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Chapter 10: Naas Races – 2000-2009

Naas 2001 Member’s Badge

From ‘The Centenary of Naas Racecourse (1924-2024) – Nursery of Champions’ by Turtle Bunbury.

 

Back to Naas 100 Contents

 

Robbie Osborne’s Naas Debut

 

On New Year’s Day 2000, 22-year-old Robbie Osborne, son of Paddy, became the third generation of his family to take on the trainers’ mantle at Craddockstown House, Naas. He had his first runner at Naas that same afternoon, but he would have to wait another day for his first winner. Robbie’s maternal grandfather William Fogarty was assistant trainer to Vincent O’Brien at Ballydoyle. Robbie is now a director of Naas Racecourse, and the third generation of his family to hold such a seat.

 

Limestone Lad

 

Limestone Lad was among the most popular National Hunt stars of the early 21st century. Bred and owned by James Bowe, he made his Naas debut in 1997, finishing ninth of 24 runners, 18 lengths behind the winner. However, his appearance in a Naas bumper the following year suggested this durable gelding was made of more. [1]

Two and a half miles transpired to be his favourite distance, as evidenced when he won the Bank of Ireland Hurdle at Naas three times in a row between 2000 and 2002. In the latter race, he beat the great Commanche Court by 10 lengths despite conceding 16 pounds to the runner-up. His incredibly tough front-running style endeared him to many and he won 35 races between 1997 and 2003. Eight of those wins were at Naas, where he raced 11 times. Shane McGovern, who rode him to victory in the 1999 Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle (Listed) at Naas, opined: ‘The more he jumps, the more he warms up.’

Limestone Lad enjoyed his retirement on the Bowe family farm where he grazed alongside the mare Solerina, the two-time winner of the Bank of Ireland Hurdle (2004 and 2006). In 2009, the Bank of Ireland Hurdle was renamed the Limestone Lad Hurdle in his honour. Open to horses aged five years and older, it was elevated to Grade 3 level two years later.

 

Man U Victory

 

On 3 June 2000, Red Coral, trained by Aidan O’Brien, carried the colours of the newly formed Manchester United Racing Club to a comprehensive victory on her racecourse debut in the Mujadil E.B.F. Maiden at Naas. The odds-on favourite, partnered by Michael Kinane, was leased to the club by breeder Tim Hyde. She swept to the front in the testing ground at the furlong pole to come home a length-and-a-half clear of Lady Of Kildare.[2]

 

Dermot Weld’s Record-Breaker

 

When Georgia Peach won the Victory Note E.B.F. Maiden at Naas on 7 August 2000, the whoop from the crowd was not simply for the horse and his jockey, Pat Shanahan. It was also for his trainer Dermot Weld who, with that win, had just surpassed Senator J. J. Parkinson’s 53-year-old record to win his 2,578th race. Weld would be back at Naas to record his 4,000th win 16 years later.

 

Knife Edge

 

Margaret McGuinness and Walter Brophy present J.P. McManus with the Woodlands Park 100 Poplar Square Steeplechase Trophy after his star chaser Knife Edge carried his colours over the line.

In November 2000, former hurdler Knife Edge made an impressive chasing debut when winning the Quinns Of Naas Novice Chase for Naas trainer Michael O’Brien and in-form jockey Tom Rudd. As the Irish Independent observed, ‘he took to chasing like a duck to water as he jumped from fence to fence and went right away in the closing stages for an easy 12-length victory.’

Within days, the American-bred horse had been bought by J.P. McManus. Three months later, he was back at Naas as runner-up in the 2001 Newlands Chase. He would go one better and win the race in 2002, again under Tom Rudd.

[Commanche Court, who came fourth in that race, was also second to Best Mate in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on his next outing.]

As for Knife Edge, he never reached his full potential, but he did rack up 11 chase wins, including the 2001 Woodlands Park 100 Poplar Square Chase at Naas.

 

Kieran Kelly (1978-2003)

 

In 2003, the racing fraternity was shocked by the death of the brilliant jockey Kieran Kelly following a fall at Kilbeggan Racecourse. [3] He had won the 2003 Royal and Sun Alliance Hurdle on Hardy Eustace at Cheltenham four months earlier.  Kieran won his maiden hurdle at Naas in January 2001 on board Sue Magnier’s Colonel Braxton. (The horse would go in to win the 2003 Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase, providing a second win in the newly upgraded Grade 2 race for trainer Dessie Hughes.) Kieran’s other Naas wins included the 2001 Quinns Of Naas Novice Chase on the Paddy Fennelly-trained Dark Magic.

 

Like-A-Butterfly

 

One of the many remarkable things about Like-A-Butterfly is that the large bay mare was seven years old when she finally began racing. She started her career at a Naas bumper on 7 January 2001, where she justified her status as even-money favourite to defeat her 20 rivals in the Kildare ‘Thoroughbred County’ Flat Race, a two-mile event. Trained by former champion flat jockey Christy Roche, she went on to win her next seven races in a row for owner J.P. McManus, including the 2002 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

On 20 November 2004, she made a sparkling return to racecourse action after a 19-month break by winning her first-ever steeplechase, the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Beginners Chase at Naas, under Conor O’Dwyer.

J.P. and Christy contemplated retiring her at the end of that season but then, as J.P. said, ‘she started showing a little spark’. At the age of 11, she won the 2005 Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. She then rounded out her career with a game victory in the Mildmay Novices’ Chase at Aintree. That gave her a final tally of 12 wins from 17 starts, including five at Grade 1. ‘I’ve never trained one better than her,’ concluded Christy.

 

Ruby’s Tumble

 

Ruby Walsh. Photo: James Fennell.

On 3 February 2001, Ruby Walsh’s career nearly came to a dramatic finale when he took a heavy fall in the three-mile Kilwarden Handicap Hurdle at Naas. He was riding Hollybank Buck for Tony Martin when another horse slipped and brought them both crashing down.

‘I was knocked out cold,’ recalled Ruby. ‘I tried my best to brush it off when I came round. I met Mam and Dad before I went into the medical room and although I hadn’t a clue where I was or what I was saying, I thought I was making sense. Dad said to me: ‘Look, tell them you’re not riding for the rest of the day. You’re riding Florida Pearl in the Hennessy tomorrow.

‘So that was my line. Dad told me afterwards he had to tell me it five times before I’d remember it. I was walking into the room muttering under my breath: “Florida Pearl in the Hennessy tomorrow, Florida Pearl in the Hennessy tomorrow.” The doctor asked me how I was and I tried to come across as nonchalant as possible. “Yeah, grand, yeah. I’m going to give the rest of the day a miss. Not going to ride anymore today. I’ve got Florida Pearl in the Hennessy tomorrow”.’

He did not get away with it. Water Halley, the senior Turf Club medical officer phoned him that evening and he was stood down for seven days. Ruby had to sit on the sidelines the next day watching as Florida Pearl won his third successive Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup at Leopardstown. ‘Three Hennessys in a row, three different jockeys. None of them R. Walsh. I know I had no divine right to win on him but this was getting ridiculous.’[4]

 

The Paddy and Helen Cox Memorial

 

25 February 2001 saw the first running of the Paddy and Helen Cox Memorial Newlands Chase. The race was named for Paddy Cox, the former chairman of the Naas Race Company, and his wife Helen, a director of the company, who died in May 2000.[5] The race was won by Moscow Express ahead of the talented novice Knife Edge.

 

Back In Front

 

Owned in partnership by Nelius Hayes and Dermot Cox and trained by Edward O’Grady, Back In Front made his racing debut at a bumper in Naas on 25 July 2001. He won by five lengths, defeating 20 opponents, to justify his 7/2 price at the off.

Within a few short months he had won the Bumper at the Cheltenham November meeting on his second start. He then went to the Cheltenham Festival where he finished third in the controversial bumper where O’Grady’s other horse, Pizarro, held on following a steward’s enquiry, beating the big gamble, Rhinestone Cowboy.

Back In Front went on to be one of the leading novice hurdlers of the 2003-2004 season. By the time the gelding was retired in 2007, he had won 11 of his 25 races including the 2003 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the 2004 Bula Hurdle, both at Cheltenham.

O’Grady and Cox enjoyed another fine success at Naas in 2001 when Takagi won the I.N.H. Stallion Owners E.B.F. Maiden Hurdle. The win marked a double for jockey Barry Geraghty.

 

Before I Forget

 

Before I Forget was a chestnut gelding by Broken Hearted out of Lady Rathdonnell’s Gemini Gale (sired by Strong Gale, and known in my family as GiGi). On 6 August 2001, he was one of 14 runners in the Tipper I.N.H. Flat Race at Naas. Trained by A. Younghusband and ridden by Mr D. M. Cahalan, he was prominent early but weakened halfway and tailed off to be 11th of 14.

 

Solerina

On 26 January 2002, the Michael Bowe-bred Solerina made her debut in a Naas bumper, coming second. Michael’s father James was the mare’s trainer, while she was owned by his brother John. Four weeks later, Solerina returned to the track for another bumper and came third. There were no mistakes on her third outing that March when she won the first of 22 career wins, including five Grade 1 races. Her other wins at Naas were the 2004 Bank of Ireland Hurdle and, her final race, the 2006 Cedar Building Hurdle.[6] ‘We wanted to bow out on a high after she had won at Naas,’ explained Michael. ‘She’s perfectly healthy and in tremendous form but we think she deserves her retirement now.’

 

Hedgehunter

 

It might be worth keeping an eye on horses that come sixth at Naas. The wonderful Hedgehunter raced at Naas for Willie Mullins on 26 January 2002, and came home sixth of the 25 runners. He went on to be a very popular winner of the 2005 Grand National, as well as coming second in both the 2006 Grand National (to Numbersixvalverde) and the 2006 Cheltenham Gold Cup (to War of Attrition.) By the time he was retired, Hedgehunter had amassed £750,000 in prize money for his owner, the late British billionaire, Trevor Hemmings.

 

Kicking King

 

On 23 November 2002, the trainer Tom Taaffe enjoyed a useful victory in the Ardmore Blood Booster Hurdle at Naas with Kicking King, under Barry Geraghty. [Brave Inca was unplaced behind him.] Just over three months later, Kicking King came second in the 2003 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham behind Back In Front. He also came second in the 2004 Arkle Trophy. He would go on to win the 2005 Cheltenham Gold Cup, as well as the King George VI Chase in 2004 and 2005. (The second win was at Sandown Park, rather than Kempton, as the latter course was closed for redevelopment that year.) He was later retired to the Irish National Stud where he joined such living legends as Beef or Salmon, Hardy Eustace, Rite of Passage and Hurricane Fly. [7]

 

Rag Top

 

On 3 June 2002, Naas staged the richest Listed race for two-year-old fillies in Europe, the Swordlestown Stud Sprint Trophy, run over six furlongs. Swordlestown had been purchased three years earlier by Cathal Ryan, eldest son of Ryanair founder Tony Ryan.

The prize money of €80,000 lured Richard Hannon over from Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire to score a win with Rag Top, ridden by Dane O’Neill for owner Fergus Jones. The Naas win made it three from three for Rag Top.

The 2003 Swordlestown was won by Miss Childrey, bred by Airlie Stud and ridden by Séamus Heffernan. In 2004, the race was won by future Ascot winner Damson. In 2005, it fell to the Aidan O’Brien-trained Rumpelstiltskin, who went on to win the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp.

By 2006, the race had been upgraded to Group 3 status and consequently attracted an English raider in the form of Amber Valley, who ultimately came third to Kevin Prendergast’s previous Naas winner, Brazilian Bride.

 

Gigginstown’s First Graded Win

 

Michael O’Leary enjoyed a happy start to his future as a racehorse owner when the David Wachman-trained Tuco won a Fairyhouse bumper in May 2001. On 24 February 2002, the Ryanair chief was in the stands at Naas to watch the horse become Gigginstown’s first Graded winner, scoring the Johnstown Novice Hurdle. Mr O’Leary promptly purchased two more horses, one of which was the top-class War Of Attrition. Among other fine horses stabled at Giggintsown since then are Don Cossack, Rule The World and Tiger Roll.

 

Irresistible Jewel

 

On 3 June 2002, Irresistible Jewel won her maiden under Pat Smullen when she captured the Bill Whitehead Memorial E.B.F. Fillies Maiden at Naas. Two weeks later, the Dermot Weld-trained mare went to Royal Ascot and won the Ribblesdale Stakes. It was Pat Smullen’s first victory at Ascot.[8]

Bred at Moyglare Stud in County Meath, Irresistible Jewel was second in the Prix de l’Opera at Longchamp that October and also contested the 2002 Japan Cup.

 

Powerscourt

 

Named for the famous Wicklow estate, with its glorious waterfall, Powerscourt contested his maiden at Naas on 5 August 2002 in the Orpen E.B.F. Maiden. He finished strongly but was unable to catch his stablemate Macedonian King. The Aidan O’Brien-trained colt went on to win five races, including the 2005 Arlington Million in Chicago, having been disqualified after finishing first in the same race in 2004.

 

Native Upmanship

 

Native Upmanship was one of the finest chasers of his generation, albeit finishing behind Moscow Flyer three times. His greatest hour was probably winning the 2002 Martell Melling Chase at Aintree. He was placed on the three times he ran at Naas, including the 2004 Newlands Chase which proved a surprise win for Noel Meade’s Strong Run, another Naas veteran. [9]

 

Nobody Told Me

 

Nobody Told Me, trained by Willie Mullins, won the Saggart Maiden Hurdle on 23 February 2003 and then came second when he returned to the track for a novice hurdle two weeks later. In June 2003, the horse went to France and became the first Irish horse to win the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil since Dawn Run, trained by Willie’s father Paddy Mullins won in 1984.

 

Ongoing Improvements

 

Corporate entertainment was becoming ever more important with the advent of the Celtic Tiger. In 2002, Naas began the next phase of modernising the addition of a new glazed canopy to shield punters against the elements. This was completed by the time the racecourse hosted a Special Olympics gala evening in June 2003, when an 85-strong delegation of athletes and coaches from Japan arrived in the area. The jockeys’ rooms were also extended, with a new weigh room.

By 2003, work was underway on the development of a new public bar and snack area, an owners, members and trainers bar, a press room, a first aid room and grooms’ facilities. These works were mostly finished by the time of the racecourse’s 80th anniversary in June 2004. Next up was an upgrade of the self-service area, with the installation of new windows and a heating system.

In October 2003, a contingent of Naas members crossed the seas to enjoy a rainswept day at the Carlisle races. Among those who traveled were Meta Cantillon, Mary Brophy, Joe Byrne, Jack Cantillon, Margaret McGuinness, Mrs Byrne, Colette Byrne, Stephen Cassidy and Sinead Cassidy. In other years, the members visited British courses such as Ascot, Sandown and Haydock Park.

 

All-Weather Naas?

 

The Nationalist and Leinster Times, 13 Aug 2004.

In 2003, there was much talk of Naas becoming Ireland’s first all-weather track. To research the concept, a delegation including Margaret McGuinness visited the track at Wolverhampton in England. This was drawing crowds of 1,500 on a good Saturday night, mainly corporate, but the course rarely had more than 400 on weeknights. Moreover, Wolverhampton was receiving a subsidy from the Levy Board to cover each race.

Ultimately it was decided that an all-weather track would not work at Naas. Instead, they set about widening the track to 100 metres, completed in 2005. Such improvements meant that the course was now hosting 15 meetings a year, as compared with 12 a couple of years earlier, as well as attracting more high-profile horses.

All this gave Margaret McGuinness a renewed incentive to write to trainers in Britain to try and convince them to bring their high profile horses to Naas. Her campaign was by no means unsuccessful.

 

Davids Lad

 

Davids Lad had eight wins to his name, including the 2001 Irish Grand National, when he lined out for a National prep race at Naas in February 2003. The ground was much softer than his preferred terrain and he started as a 14/1 outsider. Ridden by Timmy Murphy, he quickly lost touch with his seven rivals and remained last for the entire race. The Naas stewards were of the view that trainer Tony Martin was simply using their racecourse as a training ground for the Aintree Grand National. In consequence, they banned Davids Lad from racing for 42 days, meaning he missed out on a second crack at Aintree by a single day.[10]

 

Monty’s Pass

 

Davids Lad may have missed the 2003 Aintree Grand National but it would be won by another Naas veteran by the name of Monty’s Pass. ‘He jumped like a cat all the way,’ marvelled his jockey, Barry Geraghty.

Monty’s Pass had Naas ancestry in his blood through his damsire, Monksfield, whose damsire was, in turn, the great 1952 Derby champion Tulyar. Having previously come home fourth at Naas in the Moate Handicap Chase in 2000, Monty’s Pass returned to the course for a Novice Hurdle prep race a few weeks before his Aintree triumph. Trained by Jimmy Mangan, he ran in the silks of the Dee Racing Syndicate, headed up by bingo hall owner Mike Futter.

He was back at Naas for another warm-up before finishing fourth in the 2004 Aintree Grand National. The feisty warrior was retired after completing the Aintree course one more time in 2005 and lived at the yard of his trainer in Conna, County Cork, until his death aged 29 in 2022.

 

Robert De Niro and Bono

 

2003 racing commentator Des Scahill with actor Robert De Niro and trainer Dermot Weld at Naas races.

There was considerable excitement at the Bank Holiday Monday meeting at Naas on 5 May 2003 when U2’s Bono arrived at the races with the Oscar-winning actor, Robert De Niro. Having made his name in gritty epics like Raging Bull, The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Goodfellas, De Niro was enjoying a new dawn as a comedy actor with Meet the Parents and Analyse This. He was sporting a distinguished beard, grown for his role as the Archbishop of Lima in a movie called The Bridge of San Luis Rey.

De Niro and Bono watched the Naas races from a corporate box and went to the parade ring to meet trainer Dermot Weld, jockey Pat Smullen and commentator Des Scahill.

After the races, the pair enjoyed a pint of Guinness in The Old House, Kill, before visiting Morristown Lattin, then home to Oliver Caffrey. The evening concluded with a dinner party at U2’s Clarence Hotel in Dublin, after which Bono and De Niro jetted off to New York for the opening of the second-ever Tribeca Film Festival. [11]

 

Damson

 

On 7 June 2004, David Wachman saddled Damson to a comfortable win in the Swordlestown Stud Sprint Stakes (Listed) at Naas under Jamie Spencer. Nine days later, the team reunited at Royal Ascot where Damson emerged as the impressive winner of the Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2).[12] ‘I didn’t know what a Queen Mary winner looked like, but I do now!’ remarked an elated Mr Wachman.

Owned by Susan Magnier and Michael Tabor, the impressive bay filly also won the Phoenix Stakes at the Curragh. In her only defeat in 2004, she came third in the Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket. She was duly rated the second-best filly of her generation in Europe. [13]

 

Naas’s First Group Race

 

Having upgraded both its National Hunt and flat races, Naas celebrated its 80th anniversary by hosting its first Grade 3 race on 16 June 2004. The Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders’ Fund (E.B.F.) Noblesse Stakes for fillies and mares, worth €90,000, signified yet another milestone for the progressive racecourse.

The first winner of the Group 3 race, run over 12 furlongs, was Danelissima, bred and trained by Jim Bolger in Coolcullen, County Carlow. Third place went to Tarakala, trained by John Oxx and owned by the Aga Khan, who won the Galtres Stakes (Listed) at York two months later.

 

Barry Geraghty’s Johnstown Treble

 

In February 2004, Barry Geraghty won the Johnstown Hurdle on Newmill, the horse that went on to win the 2006 Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Eight months after that Naas win, Barry cracked his vertebra in a nasty fall. Patched up at Naas Hospital, he returned to the saddle for the first November meeting at Naas. He enjoyed two more wins in the Johnstown Hurdle, including the 2007 running which was part of a five-in-a-row streak for Kazal.

 

2007-2010-Member’s Badges

Racing for Beginners

 

On 21 July 2004, the course hosted its first Racing for Beginners evening meeting, which included the publication of an amusing Beginners Guide to Horse Racing, which explained the different types of races (such as maiden, handicap, novice and bumper) and offered a simple explanation for track lingo like ‘on the bridle’ and ‘odds on’. At the 2005 event, the charismatic presenter Hector Ó hEochagáin, host of the TV show Only Fools Buy Horses, was on hand to provide commentary for betting novices. For the 2008 event, several leading business personalities were interviewed in the parade ring. The 2009 beginner’s night was sponsored by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association

 

Footstepsinthesand

 

In October 2004, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Footstepsinthesand made a triumphant racing debut when he won the Tifrums E.B.F. (Colts and Geldings) Maiden at Naas.[14] Sired by the great Giant’s Causeway, the young bay recorded an ‘impressive’ win over his 19 rivals. The following April, he won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket. Unfortunately, he sustained a foot injury in the process and was retired from racing.

 

The Old Guard

 

In the early 2000s, one of the stewards at Naas was the celebrated jockey Liam Ward, providing a fabulous connection to the glory days of Vincent O’Brien and Paddy Prendergast.[15] Liam was Ireland’s champion flat jockey six times, including a four-year sequence between 1956 and 1959, and scored a number of Classic wins on such brilliant horses as Nijinsky and Sir Ivor. Liam retired from riding in 1972 and subsequently settled at Castlesize House, near Sallins. Liam died at the age of 92 in 2022.

Vincent O’Brien, for whom Liam Ward rode his greatest wins, was also 92 when he died in 2009. Dr O’Brien was arguably the greatest trainer in the history of the sport. He won four Cheltenham Gold Cups, three Champion Hurdles, three consecutive Grand Nationals  and, on the Flat, he captured 27 Irish Classics, three Prix de l’Arc de Triomphes and 16 English Classics, including six Epsom Derbies. As Lester Piggott remarked: “Of course Vincent was the greatest – look at the figures.”

Vincent and his Australian wife Jacqueline (née Wittenoom) had five children. Their eldest daughter Elizabeth married Kevin McClory, producer of several James Bond films. Their second daughter Susan married John Magnier of Coolmore Stud. The third daughter Jane married Philip Myerscough, a director of Tattersalls. The O’Briens’ sons Charles and David followed in their father’s footsteps as trainers, David winning the 1984 Epsom Derby with Secreto.

 

Homer Wells

 

On 2 January 2005, Ruby Walsh was on board the Willie Mullins-trained Homer Wells in the featured Woodlands Park Slaney Novice Hurdle at Naas when he was badly hampered by another horse on the second circuit and looked certain to fall. Somehow, Ruby not only kept himself on board the gelding, but he also put him into overdrive and snatched a win by a head after a gruelling climb to the final post. As Willie Mullins said: ‘It was an extraordinary performance by man and horse.’

 

Carberry’s Ribs

 

Having injured his ribs in a fall while out hunting, Paul Carberry reported himself in pain after winning the two-mile novice hurdle on Arteea at Naas in March 2005. He recovered in time to ride Harchibald into second place behind Hardy Eustace in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham the following week.

 

Point Barrow

 

The 2005 Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Chase (Grade 2) was won by Point Barrow for trainer P. Hughes. The following year, the horse won the Irish Grand National under Paul Carberry.

 

War Of Attrition

 

Born in 1999, War Of Attrition competed at Naas twice in his early career, being narrowly beaten on the first outing and utterly trounced in the second. The brown chaser returned on 5 February 2005 to win the Opera Hat Novice Chase for trainer Mouse Morris, jockey Conor O’Dwyer and owner Michael O’Leary.

Just over a year later, the team produced the Irish highlight of the 2006 Cheltenham Festival with War Of Attrition’s triumph in the Gold Cup. Asked if that was the best day of his career, Mouse replied: ‘Well, it’s the most fags I’ve smoked in a day anyway so it must have been!’ For his part, Michael O’Leary maintained that War Of Attrition was the ‘amazing horse who got the whole Gigginstown operation going’ and declared that ‘apart from the birth of my children, this horse has given me the best days of my life.’ War Of Attrition died in 2022.

 

Victram

 

On 13 March 2005, Victram won the Kilcullen Handicap Hurdle for trainer Adrian McGuinness and jockey Andrew McNamara. The following week, he won the Irish Lincolnshire at the Curragh. Owned by the Pinheads Pizza Syndicate, Victram won nine races in all, including the 2006 Imperial Cup at Sandown.

 

Kieren Fallon’s Treble

 

In June 2005, Aidan O’Brien’s yard enjoyed a Naas double, both ridden by Kieren Fallon, when Hippodrome, a three-year-old by Montjeu, won a maiden while Rumpelstiltskin, a two-year-old by Danehill, won the six furlongs listed race. [17]

Kieren went one better on 12 July 2006 when he rode a ‘sparkling’ Naas treble, starting with David Wachman’s Flamingo Guitar, followed up by a double for Aidan O’Brien (Savannah, Hitchcock). David Wachman also enjoyed a double with Absolutelyfabulous taking the Madra Dog Food Handicap by six lengths.

The treble came just as the French racing authority France Galop were investigating Kieren after he tested positive for a prohibited substance (cocaine) after riding at Chantilly three days earlier. Kieren still had time to give Aidan O’Brien his first win in the Irish Oaks on board Alexandrova a few days later. On 29 November, he was suspended from racing for six months. [18]

 

All in a Day

 

Men At Work (l-r): Declan Harrington, John O’Connor, Tom Kane and foreman Paddy Timmons attend to one of the jumps at Naas Racecourse. Johnny O’Connor, who dresses the jumps pre-season, started at Naas in 2000.  Declan Harrington has been there since 1995.

Interviewed about life as a course manager, Margaret McGuinness offered this advice: ‘know your place of work, know where every key, every door, every chair or individual is placed’.[18b] During her tenure, she became intimately acquainted with every square foot of the course at Naas, working closely with the ‘enormously helpful’ foremen Kit Keogh and, later, Paddy Timmons. Her workforce included Declan Harrington, John O’Connor, Tom Kane and Marius Wychvoski. These men worked through all manner of weather to keep the track in peak condition, particularly when National Hunt gave way to flat racing. In the hot summer months, that meant watering the track, a process made easier by accessing a tributary of the River Morrell that bisects the course, a small stream now marked by a ditch that flows on to Johnstown. ‘We were always able to water the track from it which made a huge difference. Other tracks down the country had to bring in the water. A number of years ago, we put in a reservoir to catch the water also.’

The Morell, a tributary of the River Liffey, rises in Slieveroe, a few kilometres west of Blessington Lake, and runs along a stretch of the racecourse boundary before going on to meet the Liffey near Straffan.  The river is apparently name for William Morrell, a landowner. It was called the River Morell as far back as 1771 as per here. Perhaps he was a Grand Canal director? The northern end of the racecourse is bordered by Fishery Lane in Kingsfurze, beside The Gallops.

As well as course restoration and maintenance, they were constantly involved with renovation projects or installing proper drainage to ensure the Irish rains vanished underground with minimum impact.

An insight into the staff requirements of a typical raceday was recorded in 2006 when 55 extra staff were laid on for the course and the enclosure. Among those drafted in were doctors, veterinary surgeons, ambulances, car park attendants, an outside broadcast, a plumber, an electrician, a master of ceremonies, the Blue Cross, security, a farrier, a starter’s assistant, and various people to look after water rates, ESB, insurance, racecards, tickets, advertising and promotion.

A strong sense of loyalty in the locality is reflected by the families that have looked after specific jumps at Naas for multiple generations.[18d] Many children and grandchildren of these families continue to work at the course today.

 

Numbersixvalverde

 

One of the star attractions for the Nolan & Brophy Handicap Hurdle in Naas on 12 March 2006 was Numbersixvalverde, winner of both the 2005 Irish Grand National (under Ruby Walsh) and the Thyestes Chase at Gowran Park (under Naas-born Niall ‘Slippers’ Madden). The horse sported the colours of the County Clare property developer Bernard Carroll, who named him after his holiday home in the Algarve.

Slippers was on board again for the Naas race, in which Numbersixvalverde came third. Four weeks later, Slippers took his steed around Aintree and won the Grand National. Slippers won 16 races at Naas during his 18-year long career. He retired from the saddle on New Year’s Eve, 2020.

 

King Johns Castle

 

Bought by J P McManus and moved to Arthur Moore’s yard at Dereens, near Naas, King Johns Castle made a winning debut over hurdles at Naas on 8 January 2006. He had his first start over fences a month later but came home last of five that day. On his third visit to Naas on 12 March 2006, he chased home stablemate Mansony to come second in the Kilcock Novices’ Chase.  The following year, with Tony McCoy in the saddle, he was runner-up in the Grade One Irish Arkle at Leopardstown. He returned to Naas in 2008 and won the Johnstown Handicap Hurdle. Ridden by Paul Carberry, King Johns Castle was second behind Comply Or Die in the 2008 Aintree Grand National.

Arthur Moore’s other big-race winners include Klairon Davis (1994 Dennys Gold Medal Chase, 1995 Arkle Chase, 1996 Queen Mother Champion Chase), Drumgora (1981 Queen Mother Champion Chase), The Brockshee (1982 Arkle Chase), Feathered Gale (1996 Irish Grand National) and Organisedconfusion (2011 Irish Grand National).

 

Dermot Cantillon

 

In 2006, Dermot Cantillon became chairman of the Naas Race Company in place of the outgoing Billy Brophy. A doctor’s son from West Waterford, Dermot was the first Irish citizen to obtain a master’s degree in equine nutrition at the University of Kentucky. Between 1987 and 2021, he managed Stud, overlooking the racecourse, for the Smurfit family. In 2002, he gave the victory speech after Media Puzzle won the Melbourne Cup.[19] The horse was owned by Dr Smurfit and Don Keogh, former president of Coca-Cola, and trained by Dermot Weld.

Dermot has been a director of both the Naas Race Company and Robert J. Goff & Company since 1995. His other roles include being director of the Irish Horseracing Authority (1999-2001) and its successor, Horse Racing Ireland (2001-2009), and chairman of Tote Ireland.

Dermot’s wife Meta Osborne, a daughter of Michael and Ann Osborne, was the first female senior steward of the Turf Club.[20] Born and raised in and around Naas, she was elected as the Turf Club’s representative to Horse Racing Ireland in 2013.[21] See Osborne family here.

Since 2002, Dermot and Meta have lived at Tinnakill House Stud, a 185-acre stud farm near Mountrath, County Laois. There were glad tidings for the Cantillons at Royal Ascot in June 2006 when Red Evie, bred at Tinnakill, won the Sandringham Handicap (Listed). Dermot had purchased her dam Malafemmena in Kentucky.  A bad tempered, single ovary mare, Malafemmena won the Premio Vittorio Crespi (Listed) in Italy as a two-year-old in 1994. She died foaling Red Evie, who was duly raised at Tinnakill by a foster mare. Red Evie’s sire was Intikhab, winner of both the Diomed Stakes and the Queen Anne Stakes in 1998. Red Evie was in turn the dam of the exceptional racemare Found, who became the first three-year-old filly to win the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Keeneland in 2015. Found also won the 2014 Prix Marcel Boussac and the 2016 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, both at Longchamp.

They also bred State Of Rest, winner of the Saratoga Derby Invitational Stakes (Grade 1)  and Australia’s $5million Ladbrokes W.S. Cox Plate (Group 1) in 2021, as well as the Prix Ganay in France and the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Ascot in 2022.

Tinnakill House Stud is currently home to 65 broodmares and their young stock, owned solely or in partnership with clients. The stud consigns at all major thoroughbred sales in Ireland, the UK and France, selling yearlings, foals and broodmares.

 

Tom Ryan

 

Tom Ryan

Following Margaret McGuinness’s retirement as manager of Naas at the end of 2006. She was succeeded by 26-year-old Tom Ryan from Toomevara, County Tipperary. Tom grew up on a farm, where his father bred horses. He was a child when Dis Fiove, a mare by Le Bavard, was the shock winner of the 1986 Celbridge Handicap Hurdle at Naas. [21.i] When he was twelve, his father drove him up to Kildangan to meet Michael Osborne to learn a little about how to develop his career. ‘I still remember that like it was yesterday.’ As a teenager, he helped out at the yard of his neighbours, Donald and Charlie Swan, for whom he led horses in and around Naas Racecourse in the late 1990s.

Having studied equine science in Limerick, he worked for a time with Coolmore Stud, learning about the breeding industry both in the US and Ireland. He then spent two years helping a prominent electrical contractor in Ennis develop its business before applying for the position at Naas. [21. ii]

Supported by the board and the advice of such seasoned veterans as Tony and Paddy Osborne, Tom would run the racecourse for the next 13 years. During that time, the track and its facilities were again upgraded, while the racing programme was also enhanced.  

One of his funniest tales involved the time he accompanied the Naas Supporters on a day trip to Ascot, having caught a bus from Naas to Dublin early in the morning. That evening, he spotted three of the lads at the bar by the departure gate in Heathrow. He alerted them that their flight had been called for. ‘Sorry Tom, we have a drink ordered. You’ll have to go ahead. We’ll catch the next one.’

Tom’s first meeting at Woodlands Park took place on Sunday 7 January 2007.[22] Despite the wet weather, it transpired to be a terrific meeting. The €58,000 Slaney Novice Hurdle (Grade 2), the feature race of the day, turned out a worthy winner with the Eoin Griffin-trained Kazal under Barry Geraghty. Again, ridden by Barry, Kazal won the 2007 Johnstown Novice Hurdle at Naas six weeks later to make it four from five.

Among the other feature races at Naas when Tom took the reins were the Swordelstown Sprint Stakes, Woodland Park, 100 Popular Square Chase, Derrinstown Stud Birdcatcher Nursery, Ali Retza & Mamadi Soudavar Garnet race, Anglo Irish Bank Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase, the Paddy and Helen Cox Memorial and the Woodlands Park 100 Brown Lad Hurdle.[23]

By the close of 2007, the crowds were still on the up, as was betting turnover for both the bookies and the Tote.

 

Peeping Fawn 

 

Foaled in Kentucky in 2004, Peeping Fawn was unraced as a two-year-old and then failed to win on any of her first three starts. It was fourth time lucky when she landed her first win in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Fillies Maiden, under Seamie Heffernan, which was run at Naas on 16 May 2007.

From there on, the Aidan O’Brien trained filly was on the up – third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas, second in the Epsom Oaks and then four consecutive Group One wins, including the Irish Oaks at the Curragh. At the close of 2007, she was named the Cartier Champion Three-Year-Old Filly. [24]

 

Silver Birch Out!

 

Silver Birch, winner of the 2007 Aintree Grand National, was scheduled to run in the Woodlands Park 100 Brown Lad Handicap Hurdle at Naas in October 2007, but was withdrawn after damaging his leg in a warm-up.[25]

 

Willie’s 1000th Winner

 

Willie Mullins scored his 1000th career win when Viso crossed the line in the Naas Handicap Hurdle under Davy Condon on 10 November 2007. With well over 4,000 wins as of October 2023, he has also trained the winners of over 160 races at Naas.

Thousand Stars, who won the 2009 Profile Systems Ltd. Handicap Hurdle at Naas for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, went on to back-to-back wins in the Grande Course de Haies d’Auteuil, the greatest prize in French jump racing, in 2011 and 2012.

 

Murtagh’s Treble

 

In August 2008, Johnny Murtagh – fresh from picking up the top jockey award at Glorious Goodwood – rode a treble at Naas on 11/4 favourite Harriers Call in the Naas Handicap for John Hayden, 2/1 favourite Festival Princess for his old friend Mick Halford, and red-hot 2/7 favourite Black Bear Island for his Ballydoyle bosses in the Coolmore Aussie Rules E.B.F. Maiden. Over the course of his career, Johnny won 50 races at Naas.

 

New Stables

 

Plans to extend the stabling facility – ‘a perennial cause of grumbling amongst trainers’ – had been in motion for a long time but nothing could proceed until the powers that be decided on the route of Naas’s Southern Relief Road. Designed to link the Dublin Road to the Tipper Road, it seemed likely that it would cut through the racecourse’s car park. Ultimately the decision was taken to widen the N7 to three lanes between Newlands Cross and Naas, and to link the N7 directly to the M7 motorway via the Maudlins Interchange, aka junction 9.

The collapse of the Celtic Tiger in 2008-2009 inevitably affected the racecourse, swiftly shrinking the presence of the developers and builders who had taken corporate suites during the National Hunt season and contributed generously at fund-raising events. However, the simultaneous reduction in building cost actually helped Naas complete the construction of a robust stable block in 2009. [25.i] Grant-aided by HRI, the block of 150 stables and its ancillary services were built at a cost of approximately €1.7 million. The stables were formally launched on the Derrinstown Stud Birdcatcher Race Day on 18 October 2009 when Denis Brosnan, Chairman of HRI, was on hand to cut the ribbon.

The economic turmoil also ended any temptation Naas may have had to follow Punchestown’s lead and open its doors to revelry. This was, after all, the decade in which Punchestown became a well-known venue for music festivals such as Creamfields, the Ozzfest, Witnness and Oxegen, as well as concerts by Eminem, Bon Jovi and AC/DC. In August 2008, Punchestown was also the site of Jamboree 2008, Scouting Ireland’s first national Scout Jamboree.

 

Rite of Passage

 

Rite Of Passage had already won a Galway bumper on his only outing to date when he made his way to Naas on 22 February 2009 and won by six lengths from the odds-on favourite. At the Cheltenham Festival the following month, he came third in the Grade 1 Champion Bumper. Switched to conventional flat racing, he achieved a fabulous win in the 2010 Ascot Gold Cup and won that year’s Cartier Racing Award for European Champion Stayer. He died at the Irish National Stud in 2023.

 

Go Native

 

In 2008, the Naas Race Company was among those who successfully opposed a proposal to build a €250 million incinerator at nearby Rathcoole. The application was turned down by An Bord Pleanala on 12 February 2009.

Ten days later, Go Native won the Johnstown Novice Hurdle (Grade 2) at Naas for Noel Meade, under Paul Carberry. In March 2009, Go Native bested a field of 20 to win the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. He also won the Christmas Hurdle (Grade 1) at Kempton, under Davy Condon.

 

Lillie Langtry

 

Lillie Langtry made her racecourse debut in a six-furlong maiden race at Naas on 13 May 2009, finishing second to the Jim Bolger-trained Kitty Kiernan. Nineteen days later, Lillie Langtry and Kitty Kiernan reunited at Naas for the Group Three Fillies’ Sprint Stakes over the same distance. Lillie was the victor on that occasion. She recorded her biggest wins with Group One victories in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown. She disappointed as hot favourite for the Juvenile Fillies Turf (Group 1) at Santa Anita in 2009 but has had success as a broodmare, having retired at the end of 2010, producing three Classic race-winning daughters. Her second foal was the great Minding,  the 2016 European Horse of the Year after her wins in the Epsom Oaks, the 1,000 Guineas, and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes.

Lucky Nine

 

On 18 October 2009, Naas took a new approach to attracting younger spectators by offering free admission to under-18s and students. Those who availed were treated to the sight of Luck Or Design winning the Tifrums E.B.F. Maiden by five lengths. The two-year-old was then sold and exported to race in Hong Kong where he was renamed Lucky Nine. Short-listed for Hong Kong Horse of the Year 2010-2011, he won eight races at Sha Tin in Hong Kong, as well as the KrisFlyer International Sprint (Group 1) in Singapore in both 2013 and 2014.

 

Billy Brophy, The Nationalist and Leinster Times, 11 June 2004

The Passing of Billy Brophy

 

There was sadness aplenty with the death of Billy Brophy on 27 October 2009. He had been chairman of the Naas Race Company from 1986 until 2006, when succeeded by Dermot Cantillon.

The O’Hare Treble

 

Trainer Michael O’Hare, aged 25, had only one previous winner to his name when he turned up at Naas with three runners on 31 October 2009, namely Montana Slim, Bale O’Shea and Sweet Shock.

Michael’s father Barney, a well-known bookmaker, said he felt an unusual calm that morning. ‘I just said to Michael: “Son, I don’t even care if I back them. We’re going to enjoy this day”.’

On his way to the races, as Barney recalled, he began to rummage in his pocket.

‘I’d a wee plastic bag of money in it – I don’t even know how it got there – and there was a couple of grand in it. I gave it to Tommy [Dollard, an assistant] and I said “nobody’ll be backing these horses at the racetrack so you’ll have it to yourself. You can have a couple of grand on the three of them as you like”.’

The horses then turned in an extraordinary treble so that, as Ted Walsh remarked to the O’Hares: ‘Ye took the cake, the candles and the icing with ye too!’

While Michael was the registered trainer, Barney was not to be left out. ‘I’m training the trainer, and I tell you something – he’s going to the top.’

‘It was special, one-in-a-million stuff really,’ concluded Barney, who won an untold fortune that afternoon.

News of the treble was overshadowed by the controversy of Paul Carberry’s failure to pass a breathalyser test at Naas. [Paul ‘took his medicine like a man’ as he put it, and opted not to contest the 30-day ban but ‘to use this period positively’.] That said, the Sunday Independent hailed the treble as ‘a phenomenal achievement’. [26] Moreover, an eminently frameable fax arrived for Barney a few days later.

‘To Barney O’Hare, Well done to you and your family on your impressive treble in Naas on Saturday. Don’t do it too often!
Yours sincerely,
Willie and Jackie Mullins’

Random Notes

 

  • There were 6507 racehorses in training in Ireland in 1992. By 2008, there were 12,119 thoroughbreds kicking up the gallops.
  • Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, abolished the betting tax in the UK in 2001.
  • The South County Dublin hunt no longer host racing, their last fixture taking place at Naas Racecourse in 2004 – https://www.p2p.ie/news_item.php?news_id=19034

 

End-Notes

 

[1] He led from the start to win an eleven-runner contest.

[2] Brian O’Connor, ‘Sinndar’s Derby bid on track’ (The Irish Times, Mon Jun 5 2000)

[3] There was further tragedy in 2003 with the death of Sean Cleary at Galway and of Timmy Houilhan, who took his life at the age of 21 Tragedy Of Jockey Timmy Houlihan; Body Found Hanging In Woods Near Home, here.

[4] Ruby Walsh, ‘Ruby: The Autobiography’(Hachette UK, 2010).

[5] As a mark of respect to the late MRS. HELEN COX our esteemed Director The office of the Naas Race Co. PLC will be closed until 2 p.m. on Friday 19th May. Irish Independent, 19 May 2000, p. 2.

[6] ‘Solerina which won the Bank of Ireland Hurdle at Naas the previous afternoon in the style of an odds-on favourite, has come out of the week-end outing “real well” according to her breeder, Michael Bowe. “She did no more than expected, I suppose, at Naas, where she perked up once she got to the track.’ Irish Independent, 28 January 2004, p. 34.

[7] Retired after running in the 2008 Punchestown Gold Cup, Beef or Salmon never raced at Naas.

[8] ‘Champion,’ Pat Smullen.

[9] In February 2004, Noel Meade’s Naas veteran Strong Run surprised Native Upmanship to win the Paddy and Helen Cox Memorial Newlands Chase at Naas.

[10] He was banned under a rule stating that connections had used the race course as a training ground for the horse. An appeal to the Irish Turf Club and several trips to the high court in an attempt to have the ban either overturned or deferred were all to no avail. Davids Lad, rated second-favourite for Aintree before his trip to Naas, missed the race.

[11] According to the Irish Independent, 6 May 2003, he wore a beard as he was filming a movie in which he played an 18th century South American bishop. He had literally just been voted the second greatest film star of all time in a Hollywood poll, losing by a neck to Al Pacino.

See also Matt McGee, ‘U2: A Diary” (Omnibus Press, 2011), May 11 2003:

Starting out with a pint of Guinness at The Old House pub in Kildare – the two racegoers bellied up comfortably against the bar and slowly downed their pints of Guinness. They had spent the day at the races in Naas and, like thousands of others on a sunny bank holiday evening, were on their way back to Dublin.
As they stood in the near-empty bar of The Old House in the nearby Co. Kildare village of Kill, their talk – like that of the smattering of other punters in the 200-year-old pub’s dimly-lit interior – was of the day’s winners and losers.
They made a somewhat incongruous couple – the older man, his long, silver-gray hair trailing down his back and lower lip adorned with an elegant goatee, wore a baseball cap and sunglasses. His younger companion, eyes also hidden by shades, wore a loosely knotted black tie over his blue, denim shirt. But few of the other drinkers in The Old House last Monday afternoon paid the new-comers much attention. Few, that is, until one eagle-eyed customer realised that these were indeed no ordinary racegoers – and that the group of heavily built men who stood by were in fact bodyguards for two of the world’s biggest celebrities.
She seized her mobile phone started texting far and wide, alerting astonished friends to the presence in the village pub of the world’s biggest rock star, U2’s Bono, and the man who had just been nominated in a poll of British film fans as the second greatest movie actor of all time, Robert De Niro.
In no time, the early afternoon trickle of regulars became a flood of sceptical stargazers who wanted to see for themselves the proof of this astonishing news.
For once, Bono took a back-seat as De Niro’s largely female fan base clamoured for snaps with their hero. ‘Well, are we going to have an avalanche?’ smiled the Taxi Driver and Goodfellas star at their first request. His burly, bodyguard interjected: ‘You don’t want to do this.’
But De Niro, 60, ignored the warning, removed his cap and glasses and slung his arm around the bedazzled female fan. Just as the bodyguard clicked on the camera, two more women sprang into the frame, thus freezing forever in time their encounter with Robert De Niro.
It was the first of many photographs De Niro, who was on a short break from filming in Spain, posed for on a Monday afternoon.
As he balanced his need for privacy with the desire to express appreciation to the gracious host who was showing him such a pleasant time, the man who has made a life-long career out of playing tough guys let drop his enigmatic mask and relaxed.
Thanks to his remarkable talent for friendship and his longevity on the international celebrity circuit, Bono has brought countless famous people to this country over the years. Names such as Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and now DeNiro have come here because of Bono and his willingness to show them a good time.
Bono’s stunning home with panoramic views in Killiney and the services of his city-centre Clarence Hotel are permanently at the disposal of his endless string of A-list celebrities, whenever they come calling.
And Bono, with his easy entree into every walk of Irish life, is happy to cater for their every wish. So when De Niro, who flew into Ireland from Paris on a private G5 Gulfstream jet last weekend, made two requests – to visit a traditional Irish pub and go racing – Bono snapped into action. He phoned his friend, solicitor, property developer and well-known Kildare man, who has a corporate box at Naas Racecourse, and made the arrangements.
The man, who was delighted to show the high-powered duo some hospitality, also brought them to the parade ring where they met trainer Dermot Weld and jockey Pat Smullen.
Then it was on to the Old House in Kill. As their entourage, which included Caffrey, drank champagne, Bono and De Niro opted for Guinness. Just as they were making their getaway, De Niro was stopped by a fan.
‘I asked: ‘Any chance of a photograph,’ said the local woman. ‘He took off his hat, glasses and put his arm around me. His bodyguard took a lovely photograph of the two of us with my small camera’.
‘I nearly had a heart attack when I walked into my local and saw him. I actually thought he was a farmer at first … He had the hat on and the jacket on, the whole lot.’ ‘His entourage were trying to get him out the door but he waited and did the photograph with me. Although he looks big on screen, De Niro is only about 5ft 6ins. I was shocked by that.’
De Niro was in the bar for about 90 mins before leaving for Caffrey’s mansion in Co Kildare. That evening, they all enjoyed dinner in the Clarence Hotel’s Tea Rooms at a party hosted by Bono and his wife, Ali Hewson.
The 14 diners included man-about-town Simon Carmody, and Trinity students India Clarke and Rebecca McMillan of the famous English publishing dynasty whose brother, Dan, is a former beau of Jade Jagger. Also present were Abrakadabra owners Graeme and Margaret Beere who share De Niro’s passion for polo. De Niro, who is something of a foodie, paid compliments to chef Anthony Ely who came to the Clarence three years ago via The Square in London.
When the meal was over, Bono, De Niro and his entourage drove to Dublin Airport where they boarded a jet for New York.
In the Big Apple, Bono once again displayed his social side – clowning around with Bridget Jones’s Diary star Renee Zellweger and Scottish Actor Ewan McGregar at the launch of the Tribeca Film Festival which De Niro set up.
McGregor is no stranger to Dublin either. He was here two years ago filming Nora in which he played the part of James Joyce.
But one suspects that it will not be long before we will see Zellweger in town, too. Perhaps she’ll be shopping on Grafton St. or socialising in Lillies or Renards but, whatever it is, she will surely be in the company of Bono.’

[12] Ridden by Jamie Spencer, she beat Pictavia by a convincing two lengths. “Damson ran five times that year, winning four. Initially she one over 5 fur. at Cork and then the Naas race over six, after which trainer David Wachman said that although she was a smart filly, he did not put Royal Ascot on the agenda. “I have given her time and will look for a Group race. She has done the job well today.” She continued to do the job so well that David Wachman changed his mind, sent her to Royal Ascot for the 17-runner Queen Mary stakes Group 2 over 5 fur. and won it, beating Soar by three lengths, prompting her trainer to say, ‘I didn’t know what a Queen Mary winner looked like, but I do now!” The bay, by Entrepreneur, out of a mare who won over 1 1/4 miles in France, cost €160,000. She continued to repay the investment when landing a valuable Group 1 race over 6 fur. on the Curragh that August, where both her speed and stamina were evident. Her only defeat came at Newmarket in September, when she was third, beaten by half a length.” (Anne Holland)

[13] Anne Holland, ‘Horses for Courses’, here.

[14] Footstepsinthesand, owned by Michael Tabor, was unbeaten in all three of his starts, winning at Naas and Leopardstown as a two-year-old before his Newmarket triumph in April. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4124044.stm

[15] Maryanne Onions was Naas steward (2005-2010, chairman of the stewards).
In 2008, the Stewards Room at Naas Racecourse was the setting for meeting of the Referrals Committee, chaired by Mrs. J.O. Onions, investigating the refusal of a horse to race at Fairyhouse.
Royal Bandit (GB) / Patrick Mooney – Fairyhouse 19th October 2008
The Referrals Committee, Mrs. J.O. Onions (in the chair), Mr. J.R. Craigie and Mr. T.P. Rudd, met at the Stewards Room, Naas Racecourse, Naas, Co Kildare on 25th October 2008 to enquire into the refusal of Royal Bandit (GB) to race in the Derrinstown Stud Apprentice Handicap at Fairyhouse on 19th October. The matter was referred to the Referrals Committee by Denis Egan, Chief Executive, as the Acting Stewards at Fairyhouse were unable to conduct an enquiry on the day
Evidence was heard from Patrick Mooney, Trainer Royal Bandit (GB). The Committee also viewed a video of the race. Having considered the evidence the Committee suspended Royal Bandit (GB) from running in all races run under Rules of Racing for 60 days.
The Case was presented by Mr. Denis Egan, Chief Executive of the Turf Club.

[17] Irish Independent, 16 Jun 2005.

[18] In July 2006, Kieran Fallon was banned from riding in Britain for alleged race-fixing. Kieren Fallon, ‘Form: My Autobiography’ (Simon and Schuster, 2017).

[18b] Breda Reid, ‘A Real Winner Alright,’ Kildare Nationalist, 13 August 2004

As to the mystery of where the horse manure went, Margaret says there wasn’t very much – some people came in to get it for their roses, others was dumped around tree. There was very little evidence of it.

[18d] Among these families were Sheridan, Danagher, Dignam, Curtis, Cully, and Scott . Most come from St Corbyn’s, one of the first council estate in Naas. Gerry Creene also worked on the track.

[19] Nine years earlier, the Smurfit’s champion stayer Vintage Crop won the 3200m grind and became the first Northern Hemisphere-trained horse to take Australia’s most famous cup home. The Melbourne Cup and Flemington Racecourse were redeveloped in the late 19th century into what they are today by a Kildare man, Robert Cooper Bagot.  The first secretary of the Victoria Racing Club, Australia, he grew up at Nurney, County Kildare.

[20] Michael Osbourne of Kildangan Stud was very proud of Naas although his first love was the Curragh, where he did a lot of work. Dermot Cantillon laughs that he introduced some “outside blood” being a Waterford man.

[21] See Equine Welfare.

[21.i] Sunday Tribune, 26 January 1986, p. 16. Tom’s father bought Dis Fiove as a 3 year old and she raced in his colours. She won the Listed Celbridge hurdle at Naas, a half-sister to Royal Athlete who won the National. https://www.irishracing.com/horse/Dis-Fiove/12075 She won the Listed Celbridge Handicap Hurdle; Podge Gill may have been her jockey. Tom grew up on a farm near Moneygall … was he a Ryan – Obama connection?

[21.ii] The electrical business had 130 staff. Tom saw the ad for the Naas job in the Irish Field and got the call up in Summer 2006.

[22] Details of Tom’s first meeting here.

[23] For the meeting on 20 January 2007, the main races were the Grade 2 Woodlands Park 100 Club Novice Steeplechase (valued at €55,000), the Bank of Ireland Hurdle and The Property Partners Maynooth & Naas Novice Handicap Steeplechase. The 2005 Directory of the Turf listed the feature races staged at Naas today: Swordelstown Sprint Stakes, Woodland Park, 100 Popular Square Chase, Derrinstown Stud Birdcatcher Nursery, Ali Tetza & Mamadi Soudavar Garnet race, Anglo Irish Bank Nas Na Riogh Novice Chase, Slaney Hurdle (Grade 2), Paddy and Helen Cox Memorial and the Woodlands Park 100 Brown Lad Hurdle.

[24] Alan Conway, ‘Coolmore Stud: Ireland’s Greatest Sporting Success Story’ (Mercier Press, 2017)

[25] Silver Birch ruled out for season, BBC Sport, here.

[25.i] There was a massive drop off in building rates so they built 150 stables and the ancillary facilities for (37-40% ) considerably less than it would have cost in 2006.

[26] Barney O’Hare had a treble at Naas

Sunday November 08 2009
BARNEY stung the bookmakers again last Saturday. The gambler/bookmaker-turned-trainer won a relative fortune and revels in telling you how he did it in his signature Ulster lilt.
But enough about Barney O’Hare’s treble at Naas — what of Barney Curley’s winner at Ascot?
Though his son Michael is the registered trainer, O’Hare Snr is very heavily involved. “People say that I’m training the horses but I tell them: ‘I’m training the trainer’. And I tell you something: He’s going to the top.”
The duo’s hat-trick at Naas last Saturday was a phenomenal achievement and their minor gripe that it did not garner many plaudits in the media is understandable. Paul Carberry’s failure to pass a breathalyser test commanded more headlines, yet little was made of a trainer with only one previous winner to his name scoring a treble.
Not merely a treble — but three winners from three runners. Consider that two of them had not even run this season and the bottomless conditions at Naas and you get the picture: little wonder other trainers were flabbergasted.
“Homer Scott said to me ‘it’s hard enough to get three runners to the track, not to mind three winners’,” Barney recalls. “Tom Taaffe was like a child after racing, he was so excited by what we’d done. Ted Walsh said to me: ‘Ye took the cake, the candles and the icing with ye too!'”
While Barney’s face is familiar to many a racegoer due to his bookies’ pitch at the track and his involvement in Bar One Racing, very little was known of Michael. He admits that, even last Saturday, fellow trainers were shaking his hand not only to extend congratulations but to introduce themselves.
He is also a more reserved individual than his father, judging by the conversation we enjoyed over the breakfast table at their Castlebellingham stables. Between the three of us, owner Eugene Kavanagh and two farriers, Charlie and Jimmy, there was no shortage of takers when the rashers were passed around — or conversation. But Michael lets the horses talk for him.
The Newry native assumed the reins after Daniel Barry and John Larkin had initially enjoyed stints training from Barney’s stables, nestled close to the Irish Sea. Both Barry and Larkin saddled winners in the familiar colours of Barney’s wife Tracey, but one day the millionaire bookmaker arrived upon a moment of clarity in the sobering surrounds of Sedgefield racecourse.
“Michael was assistant trainer at the time,” he recalls. “We’d just put a lovely concrete base in the yard at that point, to put in another 25 stables. There we were after racing, the two of us, sitting on the steps, and the two horses that day had run really badly.
“I said, ‘son, I tell you what we’ll do: we’ll not build any boxes for more horses — we’ll just get rid of the **e that we have. I think we’ve enough boxes’. The boxes were never built.”
Michael O’Hare took over from Larkin last year as a restricted trainer and his first winner, as befits the brash ambition of the family, was at the Punchestown festival last April. Montana Slim, sent off at 25/1, took care of his 24 rivals by 11 lengths — but Barney reveals that Montana Slim was supposed to form only half of what would have been one of the greatest coups in the annals of Irish racing.
“What’s a big plus for Michael now is that he’s dealing with second- and third-season horses that are ready to roll. We went for one of the biggest touches of all time last year with Montana Slim at Punchestown and Bale O’Shea at Kelso. Michael and myself were in Kelso. I was standing in the Kelso grooms’ room and never was I so confident to be in the stand after Montana had won. I said to myself ‘how far will Bale O’Shea win?’
“I was so disappointed, so stung, when he came second: I thought he’d bolt up. In hindsight, he was just a weak horse. He’s a monster now, though, in comparison.”
Both horses played their part on Saturday. The O’Hares’ first victory was to get their three entries declared on the one card, which is far easier said than done nowadays given the constraints of the balloting system.
Early on Saturday morning, the elder O’Hare paced around the yard to ensure all was well with the runners, followed soon afterwards by his son, who remarkably only turned 25 on Friday. For whatever reason, Barney felt an unusual calm. “I just said to Michael: ‘Son, I don’t even care if I back them. We’re going to enjoy this day’.”
Barney secured the companionship for the day of Tommy Dollard, one of his main men in Bar One’s Dundalk headquarters, even though the latter was scheduled to work. (It is one thing a friend pleading with you to take the day off, quite another the owner of the company itself.)
As they set off for Naas, Barney began to rummage in his pocket. “I’d a wee plastic bag of money in it — I don’t even know how it got there — and there was a couple of grand in it. I gave it to Tommy and I said ‘nobody’ll be backing these horses at the racetrack so you’ll have it to yourself. You can have a couple of grand on the three of them as you like’.
“I told him mid-way through racing to have a €200 each-way treble. As it happens, he ended up putting the whole lot of the other €1,600 on Montana Slim, because he adores that horse, and a bulk of the winnings on Bale O’Shea.”
By the time the field was down at the tape for the closing bumper, Sweet Shock had been gambled into 3/1 favourite, primarily due to bookmakers attempting to restrict losses, having already laid the first two legs of the treble. Barney had earlier been talking to Joe Murphy, whose sole representative on the card had long since run.
However, the Fethard trainer had decided to hang around for the last race. It was Murphy who suggested to Barney that he should fork out €120,000 for Sweet Shock as a yearling, the fee so high because the horse is a half-brother to Sweet Wake.
Sweet Shock certainly was not aptly-named with a view to the panic that engulfed Paddy Power’s on-course shop: after his five-length success, they calculated that Dollard’s each-way treble alone cost them €92,570.
Murphy, meanwhile, was stunned and thrilled in equal measure. “Michael, I can’t get over how easy your horses settled today,” he said to the fledgling trainer — an endorsement of O’Hare’s commitment to using slow work predominantly to train his horses.
For those on-course bookmakers who accepted Dollard’s business, the shock was not so sweet either. Many of them have ostracised Barney O’Hare and effected an embargo on his pitch because of his decision to stand at Dundalk despite an ongoing dispute between the Irish National Bookmakers’ Association and the racetrack.
When Dollard went to collect off one layer, he was apologetic. “I’m sorry sir, I don’t have that much in the satchel; will a cheque do?” The easy-going Dollard had no objection so the bookmaker asked him: “Who should I make it out to?”
“Barney O’Hare.”
By Dollard’s account, the bookmaker might just as well have swallowed a lemon whole. Barney admits that Saturday “was quite a good day” in a gambling sense, but is more truthful about its emotional value. “It was special, one-in-a-million stuff really.”
One of Ireland’s youngest trainers — who has four paying owners other than his mother — aspires to becoming a fully licensed one as soon as he can. He is learning every day, gave up on drink nearly four years ago and now dedicates himself to his girlfriend, children and 21 horses. Over time, much more will be known of Michael O’Hare.
He will not get ahead of himself either. Barney opted to celebrate Saturday’s miracle by having a couple of jars in Eugene Kavanagh’s Glasnevin pub, where apparently they sell more Guinness per square floor yard than anywhere in Ireland. From the punter’s graveyard to The Gravedigger’s, with a treble in between.
Earlier last week, as it was beginning to sink in, a fax came through to Bar One’s Dundalk headquarters.
To Barney O’Hare, Well done to you and your family on your impressive treble in Naas on Saturday. Don’t do it too often!
Yours sincerely,
Willie and Jackie Mullins
He is talking about getting it framed.
Sunday Independent.