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A million reasons for the Go Native syndicate to win Champion Hurdle



Date Published: {J}

John McIntyre

IT was the Galway racing festival of 2008 and the connections of Go Native were more than optimistic that their horse would land the William Hill Novice Hurdle at Ballybrit. Less than two weeks earlier, the five-year-old had won his maiden hurdle at Kilbeggan.

Sent off the 5/4 favourite despite concerns about the yielding ground, Go Native tired after the last and was unable to cope with Desert Abbey, the 7/1 winner trained by Jessica Harrington. In terms of the where the horse is now – the new favourite for the Champion Hurdle – it wasn’t the performance of a future top notch hurdler.

Owned by the six-strong local Docado Syndicate, Go Native progressed significantly over the following winter and spring, landing novice hurdles at both Punchestown and Nass before lining up in the Supreme Novices Hurdle at Cheltenham last March.

Though hardly one of the top contenders, Go Native wasn’t an outsider either. Sent off at 12/1, Paul Carberry tracked the leaders on the inside coming around the home turn and producing a fine leap at the last, they just had enough in reserve in fending off the late thrust of Merdermit, a horse they will renew rivalry with next Tuesday.


There was only a neck between the pair at the finish and Carberry, the great ‘hold up’ jockey of his era, admitted afterwards that he had got there too soon with Go Native. It didn’t matter as Kitty Carr and Eamon Doyle of the Park House Hotel in Galway, and the rest of the syndicate, celebrated getting the meeting off to the perfect start for the Irish.

Go Native rounded off the season in the following month’s Evening Herald Champion Novice Hurdle at the Punchestown festival, but the rigours of a long campaign had taken the edge off the Cheltenham hero and he trailed in a well beaten fourth behind Hurricane Fly.

It had still been a fantastic few months for the Docado Syndicate which had purchased Go Native from the well regarded Athenry based dealer, Martin Cullinane. They had a serious horse on their hands, were living the dream and enjoying a great profile.


Yet, even the Docado Syndicate, in their wildest sporting fantasies, could hardly have envisaged Go Native’s headline-making exploits the following season which have left connections on the brink of a £1m sterling bonus if Noel Meade’s stable star can fend off all his rivals in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle.

It’s the third leg of the lucrative WBX Hurdling Triple Crown and Go Native is the only contender left after coming up trumps in the two earlier legs, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle in November, and the Williamhill Christmas Hurdle at Kempton. One win was easy, the other turned into a nerve-wracking finale.

The Newcastle race was something of an unsatisfactory affair despite the presence of some classy hurdlers, including other Irish raiders, Solwhit and Sublimity, and last year’s Champion Hurdle second, the fit-again Binocular. It suited the horse with the best finishing kick and Go Native powered clear off a muddling pace in the home straight for a decisive victory.

His starting price of 25/1 was largely on the back of a disappointing second to Voler La Vedette in the WKD Core Hurdle at the big Down Royal meeting a few weeks earlier, but the ground was soft and Go Native just got bogged down in it. Even against that background, however, his win at Newcastle still raised a lot of racing eyebrows.

The bookmakers, however, were talking no chances when the Irish raider lined up for the second leg of the WBX bonus at Kempton on St. Stephen’s Day. Sent off the 5/2 second favourite for the Christmas Hurdle, Go Native appeared poised for another impressive win when scooting three lengths clear at the last.

But Davy Condon’s mount began to idle on the run to the post and Go Native just managed to hold off the strong finishing thrust of Starluck by a rapidly diminishing neck. It represented Meade’s fourth triumph in the race having also saddled Harchibald (twice) and Jazz Messenger to Kempton glory.

Go Native hasn’t been seen on the racetrack since – at least, competitively – as connections opted to freshen him up for the big March festival after a busy pre-Christmas schedule. The noises from Meade’s yard are bullish and with the ground drying up all the time at Cheltenham, together with Solwhit’s dirty scope earlier this week, the seven-year-old now heads the Champion Hurdle betting market.

The prospect of winning the most prestigious prize over the smaller obstacles in the British Isles would be enough to keep Kitty Carr, Eamon Doyle and the other members of the Docado Syndicate, Maura and Tom Dowd, and their son, Sylvie, and daughter, Ann Marie, in a near permanent state of excitement, never mind that million pound bonus.

Should Go Native make a fourth consecutive successful cross-channel raid next week, the Docado Syndicate would stand to win £700,000 of that mind-boggling bonus with trainer Meade collecting £150,000, the horse’s groom, Alan McIlroy, £100,000, with his stable colleagues also in line for a £50,000 windfall.

Unfortunately, there are two considerable statistical negatives against Go Native delivering at Cheltenham for the second year running. For a start, since Bula landed the second of his Champion Hurdle victories in 1972, only two other Supreme Novices winners, Hors La Loi (1999) and Brave Inca (2004) have gone on to land the blue riband of hurdling.

Perhaps, even more pertinent is the reality that Noel Meade has only saddled three winners at the Cheltenham festival despite fielding 124 runners at the meeting since 1900. That’s a sobering reality even if it didn’t stop Go Native from doing the business in 2009.

The bottom line is that the ‘Galway horse’ goes to Cheltenham with every chance on the formbook and if Go Native manages to emulate the feat of For Auction, which sprung a 40/1 Champion Hurdle shock for the local Heaslip brothers in 1982, expect an extended celebration party in the Park House Hotel on Foster Street next week.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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