From social interaction to business dealings and now owning a Cheltenham Festival winner – Albert Dravins and Eamonn Scanlon have formed a formidable partnership, writes Bradley West.
The pair have been in business together for nearly 28 years now, since creating construction company Modebest Builders in 1994.
It was by chance that Dravins, originally from County Sligo and who now lives in Castlebar, would meet the London-based Scanlon but, when social occasions turned into a job opportunity the pair jumped at the chance.
Later the duo, who share a love of horse racing, invested in their first horse with Welsh trainer David Evans Abergavenny and the rest, as they say, is history.
Roll on 15 years and, after taking on a punt on a certain horse called Jeff Kidder, the pair are on top of the world.
“We were both working for construction companies and an opportunity came up, he would do the surveying and I’d do the construction side of it as those were our backgrounds,” Dravins said.
“We’ve taken a step back from the business now but we’re still involved on a consultancy basis and we’ve got a succession plan in place.
“We’ve always had an interest [in horses]. Noel [Meade] buys horses as yearlings and races them. I’d seen Jeff Kidder in Sligo and he was unlucky to be beaten.
“Then he went onto Ballinrobe and a Flat race at Bellewstown and I just picked up the phone to Noel.
“I told him he was a nice horse and that he was unlucky to be beaten a couple of times, Noel agreed with me and we agreed a fee last August.
“I’ve not seen the horse in the flesh yet. It’s unbelievable!”
The duo now own a handful of horses split between successful trainers Noel Meade and Paul Nolan, and are even getting into breeding them.
But it is with the star of the moment Jeff Kidder, who Dravins bought off Meade for a cheap price, that the partnership has ascended to new heights.
After buying him in August last year the four-year-old continued to improve, underlined by an impressive win at Fairyhouse in November and a battling display in a tough race at Leopardstown at Christmas.
Still, nobody was expecting to him to do much at Cheltenham.
And yet, he delivered a stunning 80-1 surprise victory in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – becoming the longest-priced Festival winner since 1990.
“This was a relatively inexpensive horse and, with what he’s done now, he’s very inexpensive,” Dravins added.
“Going to Cheltenham, the way he was handicapped, I was confident of him being placed.
“I was watching it in Castlebar with one of my sons, two of my sons were in London and my daughter was in Dublin.
“My wife was on her way down from Dublin after a hospital appointment for a nephew of hers, so we had a Zoom call between us.
“We were all interconnected, my wife had to pull in on the side of the road on the way down from Dublin and watch it on her phone.
“I was really frightened, it’s a two-mile race, things happen really quickly.
“I thought [Sean] Flanagan had left it too late with the horse he had, because he was getting boxed in. But once he jumped the last we knew he had a turn of foot.
“It took about ten minutes for me to calm down afterwards. My son was getting a bit worried about me!”
As if to prove that Cheltenham was no fluke, Jeff Kidder then added Grade Two glory in the Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse Easter Festival to his ever-increasing resume.
Now, he bids for the hat-trick at Punchestown Festival in the Grade One Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle.
It’ll be tough, but Dravins has his hopes held high.
“It’s completely different at Punchestown, a Grade One, off level weights, the whole lot,” he said.
“The way Henry de Bromhead’s horse Quilixios came up the hill at Cheltenham, he’s going to be really really hard to beat.
“I’ll be hoping for a good performance and if he improves in jumping he’ll have place chances.
“It’s Noel’s intention to probably run him back into a Flat race or two after this, so he’s a quality horse. The plan is to mix it up.”