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Greatest Racehorses: Golden Cygnet


Timeform profile Golden Cygnet, who achieved a rating of 176.

Pedigree Details

Sire: Deep Run

Dam: Golden Cygneture

Dam’s Sire: Golden Vision

Breeder: John T. O’Brien

Foaled: June 21st, 1972

Jumps Race Record & Fact file

Races: 7

Wins: 6

Owner: Raymond Rooney

Trainer: Edward O’Grady


Golden Cygnet raced over jumps for one season only and is the highest-rated novice hurdler in Timeform’s history, a brief career of notably high achievement yet tragically unfulfilled potential, no exaggeration to suggest he’d have developed into one of the best hurdlers ever. By the time of his death he’d achieved more in his first season as a hurdler than either of the two most recent Champion Hurdle winners, the outstanding pair Monksfield and Night Nurse, at the same stage of their careers. In receipt of just 1 lb from Sea Pigeon he was set to win the Scottish Champion Hurdle when he fell at the final flight, suffering injuries which necessitated him being put down a couple of days later.   

1977/78 Season

There wasn’t much in Golden Cygnet’s Flat career that suggested he was likely to develop into a top-notch hurdler. He didn’t make his debut until he was four, and was disqualified after passing the post first in a maiden on debut but gained a legitimate victory in an amateur riders’ maiden on the last of his three outings that season. He ran three more times on the Flat without distinction, being gambled on for the Leopardstown November Handicap on the final one, before having his attentions switched to hurdling towards the end of 1977. It didn’t take him long to show he was going to be completely different proposition at the winter game, justifying favouritism at Clonmel first time up before running away with a winners’ hurdle at Leopardstown on Boxing Day. His Cheltenham preparation was completed by further successes at Naas and Punchestown, having to work harder than might have been expected at Naas (also survived a stewards’ inquiry) but back to being impressive at Punchestown.

Golden Cygnet was sent off 5/4-on in a field of 18 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, once again ridden by the teenage amateur Niall Madden, and he toyed with his rivals at every stage, leading on the bridle at the second-last before quickly asserting when nudged along entering the straight. He was six lengths clear at the last and 15 to the good at the line without his rider even coming close to picking up his stick, those who followed him home, including Western Rose and Bootlaces, were amongst the best of the English-trained novices.

Golden Cygnet looked every inch a future Champion Hurdler that day, as he did when justifying long odds-on at Fairyhouse a couple of weeks later, a measure of the impression he’d created no better exemplified by the weights for the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr the following month. Golden Cygnet carried 11st 13lb at Ayr, just 1 lb less than Sea Pigeon, 5 lb more than the Champion Hurdle third Night Nurse, 7 lb more than the Champion Hurdle fourth Beacon Light, and 12 lb more than the Sweeps Handicap Hurdle winner Decent Fellow. Even at these weights, Golden Cygnet was sent off joint-favourite with Sea Pigeon, and the market was in the process of being proved correct when tragedy struck. No sooner had Night Nurse worked his way to the front under pressure at the second-last than Golden Cygnet loomed up alongside, still to be asked for his effort when he crashed out at the final flight. Night Nurse himself was overhauled on the run-in by Sea Pigeon, who came with his usual late burst to win by half a length.

Golden Cygnet did get to his feet after the fall, albeit understandably seeming dazed after such a tumble, but his trainer wasn’t sufficiently happy with him to let him travel back to Ireland immediately, instead sending him to the veterinary unit at the University of Edinburgh. Sadly, Golden Cygnet’s condition deteriorated considerably a couple of days later and he had be put down having suffered a brain haemorrhage.

Golden Cygnet wasn’t much to look at it, described as rather sparely made in Chasers & Hurdlers 1977/78. He was from the first crop of the multiple champion jumps sire Deep Run, the best of a poor set of Irish two-year-olds in 1968 and runner-up in the Irish St Leger the following season (also won a two-mile hurdle in England for Fred Rimell). His dam was unraced and out of another unraced mare herself, hardly surprising then that Golden Cygnet cost his trainer a mere 980 guineas as an unbroken three-year-old at Goffs November Sales. Eddie O’Grady has had many good horses through his hands since that fateful day at Ayr, but the strong likelihood is that he’ll never again be responsible for one as good as Golden Cygnet.

Major races won

  • Slaney Hurdle, Naas
  • Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Cheltenham

Also read about:

182 Night Nurse
180 IstabraqMonksfield
179 Persian War
178 Comedy of ErrorsLe Sauvignon
177 LanzaroteLimestone Lad
176 Bird's NestBulaFaugheen
175 BaracoudaGaye BriefSalmon SpraySea Pigeon




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Wednesday 31 May
P. J. McDonald silk P. J. McDonald horse in focus
Dianne Sayer
2. CIOTOG (IRE) 84
Billy Loughnane silk Billy Loughnane
Mark Loughnane
5. END ZONE 83
Jonny Peate silk Jonny Peate
Roger Fell
Go to full race



1st Joanna Mason silk 4. POUND OFF YOU 10/34.33
2nd Jack Mitchell silk 1 3. MANYANA 9/25.5
J: Joanna Mason  
All 6 ran.


1st Franny Norton silk 7. PORT NOIR 11/26.5
2nd Kieran O'Neill silk ½ 9. MR FAYEZ (IRE) 13/27.5
3rd Jefferson Smith silk nk 2. YIMOU (IRE) 9/25.5
8 ran. NRs: 8 


1st Mr P. W. Mullins silk 2. DR EGGMAN (FR) 4/91.44f
2nd Mr A. Harvey silk hd 10. INTENSE APPROACH 3/14
3rd Mr E. Mahon silk 8. PHANTOMOFTHEPOINTS (IRE) 125/1126
15 ran. NRs: 1  11  18  19 


1st Daniel Muscutt silk 6. BOBBY DASSLER (IRE) 10/34.33
2nd Paul Hanagan silk ¾ 1. SILVER SCREEN 6/17
3rd Alistair Rawlinson silk 1 3. ARDBRACCAN (IRE) 12/113
T: Tom Ward  
All 11 ran.


1st W. M. Lordan silk 7. CAPE BRIDGEWATER (IRE) 15/28.5
2nd R. P. Cleary silk 12. TEORIE (IRE) 16/117
3rd Shane Foley silk nk 9. GALILEO'S COMPASS (IRE) 10/34.33
J: W. M. Lordan  
13 ran. NRs: 8 


1st Rowan Scott silk 2. GIRL MAGIC 9/25.5
2nd Billy Loughnane silk 1 6. RAVEN'S UP (IRE) 11/112
3rd James Doyle silk 2 8. CLASS MEMBER 12/113
J: Rowan Scott  
T: Alice Haynes  
All 9 ran.


1st Kieran Callaghan silk 1. IRIDESCENT (IRE) 8/19
2nd Sean Flanagan silk 5 6. CIANKYLE (IRE) 18/119
3rd J. J. Slevin silk 11 7. TUFF DAYS (IRE) 7/18
J: Kieran Callaghan (7)  
15 ran. NRs: 11  17  18 


1st Paul Hanagan silk 4. MAJESKI MAN (IRE) 9/43.25jf
2nd Daniel Muscutt silk ¾ 3. LIPSINK (IRE) 11/26.5
J: Paul Hanagan  
T: Paul Midgley  
All 5 ran.


1st W. M. Lordan silk 14. TASTYEE (IRE) 7/18
2nd C. D. Maxwell silk 1. AREANA (IRE) 25/126
3rd William James Lee silk ½ 12. CLEOPATRA'S NEEDLE (IRE) 15/28.5
4th Siobhan Rutledge silk ½ 13. MISS UPBEAT (IRE) 17/29.5
J: W. M. Lordan  
17 ran. NRs: 17  19  21  4 
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