Go Native seeks luck of Irish and £1m bonus
The Times - 2010-03-16

Go Native will win his connections a £1 million bonus - not to mention £211,000 in prize money and a place in Irish folklore - if he can outrun 11 rivals in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham today. writes Julian Muscat.

The seven-figure jackpot has been dangled by WBX.com, an online betting exchange that sponsors the first in a series of three races that a horse must win to claim the bonus. Go Native, who has already landed the first two legs, is expected to start favourite to complete the sequence today.

Go Native, who made 25,000 guineas at auction five years ago, is owned by three families from Galway. The six-strong syndicate are headed by Eamon Doyle and Kitty Carr, who joined forces with Carr's sister and brother-in-law, Maura and Sylvie Dowd. The Dowd's children - Tom and Ann Marie - complete the group. Go Native is their only horse.

As partners in the Park House Hotel, Doyle and Carr are more than accustomed to racing revelry. Galway races for seven days in July, when racegoers' excesses make the Cheltenham Festival seem like a children's tea party.

A posse of the families' relatives and friends will be at Cheltenham today to cheer on Go Native. Among them is Dowd's brother, Sean, all the way from Australia. Carr, for her part, is deeply superstitious. She will wear the same outfit and hat she wore at Kempton Park when Go Native won the second leg over Christmas.

None of those in line for the bonus would speculate on how they would spend the money. Should Go Native prevail they will share a £700,000 payout. Noel Meade, who trains the horse, will collect £150,000, with a further £100,000 going to Alan McIlroy, the stable lad who looks after Go Native. The rest of Meade's staff will share the remaining £50,000.

This is the fourth year WBX.com has offered the bonus - and the first time the company has not hedged its liability. “For the first three years we hedged against the prospect of a horse winning the bonus with another bookmaker,” Ian Turner, PR manager of WBX.com, said yesterday. “Each year the odds we were offered got shorter, so we didn't take it up this time.”

Instead, the firm repeatedly backed Go Native to win the Champion Hurdle after he landed the first leg, the Fighting Fifth Hurdle, at Newcastle in November. “We were able to back him at decent odds,” Turner said. “We are only short change away from winning the million we need.”

Ironically, one of Go Native's most dangerous opponents today is Punjabi, who won the Champion Hurdle last year. Punjabi would almost certainly have scooped the bonus had he not fallen when challenging at the second-last flight in the middle leg at Kempton Park.

Go Native and Solwhit represent Ireland in the Champion Hurdle on a day when horses from that country head the market in five of the six races. It could be an occasion to remember for a nation deeply scarred by recession. Dunguib is forecast to start at odds-on for the opening Spinal Research Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Victory for Dunguib would set alight a four-day Festival that culminates with the much-anticipated totesport Gold Cup showdown between Kauto Star and Denman on Friday. However, two Irish-trained horses, Mourad and Shakervilz, were yesterday ruled out of their respective Cheltenham engagements by their trainer, Willie Mullins.


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