The green & red of Mayo flew high over Clonmel for years on end and Dorans Pride’s Oil Chase four-peat remains unmatched, writes Tom Harle.
The horse was defined in the eyes of many by what happened at Cheltenham but it was over the fences at Clonmel for 2m4f that he felt most at home
As soon as you pick up the phone to trainer Michael Hourigan and mention the horse’s name, it sparks pure emotion
“Wow. I wish I’d had another one like him,” Hourigan said.
“He would be after winning at Clonmel before you got him to the course - he always won the race before. He was a picture walking around the ring before that race
“He was always a very kind horse and he gave his all the whole time. He was the horse of a lifetime, really.
He came into Limerick trainer Hourigan’s care in 1992 and the quirky nickname ‘Padjo’ soon stuck
Dorans Pride’s early career was defined by victory on the bridle in the 1995 Stayers’ Hurdle but a life-threatening attack of colic struck that year and serious surgery was needed
“It got to a point where if he didn’t win, he’d come second,” says Hourigan.
“The Stayers’ Hurdle was the highlight for me, and he’d do his thing at Leopardstown at Christmas. When he put his head down, he didn’t want to get beat.”
Cut two years down the line and the horse was excelling once again as a chaser as he made all to win the then-titled Morris Oil Chase by a thumping nine lengths.
The field was only three but the scalp he claimed a huge one, with Fergus Sutherland’s 1996 Gold Cup winner Imperial Call trailing in his wake, with Richard Dunwoody on board
“People thought I was mad running him over fences in a race like that first time,” Hourigan recalls.
“We knew what we had even though he’d only won one race. He was a brilliant jumper at that stage, until he had the fall at Cheltenham.”
Expectation mounted and he started favourite for the 1998 Gold Cup under Dunwoody, but a mistake three from home saw him miss out in a race one by Cool Dawn
“All my family were there because we thought we might just chin the Gold Cup that year,” said Hourigan
But come Clonmel in early November he had no peer and his most emphatic victory came in 1988 with a 30-length triumph over Merry People.
His rivalry with Imperial Call continued as he finished second by one and a half lengths in the Grade 1 John Durkan at Punchestown that Christmas.
Dorans Pride brushed aside His Song to prevail on yielding ground the following year and a fabulous fourth underscored legendary status and followed in 2000.
The horse simply never wanted to stop and was brought of retirement as a 14-year-old, meeting with a tragic end with a fatal fall in the 2003 Foxhunters Chase at Cheltenham
Hourigan said: “He was out in the field and he was thinking ‘what am I doing out here?’ like a human being.
“He used to stand there and watch us come in every day. It was so unfortunate what happened - Beef or Salmon is up at the Irish National Stud and it would be nice for Dorans Pride to be up there too.
He was one of Ireland’s best-loved National Hunt horses in his time and set the standard for a stream of quality horses that flowed through the Clonmel Oil Chase in subsequent years.
Henry De Bromhead’s magnificent Sizing Europe won it in 2012 and legendary jockeys Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty and Paul Carberry have all ridden winners in the race.
Kemboy won a fine battle with Alpha Des Obeaux in 2018 and Willie Mullins’s eight-time Grade One champion Douvan was a worthy winner last year
For Hourigan and all at Lisaleen Stables, the wait goes on for another one like Dorans Pride
He says: “I’ve never had another one like him, but I’m very proud of what I did have
“Why do I keep trying? Because I love what I do, and that’s it.”