Hard­ing: It’s still all sur­real, hon­estly

Irish Examiner - County - - Sport - Jor­dan Mc­Carthy

BRIAN HARD­ING en­joyed mul­ti­ple big-race wins dur­ing his time as a jockey – but few will have brought him the kind of joy that One Man did at Chel­tenham back in March of 1998.

Hard­ing came in for the ride on Gor­don Richards’ pop­u­lar grey af­ter jockey Tony Dob­bin, who was ini­tially booked to take the mount, suf­fered an in­jury.

The Corko­nian proved to be an able deputy, part­ner­ing One Man to a mem­o­rable suc­cess in the pres­ti­gious twom­ile cham­pi­onship race.

Twenty years on, Hard­ing ad­mits that it is still un­be­liev­able to think that he was on­board one of the most-adored chasers of the mod­ern era, on the day he fi­nally came good at the Fes­ti­val.

‘‘It’s still a bit sur­real re­ally. About a month ago, I watched it back, as it just popped up for some rea­son on the iPad. It’s still hard to take it in. But, ob­vi­ously it came up as a spare ride from when ‘Dobbs’ got hurt. Look, I was very lucky to get on a horse like him. It was a long time ago but it was a great, great day to be a part of,’’ he said.

There were other high-pro­file suc­cesses across Hard­ing’s 25-year ca­reer as a Na­tional Hunt jockey.

He steered the Ferdy Mur­phy-trained Granit D’Estru­val to glory in the 2004 Ir­ish Grand Na­tional, won the Mild­may Novices’ Chase aboard Gor­don Richards’ Ad­ding­ton Boy at Ain­tree in 1996 and landed New­cas­tle’s Fight­ing Fifth Hur­dle on Nicky Richards’ The French Furze in 2003.

The lat­ter is his per­sonal favourite, – when it comes to nom­i­nat­ing his favourite horse of the past two-and-ahalf decades – helped by his long-time as­so­ci­a­tion, and bi­grace mounts, aboard the Be My Guest geld­ing.

‘‘The horse that won the Ir­ish Na­tional, I would have a lot of time for him be­cause he nearly won a Scot­tish Na­tional five days later.

“He fell at the last, when up­sides in front. From that point of view, what he did was un­be­liev­able.

“Ob­vi­ously, One Man was a great day. But the horse that I had a lot to do with was The French Furze. He won a Fight­ing Fifth Hur­dle. I rode him in a Cham­pion Hur­dle and a Stay­ers’ Hur­dle. I rode him in one of the big hand­i­caps at Chel­tenham.

“I won at Chel­tenham on him on New Year’s Day 2006.

“He was quirky to start, so he had to get led-in and he was a bit of a char­ac­ter that way but, what a horse.

“When he re­tired, I think he was still rated in the 150’s maybe. He was a very good horse and I was lucky to be rid­ing him.’’

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