Horse Racing

Sir Gerhard aims for poignant Champion Bumper win at Cheltenham

Sir Gerhard is the light in the darkness for the family of his breeder Jonathan Fitzpatrick.

Touted as the sport's next superstar, the Irish 'banker' was the apple of his eye.

Tragically he would not see the Gordon Elliott-trained Weatherbys Champion Bumper favourite race to three impressive victories.

At the time of his death in 2017, in a road traffic collision at the age of 23, he had sold Sir Gerhard for just €17,000 from his family's Keatingstown House Stud in Kilkenny.

Jonathan's father Joe said he knew right from the start the youngster was special.

"He thought he was a cracker of a foal," he said.

"He moved well, was big and muscular. Jonathan was delighted with him."

It was his idea to breed their mare Faanan Aldaar with Jeremy, a union which came just days before the up and coming sire's premature death in 2014.

Jonathan had already seen a horse he bought for €3,200, Ginger Pop, sell for €100,000.

But the £400,000 Sir Gerhard made in 2019, after his clear-cut point-to-point triumph, was on another level.

Sporting the colours of Cheveley Park Stud, no-other horse has been able to live with his pace in the closing stages of races since.

"If Jonathan was alive he would be going nuts about him," said Joe.

"He would be so proud a horse he bred was racing at Cheltenham."

A rugby-mad teenager, Jonathan set his sights on a career in racing from the family's yard, which focused on showjumpers.

His sister Susan competes another of the young horses he nurtured, CBI Keatingstown Victory.

Wherever he went, Jonathan left his mark, his family said, with spells working for trainer Jim Bolger, Coolmore Australia and the Irish National Stud.

"He was a very effervescent young fella," said Joe.

"We helped him buy his first showjumper from the sales at 17, I got a call to the office asking to pay for it!

"I would watch him and a friend breaking-in horses out of the kitchen window.

"He was horse mad."

In a normal year, without the scourge of Covid, there would be no place the family would rather be on March 17 – the date of Sir Gerhard's race.

Instead they will be gathered around the nearest TV set, cheering him all the way up the Cheltenham hill.

And soon they will see his half-brother Hey Jonny, a horse named after a song created by one of his close friends, debut on the racecourse.

"If that worked out, wouldn't it be lovely?" Joe said about the gelding trained by Tom Mullins.

"But first we are have our focus on Cheltenham. The horse racing community have rallied around us, events like this are really important.

"We wish Sir Gerhard's connections the best of luck. It will be so special to us and very emotional if he can win.

"Jonathan's legacy lives on in so many ways."

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