No longer. High-class Flat horses now regularly graduate to the top flight over hurdles, large scale dual-purpose trainers are everywhere, and jump jockeys, too, are finding that Flat racing has more to offer than a fresh intake of plodders each October. Tony McCoy, the hot favourite to be the champion jockey in his first full season as a professional, spent a vital period as an apprentice Flat jockey at The Curragh, and it is a similar path which has brought Paul Carberry, Tommy's son, to the brink of stardom in the winter game.
Carberry has been riding in Britain for little more than two months, but already - thanks to an important retainer with Robert Ogden - he has been associated with such long-established trainers as Andy Turnell and Gordon Richards. While his famous surname may have opened a few doors, the modern turf is not noted for its indulgence. Like any of the dozens of young optimists who arrive from Ireland with a saddle each year, he needed a good start.
It was far better than good. At Newbury, Carberry announced his arrival by riding a treble, worth almost pounds 15,000 in prize-money, on one of the best early-season cards. Though just 21 (he was a baby when his father won the National), Carberry's performance, in particular on Buckboard Bounce in the day's big chase, had all the polish of a veteran.
Settled comfortably behind the pace throughout, Carberry overcame an error two from home and sent his mount clear on the run-in for a clear- cut victory. Some ambitious young jockeys might have got carried away and given their horse a harder time than necessary, but Carberry appears to have that essential sympathy with his partners which all the best riders possess. Buckboard Bounce, a rather difficult but very talented animal with the best months of the year ahead of him, hardly knew he had been in a race.
Andy Turnell, whose Squire Silk completed the treble, is a respected talent-spotter and mentor for young riders, and he was deeply impressed. "I like his style, he's a bit more Flat-racey than some of the others and it shows through," Turnell said. "I prefer that style to the amateur- turned-professional who bumps up and down on the saddle.
"He's certainly one of the young stars, he's very natural at the obstacles and he rides a good finish. He's as good a young rider as there is about now, and of the younger up-and-coming jockeys, he's better than any of them in my opinion."
Some sons of famous fathers would do anything rather than attempt to follow them, but for Carberry there were never any doubts as to where his future lay. "It was always what I wanted," he said. "I started riding when I was three. My first ride on a track was in a point-to-point just after I turned 16, and that won. Then I spent some time on the Flat before going back to jumping with Noel Meade. I had one winner in my first season and four in the second, but then in 1993 I was the champion apprentice."
The jump across the water was still a big one, but his contract with Robert Ogden, arranged via a network of contacts, narrowed the gap appreciably. "The first-day treble was amazing, and the rides have just kept coming since."
Carberry already has a Festival winner to his credit, Rhythm Section in the Bumper (National Hunt Flat race) almost three years ago, and a first success over the jumps at the sport's finest venue can be only a matter of time. Carberry's only flaw, perhaps, is that, like Adrian Maguire at a similar stage, he is not overjoyed at the prospect of waiting.
"If he's got a fault, he's too ambitious," Turnell said. "He's a very brave young man and perhaps a little over-enthusiastic at the moment, but it'll come with experience."
Some long-standing followers of National Hunt racing will tell you that Paul Carberry's father was the finest rider they have seen. Tommy won the Gold Cup three times, but it was his victory at Aintree in 1975 which will linger longest in the memory.
Carberry Jnr was too young to remember it, but given the choice between victory in one of chasing's richest prizes, his choice is immediate. "The National, definitely," he said, in a way which makes finding a bookmaker to offer odds about him winning it one day an essential New Year's resolution.Reuse content