THE Dorchester Hotel ballroom in London was packed on Thursday when J.P. McManus received The Fifteenth Peter O’Sullevan Annual Award.

The popular Irishman was accorded a standing ovation by the 475 guests, and he now joins a roll of honour that includes his fellow countrymen, Vincent O’Brien and Pat Eddery. Other recipients of this honour include the Queen and the Queen Mother, the Aga Khan and Dick Francis.

The many tributes paid to McManus referred not just to his contribution to racing, but also to the many philanthropic enterprises he is involved with, and to the value of his friendship. Jonjo O’Neill, trainer of Don’t Push It who won the 2010 Aintree Grand National in the colours of McManus, summed his main owner up succinctly when saying “words don’t describe how good a guy he is.”

The self-effacing McManus was moved by the tributes paid to him, especially those of the eloquent Hugh McIlvanney in a video tribute that traced his life and career in racing. Responding, McManus said: “I can’t describe how much this means to me and my family.”

Nick Nugent

Goffs director and auctioneer, Nick Nugent, conducted the auction of nine items, and these were headed by the £80,000 paid by the award recipient for a ‘once in a lifetime’ round of golf with world number three player, Lee Westwood, who was present at the lunch.

Meanwhile, Dermot Desmond paid £65,000 for Peter Curling’s wonderful caricature of J.P. McManus, Christy Grassick acquired Terence Gilbert’s painting of the royal visit to Coolmore this year, and the auction raised just short of £240,000. This brought the total raised in the 15 years for charitable purposes to more than £3 million.

Sir Terry Wogan, a Limerick man as is the award recipient, was guest speaker and hugely entertaining, while John Sexton was complimented by Nick Nugent for his smooth and professional role as master of ceremonies. Guests at the lunch included Martin O’Neill, Richard Hannon, Des Lynam, Lester Piggott and Derrick Smith. The Sir Peter O’Sullevan Charitable Trust raises funds for six organisations.

‘It was a bloodbath’, claims Irwin


THE figures at the Goffs Irish National Foal and Breeding Stock Sale took an unmerciful hammering last weekend.

Over five days, the aggregate nearly halved compared with 1985, shedding six million guineas to gross under seven million guineas. The average tumbled by 42% to 10,386 guineas, while the number of lots sold against those on offer was down from 74% to 65%.

“I have to admit it is very disappointing,” said managing director Jonathan Irwin on Wednesday morning, “but it was nothing like 1974.” The real body blow was the Select Sale on Sunday night when, in round terms, the aggregate was lighter by an appalling five million guineas, down to three million guineas.

“It was a bloodbath”, adds Irwin, “and that has been the pattern this year at the top end of the market. The industry is now on a much firmer base compared with 1974. I don’t think anybody is panic-stricken. The prices are falling but prize money is really improving, and that is a healthy sign as young stock are not being bought just for their resale value.”

It was very noticeable that Irwin was extremely bullish about the future of racing in this country, but when it was suggested that he might concentrate all his energies in this direction he was quick to reply. “No, Goffs will always be my concrete child.”

He still remains extremely optimistic about the future. “We have a superb stallion bank which is continuing to grow, although I have to admit that the overall standard of the mares could be improved.

Just look at what we have achieved since we arrived in Kill. In that period of 12 years the Irish industry has made remarkable progress, and you can tell that to the begrudgers.”

Bizarre sale of Set Free’s yearling


ONE of the outstanding mares of the last 20 years has been Set Free who is the dam of no less than three classic winners in the seventies, but it was revealed in the Sporting Life yesterday that her latest yearling was sold in a Cambridge cattle market last Friday for 1,200 guineas.

To make matters more intriguing the yearling, a full-brother to two of the classic winners, was due in the Tattersalls sale ring next Saturday. Like the yearling, both Juliette Marny and Julio Mariner are by Blakeney out of Set Free who is now 22. The former won both the Epsom and Irish Oaks, while Julio Mariner won the 1978 St Leger. Their half-sister is Scintillate who landed the 1979 Epsom Oaks.

Set Free is resident at the Fonthill Stud in Wiltshire and it is difficult to find how such a blue-blooded colt found its way to the cattle market, especially as he is entered in the Tattersalls catalogue from the Barton Stud which is owned by Jockey Club senior steward Lord Fairhaven.

The purchaser was Newmarket trainer Gerry Blum. What amazed bloodstock agents is the redirection from Tattersalls to Cambridge because, with the colt’s classic pedigree, he would almost certainly have made a far bigger sum at Newmarket.

[Later named Untied, the colt in question ran many times in bumpers, hurdle races and point-to-points, and never even managed to be placed. Set Free produced nine winners, her last foal being born at the age of 23. In addition to the three classic winners, these winning progeny also included the classic-placed Saviour, the listed hurdle winner Newgate, nine-time winner Sassoon, four-time winner Deroulede and the US winner Manumission, all being sired by Blakeney]

O’Brien sends Gladness to Manchester


THE flat racing season in England ended on a resounding Irish note at Manchester, where five of the winners were trained in this country, were ridden by Irish jockeys and were backed with a considerable amount of Irish money.

Gladness, a three-year-old filly by Sayajirao out of Bright Lady, has stout breeding for the dam, who is by April The Fifth, won a substitute Cesarewitch run at Ascot in 1943 and was second in a substitute Ascot Gold Cup in 1944. Gladness obviously required a great deal of time to mature, for she only ran one race at two years and the race at Manchester was only her second appearance on a racecourse. She opened at evens, became an 8/11 favourite, and won very easily by five lengths.

The filly is trained by M.V. O’Brien, was bred and is owned by Mr S McGregor, and was ridden by T.P. Burns who also rode the P Sleator-trained six-year-old horse Floor Show (by Stardust) who waltzed home in the Salford Stakes on Thursday.

The leading Irish trainer of winners across the Channel naturally was P.J. Prendergast who won nine races worth £9,094 with seven horses. Second to Prendergast in the amount won in England is M.V. O’Brien who introduced Gladness at Manchester and won the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot with Adare.

[Gladness went one better than her dam and won the Ascot Gold Cup, one of eight victories in her racing career which continued until she was six. She also triumphed in the Goodwood Cup, the Champion Stakes at the Curragh and the Ebor Handicap. She was runner-up in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Prix du Cadran. At stud, Gladness bred four winners from only six foals, and among them were the Irish Oaks winner Merry Mate (Ballymoss), Glad One (Milesian) who was second in the Irish 1000 Guineas and the Oaks and third in the Irish Oaks, and Bally Joy (Ballymoss) who was placed in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot. Gladness, through her daughters Merry Mate and Glad One is ancestress of the Group 1 Prix du Cadran winner Royal Gait, champion sprinter Overdose, champion Australian filly Taj Eclipse, Group 1 Caulfield Cup winner Fawkner and more]