Wednesday 19 December 2018

The 1999 Grand National: Bobbyjo Steals the Show for Team Carberry

More famously remembered as the Martell Grand National for corporate sponsorship sakes, the 1999 edition of this centuries-old steeplechase showpiece was won by Irish-bred Bobbyjo. In a demonstrably rare show of unfading skill, the 9-year-old inked an indelible record when he successfully retained the very title he’d clinched dramatically a year before. 

Besides, the distinct nine minutes within which twice-winning runner completed the keynote race was equally emphatically descriptive of the defending champion’s sheer racetrack tenacity.

After a mostly winless 24 years dominated by various exotic horses, the entire Irish racing sorority reeled under a smothering cloud of utter collective demoralization. Subsequently, they all with a similar went for a surefire pick that would ease the near-impervious discouragement brought by lacklustre racing seasons. 

In a word, the whole of Ireland’s leading equestrian fraternity joined heads and hands toward a unified purpose: to carry home the following National top honours, come rain or shine! And with a singularly hope-inspiring background powerfully demonstrated by his yesteryear’s admirable performance, Bobbyjo became every far-seeing Irish horse-handling pro’s best guess. 

Still unready to take the slightest blind risk, those vindictive folks undertook a greater deal of more thoroughgoing deliberations as a defeat-united community with a common pent-up bitterness. 

Finally, the then reigning Aintree conqueror satisfied all as the much-sought win-win bet for the neck-break waterloo ahead…and this foolproof communal strategizing proved lethal enough in the end! 

Owned by a smart enterprising compatriot with vast concerns in horseracing and horses generally, Bobby Bourke prayed for the best as his stable’s finest hope entered the giant clash. Concurrently, the finally twice-honoured Tommy Carberry happened to be conventional pick’s coach, plus the title-winning jockey Paul Carberry biological father - an epochal rarity at any rate. 

At first, that guardedly unpretentious coaching ace readily endorsed his countrymen’s undivided decision to field his rigorously tutored charge. And registering after a resounding success, the astonishingly modest fellow couldn’t even give any faint attempt at the habitual chest-thumping Aintree fans had been accustomed. 

Breaking from traditional indulgences in excessive self-elevations, the simply self-effacing nerd issued nothing more than tacit media remarks, all through seeming to give the greater credit his son. And whatever lesser morsels of apparent praises, those the humble sportsman pushed over to his jointly scheming countrymen who’d made it all possible on the tense duelling grounds.

If you still are a sceptical doubter of the clever maxim that truth is naturally stranger than fiction, then you’re literally ‘in for it’ – as they say. Now, it’s this very self-abasing Tom Carberry who had won Ireland’s last jackpot, after which polished masterstroke the perennially victory-eluded region would remain without any win until Bobbyjo avails a soothing emphatic triumph in 1998. 

In a similar vein, the closing game of the yester-millennium’s Grand National editions featured a retinue of distinctive changes. One key alteration availed extra numbers 41 to 43 as standby reserves to cater for eleventh-hour withdrawals. 

To curb devious manipulations by conniving jockeys and stable proprietors, a new clause deterring horse participation in multiple races at the same venue within the National’s designated timeframe. This latter amendment sought to end rampant unethical arrangements under which a single runner could be ill-used by fortune-stricken of avaricious riding professionals, trainers, owners, or shady proxies advancing sundry foxy ploys. Properly informed racing adherents may nevertheless generally acknowledge that the aforesaid notorieties had reduced markedly about a decade to the 1999 event. 

Paul Carberry, an industrious horse-riding protégé of his own father’s excellent nurturing, shared the occasion’s most reminiscent splendours with…a classic parenting milestone in the main; an attention-grabbing father-son Grand National thrill that would be yet unbelievably replicated in the succeeding grand gaming season. 

The second-biggest cash giveaway went to a somewhat unfamiliar horse, forebodingly christened Blue Charm – a manly exploit creditable to the genius legworks of a probable apprentice, Lorcan Wyer. With a 10-length distance and just a neck separating the 2nd and 3rd pairs, Richard Dunwoody evidently capitalized on Call It a Day’s unusual steel to decisively trounce the fourth-ranked Adrian Maguire/Addington Boy pair by 7 lengths. 

Last of all, wrapping up the cheerful day’s divergent marvels and tales were the determined fifth finishers: Brian Harding and Feels like Gold, crossing the ultimate line five lengths behind Maguire and his mount.