Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Crawford brothers eye Festival glory

High hopes: Stuart Crawford has several Down Royal fancies

Winners are detailed in the racing results column as: "Trained by Stuart Crawford at Larne."

However, the success of the Co Antrim stable is actually down to a band of brothers, namely Steven, Ben, Ross and Stuart with mum and dad, Edith and Robert, completing the team.

Stuart first hit the headlines in 2008, sending out a 10 year old mare, Oh Jackie, to win and register his first racecourse success in the prestigious La Touche Cup at the Punchestown Festival – the race previously dominated by trainer Enda Bolger and JP McManus-owned runners usually with John Thomas McNamara aboard.

Crawford's prior career in the eventing arena stood him in good stead, with the horses required to jump an array of fences including banks, timber and over water jumps.

The preparation of young horses was another talent stemming from eventing and has resulted in numerous first time winners on the racecourse as highlighted last year when the Larne trainer landed the bumper on super Saturday at the Down Royal Festival with the highly regarded newcomer Gilt Shadow.

That completed a Crawford double on the day with the handler also having sent out Latin Connection – partnered by brother Ben, the 2012 Ulster Region point to point champion – to win the Tayto Hurdle earlier in the day. The trainer was gaining compensation after Mister Nibbles could only manage fourth in the winner's bumper on the Friday following debut success at the Maze.

The bumper horses were partnered by Steven Crawford who had a long association with Irish champion trainer Aidan O'Brien at the world renowned Ballydoyle stables prior to linking up with his brother's rapidly expanding training operation back north.

Gilt Shadow ran twice and was placed twice, including finishing runner-up in the Champion Bumper at the Punchestown Festival after Down Royal, but is due to make his hurdling debut in the Tayto Maiden Hurdle on Saturday and is definitely one for the short list.

Another brother, Ross, travels with the Crawford runners, leads up and supervises on race days while Steven and Ben are normally in the saddle but all four can be seen in action during early mornings on their excellent uphill sand gallop just outside the village of Glynn.

The trainer has a sizeable team engaged at the Maze meeting on Friday and Saturday.

Call Box, now owned by the connections of Latin Connection, is entered in Saturday's feature hurdle while also holding an engagement at Ayr on the same day.

Sultana Belle, a Hexham winner last time out, will run in the Grade Two Mares Novice Hurdle on Friday with the trainer keen to add black type to her pedigree with future breeding possibilities in mind.

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