TEN days ago I was among the 481 people in attendance at a lunch in London to remember our great friend Sir Peter O’Sullevan, the mellifluent ‘Voice of Racing’, and to celebrate his choice to be given the 24th Peter O’Sullevan Annual Award. What a joy it was to see Jessica Harrington honoured, and she is a truly worthy recipient.
Jessie joins a list that is without equal in terms of people who have been successful in or about the worlds of racing, breeding and journalism.
The full list is published on page 20, but take more time to look at the abridged list of major winners that Jessie has turned out from her Commonstown Stables in Moone, Co Kildare. That is even more impressive.
Her first major winner was a filly picked out by her husband Johnny at the sales in Goffs, Dance Beat.
The Grangemore Stud-bred daughter of Dancing Dissident cost the then Curragh Bloodstock Agency director only 1,400gns, despite being a half-sister to the dual Cheltenham Stayers’ Hurdle winner Galmoy. I remember Johnny telling me, on a trip back from the sales in Doncaster, that he could never believe he had bought her so cheaply.
The ill-fated Dance Beat ran just 17 times, owned by Eileen Queally, winning a bumper, five hurdle races and a couple of chases, and she was successful at Grade 1 level over the smaller obstacles, at Leopardstown in The Ladbroke. She was only out of the money twice, and she was a model of consistency.
Her success was a catalyst for more horses, better quality, and now Jessie has few equals when it comes to enjoying success at the highest levels under both codes.
Indeed, the list of major winners fails to list some of her Cheltenham Festival successes, such has been the levels of achievement she has reached.
Pathfork won the Group 1 National Stakes 11 years ago, giving Jessie a breakthrough success at that level on the flat, and in the last four seasons she has saddled the winners of 10 more Group 1 races.
From a family that is steeped in equestrianism, with a world-class competitive background as an eventer, and now with one of the biggest and best stables in Ireland or Britain, Jessica Harrington is a deserving member of Sir Peter’s elite club. Hopefully her trailblazing will inspire other women to follow her path.