Gone To Lunch
We are devastated to announce that Gone To Lunch passed away yesterday. He was a star for us, and he will be greatly missed in the yard. Our thoughts are with his owner, Gary and Maria, and the team over the past 20 years who have had the privilege to know him.
His regal head appears over the door, ears pricked, his wise eyes shows years of experience and a story to tell.
An expensive purchase in 2004, €14,500 was a lot for a point to pointer in the West Country. By a relatively unknown stallion but a good pedigree, a scopey sort with a little swagger as he walked so hand raised and a winning bid. Largely straightforward, just needed time to grow into himself and strengthen up. Who would have thought back then of what he was to become, a store horse purchase is partly a Cheltenham dream.
His first season pointing he spent going to the races before the trainer established the ground was too quick, too wet, too sticky, too patchy and resolved to wait for another day. He only managed two runs his inaugural season, pulling up before finishing second in a charity race under a starved trainer.
The waiting paid off and the following season progressed from Maiden to Open winning four races in eye catching fashion.
2007 was a big year, the Cheltenham dream taking root. Three runs, pulled up, second, first, before lining up in the amateur's Gold Cup, travelled well before an inopportune fall four from home. Shown enough promise to tempt the trainer to challenge the professionals and novice hurdles beckoned. Four wins from six runs over hurdles completed the year including wins at
Grade 1 tracks: Cheltenham and Ascot for the rookie trainer.
A third in the Cleeve behind two leading stayers left him as one of the favourites for the Novice equivalent and the Cheltenham dream was beginning to bud. Regrettably beaten at Cheltenham and second at Aintree by a nostril, a chasing career loomed.
Third and second on his first two starts over fences before bolting up in his next three starts, including a Grade 2 Graduation chase. Following the champ's advice, the trainer elects for the RSA where an unfortunate ground head-butting results in an early exit. A trip to Scotland, arguably the finest race of his career, 2nd beaten a short head in the Scottish National. Filled the same spot in Ireland before all his gear is stolen in the middle of the night ahead of the trip home.
Staying handicaps were now his calling with the aim, a return trip to Scotland, Hennessy fifth behind the tank was probably one of his best. All this has been a preamble, the trip to Scotland is truly the story. He finishes second again, this time to a Scottish favourite.
On the return journey he contracts Plural-pneumonia, fluid on the lungs, high temperature, dull coat and eyes. The spark and swagger gone. Our star, our flag bearer, our legend was sick. Vets called.
Worried weeks spent waiting and watching, buckets of fluid drained, carrots used as bribery, trying to get the sparkle back. A bet agreed on between the vet and trainer: if this horse wins another race, a naked run down the high street and sea front. Eventually he returns home, a shadow of his former self, dull in coat and eye. Hope fading with each day and the Trainer rings vet with tears pricking at his eyes:
I think it is time, I don't want to see him suffer.
Just let me take some bloods, give him the night.
The following morning there was a spark, there was life in our star yet. Out into the field he goes with his friend, more interest in life, the warrior fights on. Improvement. Another day.
Day by day more spark, swagger and shine. Steadily he returns to being ridden, back into training.
Take each day as it comes, he now only has 65% lung capacity but still he battles on. A return to pointing, away from the limelight.
The bet still looms.
Black Forest Lodge. 6th February 2011, an emotional day, praying for everything to be ok. Local support for another, second favourite, demolishes the field, winning by 12 lengths. Tears running down cheeks as we welcome our hero back into the winners enclosure. An emotional day, but our fighter was only doing his job. The swagger was back...
That Cheltenham dream edges closer, he had to win his next start. Running out of time and options. Larkhill, Coronation Cup, a race he finished second in 3 years ago. We have never had the luck, bridesmaid position. Fortunately racing brings stories like this to life and our star got his head in front and Cheltenham was a realistic dream. Back for the Foxhunters unfortunately couldn't quite get on terms. Back to Ayr, and sixth was the best he could finish running out of the weights.
Over to Ireland and 4th in the hunters Chase, quite something to get him there.
After a summer break, seasonal debut, Wincanton the destination, The Desert Orchid, a terrific win for our fighter, back on a racecourse. Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham, a twisted shoe, never lucky at the Festival .
Not yet finished, two seasons, two wins teaching his young pilot. One last trip to Cheltenham aged 14 in a four mile hunter chase, best he could finish, fourth.
A bout of colic which has plagued him his whole life brought thoughts of retirement to a head.
He nudges my hand demanding polos, wondering where they are hiding. Head goes up as I try to put the bridle on then comes swinging round, teeth gnashing as I do the girth up. All forgotten as we wonder round to the mounting block. Foot into stirrup and now ears pricked, head up, jogging out of the yard. The swagger is well and truly back.
He walked into our lives 19 years ago and for that I will always be grateful. As for the bet, it has yet to be fulfilled. We owe him everything, he is our star, our flag bearer, our legend.