Ian Fortune

Owen McKenna has reported his Boylesports Champion Stakes winner Pestana to be in ‘great order’ and ‘bouncing’ after his heroics on Saturday night.

He also confirmed the star performer would be next seen in the opening round of the Derby.

McKenna also took the time to thank those close to him that made it possible, while also paying tribute to his great friend Bart Leahy. Said Owen, with a smile on his face, “Bart was some character. I know he was Johnnie’s [Linehan] right hand man, but he was a great friend. He helped me out plenty of times over the years. I remember one year he went to Scotland with a dog for me.

“He was great fun. I’ll never forget the night Thurlesbeg Joker won the Easter Cup, it was the same night as the coursing awards in the Minella. We headed back there after the dogs and Bart got hold of the presentation jacket. The next thing you know, he had the jacket around his neck. He was a great lad. You’d miss him at times like this.”

Owen also paid tribute to his around him. “Sian and the kids make it all possible. It really is a team effort down here. Ciaran, Aliah and Freya do their bit and Sian is the real boss. Without them we couldn’t keep the whole thing going. And I’ve also got to mention Ger Butler. He a great help to me and is another that I need to thank.”

Of course, McKenna is hoping for further success with Pestana and he reports the dog to be in great shape after his exertions at the weekend, “He ran so well the other night. You could see he wanted it. He’s in great order, bouncing in fact. He’s a great dog to recover. We’ll give him a couple of easy days but he doesn’t appreciate it.

“We’re galloping dogs this morning and he made an awful racket trying to get out and join in. We won’t race him before the Derby but I’d say we’ll have to give him a trial at Shelbourne.  

“The lockdown was the making off him, really. He was a buzzy type but we did loads of work with him and he has matured and seems a different dog. I know he was a good dog before the break and ran great to get to the Gold Cup final, especially in the semis when running from six. I knew that night he had the makings of a real nice sort.

“A few questioned why we didn’t go to the Produce Stakes, but it’s simple really. Des [Grace] wanted a Derby dog and the Champion Stakes was going to tell us whether he was one or not. Thankfully, it looks like he is. It’s only two runs, rather than four at Clonmel, so it made sense.

“I was delighted for Des. He’s been a wonderful supporter and friend and hopefully we’ll have more success in the future with this fellow or others.”.

Indeed, given the pace and determination Pestana showed at Shelbourne on Saturday, they can certainly dream of possible Derby success in the future. We wish them the very best of luck.