by Michael Manley
Think of a feature jumps race and the doyen of jumps trainers Eric Musgrove has not only won it but usually more than once.
Except for one race and that’s the Grand National Hurdle.
On Sunday he’s sending a team of three reliable jumpers into the $300,000 4200 metres at Ladbrokes Park Lakeside which are Tamarack, Onset and Dr Dependable.
“I’ve run a few seconds but it’s a race that’s eluded me,” Musgrove said.
Musgrove has had a great year in 2022 with eight winners and is third on the premiership ladder.
Musgrove said his three horses were fit, in good form , would benefit from the weight scale and deserved a crack at the Sandown feature event.
The Grand National Hurdle will pit Australia’s best hurdler Saunter Boy against New Zealand champion The Cossack.
It's a clash of the titans as Saunter Boy has won his last five jumps starts and The Cossack his past six.
Both will carry 71 kilos and that’s where Musgrove believes his horses which are all carrying the minimum weight of 64 kilos could have an advantage as they meet him better on weights after their recent clashes.
Tamarack has finished second this campaign behind Saunter Boy twice which were in the Australian Hurdle and also at his last start in the Brendan Dreschler Hurdle, a race Onset also finished third in.
Onset then finished an unlucky third at Casterton.
“Onset has done everything right and deserves a chance in a race such as this. She’s become more seasoned and has benefited from her long campaign,” Musgrove said.
“Tamarack is the same. He has also done everything right and should be suited by the extra distance. Dr Dependable should also be suited by the extra distance.”
"They have all got chances."
Tamarack will be ridden by his usual rider Darry Horner Junior who is also chasing his first Grand National Hurdle.
Onset will again be ridden by Richie o’Donoghue who is hoping to continue his amazing second year of riding with a win in the first Grand National Hurdle he has ridden in.
O’Donoghue has won seven races this season and is second in the Jumps Jockeys premiership behind Steve Pateman on 12.
O’Donoghue said he would love to repay the faith and support Musgrove has placed in him.
“Eric Musgrove has been my biggest supporter. He’s given me so much helpful advice. When I was really struggling to get on my feet, he gave me so much support. He’s given me a chance to showcase what I can do,” O’Donoghue said.
O’Donoghue has had 72 rides in his jumps career which 11 of them have been on Onset.
He has ridden her in nine of her 10 starts this year for three wins and four placings.
“I love her and I've bonded with her. I get goosebumps just talking about her and I get a great feeling when I’m riding her in trackwork,” he said.
“She’s a great ride. She gives you 200% every time. Not great ability but she jumps well and tries so hard,” he said.
O’Donoghue was brought up on a sheep and beef farm in Tipperary.
He said his family didn’t have a horse on its property but that changed when his mother rewarded his brother with a palomino pony after he was part of a winning team in the All Ireland four by 100 metres.
He said he fell in love with horses because of that pony which led him to pursuing a career in racing.
He did work experience with his cousin trainer Tom Hogan (who trained Gordon Lord Byron to win the 2016 George Ryder Stakes) and his love of horses continued to grow.
“I finished school and my friends went off and did degrees and I thought I’d get involved with horses," he said.
He ended up in Australia where he worked with Anthony Freedman for six months and then the same amount of time with David Hayes
Then he met his wife, successful picnic jockey French woman Marie-Melodie Pomarederus and moved to Mooroduc.
He is 190.5 centimetres tall and has to work hard to keep his weight off. He said he usually runs 15 to 17 kilometres a day or does something similar on the bike or in the gym on a step machine.
“I try to stay away from alcohol, sugar and processed food. I ride work and then I exercise. I should be around 85 to 90 kilos,” he said.
24-year-old O’Donoghue received his permanent Australian residency last October and he said that had made a big difference to his life.
He rides work for Musgrove between two and four times a week and also works for Anthony Freedman and Mick Nolen.
Musgrove is also giving another up and coming jockey Chris McCarthy his chance to win a feature race as he will ride Dr Dependable.