Pat Eddery won everything there was to win as a jockey in a truly glittering 35-year career but it is as the trainer of a contender for Saturday’s 2,000 Guineas that for the first time he finds himself a bag of nerves.
For once, the 58-year-old Irishman is not in control ahead of one of Britain’s five biggest flat races which form the world-renowned Classic series.
It is not a situation this ice-cool but amiable perfectionist from County Kildare, who will be saddling Hearts of Fire, is comfortable with.
“I never used to get nervous as a (flat) jockey,” Eddery told Reuters earlier this week.
“It’s different being a trainer, though, as there is so much that can go wrong. It’s easy to say, but I’ll be relieved to get Hearts Of Fire to Newmarket in one piece. It’s a lot more nerve-wracking.”
As a rider, Eddery has only the best of memories of the Newmarket showpiece. In 1993, he teamed up with Zafonic to an astonishing win that broke a 45-year-old track record.
Eddery, who also won the prestigious mile contest aboard Lomond in 1983 and El Gran Senor a year later, has held a training licence since October 2005.
On the back of his best tally as a trainer with 22 winners last season he has finally unearthed a horse good enough to contest the first British Classic of the season.
Of Eddery’s 4,632 British victories on the Flat – second only to the great Gordon Richards — it is his three wins on the in the mile-long (1,609 metres) 2,000 Guineas that stand out most, even ahead of three Derby victories.
“The thought of possibly having ridden and trained a winner in the 2,000 Guineas is a pleasure — wouldn’t it just be brilliant?” said Eddery, beaming at the very prospect.
The 11-times champion jockey has ridden Hearts Of Fire every day on the gallops himself throughout the winter.
It is that intimate nurturing experience that persuaded Eddery that his son of Firebreak has got what it takes to excel in the Suffolk track’s unique test of a thoroughbred.
“You can’t knock the horse. He’s won on heavy ground, soft ground, and firm ground so Newmarket is not going to be a problem for him. He’s proven he stays a mile, too and he’s very balanced.”
Eddery trains at Musk Hill, Buckinghamshire, north of London and his brother Robert joined him in November as head lad after a stint as assistant trainer to Karl Burke.
Robert, who was champion apprentice at the age of 16, understands completely the pressures that his brother is under at this time now he is a trainer.
“As a jockey, you don’t really care what goes on before or after the race,” he explained.
“You’re just concentrating on what’s going on in front of you during the race.
“But as a trainer there are 150 things that can go wrong with a horse every day in the build-up so it’s a massive effort just to get the horse to the racecourse in the right condition. It’s very different.
“Pat and I drove to Yarmouth together on Tuesday and he put Hearts Of Fire on a par with his three Guineas winners. Now to me that’s ridiculous.
“You can’t believe him that our fellow is that good but he’s put more into this horse than any other horse in his life so of course he’s nervous.”
(Editing by Jon Bramley; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)