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Carberry family linked with Aintree forever

Anyone who has followed racing over the last couple of decades will be familiar with the exploits of at least one Carberry, whether it is Paul, Nina, Thomas or Philip.

But before the first family of Irish jockeyship, their father, Tommy Carberry, was something of a legend.

To be exact, some of the stories that were told of his hell-raising exploits off the track were legendary. He happened to be a fine horseman, too.

Champion apprentice in 1959, he was champion jockey five times. He won two Cheltenham Gold Cups and a Grand National on L’Escargot, trained by his father-in-law Dan Moore, between 1970 and 1975, and also won the 1975 Gold Cup with Ten Up.

His association with L’Escargot – one of only two horses to win both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the National – is what he is best remembered for, however.

“Dad said he was a serious horse,” remembered Paul Carberry. “He won two Gold Cups, a National and Colonial Cup in America.

“He was always going to be thought of as the horse who denied Red Rum a hat-trick of National wins, but he was a serious horse in his own right.”

Tommy Carberry, who would later train 1999 Grand National winner Bobbyjo, returned to win the 1975 Grand National after finishing third in 1973 and second in 1974. The pair began at 13-2 and are one of only two horses to finish in front of Red Rum in the National, the other being Rag Trade in 1976.

Red Rum carried 11lb more than L’Escargot and ran well throughout the 1975 renewal, leading for much of the race, only to be edged out by Carberry’s mount, who also had the benefit of his preferred softer ground.

L’Escargot and Tommy Carberry won the Grand National in 1975
L’Escargot and Tommy Carberry won the Grand National in 1975 (PA)

“He was one of those old-style chasers, the likes of which you would not get around any more. The first year he won the National was the first year he didn’t go to the Gold Cup. He would usually go to Cheltenham first,” said Paul, who was barely 14 months old at the time of L’Escargot’s National win.

Was L’Escargot a better horse than Red Rum? That is the stuff of many fireside ruminations, but Paul is in little doubt: “He was a serious horse and he probably never got as much credit as he should have got.”

Tommy died in 2017, but in life he was always happier when his horses did the talking and Paul inherited the linguistic suspicions as well as his talent in the saddle. Yet their love of Britain’s favourite race was unbridled.

“Since I was small, I was always a Grand National boy,” said Paul. “I always wanted to win it and it was in my heart to try and win it, anyway.”

In 1998, Paul won the Irish Grand National with the Bobby Bourke-owned Bobbyjo and a year later, rode him to victory at Aintree, becoming the first Irish-trained horse since L’Escargot to win the National.

“I had 19 rides in the National and Bobbyjo was obviously the highlight, especially riding for my dad, and the whole family were involved, so it was brilliant,” said Paul.

Paul Carberry crosses the line to win the National on Bobbyjo
Paul Carberry crosses the line to win the National on Bobbyjo (Owen Humphries/PA)

“He was a lovely horse, very straightforward, always a nice jumper, ever since I sat on him as a four-year-old when I schooled him over poles at home.

“I had a good bit to do with him growing up but he was always a lovely, honest horse. A good staying horse and a very good jumper.

“I still remember it like it was yesterday. I got a dream ride off him the whole way, up the inner. He jumped brilliantly the whole way. The only bit of bother I had was when Adrian Maguire (aboard Addington Boy) squeezed me up turning in, but other than that it was plain sailing.

“Then when I switched him out, he switched on and he flew away. He landed a pretty sizeable gamble, too. They had backed him for a long time and ended up nearly favourite (at 10-1).

“My dad would not have been involved with that, but my older brother, Thomas, backed him. He backed him since the year before. Every time he ran or every time he tightened up, he’d back him again. He made a few quid out of it.

“Come to think of it, perhaps I think I should send him a bill for the party!

“Bobbyjo had won the Irish National the year before and he’d won a hurdle race (at Down Royal) during the season. He was a good staying horse and while it took him a bit of time to become really good, he got there in the end.”

Paul, who recorded 14 Cheltenham Festival winners in a glittering riding career that also included two Irish Gold Cups and a Punchestown Gold Cup, says the Grand National was “always the race I wanted to win most”.

He added: “You need a lot of luck to win a National. You need a good horse, a good stayer and luck in running. You need a horse that switches on to the fences, horses like Tiger Roll who took to it and other good horses.

“L’Escargot took his time to get used the fences. The fences are not as hard to get used to now and you need a stayer, rather than a good jumper like L’Escargot was, but they still need jumping.”

Carberry, 48, who retired from the saddle in 2016, now pre-trains horses and still enjoys showjumping at weekends “to keep me occupied”.

He added: “I am enjoying retirement and I have the kids to keep me on my toes.”

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