumper. You were sur­viv­ing on an odd sum­mer race and an odd hand­i­cap.”

The re­ces­sion fil­leted many yards and put plenty of train­ers out of busi­ness. The Nolans weren’t im­mune but didn’t want to do any­thing else, so they dug a trench and found a way to keep the show on the road. And it was the sup­port of a core of faith­ful pa­trons that en­sured they did.

“It’s not that we have ex­tra own­ers. It’s lads that stayed loyal. When the down­turn came, there were an aw­ful lot of syn­di­cates in the yard that went. Then two out of 10 would pay you and the other eight wouldn’t. You’d no come­back on it, they just van­ished. There was woe­ful bills and lads just walked.

“Then other young lads would start off and get go­ing. We were there and then we weren’t there and we were happy enough to still make a liv­ing out of it. You could change and go pre-train­ing, or hand in your li­cence and go the point-to-point game. We chose not to do that and we’re still stick­ing it out. I wouldn’t say we’re back but we’re mak­ing an ef­fort.

“You love train­ing so much. There’s noth­ing like the buzz of train­ing a win­ner. It’s an ad­dic­tion. Be­cause there’s no point think­ing you’re go­ing to start buy­ing yachts from what you make out of it. You’re try­ing to keep your own house from sink­ing, not to mind get­ting on a boat!”

They have 35 horses rid­ing out now in the morn­ings, the ma­jor­ity of them younger types that will be han­dled pa­tiently.

Fitzhenry is one of the chief con­tenders for the Baronerac­ing.com Porter­stown Hand­i­cap Chase, also to­day, but it is Dis­co­rama which has the lofti­est tar­get. That the son of Sad­dle Maker is still with the Nolans sug­gests that maybe Lady Luck has be­gun flut­ter­ing her eye­lids in their di­rec­tion once more be­cause the in­ten­tion had been to move him on at a profit, which is how they paid the bills in re­cent years.

He wasn’t ac­cepted for the Land Rover Sale how­ever so they had no op­tion but to keep him. Thomas Friel and An­drew Gemmell bought him to race and here they are.

Nolan is re­al­is­tic about Dis­co­rama’s prospects but ad­mits to hav­ing been sur­prised by his charge’s eye-catch­ing win on de­but over fences at Naas three weeks ago, be­liev­ing the trip and ground at Fairy­house to­day to be more suit­able.

Iron­i­cally, how­ever, the fact that he was “fault­less” with his jump­ing leaves a ques­tion mark around how he will deal men­tally with mak­ing a mis­take, par­tic­u­larly in a race of this level.

“Nor­mally if you make a mis­take in a Grade One, at the pace they go and on ground like that, bar it’s the last and you’ve a bit of horse left, it’s very hard to re­cover. It’s nor­mally cur­tains as re­gards your chances.

“Ex­pe­ri­ence-wise, he hasn’t point-to­pointed even, it’s his sec­ond start over fences and we could only get a cer­tain amount of school­ing into him be­cause the ground was so hard. In fair­ness to the horse, it’s a big step to go form your be­gin­ners’ chase into Grade One com­pany.”

“Hope­fully he’ll kick on from the last day. It’s not all about this race but it would be fan­tas­tic if he’d run well.”

Photo: Pa­trick McCann

Dis­co­rama and Bryan Cooper win at Naas last month.

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