Irish Roe team have Festival dreams
Irish Roe could be trained with a view towards the Champion Bumper at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Irish Roe (top) and My Khaleesi
The Yorkshire-based mare, who cost just 2,000 euro as a three-year-old, defied concerns about the demanding ground at Cheltenham on Friday when she dead-heated for first place in a Listed mares' bumper.
Owner-trainer Peter Atkinson had suggested Irish Roe would be kept on ice for Aintree in April, but the five-year-old could be much busier next year than had first been anticipated.
Atkinson's wife, Lucinda, said: "She's perfectly happy with life and is walking around our place like she knows she's done something special.
"She's had three races since August, though, so she's in need of a break.
"The plan before Cheltenham was to put her away and start her off again in the Aintree mares' bumper.
"But after the weekend, dare you think about running her in the Cheltenham Bumper against geldings? You couldn't definitely say no, but you couldn't definitely say yes, either.
"We now, possibly, have the choice of Cheltenham, Aintree or even Punchestown next year.
"Whether it would be too much to do all three and just do two of them, I really don't know.
"We've never been here before, so it's all very new and exciting for us."
Based in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, permit-holder Atkinson only trains two horses and is a pig farmer by trade.
His wife, an international event rider who also trains point-to-point horses, has been responsible for Irish Roe's rise from obscurity but admitted she has not yet had to fend off any potential suitors for the horse.
"She's not the biggest of mares so wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea," she said.
"She's a very tough mare and is very straightforward, but if you'd have seen her before the race at Cheltenham you'd have thought there was something wrong with her.
"She was in her box, head down, and fast asleep. And then, when she walked around the parade ring, she looked like a donkey.
"But as soon as we put the saddle on her, that was it – she went on, woke up and did what she did."
Irish Roe is likely to remain in bumpers this season, but Lucinda Atkinson said the daughter of Vinnie Roe has the capacity to excel in other spheres of racing.
She said: "Irish Roe jumps like a whippet at home.
"She's so light and quick on her feet. For a little horse, she's very, very good at jumping.
"She's good enough for the Flat and hurdles but we'll probably stick to bumpers for now.
"We are still having to pinch ourselves, to be quite honest. Things like this just don't happen to people like us.
"We really are living the dream."
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