Cheltenham 2017: Horse-trading's all in the blood for Antrim couple
Glengormley based couple, Anna and Kevin Ross are leading agents in the bloodstock world. The husband and wife team are definitely bred for the job - Anna being a daughter of top trainer, Arthur Moore while Kevin is a grandson of the late legendary trainer and rider, Willie Rooney.
It was Rooney who until recent times held the record for the most winners in point to points but the pinnacle of his career was when teaming up his daughter, Ann to win both the Ulster National and Irish Grand National with Benton Boy in 1984.
Ross started as a bloodstock agent after sustaining a serious injury in a fall while riding in a point to point at Templepatrick, but still assists his mother, Eyssen who continues the family tradition of training at their Mount Top stables.
Ross has already an enviable list of success at the Cheltenham Festival having bought for connections the locally trained, Imperial Commander following a winning debut in points and winner of the Gold Cup in 2010 when trained by Nigel Twiston-Davis.
Flaxen Flare, What A Charm, Ballynagour and Tiger Cry are another quartet purchased by the Glengormley duo and subsequently winners at the Olympics of jump racing.
The former amateur rider was bitterly disappointed on returning from racing on Saturday to learn that The Storyteller and Zabana would not run at the showcase event this week having held high hopes for their chances at Cheltenham.
"I thought they had major chances - Runfordave which, like The Storyteller, I bought for Joe Sloan will now be diverted to the Martin Pipe Hurdle," he explained.
"I was thrilled the day Flaxen Flare won for the Sloans at the festival in 2013. Imperial Commander was very special as the horse always spent his summer breaks at home with us and the owners named their syndicate - Our Friends In The North Syndicate"
Ross has plenty of contenders for honours this week but top of the list must be Mega Fortune in the first race on Gold Cup day on Friday - the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
The horse was originally trained in County Tyrone by Andy Oliver - winning a maiden at Sligo, but Ross waited until his next run when third at the Curragh before buying the horse.
He says: "He wasn't a typical flat horse - he looked like a national hunt type and when he was capable of a good effort of a higher rating at the Curragh I definitely wanted him.
"He's a very good looking horse with plenty of size and I like his style of running."
The local agent agrees with the horse's big jockey, Davy Russell that the softer side of good ground would suit best.
Ross has a very strong team to shout for this week despite a few defections. Noble Endeavour, Ordinary World, Rock On the Moor, Gods Own and Shanes Hill will have family Ross binoculars focused on them during racing having passed through their hands on behalf of their high profile clients list.