Horse Racing

Five Moments That Define The Glorious Gigginstown Era

Five Moments That Define The Glorious Gigginstown Era

It's not over yet, but today's announcement told us the end is nigh. Filling the gap the world-renowned Gigginstown House operation held, to state the glaringly obvious, will be no small feat for whoever is coming along behind them.

Of course, there were criticisms - plenty of them - but the impact the Michael O'Leary-backed enterprise cannot be disputed. Whether or not he will continue to attend meetings in the future, the mark he has made on the sport is indelible.

While he hasn't been in the business for as long as the likes of JP McManus, the last decade has seen those famous maroon silks, trimmed with white, cultivate some of the most intoxicating sporting memories this country has witnessed in recent decades.

Here are just five moments - from thousands that could have been chosen - that cemented the Gigginstown legacy in jumps racing.

 

Winning A Second Grand National With Tiger Roll

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What better place to start than Aintree. Of all the horses that have raced for the O'Learys, none have been adored as much as the little hero from Gordon Elliott's yard. Winning the Grand National, it is acknowledged, requires quite the generous serving of luck. That Tiger Roll won it twice in succession is testament to the talent of the most famous resident at Cullentra House stables.

The last horse to achieve such a achievement was Red Rum; that alone tells you all you need to know about this cracker of short stature. Gigginstown had won the event in the past, but this was special. This was a horse that, for all the initial doubts over his ability, would transcend the sport for generations to come, long after everyone else associated with the horse was forgotten about.

But as Gigginstown have committed to another five years, connections are sure to be present at the marvellous Liverpool venue next year where there's no guarantee the mighty Tiger Roll won't be making yet more history again.

 

War Of Attrition Wins Gigginstown's First Gold Cup

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It has been no secret that Michael O'Leary looked upon chasers more fondly than hurdlers - especially stayers. He is known for frequenting rural point-to-point meetings on occasions, a place where many a triumphant Gold Cup winner began their careers. Every owner starts out with the ambition of finding a Gold Cup horse; it was clear the Westmeath man is no different.

Gigginstown were already respected in 2006, but winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup is viewed as the moment when the racing community realised that the organisation was going to be a tour de force. Coming into the Cheltenham Festival, War Of Attrition's form was solid - but nothing inspirational. He hadn't won either of the Grade Ones he was entered in that season. But when it came to the big day, he stayed on to deliver his owners their biggest win to date.

That win set the stone for the decade to come - the O'Learys returned every year to the Festival and inevitably - and rather ironically - arrived home with extra luggage.

 

Tuco Becomes Gigginstown's First Winner

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Every story must start somewhere; the Gigginstown story begins with Tuco, all the way back in 2001.

Trained by David Wachman, Tuco comfortably landed the bumper at Fairyhouse on a Saturday in the middle of May, giving the Gigginstown connections their first taste of what it feels like in the Winner's Enclosure. While Tuco has faded from memories, it would be inaccurate to describe that race as modest. Coming home in third was none other than Beef Or Salmon, a soon-to-be legend of the sport.

The rising star delivered a win on two more occasions for his owner, beating future Grand National winner and Gold Cup runner-up Hedgehunter in the process, before tragically losing his life after a fatal fall nearly a year later, poignantly at the same venue he had began his career with a bang.

Already, O'Leary had caught the bug and though the operation has gone on to be so successful since, the memory of Tuco is surely still burning brightly in the Ryanair chief's mind. He truly got the juices flowing to start the dynasty we know today.

 

Don Cossack Lands Another Gold Cup For Don Cossack
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In many ways, Don Cossack represented Gigginstown's second coming. They had never gone away, of course, but now it was clear they were more hungry for success than ever.

It's a subjective debate, but Don Cossack must rank as the greatest Gigginstown runner to ever jump a fence. And the 2016 Cheltenham Festival was his crowning moment. Aged nine for his greatest success, it was thought the star still had a few years left in him. But that trip to Prestbury Park proved to be his last run as he was retired months later as a result of injury.

Another owner may have kept fighting to get such an established name back to the track, but O'Leary realised that the Gordon Elliott runner had already given them enough happiness. He was more than happy to see him see out his days in the retirement paddock.

Anyway, it wasn't like he didn't recognise more success coming along. He had other talents capable of delivering on the biggest stage in the sport, the place where he saw a winner as the barometer of success - in the Cotswolds.

 

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Apple's Jade Gives A Glimpse Of The Future

This is a story-line that is far from the finish, and the horse in question, Apple's Jade, could certainly provide more performances worthy of a mention on a list like this before Gigginstown House finally close their doors.

After finishing behind Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in 2016, the four-year-old mare got the better of her rival just a number of weeks later at Aintree. But it was the manner of victory that stood out - if her performance at Cheltenham was overlooked, there was no ignoring what happened on the day she won her first Grade One at Aintree.

In a competitive field, she blitzed her rivals to win by 41 lengths, even easing down as she came up to the line. It was the moment we all knew O'Leary had unearthed another star. She has had her problems since, struggling to produce her best form at Cheltenham, but her stats speak for themselves.

The seven-year-old now has 10 Grade Ones to her name, more than the world record-holder Hurricane Fly had at that tender age. When she brings her A-game she's untouchable. And luckily for Gigginstown, she's a fine talent to see out their final years in the game with.

SEE ALSO: Report: Gigginstown Operation To Wind Down Operation Over Five Years

Aonghus Ó Maicín

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