“Very, very excited!” That’s how Paul Armstrong, co-breeder and part-owner of Not A Single Doubt’s son Fell Swoop, describes his emotional state in the final countdown towards The Everest at Randwick on Saturday.
The Canberra-based builder-turned-demolition specialist says, “I was lucky enough to be at the barrier draw on Tuesday, rubbing shoulders with Peter Snowden, Max Whitby and Damion Flower, wondering ‘How did we get here?’
“It’s good that little guys like us get a chance at these big races. It’s quite surreal, we feel very privileged and very grateful.”
Back in 2003, Paul, Graham Singh and Mark Richards, friends since their schooldays at De La Salle Bankstown, all took shares in the Fasliyev-Crimson Flight yearling filly bought by Lee Curtis at the Magic Millions Sale, and named Touched In Flight.
Remembers Paul, “She won her debut at Wyong, and we thought ‘How easy is this?’ She was very quick but wasn’t temperamentally sound so she was retired. We stayed in her ownership with Lee and a couple of other people and after we bred Fell Swoop, Mark, Graham and I bought her outright.
“Then Matt Dale bought Fell Swoop at Inglis Classic for $45,000 and we stayed in for 60%, with all of us bringing in other people to race him, so he now has 17 owners in all.”
The 6YO gelding has already given his owners a wonderful ride, winning nine races, including the BRC Victory S. G2, two Listed Races, and more than $1.6 million. Five Group 1 placings – two of them in successive TJ Smith Stakes, in company with Chautauqua and English – have earned Fell Swoop serious respect, though that’s not reflected in his long odds for The Everest.
Says Paul, “I know the bookies don’t rate his chances highly, but he deserves his place in the field, and it’s a horse race so, as The Everest ads say, expect the unexpected!”
Paul highlights a few specifics in Fell Swoop’s favour. “Matt has had one aim for the last six months, to have him 100% for his Grand Final on Saturday.
“His coat’s come through, he’s thrived on bush walking and beach work at Moruya and Tye [Angland] is very confident and happy with him. And his best runs are usually third up.”
Fell Swoop’s prospects also improve with easing in the ground at Randwick. Untried on Firm conditions, he’s won seven times on Good ground and twice on Soft tracks.
Paul nominates Fell Swoop’s unflinching will to win, and Matt Dale’s skill and dedication as key factors in their quest for the Everest.
“Matt has been the most patient of trainers, he thinks about his horses all the time and his focus and attention to detail are second to none. It’s a privilege to share this experience with him and his family.”
It was Matt who negotiated with slot-holder Inglis, confirming Fell Swoop as the fourth Everest contender in June.
Says Paul, “Our relationship with Inglis is wonderful, I can’t speak highly enough of Mark Webster and Jonathan D’arcy, and the whole Inglis team has been wonderful to deal with.”
Touched In Flight is playing her part too. She produced a “beautiful” full brother to Fell Swoop at Willow Park on 9 September, and visits Not A Single Doubt again this Spring.
And what if Fell Swoop wins The Everest? “I’ll cry like a baby,” says Paul, “then I’ll compose myself and make the speech!”