In a sport where personal wealth can often determine your success emerges a story that defies the odds. As the Cheltenham Festival draws closer Realta Horse Racing Club prepare to cross the Irish Sea to saddle a runner with the aptly named Danielle’s Journey.
The story of Realta Horse Racing Club dates back to November 2013 when the Club Manager Sean Maxwell contacted County Antrim National Hunt trainer Stuart Crawford with the idea of putting together a racing club that would start with one horse but grow its number of horses incrementally year on year. To begin the club a horse was leased for 30 months as buying an animal would have been cost prohibitive.
Starting with a small budget and a handful of people the club began to develop an online and social media presence that started to attract enquiries and potential shareowners. In the first week of January 2014 an unnamed four-year-old filly by Presenting ex Harringay came into the Larne based handlers Newlands Farm training yard. As the club gathered momentum long time friend of the club manager Thomas Curran took on the role of Finance Officer to deal with the growing membership and to deal with the racing authorities at Horse Racing Ireland.
In July 2015 the club learned through social media of the story of local girl from Ballinderry called Danielle McGriskin who had been diagnosed with a stage two brain tumour and hydrocephalus. Danielle was in hospital in Bristol when a few private messages resulted in a telephone call to her mum who was at her daughters beside after receiving treatment. Danielle, who rather than accept the illness decided to write a blog and raise funds for the Brain Tumour Charity. The blog was named Danielle’s Journey, the filly was named after the blog and the charity was given a five percent share in the racehorse.
After eight months of training Danielle’s Journey was ready for her first schooling race. Partnered by her work rider, a then upcoming conditional jockey who had not yet ridden a winner under rules, Jonathan Moore, she had her first taste of racing on turf. On November 1st Danielle’s Journey made her racecourse debut at her local track on its most prestigious day of the year, the second day of the Northern Ireland Festival Of Racing on the card of the JNwine.com Champion Chase. Danielle’s Journey ran a blinder and was only just denied on the line in a head-bobbing photo finish.
After a run at Catterick, where she was a half length second, Danielle’s Journey was to take on the challenge of the Down Royal track again during the St Patrick’s Day meeting on the 17th of March. Danielle, who missed the previous race meetings due to hospital appointments or through sickness was able to attend for the first time and joined the other shareowners to cheer the filly home. Going off 11/8 favorite Danielle’s Journey duly obliged beating the impressive Gala Ball by nearly four lengths.
In her first season Danielle’s Journey took Realta Horse Racing Club to the prestigious Punchestown Festival and went off towards the top of the market in the ITBA Premier Fillies Bumper. Having missed the break she finished a credible sixth of twenty four runners. Having enjoyed success with the filly Realta Horse Racing then put together a group of people to give Crawford Bros Racing a budget to go to the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale to purchase her half-sister who was for sale and brought her home to Newlands Farm.
In her second season Danielle’s Journey was third behind Galway Festival winner Whatsforyouwontgobyu on her Maiden Hurdle and took her owners to the Leopardstown Festival. DJ, as she is known within the club, was second at Down Royal and a wide-margin seventeen lengths winner at Ayr Racecourse. The mare was the first of five horses now in training for the club, four with Stuart Crawford and one with Scottish Borders trainer Alistair Whillans. In addition to the growth of number of horses in training Realta has this season been sponsored by Co Down Independent Financial Advisors McGrady Financial Services who have helped maintain the club’s growth.
For Realta having a horse like Danielle’s Journey is a dream come true. Danielle’s Journey has brought us success and Realta are delighted to confirm that she will be a runner at the greatest event in National Hunt racing. The mare will run in the Dawn Run Mares Novice Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival on St Patrick’s Day, exactly a year to the day of her first win. We owe a debt of gratitude to Elizabeth Hamilton who owns the horse, Philip McCrickard of McGrady Financial Services, Mark Foley who looks after her at home, to Crawford Bros Racing and the entire team at Newlands Farm.