By Samantha Martin (@sam_angelina22)
Put The Kettle On became the first mare to ever win the Champion Chase with her tenacious performance at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. However, a mare named Function Dream could’ve done just that twenty years ago if the 2001 Cheltenham Festival hadn’t fallen victim to the foot and mouth crisis.
The fourth edition of the ‘Wonder Mares’ series focuses on the life and legacy of Function Dream.
Function Dream was foaled on 7th April 1992 and her dam is Rare Dream, a daughter of Pollerton who ran twice without winning. One More Dream was her first foal to race and he was three from fifteen in his career; Kilbally Boy won one of his fourteen starts and Quare Dream’s didn’t win. Kilbally Boy and Quare Dream’s were both by Strong Gale and Rare Dream’s third visit to the stallion resulted in Function Dream. Strong Gale won six times from thirty-four starts and placed eleven times. His progeny had a reputation for being extremely tough yet often had wind problems. According to the Racing Post, he sired fourteen horses with an Official Rating of higher than 161 and twenty-three gained more than £100,000 in prize money. He is the damsire of Finian’s Rainbow, The Listener and Menorah.
Function Dream’s career began in Ireland in point-to-points for the John Walsh stable. She was third on her first start and then won over three miles on good ground at Dromahane in May 1997. Twenty days later, she made her rules debut in a Tipperary bumper.
Connections then made the interesting move to go straight to a beginners’ chase at Galway but she fell. She ran four more times between then and her first victory under rules. It came at Thurles on 28th February 1998. It was over three miles on yielding ground and she won by three lengths. Next time, in early March, she followed it up with a good win at Leopardstown over two miles five. At the end of the month, she won by ten lengths over two miles six. On her last start of the season, she was second, only beaten a length.
She ran eight times in the 1998/99 season and won once at Punchestown in a handicap chase, appreciating the drop to two miles on heavy ground. In September 1999, she won well at Gowran in a listed handicap chase over two miles six. However, she was well-beaten through the rest of the season and moved to Mary Reveley’s yard between March 2000 and the following September.
Mary Reveley took out her licence in 1982, aged forty-two, and was an excellent dual-purpose trainer. Cab On Target won six graded races for her in the early nineties and she trained the winner of the Cesarewitch on the flat. Reveley sadly died in 2017 and she was a pioneering female trainer with Sedgefield, Newcastle, Wetherby and Kelso as her happy hunting grounds.
Function Dream and Mary Reveley’s partnership began faultlessly when the mare won by three quarters of a length at Uttoxeter under Anthony Ross, who often rode for the Reveley yard. He had 94 winners before he retired in 2008 aged thirty. Ross didn’t ride her next time and she was well-beaten but she found her winning streak again when they were reunited at Wetherby over two miles in a class two, which she won by twenty-one lengths. The 2004 Grand National winner was in fifth! She won over two miles three at the same track in early December 2000.
This performance warranted connections to step her up into graded company. She won the Castleford Handicap Chase, a grade two, on Boxing Day 2000. Since then, it has been relegated to a class two and, in the 2020/21 season, the race was won by First Flow, who used this as a springboard to grade one glory in the Clarence House.
So did Function Dream. However, at this time, the Clarence House was known as the Victor Chandler Chase and was a grade two until 2007 when it was promoted to grade one status. She went off the 2/1 favourite and raced behind the leaders for the majority of the way. Ross, wearing her maroon and white silks with the blue cap, pushed her along as they turned for home but they eased clear with two final good jumps. The winning margin was two and a half lengths and Ross lost his claim. She was the best horse he rode and he described her owners as a “great bunch of lads in Ireland”. This was a hugely popular winner for northern racing fans.
Function Dream’s next target was the Game Spirit, a grade two chase at Newbury. Flagship Uberalles was the 4/6 favourite with Function Dream next best at 7/4. For the early part of the race, these two main contenders raced alongside each other but a clumsy jump at Newbury’s famous water handed the mare an advantage – and that was the story of the race. Flagship Uberalles made a mistake at the fourth-last but Function Dream was faultless at fourth and third fences from home. Fortunately, an untidy jump at the penultimate fence didn’t hand the advantage to Flagship Uberalles and she was jumped off an awkward stride at the last but eased clear up the run-in to win by seventeen lengths.
That kind of performance would’ve put her right in the frame for the Champion Chase, even though Flagship Uberalles finished lame. However, the 2001 Cheltenham Festival never happened due to the foot and mouth crisis. In an attempt to control the epidemic, the government imposed rules that no land could be used if sheep had been grazed on it in the last 28 days. This ruled out Cheltenham occupying its original date. Irish racing had already stopped completely from the 25th February and they wouldn’t send any horses over for Cheltenham. There were hopes for a rescheduled meeting in April but, as the Cheltenham managing director Edward Gillespie said, the meeting teetered on whether “a sheep sneezed in the wrong direction”. The festival was abandoned on 1st April.
What would’ve happened if the Festival had gone ahead? If Function Dream had lined up in the Champion Chase? Would she have won? She definitely had a great chance. Her versatility in terms of trips would’ve benefitted her going up the Cheltenham Hill and she seemed extremely tough. If she had won, it could’ve catalysed a resurgence for mares in National Hunt racing – one similar to what we are seeing now with Put The Kettle On and Honeysuckle following in the hoof-steps of Annie Power and Apple’s Jade. Function Dream ran in just three mares’ races in the early part of her career but, after that, she was campaigned boldly by both John Walsh and Mary Reveley – not afraid of taking on the boys. It paid off as she won eleven of her thirty-three races under rules.
After two last place finishes, Function Dream was retired and she went on to produce three talented horses as a broodmare before she died aged 16.
Captain Chris was her first foal. He was born in 2004 and by King’s Theatre. He won nine of his twenty-three starts, including a Pendil Novices’ Chase; the Arkle; Ryanair Novices Chase at Punchestown; the 1965 Chase and he concluded his career with a nineteen-length romp in the Ascot Chase.
Dream Function was born in 2005 and a full sibling to Captain Chris. In her career, she won a novice hurdle and beginners chase before becoming a broodmare. her first foal Arion Sky won one race; Shirocco’s Dream won a point-to-point and is in training with Colin Tizzard and her 2016 foal Dreaming Of Glory is yet to win from three starts and is trained by Fergal O’Brien. I love that these mares will eventually go on to produce their own foals and continue the legacy of Function Dream.
Foundation Man was trained by Phillip Hobbs and won five of his forty-six starts, placing twelve times. He got on especially well with Jack Savage, who won on him three times as a 10lbs claimer.
I have really enjoyed finding out about Function Dream. I keep asking myself “what if she had won the Champion Chase?”. How would that have impacted the National Hunt racing scene as we know it today? Would it have encouraged more people to let mares race over fences and take on the ‘big boys’ in the championship races? Only one mare took her chance in the Champion Chase before this year, which was in 2006. With the success of Put The Kettle On and Honeysuckle (who may well go chasing next season), I hope we see more mares contesting the top races and, whilst Function Dream never won a grade one, her heroics deserves to be talked about and remembered.
Previous ‘Wonder Mares’ Articles
Petite Etoile – Wonder Mares: Petite Etoile – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)
Signorinetta – Wonder Mares : Signorinetta – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)
Sun Chariot – Wonder Mares : Sun Chariot – REIN IT IN (wordpress.com)