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    We will never forget Harchibald
We will never forget Harchibald
Harchibald. Source: Sky Sports

We will never forget Harchibald

Harchibald, widely adored, is best known for his role in the exhilarating 2005 Champion Hurdle, where Paul Carberry remained still halfway through the home stretch. Sadly, Harchibald has passed away at the age of 25.

Start of a journey 

Harchibald embarked on his flat racing career as a three-year-old in February 2002, securing his first victory in the Prix Sengali-Carnaval. After participating in nine additional races, including two wins, he transitioned to National Hunt racing under the guidance of Meade in Ireland. In December 2002, he triumphed in his inaugural hurdles race. In November 2004, Harchibald achieved a notable milestone by emerging victorious in the Grade 2 Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown Racecourse, with Carberry as his jockey. 

Shortly thereafter, Harchibald and Carberry claimed the 2004 Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle Racecourse, defeating Inglis Drever by a margin of two lengths. In December 2004, they secured another triumph in the Christmas Hurdle, surpassing Rooster Booster by two and a half lengths. If Harchibald had gone on to win the Champion Hurdle at the 2005 Cheltenham Festival, he would have joined the ranks of only two horses, including Kribensis in 1989/90, to conquer the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, Christmas Hurdle, and Champion Hurdle within the same racing season. Unfortunately, Harchibald fell short of victory in the race, narrowly losing to Hardy Eustace by a neck.

Harchibald. Source: Racing Post
Harchibald. Source: Racing Post

Successful days

Harchibald continued his success by claiming victory in the 2007 Fighting Fifth Hurdle and the 2008 Christmas Hurdle, marking his second triumph in each race. Notably, his win in the 2008 Christmas Hurdle prevented Punjabi from securing the £1,000,000 bonus offered by WBX for winning the Triple Crown of Hurdling.

Throughout his career spanning nearly eight years, Harchibald participated in 48 races and achieved an impressive record of 14 wins, 11 second-place finishes, and 5 third-place finishes. Among his victories, five were attained in Grade 1 races. Carberry served as the jockey for Harchibald in 9 out of his 14 victorious races.

Harchibald was greatly admired by fans of jump racing because of his impressive ability to maintain control during his races, although he didn't emerge victorious in the Champion Hurdle 19 years ago, as Hardy Eustace narrowly defeated him. On that day, under Carberry's expert guidance, he appeared to have the race in the bag, moving effortlessly towards victory. Yet, his defeat actually garnered him even more supporters due to the manner in which he fought until the very end. In fact, his trainer Noel Meade acknowledged that Harchibald's legacy would be defined not by the 14 races he won, including five Grade 1s, but rather by the high-profile race he came close to winning.

Meade expressed his sentiments to the Racing Post, stating, "Harchibald was the most wonderful horse. It's funny because he is more popular for the race he didn't win rather than all the races he did win. He didn't maybe do all the things we wanted him to do, but he did a lot of them. He gave us some fantastic days. He was a great one and we'll never forget him. He was 25 and he enjoyed a wonderful retirement. Johnny Hurley looked after him since he retired and he treated him like a king."

Harchibald. Source: Racing Factors
Harchibald. Source: Racing Factors

Exceptional ability 

When reflecting on what made Harchibald so exceptional, Meade explained that despite the belief that he was an incredibly fast horse based on his performance in races, it was actually another aspect of his abilities that truly set him apart.

The trainer stated that everyone had always claimed that he was a remarkably swift horse, but in reality, he didn't possess exceptional speed. The horse was, however, an outstanding jumper, and his jumps were so dynamic that they created an illusion of greater speed. The trainer mentioned that the horse would outperform others while airborne, and he struggled to recall instances of the horse making significant mistakes throughout its career – such instances could likely be counted on one hand. The trainer further added that Paul, the third person, had immense confidence in the horse as well. Paul believed that the horse would effortlessly clear any hurdle they encountered, and together, they formed an excellent team.

Harchibald had a remarkable presence in various notable events. One such event was the Christmas Hurdle in 2004 at Kempton, where he initially lagged behind Rooster Booster by an impressive 25 lengths. However, through a skilful ride by Carberry, Harchibald managed to catch up with the grey horse after the final hurdle. This victory was repeated four years later when he defeated Snap Tie in the same race.

Additionally, Harchibald achieved triumph in two Fighting Fifths and secured a Grade 1 victory at Tipperary.

Harchibald's final public appearance took place in a Flat handicap at Dundalk in November 2009. Prior to that, he also participated in a Grade 3 novice chase, finishing second to Sizing Europe the month before.

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