Dawn Run’s heroic annexation of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is one of the earliest abiding sporting memories here. That, Cool Ground achieving similar six years later and – some years after that again – the prolonged battle between Richard Dunwoody and Adrian Maguire for the National Hunt Jockeys Championship across the water.
Maguire was also central to the Cool Ground story as well. He partnered the then 10-year-old to victory by a short head from French raider The Fellow having been on Omerta when he won the Irish Grand National the year before. My principal interest in Maguire, admittedly, was that he was a Meath man.
Mention of himself and Dunwoody vying for that title is interesting. In those days, the NH season was much more defined, whereby, once a certain date on the calendar was arrived at, that was it – no more jump racing until the following September or October. Thus, my interest in affairs of the turf tapered off.
Nowadays, of course, one season blends seamlessly into another. Whether that’s a good thing is debatable, but it’s also an argument for another day. Personally speaking, at some point along the way, an interest in the action on the flat was nurtured. Partially out of necessity, but it was greatly aided due to having a connection with one of the top operators in that sphere.
So far this year, the outstanding form of Dermot Weld’s horses. His chances of enjoying even greater prosperity than he usually does were, remember, bolstered considerably when he was bequeathed quite a team from the Aga Khan. To the greatest detriment of John Oxx. Though the man based at Curraghbeg has been keeping the ship afloat quite nicely and is only likely to have even more wind in his masts when another boat load of Sea The Stars progeny sets sail.
Kieren Fallon is another to – somewhat surprisingly – benefit from the winds of change. Propensity to portray the Clare native in a none too flattering light are undoubtedly aided by cognisance of some of the more nefarious activities in which he has engaged. That notwithstanding, continued regular exhibitions of his undoubted genius serve to emphatically underline the travesty it would be were he to become one of the rank and file.
Johnny Murtagh is another who has seen bodes sides of the road in what’s a ruthless game. The good days by far outnumbered the bad, mind you, especially when one thinks of horses like Sindaar, Alamshar and – in particular – Yeates on that day the Gods seemed to smile on the rider in the Ascot Gold Cup just as he looked for them.
Royal Diamond has already afforded him big race glory as a trainer. As the size and profile of the Murtagh operation continues to evolve, such occurrences are only likely to multiply. It’d be wagered, though, that anything achieved may just play second fiddle to the occasion his daughter Caroline claimed her first winner aboard Regal Power at Naas.
Given the longstanding connections that exist, how fitting it was that the horse was purchased from Eddie Lynam as well. Things like that, though, encapsulate why summer racing holds unique appeal. Johann Zoffany was by no means a Ballydoyle superstar, but he is recorded in history as Joseph O’Brien’s first winner. Regal Power and Caroline Murtagh are now similarly chronicled in the annals.
In spite of all of the above, mind you, this corner will probably always be swayed in favour of action over the obstacles. Particularly when special stories with a fervent local connection crop up. So it was recently when the Tony Martin trained Mydor got off the mark for the Mulvany’s Bar Syndicate at Tipperary.
Over the years I harboured dreams of getting into racehorse ownership – and did in a loose way for a while – but even though the path life has now taken wouldn’t be swapped for anything, there’s always a little extra kick in seeing those with a local connection do well, regardless of the sporting code.
The French bred 4-year-old showed considerable promise in a Fairyhouse maiden hurdle under Ruby Walsh in January and demonstrably flourished in more solid underfoot conditions at the southern venue. In fact, such was the cool manner in which Shane Shortall’s mount outgunned the admirable veteran Marshim that temptation would be to suggest there may be more to come.
Even from what was unfortunately only a fleeting flirtation with the ownership side of things, the thrill of seeing a steed run in a set of colours you are connected to can be easily recalled. The sensation of seeing the pride and joy win was never experienced but what’s certain is that those connected with Mydor wouldn’t need lessons in celebrations and it’s quite likely they will have more reason to do so in the not too distant future!