IN winning the five-year-old geldings’ maiden at Turtulla on Sunday by 13 lengths, Focus Point not only marked himself out as a likely future track winner, but the victory of the Robin Des Champs gelding also encapsulated a remarkable connection between the Swan, Hyde and Purcell families with the Golden Vale Foxhounds that spans a number of generations.
That five-year-old geldings’ maiden held particular significance for local connections given that it was run for the Michael Purcell Memorial Perpetual Trophy, a prize first offered at the Golden Vale’s spring point-to-point in Fairyhill some 17 years ago to honour the hunt’s former master and chairman.
Purcell was synonymous in the area. A cattle dealer by trade, he was in and out of farmer’s premises throughout Tipperary, which proved invaluable for his role within the hunt.
“Michael Purcell would have been one of the best chairman that the Golden Vale hunt ever had, as through his work as a cattle dealer, he knew everyone,” explains the hunt’s current chairman Michael Costican.
“He was very well liked in the farming community and is very well remembered in the area to this day. When Michael died in 2003 the members and subscribers of the hunt decided that they would like to contribute a trophy in his memory.”
In 1975, Purcell had revived the hunt alongside Timmy Hyde, with Hyde’s late father Tim, the former 1937 joint-champion amateur, having founded the hunt a number of decades earlier in the 1940s. Fittingly it was the colours of Timmy Hyde’s wife Trish that were carried to victory aboard Focus Point in Purcell’s memorial race on Sunday, with Timmy and Trish having been accompanied to the races by Purcell’s widow Sue, who herself was also a former point-to-point secretary for the Golden Vales.
The victory had even greater significance with Timmy Hyde’s grandson Harry Swan recording his first success in the pointing fields aboard Focus Point.
The 19-year-old, who has already ridden seven winners under rules, is also the grandson of Capt. Donald Swan who hunted the hounds for the Golden Vale Foxhounds for a number of seasons in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Purcell’s connections were not only entrenched within the Tipperary farming community, but also within the racing world, having saddled his homebred My View to win what is now known as the Pertemps Final at the Cheltenham Festival.
Owned by his brother Seamus, the Purcell brothers had also enjoyed success with Buck House who they purchased for what proved to be a bargain sum when he went on to enjoy Cheltenham Festival successes in 1983 and 1986 when under the care of Mouse Morris.
During Purcell’s time as a trainer a certain Johnny Berry worked for him in the early 1990s, and in the final significance to the victory of Focus Point on Sunday, the five-year-old was trained by Berry who has fond memories of his time in Tipperary.
“He was an absolute gentleman to work for and a very genuine person. It was brilliant to be able to win his race on Sunday, not only because of my connection with Michael, but also for the Hyde family who were great friends of Michael,” explained the Wexford native who alongside his wife Shirley, started off Fiddlerontheroof in points for the Hyde family.
The now Grade 1-winning seven-year-old is a potential contender for today’s Ladbrokes Trophy at Newbury.
It is fair to say that few victories in the pointing fields in recent years will have carried the same significance for connections, making the victory of Focus Point just that little bit extra special.