Racing: Paddy Farrell's death a poignant reminder

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ON A DAY when only half of a 12-strong field managed to surmount the still fearsome fir and spruce fences of Aintree, the news came through of the death on Saturday night at the age of 69 of Paddy Farrell, the jockey whose fall in the 1964 Grand National led to the foundation of the Injured Jockeys' Fund.

Farrell had been confined to a wheelchair since breaking his back in a fall from Border Flight at The Chair in that 1964 race. He had four children under the age of seven at the time of his accident and his plight spurred the setting up of a fund to give financial assistance to riders whose careers had been cut short by injury.

The trainer Mick Easterby paid tribute to Farrell: "He was a proper jockey and a nice man. He didn't deserve to be in a wheelchair."

The recently retired trainer Jack Berry, who organises the Injured Jockeys' Fund's annual holiday for the fund's beneficiaries, added: "If you had a son who wanted to be a jockey you'd tell him to watch Paddy - he was that good."

These days there is no finer practitioner over the Grand National fences than Tony Dobbin who steered home Feels Like Gold in yesterday's Becher Chase to bring his tally over the formidable obstacles to five. Considering there are only four races a year run over the big fences, and one of those is restricted to amateurs, it is a remarkable total. The 1997 Grand National- winning jockey, successful that year on Lord Gyllene, added this second Becher Chase success to a victory in the John Hughes Memorial Chase and the 1995 John Parrett Memorial Trophy which was run over two miles of the National course.

Dobbin could hardly have felt more comfortable in any of those races than in this win with Feels Like Gold, who was in front for a full circuit of the course having taken up the running at the water jump.

"He's always a better horse fresh," Nicky Richards, the trainer, said of his 9-1 winner who finished fifth in this year's Grand National. "He done it great, no bother. As soon as he ran in the National last season I knew exactly where he was coming. When they love this place it's a great advantage to them.

"It'll be the Welsh National now, then the Eider and then back here," Richards added. Feels Like Gold was given a 25-1 quote for next year's Grand National from Victor Chandler.

Despite the high drop-out rate, the only injury reported was a fractured leg for Rodney Farrant whose mount, Samlee, came to grief at the second. All the horses returned safely including Call It A Day who was unable to give his trainer, David Nicholson, success with his last Aintree runner.

Last year's winner, Earth Summit, plodded around the course in fifth place. "He's done very well and I make it he has jumped 102 National fences, a remarkable record," Nigel Payne, part-owner of the 1998 National winner, said.

It was a good day for anyone with the surname Doran with the Aintree success of the Henrietta Knight-trained Dorans Gold and the victory at Clonmel of Dorans Pride. Michael Hourigan's 10-year-old took his prize- money haul to pounds 555,000 when landing the Morris Oil Chase at the Tipperary track for the third year in a row. He responded well for 18-year-old Paul Hourigan to see off the challenge of His Song by three-and-a-half lengths.

Plans for the 5-4 on winner are that he will have a break until either the King George at Kempton on 27 December or the Ericsson Chase at Leopardstown's Christmas festival. A trip to the Dublin track is the more likely option as he has only once been beaten there.

Doubts surround Young Kenny's participation in next Saturday's Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. Peter Beaumont is worried about ground conditions as he prepares to take the wraps off his promising young chaser.