By Stan McCormack
The Galway Plate has a special place in the affection of Irish people and it’s one of the races where those who have no interest in racing still want to have a bet. It is 145 years since the first Galway Plate took place in 1869 and it was won by a horse called Absentee trained by Richard Bell, Newbridge, in a tight finish. Since then, many great horses have stormed up the hill to success.
One of the first heroes of the Galway Plate was the appropriately named The Liberator (Daniel O’Connell-Mary O’Toole), trained by John Hubert Moore of Jockey Hall and standing at 17 hands. He won by a length in 1875 at 7/1 and two years later was third in the Aintree Grand National before succeeding in 1879 by 10 lengths, when he was heavily backed.
He was ridden by Garry Moore who described him “as a cunning old horse”. Towards the end of the C19, George Gradwell won the race with Drogheda in 1897 and just seven months later in 1898 the horse won the Aintree Grand National.
The first Galway Plate legend was Tipperary Boy who is still the only horse to win three Galway Plates in 1899, 1901, and 1902.
He was trained by Fred Cullen, Rossmore Lodge, and ridden by Tommy Moran in all three races.
In 1901, he also won the Irish Grand National and only five horses have succeeded in winning the two races in the same year. The others were Springfield Maid (1892), Red Park (1933), Alberoni (1952), and Umm (1955). Tipperary Boy was an entire horse and went to stud without success.