Turf Talk: Mister McGoldrick's journey from a butcher's field to Cheltenham Festival glory
Having featured possibly the area’s classiest steeplechaser – Wayward Lad – in his last column, Harrogate Advertiser horseracing correspondent Jeff Garlick this week focuses on the most popular chaser of recent times.
From how he was purchased and named, to being trained by racing’s ‘odd couple’, to winning a race at the Cheltenham Festival, Mister McGoldrick’s lifestory would make a great film.
In 1996, Richard Longley, a former pub owner from Leeds, decided to buy a horse to help him recuperate after having bypass and cardiac surgery.
He purchased a horse that was in the field of his local butcher and named it after his heart surgeon Joe McGoldrick, the man he credited with saving his life.
After a fairly unsuccessful career on the Flat, Mister McGoldrick was sent to the Bingley stables of former champion show-jumper Harvey Smith and his wife Sue. It was here that his career really took off.
On his very first start for the Smiths at Doncaster, Harvey instructed the jockey, Seamus Durack, to bowl along in front and everything seemed to click.
In his early days with Sue Smith, the racing public in their thousands soon began to warm to his talent for attacking his fences.
‘Mac’ had a real love affair with his local track at Wetherby, and the crowds adored him. He ran 14 times there and won eight races.
His biggest success was in the Castleford Chase of 2005 where he led for most of the way, finally winning by 15 lengths.
His first race at Wetherby was in November 2002 and he made his very last racecourse appearance at the same course in 2011 at the ripe old age of 14.
He paraded before his adoring public on Boxing Day of that year and received a much deserved standing ovation. The reception given to the retiring hero was certainly larger than to any of the winners that day.
But, Mister McGoldrick was not just a Wetherby specialist. He ran 12 times at Cheltenham, the home of steeplechasing, including six times at the Festival.
He contested high class Group One races like the Arkle Chase and Ryanair Chase.
He twice ran in the prestigious Queen Mother Champion Chase finishing third to New Mill in 2006.
And it was at Cheltenham in 2008 that Mister McGoldrick had his finest hour when winning the Byrne Group Plate.
I was lucky enough to be there that day and saw ‘Mac’ jump a high-class field into submission.
It was the Smiths’ first Festival winner and the first for Guiseley-born jockey Dominic Elsworth.
The horse had started at odds of 66/1 that day and paid 146/1 on the Tote.
Dr McGoldrick missed the race as he was in the operating theatre at Leeds General Infirmary but a lot of his patients and the porters at the hospital ended up a great deal richer.
His CV will forever show that he raced 91 times, winning 15 races at seven different tracks amassing £372,366 in prizemoney.
However, it was his prodigious jumping and never-say-die attitude to racing that made him one of the most popular horses in Britain, not just Yorkshire.
Since the end of his racing career ‘Mac’ has been at New Beginnings, a registered charity who look to provide a safe supportive environment for former racehorses to adapt and learn new skills.
He was one of the first horses sent there and acts as an ambassador for the charity.
Even at the age of 23, Mister McGoldrick can be seen parading at local tracks like Wetherby and Ripon where he helps spread the word of the great work that New Beginnings undertakes.
A true local hero.