Sculp­ture a nod to rich horse breed­ing her­itage

Wicklow People (Arklow) - - NEWS -

GRANGE­CON Tidy Towns group was de­lighted to un­veil the new sculp­ture ‘Ca­pall Agus Mar­cach’ (Horse and Rider) in the vil­lage last week.

The sculp­ture was com­mis­sioned to cel­e­brate over 100 years of horse breed­ing, train­ing and rac­ing in Grange­con. The horse in­dus­try has been the key source of em­ploy­ment in the vil­lage over the years and, to­day, there are a num­ber of very suc­cess­ful lo­cal stud farms, along with in­de­pen­dent horse train­ers and sta­bles.

The project started with a €1,000 govern­ment grant in cel­e­bra­tion of 60 years of the com­pe­ti­tion and Grange­con Tidy Town’s vi­sion to cel­e­brate the horse in­dus­try.

The com­mit­tee ap­proached Ru­pert Till, a for­mer vil­lage res­i­dent who pre­vi­ously cre­ated the sculp­ture of ‘Con’, the gra­nary hound, for the vil­lage. Ru­pert’s inspiration for the new horse sculp­ture came from his love of horse rac­ing paint­ings by Edgar De­gas and Sir Al­fred Mun­nings. The sculp­ture de­picts a horse and jockey from the past, while the 3D de­sign gives move­ment, al­low­ing the horse to look like it is can­ter­ing out of the frame.

The frame it­self rep­re­sents time and con­veys the mes­sage that lo­cals could be cel­e­brat­ing rac­ing con­nec­tions with vil­lagers of the past or the present, be it horse breed­ing, train­ing or rac­ing.

The grant cov­ered the cost of ma­te­ri­als and ship­ping and Ru­pert very gen­er­ously gifted the sculp­ture to the vil­lage. In Ru­pert’s own words: ‘I owe an aw­ful lot to the vil­lage and I loved liv­ing at Knockarigg, so what­ever I am go­ing to do is go­ing to be very im­pres­sive and the envy of County Wick­low’.

The sculp­ture gained prove­nance en-route to the vil­lage as it was ex­hib­ited at the Chelsea Flower Show in May, where it was greatly ad­mired by all and, in par­tic­u­lar, by celebrity gar­dener, Der­mot O’Neill.

Grange­con Tidy Towns is ex­tremely grate­ful to Ru­pert, as they would never have been able to af­ford such an im­pres­sive piece of art them­selves, and his gift has al­lowed them to cel­e­brate horses in a way that they never dreamt of.

On Satur­day, Septem­ber 29, Cllr Ed­ward Tim­mins un­veiled the com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque and pro­vided an in­ter­est­ing his­tory of Grange­con’s long and suc­cess­ful tra­di­tion of race­horse train­ing and breed­ing.

Spe­cial recog­ni­tion was given to Fran­cis Flood, Paddy Sleator and their fam­i­lies, who con­tinue the tra­di­tion to­day. Fran­cis Flood won most of the big prizes in na­tional hunt rac­ing dur­ing his long ca­reer at the turf. Two of his most out­stand­ing horses were ‘Glen­car­aig Lady’, win­ner of the Chel­tenham Gold Cup in 1972, and ‘Bob­sline’, which won the Arkle Chase at Chel­tenham 12 years later. He also won the Ir­ish Grand Na­tional twice with ‘Garoupe’ in 1970, the year he was crowned Cham­pion Trainer, and with‘Ebony Jane’ in 1993.

Paddy Sleator was Cham­pion Ir­ish Am­a­teur Jockey in 1934, 1937 and 1938, be­com­ing a lead­ing Ir­ish trainer in 1958. In ad­di­tion, he sent out the great­est num­ber of win­ners each year from 1955 to 1961. Be­sides rid­ing ‘Re­viewer’ to vic­tory in the 1934 Gal­way Plate, Paddy went on to sad­dle no fewer than nine win­ners of this fa­mous race. The 1960 Cham­pion Hur­dle win with ‘An­other Flash’ was the high­light of his Chel­tenham Fes­ti­val win­ners. His wins led to a change in Turf Club rules, whereby bumper form no longer qual­i­fied horses for flat hand­i­cap marks. Paddy’s sub­se­quent English cam­paign with a satel­lite stable led to sim­i­lar rule amend­ments in Bri­tain. ‘Black Ice’, ‘Al­binella’ and ‘Scot­tish Mem­o­ries’ were his out­stand­ing jumpers, notch­ing up al­most 30 vic­to­ries.

To­day Paddy Sleator’s daugh­ter Di- ane runs the suc­cess­ful Bar­ronstown Stud with her hus­band David Na­gle, which has pro­duced 22 win­ners of 33 Group one races in nine coun­tries across three con­ti­nents.

Grange­con Stud, owned by Rick Barnes, has also bred out­stand­ing horses in­clud­ing ‘Emerald Com­man­der’, ‘Heat­seeker’ and ‘Ca­nary Row’.

Train­ers work­ing in the vil­lage to­day are Fran­cis Flood Jnr, He­len Markham, John Sleator (car­ry­ing on the tra­di­tion from his fa­ther Noel Sleator) and Jackie McGeer, while past train­ers in­cluded Wil­lie Bourke, Marty Dunne and Vic­tor Bones, who all con­trib­uted to the in­dus­try.

Grange­con Tidy Towns has ex­tended its thanks to Ru­pert Till, for his im­pres­sive sculp­ture; Ed­ward Tim­mins and Wick­low County Coun­cil for deal­ing with plan­ning per­mis­sion re­quire­ments; Moore’s Pub for host­ing the re­fresh­ments; and to the great crowd that joined them on the day to cel­e­brate the un­veil­ing.

The Tidy Towns com­mit­tee op­er­ates purely upon vol­un­tary do­na­tions re­ceived from vil­lage res­i­dents, with­out which such projects would not hap­pen.

Cllr Ed­ward Tim­mins with John O’Toole and Ju­lia Glass at the un­veil­ing of the plaque at the ‘Ca­pall Agus Mar­cach’ sculp­ture in Grange­con.

Fr Ger Ah­ern PP at the un­veil­ing in Grange­con vil­lage.

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