Bobby Zen

Leading Royal Ascot fancy A Piece Of Heaven (Ire) (Fr) will sport a new set of silks when he lines out in the Copper Horse Handicap after Syndicates Racing secured a deal for the potential Melbourne Cup contender to join Joseph O’Brien. 

That bit of business comes as a double blow to A Piece Of Heaven’s former trainer Barry Fitzgerald as, not only did he lose his flag-bearer in the transaction, but he now finds himself without yard to train from after a fallout with his landlord Mark Foley, who was also a part-owner in the horse.

A Piece Of Heaven was a wildly impressive winner of a lady riders’ handicap at Leopardstown last month, barely coming off the bridle to warm up for the royal meeting in the best possible fashion. The six-year-old naturally became the subject of interest and a difference of opinion within the camp left Fitzgerald with no other option but to accept the best offer that was put in front of him. 

He explained, “Look, I’m sorry I lost the horse in such circumstances but I wish Joseph O’Brien and Jack Cantillon the best of luck with him-they’re not the bad guys here. I have always spoken highly of this horse. Even when he was running in bumpers, I thought a lot of him. The ground is the big thing and that’s probably why he’s been lightly-raced. There is no point running him on dead ground–he needs to be able to quicken off good ground. 

“His profile is ideal for Royal Ascot and my big plan for him was to go there and then go on to Melbourne with him. That’s how good of a horse I think he is. He’s a relentless galloper.”

Fitzgerald has kept the majority of his string despite the fallout and is temporarily based with his brother and prominent point-to-point handler Aidan. However, he hopes to find a more permanent address by the end of the week and has vowed to “build back bigger and stronger”. His rebuilding will be made that little bit easier after selling recent Down Royal maiden winner Miss Meager (Ire) (Galileo Gold  {GB}) to America.  

He said, “We’re in the trading business but, to be honest, I thought the trading angle was gone with A Piece Of Heaven and that he might be a flag-bearer for the yard. It’s a big blow because he’s gone, the yard is gone, and I have to build back bigger and stronger again. 

“I’ve only lost two other horses and have brought the majority of the string with me and thankfully plenty of people have stood by me. I have seven horses stabled in my brother’s place–but there are more to come in from the field–and I’m hoping to get sorted with a more long-term arrangement by the end of this week. It’s a shame the way things worked out but these things happen in racing and we’ll bounce back stronger from it. I’m going to be at the Arkle Sale at Goffs this week and hopefully we can reinvest.”

He added, “Jack and Joseph were great to deal with here and I genuinely hope the horse can win plenty of races for them. The bigger picture for A Piece Of Heaven is in November and I’ve no doubt that I will be setting my alarm clock to get up and watch him in the Melbourne Cup.”

And Melbourne was put forward as one of the main attractions behind securing the deal for A Piece Of Heaven by the Syndicates Racing boss.

Cantillon said, “I think what this horse did at Leopardstown was really underestimated. He was off a mark of 94 and the handicapper gave him seven pounds. We looked at his stride and sectional analytics and both metrics pointed to a top-class performance being posted. Not only did he put in the performance but he also vetted extremely well. If he can continue on his upward trajectory, he’s a horse with the profile and lack of miles on the clock to be a Melbourne Cup contender. 

“My Dad, Dermot, was lucky enough to be the racing manager for the Smurfit family during a time when they enjoyed two Melbourne Cup wins and we keep talking about how striking a similar profile that A Piece Of Heaven has with Vintage Crop. You need to be realistic; he’s currently rated 101 but I think a lot of very shrewd readers of form are very excited about this horse for Royal Ascot and have him down as one of their bankers in the Copper Horse Handicap, which of course is the route that Vauban and Absurde took to Melbourne.”

He added, “A Piece Of Heaven has been sent to one of Ireland’s greatest trainers and a brilliant man to travel a horse in Joseph O’Brien but I think Barry deserves huge credit by how well he has campaigned him thus far. If  the horse can achieve more in 2024 and beyond, which I think he can, I’d really like Barry to get the credit that he deserves for what a brilliant job he has done in nurturing this horse’s talents.”

The post Barry Fitzgerald: ‘The Horse Is Gone And So Is My Yard, But I’ll Build Back Stronger’  appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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