The lambing season might just be getting underway at the Wafer household in Co Wexford, but not before John’s wife Ivy Rothwell gets to cheer on Road To Respect in the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday.
Winner of a Grade 3 at the Cotswolds last year, he returns with a fighting chance, having picked up two Grade 1 races since, including the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown in December.
“Mum and Dad have promised to help out on the farm so we can go over for the day to see him,” says Ivy.
Parents to daughters Chloe (4) and Amy (2), John and Ivy run a farming/equine enterprise outside Bunclody, consisting of some 60 ewes and 15 sucklers, as well as a handful of breeding stock, both thoroughbreds and Irish Draughts.
Ivy also holds a point-to-point trainer’s licence and during the season offers services for sales preparation and foaling down mares for clients.
Road to Respect has been a fairytale story right from the start for Ivy and her family.
An avid horsewoman and breeder all of her life, she took a quick trip to the thoroughbred sales at Goresbridge in the autumn of 2010, hopeful of picking up a bargain.
“Dad always kept a few thoroughbreds but I really wanted a mare of my own,” she said.
Her father Roland, also a full-time farmer, has bred some nice horses over the years, including full-siblings Smart Talk and Idle Talk. Both are by Hubbly Bubbly out of his late Strong Gale mare Belon Breeze.
With her experience and keen eye, Ivy spotted one nice mare with a foal at foot at Goresbridge and followed her to the sales ring. “There was no one in the ring, so I placed a bid and picked her up for a very handy €400,” she commented.
That unraced mare by Lord Americo turned out to be Lora Lady. Her filly at foot was by Gamut and she was also in foal to the same sire. That foal in utero was later named Road To Respect.
Even more interesting was that Lora Lady had some very promising relations who had yet to hit the track, namely her half-brother Road To Riches.
“It was just pure luck as Road To Riches was only a three-year-old at the time and had yet to race,” Ivy said.
Bred by Michael Hickey of Sunnyhill Stud, Road To Riches first made his mark with a point-to-point win in 2012, but by the end of 2014 he had notched up two Grade 1 races in excellent company.
He has since added to that Grade 1 list and next Thursday is a possible runner for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.
Road To Respect was first spotted in a shed as a three-year-old by jockey agent Alan Donoghue.
“Alan originally came to look at three youngsters but liked him the most. I was happy to get €7,500 for him at the time,” says Ivy.
Alan later brought him schooling to Monksgrange, where he was snapped up for a six-figure sum by trainer Eoin Griffin for Gigginstown House Stud.
Under Griffin he won first time out at the same track in March 2015 and in late 2016 moved to Noel Meade’s yard.
With Lora Lady’s filly by Gamut now breeding with Jane Foley, Ivy is delighted to have kept a two-year-old filly by Leading Light.
“We also have Road To Respect’s three-year-old full-brother and a yearling colt by Fairy Ransom.
“The older one will hopefully go to the Land Rover Sale this year. We are lucky that we have the space to sell them on as stores.”
While Ivy’s interest in horses has mainly been with thoroughbreds, her husband John is a keen Irish Draught supporter and a regular on the showing circuit.
Horses are also very much part of the family of Ivy’s cousin Paul Rothwell, who stands the sire Sandmason at Lacken Stud outside Bunclody.
Sandmason is the sire of Summerville Boy, who runs in the Skybet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle this afternoon, and also Black Op who heads for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle tomorrow afternoon.
“It is just fantastic that Paul also bred these two and will be over there in Cheltenham to support them, so it’s going to be an exciting week all round,” she added.