Bygones: When Jodami, last Yorkshire winner of Gold Cup, punched his weight at Cheltenham Festival
SOME 25 years after Peter Beaumont saddled the last Yorkshire '“ and Northern '“ winner of the blue riband Cheltenham Gold Cup, he is still characteristically modest about Jodami's triumph.
“The whole day was remarkable,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “We expected him to go well, but I would never say that we expected to win. I wouldn’t say I was confident, but we were confident of a very good run.”
Now 83, the great gentleman of Yorkshire racing was, in his day, the archetypal National Hunt trainer – a farmer who honed his training skills in the point-to-point sphere before taking out a licence.
Together with his daughter Anthea Morshead, assistant clerk of the course at York Racecourse, they were a formidable force with the great Jodami never earning sufficient plaudits for winning three successive renewals of the Irish Hennessy, Ireland’s Gold Cup.
None more so than the day that they found themselves at the Army Barracks on the Curragh examining the strapping steeplechaser in the making with breeder Eamon Phelan and his brother Pat. Beaumont takes up the story. “I knew Pat Phelan and I knew his brother Eamon, who became stallion manager at Coolmore,” he recalled.
“The day we went to look at him there was no one there. We got him out, walked him up and trotted him up. That was enough. I know one very good trainer had seen him and turned him down, but we were confident of a good run.”
Morshead’s memories are more vivid. “Pat said, ‘just have a look at this young horse’,” she said. “He was stood in his manger with the food overflowing and munching his way through it.
“Dad just liked him and his qualities. He was going to be an old-fashioned chaser, but he had a very good pedigree. When dad got him, he rang all his owners and said, ‘I’ve got this young horse, never raced, but I really like it’.
“John Yeadon was the third or fourth owner that he rang. ‘If you like him as much as that, go get him’. Thankfully, the rest is history.”
It was Yeadon, a Kirkby Overblow pig farmer, who came up with the horse’s distinctive name Jodami, which is, in fact, derived from the first two letters of his Christian name and those of his sons David and Michael.
It was Morshead, her father’s assistant and pioneering female jockey at the time, who was in the saddle when Jodami made a winning racecourse debut at Kelso in March, 1990.
“He had the most laidback and amazing temperament,” she said.
“Nothing fazed him at all and I thought then he was quite special. The one thing he didn’t like was rain. If it was raining, he would stand at the back of his box. If you were riding out in it, he wouldn’t walk alongside you. He would walk with his head pressed in your back for shelter. He was so professional when he was racing that he didn’t notice.”
However, he also required careful training. After fracturing a pelvis when he became cast in his box, he required lots of physio. Jodami, who grew to a mammoth 650kg after each summer, had a racing weight of 570kg. “He was a prize-fighter,” said Morshead.
Yet, by now, Beamount, knew he had a special horse at his Brandsby farm in North Yorkshire that he acquired 50 years ago after a childhood learning to ride near Ripley Castle.
While riding responsibilities were shared between Morshead and her then husband Patrick Farrell, it was seasoned professional Mark Dwyer – winner of the 1985 Gold Cup on Forgive ‘N’ Forget – who took over in the saddle.
Second in Haydock’s Edward Hanmer Chase before chasing home Ferdy Murphy’s lightly-weighted Sibton Abbey in Newbury’s Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup, three wins – including a first Irish Hennessy – put the eight-year-old spot on for Cheltenham’s most sought-after race.
Despite this pedigree, The Fellow from France was the warm favourite in a Gold Cup field that included former winners Cool Ground and Garrison Savannah.
There were also multiple winners of staying chases. Yet Beaumont was relatively unperturbed by the good to firm ground.
“He won the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock on heavy ground and then he won it again and broke the course record. He went on everything,” said Beaumont, who drove the horse box to Cheltenham the previous day with his late wife Margaret.
Morshead headed south on the day of the race. She was still recovering from a heavy fall suffered at Musselburgh that had left her with a fractured vertebra, cracked ribs and a bruised heart, but still remembers the ‘Good luck Jodami’ messages that lined Stillington’s streets and was slightly piqued that the horse had been overlooked in the build-up.
She walked the horse out on the track, brimming with pride at his well-being, but overwhelmed by helplessness as Jodami and Dwyer galloped to the start.
With The Fellow struggling after an early mistake, Jodami travelled sweetly throughout the three-and-a-quarter miles before surging past Rushing Wild after the last to win by two lengths with consummate ease.
“I had been told by the doctor not to get too excited,” said Morshead. “My heart was hammering against my chest. I thought, ‘I might die and not know the result’. The result seemed more important than whether I was going to die. Great friends were with mum. As they tried to get to the winner’s enclosure, they said, ‘Make way, she’s won the Gold Cup’.”
While the win vindicated Jodami’s owners, who had turned down six-figure offers for a horse that Beamount says “wasn’t dear”, the trainer carried an air of quiet satisfaction before meeting the Queen Mother.
“He jumped off where we wanted him, stayed where he wanted to be and was always going well,” he said in the winner’s enclosure. “He then moved gently up going to the last as we planned – and didn’t he jump?”
If he had jumped that final fence as brilliantly the following year Jodami would, in all likelihood, have been the first dual winner of the Gold Cup since the incomparable Arkle. Instead he surrendered the title to The Fellow.
The winner of 18 out of 39 starts, and over £475,000 in prize money, his last run came in February, 1997 when narrowly denied by Danoli in Ireland’s Gold Cup.
Recovering from leg surgery, Peter Beaumont will watch this year’s Gold Cup, featuring North Yorkshire challenger Definitly Red, with his daughter at Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund rehab centre in Malton. As he reflects on Jodami’s successes, he says quietly and modestly: “I think he was under-rated.” Just like the trainer.
Northern racing’s golden generation
THE victory of Jodami in the 1993 Cheltenham Gold Cup proved to be the last winner of the blue riband race to date by Northern-trained runners after a remarkable run of success by a golden generation of staying steeplechasers.
1979: As snow fell, Alverton won for Great Habton trainer Peter Easterby and jockey Jonjo O’Neill.
1982: A first success for Harewood’s Michael Dickinson as Silver Buck prevailed under Harrogate jockey Robert Earnshaw.
1983: The year of the Dickinson ‘famous five’ as Bregawn, ridden by Wetherby’s Graham Bradley, led home stablemates Captain John, Wayward Lad, Silver Buck and Ashley House.
1985: Another Yorkshire win as Forgive ‘N’ Forget, trained at Malton by the late Jimmy Fitzgerald, triumphed under Mark Dwyer.
1987: The year snow delayed the Gold Cup, but it did not stop The Thinker, whose County Durham trainer Arthur Stephenson had gone racing at Hexham.
1993: Jodami won for Brandsby’s Peter Beaumont and a second victory for Dwyer.
The best Yorkshire result in recent years came in 2003 when Ferdy Murphy’s Truckers Tavern was a remote second to Henrietta Knight’s imperious triple winner Best Mate.