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Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 3°C
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# Laochra Na Rasaíochta
'Racing can be so evocative. People love looking back and will remember where they were'
The great Danoli, Dorans Pride, Beef Or Salmon and Limestone Lad are in the spotlight tonight on TG4.

THE REAWAKENING OF old sporting memories can naturally evoke nostalgia but there will an extra layer of poignancy for anyone tuning in to TG4 this evening.

Last Wednesday the passing took place of Tom Foley, the Carlow man who trained the legendary Danoli.

His most famous runner was earmarked to be in the spotlight as part of tonight’s third epsiode of ‘Laochra Na Rásaíochta’, an ongoing series which reflects on the careers of some of Ireland’s greatest National Hunt horses.

“It’s very poignant,” says Denis Kirwan of Touchline Media, the producers of the documentaries and previously for ‘Jump Boys’ in 2012 and ‘Jump Girls’ in 2019.

“He was a lovely man, very sad to hear of his passing. We were very fortunate to have sat down and had a chat with him over the last year. He was delighted that people will continually remember Danoli and he said it’s important that generations to come are reminded of what a remarkable horse he was in terms of the part he played in the national psyche at the time.”

danoli-with-tom-foley-at-his-yard-in-county-carlow © Tom Honan / INPHO Danoli with Tom Foley at his yard in Carlow. © Tom Honan / INPHO / INPHO

The premise of the series is simple in reflecting on the exploits of some of the country’s best and most beloved horses. It is bookended by documentaries on Arkle, the award-winning production from 2014 that aired again last month, and Dawn Run, which was first shown at Christmas.

Last week’s offering told the stories of L’Escargot, Captain Christy, Brown Lad, Monksfield and Istabraq while next week will look at the greatness of Florida Pearl, Hardy Eustace and Moscow Flyer.

“We managed to get all of this recorded during one of the lower level restrictions in place last year during Covid, with all the various protocols in place,” says Kirwan.

“When the pandemic hit, we thought what would be a nice programme to do? We thought it’d be nice to do a series on racing legends. We approached TG4 about it, they liked the idea. We spoke to a few people would they be interested in taking part and people generally thought it was a good idea. We interviewed between 40 and 50 people for the series.

“People love racing nostalgia, racing can be so evocative. People love looking back and will remember where they were when they saw a particular race. Dawn Run in the Gold Cup in ’86 is one classic example of that. Istabraq winning a third Champion Hurdle is one of those moments that people will probably remember for a long, long time.” 

Tonight’s offering shines a spotlight on three smaller racing operations, starting with the heroics of Danoli.

“It’s the story of three farmers and four great horses,” says Kirwan.

“Tom Foley and Danoli was just a wonderful story. He won in Cheltenham and came back when everybody thought his career was over to win an Irish Gold Cup. That was one of the great days ever witnessed in Leopardstown.

“It’s great that we can tell that story and tell it as a tribute to Tom who sadly passed away. Danoli was just a horse that captured public imagination, people latched onto him. He was trained by a man that was very humble in his ways. A nice easygoing man that people took a shine to. It had all the essential elements of what’s great about National Hunt racing and something that people from the country can identify with.”

The programme will move over the border from Carlow into Kilkenny to look at the career of Limestone Lad.

“He was bred, trained and owned by the Bowe family on a small farm holding in Gathabawn in Kilkenny. He was a wonderful horse, he got the scalp of the great Istabraq as well at Fairyhouse.

“There’s a lovely piece in the documentary, Michael Bowe said he was followed into the stable yard after by Aidan O’Brien.

“He said, ‘Here’s me, Michael Bowe, a farmer from Gathabawn in Klkenny, being asked by Aidan O’Brien, probably the greatest trainer in the world, how I trained my horse?’

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limestone-lad-ridden-by-paul-carberry-digital INPHO Limestone Lad ridden by Paul Carberry in 2002. INPHO

“He said it was a very proud moment.

“Unfortunately he never won at Cheltenham was a shame. Michael Bowe even says that he never really settled when he was away from his own environment like that for long.”

The focus also shines on the Limerick trainer Michael Hourigan with his pair of celebrated horses in Dorans Pride and Beef Or Salmon.

“Michael Hourigan would have been one of the smaller trainers but more centered around horses than the other two lads,” outlines Kirwan.

“He got two horses who arrived around the same time to his yard at a certain period of his life in Doran’s Pride and Beef Or Salmon. Both of those horses won 48 races between them, he just tells the story of how exciting that whole period was.

“Beef Or Salmon won three Irish Gold Cups but he never won the race at Cheltenham, Doran’s Pride won the Stayers’ Hurdle so he got that day at Cheltenham. That was a halcyon period for the yard. His daughter talks about how exciting that whole thing was and how they were living the dream for the best part of ten years.”

  • Laochra Na Rásaíochta airs tonight on TG4 at 9.30pm

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