What made this mercurial success even more remarkable is that the Sue Smith-trained horse is approaching his 14th birthday, and his Guiseley-born jockey has just spent a year on the sidelines with a career-threatening head injury.
This victory in a veterans’ contest at Huntingdon, was one of horse racing’s most uplifting stories of the year as the old warrior successfully conceded weight and age to his rivals.
Ears pricked, and with that distinctive white marking on his head, Mister McGoldrick’s jumping was so commanding that his jockey had time to have several cheeky looks over his shoulder on the run-in. “I wouldn’t mind coning him!” Elsworth told the Yorkshire Post.
“He’s a horse I’ve grown up with – my first winner was on him eight years ago. He’s a grand old servant. He was very good, albeit it was a slightly lesser race because it was for veterans, but still a great victory.”
The horse means so much to Smith, and owner Richard Longley, that they could barely believe their eyes as he recorded a commanding 14-length victory. “Dominic was choked. I was choked. Sue was choked,” said Longley. “Sue grabbed my arm halfway through the race and said ‘I want him so much to win’.
“Dominic is so much at one with the horse. When he was beaten on his reappearance at Wetherby, the horse that beat him hadn’t even been born when McGoldrick won his first race.”
This was Mister McGoldrick’s first victory since he, and Elsworth, won the 2008 Racing Post Plate at the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival as 66-1 outsiders. His subsequent 20 outings have all been epitomised by his courage while weighted to the hilt by the handicapper – the word ‘gallantry’ does not do justice to his frontrunning exertions.
It was a point not lost on Smith’s indefatigable husband Harvey, the former showjumper, as he watched the race at Haydock – and then accepted the congratulations of wellwishers who were more delighted with Mister McGoldrick’s return to winning ways than the great Imperial Commander’s success.
“Good, wasn’t he?” said Smith warming to his theme. No one dared to disagree with the great man. “If the handicapper puts him up for that, a horse that will be 14 on New year’s Day, well….he’s already ruined him once. But the horse is still as good as ever.”
While Mister McGoldrick’s future plans are fluid, Smith hopes stablemate Stagecoach Pearl is destined for better things after winning Haydock’s handicap chase.
On a successful weekend for Yorkshire trainers, Malton’s Malcolm Jefferson harbours Grand National dreams after King Fontaine also won at the Lancashire track, while Alan Swinbank’s Alfie Flits, ridden by Rhys Flint, won his chasing debut at Kelso after a 597-day lay off.
However, as his career enters its final furlong, Mister McGoldrick is still the horse that they have to catch – and then beat.