EVEN IN retirement, the star steeplechaser Mister McGoldrick is still winning the hearts of sporting aficionados as the standard-bearer of a Yorkshire community project which cares for retired racehorses.
Ears pricked, and with a distinctive white marking on his face, this most unlikely of racing champions was one of the star attractions at Middleham’s 22nd stables open day which attracted 3,500 spectators.
Now 18 years of age, and in his fourth year of retirement, the former Cheltenham Festival hero spends a contented life making public appearances on behalf of New Beginnings, a community interest company based in Ryedale.
Indeed the inclement weather – Middleham’s moors were barely visible under the mizzle – was emblematic of those days when the horse, trained at Bingley by Sue and Harvey Smith, lit up horse racing with his exhilarating jumping.
The winner of eight races at his beloved Wetherby, the chaser’s finest hour came in March 2008 when he won Cheltenham’s Byrne Plate under Guiseley-born rider Dominic Elsworth.
Despite being a 66-1 outsider, the success was a costly one for those bookmakers closest to Leeds General Infirmary – owner Richard Longley named the horse after his consultant cardiologist Joe McGoldrick, and many hospital staff had taken advantage of the generous odds.
“There was no way I could keep him in my back garden, much as I would have liked,” said Mr Longley. “I had to find somewhere that would be suitable and Sue came up with New Beginnings. It’s the most fantastic place.
“The interest is just amazing. I have a Google alert for Mister McGoldrick and I’ve lost count of all the messages saying what the horse is getting up to. It is testament to his popularity so long after he retired. It is important that there are causes and charities like this who give racehorses the pleasure that they deserve. It’s run by Pam Hollingworth and Kevin Atkinson, and they’re a real hardworking couple.
“Pam sent me a video clip in which you see a little spec in the distance. The next thing McGoldrick is galloping towards the camera. I was going through some paperwork the other day and found a vet’s report from 1999 when he was two. It said he would never make a racehorse, his legs were wrong and this wasn’t right. I’m glad I didn’t listen.”
The winner of 15 races from 91 starts, Mr Longley, from Leeds, now runs The McGoldrick Partnership which gives other racing enthusiasts the chance to live the dream. One of his syndicate horses, Pinerolo, is due to run at Haydock today.
Robert Beaumont, one of the open day’s organisers, said: “Mister McGoldrick has a special place in the hearts of all lovers of racing in Yorkshire and beyond. His combination of class and guts endeared him to so many and we were honoured to have him with us.”
AS WELL as promoting the invaluable work of New Beginnings, this year’s open day was raising money for two charities.
The Jessica Bethell Charitable Foundation has been set up in memory of the daughter of James Bethell, the chairman of Middleham Trainers’ Association, who died in October 2012 from meningitis at the tragically young age of 24.
Meanwhile the Household Cavalry Foundation, represented by the striking horse Trooper Middleham yesterday, is the official charity for the Household Cavalry.