Niall Dawson – The Fans Base

Estimated read time 9 min read

Hi, my name is Niall.

I’m thrilled to join the team at the finishing line podcast. I’m 18 but have always had a massive interest in horses and horse racing. My father is the one who got me into it and my uncles and family have all owned a couple of horses in the past.

When I was growing up I preferred to watch a Saturday meeting at Gowran Park over the big premier league match of the weekend, probably not the usual things you would have thought an eleven-year-old would be getting up to after his week in primary school but I loved it.

I would go to all my local tracks, Tramore, Gowran, Clonmel, and Tipperary, and occasionally the big ones in the Curragh, Leopardstown, or Punchestown. Although I probably should be focusing on my Leaving Cert, I much prefer racing and I’m grateful I get to talk about it for the first time.

My Top Five Horses of all time: 

Although I haven’t been around long enough to see some of the greats like Istabraq or Dawn Run, I’ve got a personal collection of my favorite horses in the short time I’ve followed the game. 

  1. Douvan: Labeled by Willie Mullins as perhaps the best horse he’s ever trained from a pure ability point of view, it’s a shame we never really got to see his full potential. Having said that he was still a two-time Cheltenham Festival winner and an 8 time grade 1 winner. He also received a rating of 182 which put him just right behind the likes of Best Mate and Don Cossack. I was there in November 2014 in Gowran Park, when he had his first run for Willie. One of the reasons he stands out to me so much is because it’s one of my first vivid racing memories. We just watched Faugheen gallop to victory in the Coral Hurdle on an old television outside the Gowran Park weighing room. Me and my father both congratulated him and talked about how good he was. Patrick’s response? “Wait till you see the fella in the next”. So that has always stood with me. 
  1. Faugheen: Forgive me if this list is dominated by a certain W P Mullins but having only watched racing for a small amount of years, his horses have always been the ones who stood out to me. Faugheen the machine was undoubtedly one of the best hurdlers we’ve ever seen. Probably the best 2-mile hurdler along with Hurricane Fly we have seen since Istabraq. His devastating turn of speed was clear to see and I remember watching him win the champion hurdle in 2015 destroying a field of previous winners Hurricane Fly and Jezki who served us up some great races that year at Leopardstown. Like Douvan, his career was blighted with injuries but I was there the day he one the Grade 1 flogas at Leopardstown and it was a sight to behold. Fantastic. 
  1. Vautour: Another one for Mullins & Ricci. He was fantastic over a fence. I only have a few memories of Vautour as I was young at the time but the memories I have were great ones. Surprisingly, the first one was the time in the racing post at Leopardstown when he made a terrible mistake and was beaten by Clarcam. He then went onto win the JLT in what was one of the best rounds of jumping in the history of the Cheltenham Festival. The next memory was him just being pipped by Cue Card in a vintage King George renewal which saw faller Don Cossack come out and win that year’s Gold Cup where it was the winner of the King George’s time to hit the deck. Vautour had it all. Speed, Jumped all day and I believe he had the staying ability for a gold cup. He should’ve lined up in it in 2016 but all the talk was about how poor he had been working at home and some said he wouldn’t go to the festival at all. David Casey decided otherwise and got up on him just days before the festival and told Willie “This horse is going to Cheltenham”. The result? A flawless display in the Ryanair. We unfortunately didn’t get to see the best of him again but what an animal he was. 
  1. Al Boum Photo: A two time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner who had a strange route to the festival each year. One run on New Year’s Day at Tramore. This is perhaps why he’s one of my favorites. Tramore is my local track and it was great to see it being supported by such a great horse and the crowds that were there. He probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves at times as we saw so little of him but he’ll be remembered for those two great Fridays in 2018 & 2019. 
  1. Tiger Roll: The only Willie Mullins horse not on my list. He was small but as his name suggests, he had the heart of a Tiger. A 5 time Cheltenham Festival winner and a two time Aintree grand national winner (the first since Red Rum). He was this generation’s people’s horse along with maybe Honeysuckle to a certain degree. He was written off many times but always came back so he’s a favorite of mine. 

Top Five Horse Racing Memories 

  1. Smitty Becall winning a maiden Hurdle in Gowran: Not the most obvious one I’m sure for readers. A winner of a maiden hurdle in Gowran in June of 2018, but for me this was a great one. It was my family’s horse and I remember meeting and posing for pictures with Barry Geraghty in the parade ring beforehand. He won by head on the line and there were great celebrations afterwards. We went into the winning owners lounge after the race and had a great time. While not old enough to have a drink at the time, I was very happy with the free glass of Coke I ended up with. 
  1. Honeysuckle’s farewell: Away from maybe the few times I’ve had a big winner or small ones at my local tracks that we’re also in my mind, I certainly have a couple of standouts. Starting with Honeysuckle. By Waterford trained Henry De Bromhead, with the unfortunate passing of his son Jack, it was absolutely fantastic to see Honeysuckle go out on a high for the De Bromhead family. Also for herself, it would have been a shame to see a two time Champion Hurdle winner go out on a loss. The scenes in the parade ring and Cheltenham were a sight to behold. 
  1. Tiger goes back-to-back: Listed above as one of my all time favorites. When Tiger Roll was the first horse to win back to back nationals for the first time since Red Rum in 1974, It was an all time achievement for a horse of this era, and great to see Davy Russell winning his second National having ridden in the race for so many years. 
  1. Ruby’s last win on Kemboy: Ruby was undoubtedly my favorite ever jockey. Before I ever knew the names of horses, I knew the name Ruby Walsh. I used to wait outside the weighing room every time I went racing and get his autograph and a photo and he always had the time to stop for me. His last win on Kemboy saw him get the farewell he deserved and saw him go down as one of the greatest National Hunt jockeys we’ve ever seen. 
  1. Faugheen wins the Flogas Chase: I was there the day a 12-year-old Faugheen won the Grade 1 Flogas Novice Chase at Leopardstown. It was the best reception I had ever seen gotten by a horse and the parade ring was ten deep with people clapping and cheering the machine. I haven’t been to Cheltenham yet but it’s on the bucket list, and until then this will be the best reception or cheers I have ever seen a winning horse get. 

Horses I’m most looking forward to seeing this year: 

Away from the usually named horses we will hear again and again throughout the year. The likes of Constitution Hill & Galopin Des Champs will dominate racing talk but I’ve a few horses to keep an eye on throughout the year. 

  1. Daddy Long Legs: Second in a 3 year old flat race at Saint-Cloud in May 2022, this 4 year old should be out in the coming weeks for the Mullins team. Owned by the Donnelly’s, I heard the same things about State Man before his maiden hurdle in December 2021 as I’m hearing about this fella. He’s currently 33-1 in what looks like a wide open Supreme with doubts over A Dream to Share’s fitness and jumping, I would look into having something on this fellow. 
  1. Mister Policeman: Another French Willie Mullins horse. He’s only had the one run for the Closutton camp, but was still good when winning an open race in first time of asking in Cork beating a good yardstick in Cash Back who is also trained by Mullins. It’s not what he’s done on the track to date which has struck my eye, but watching the Mullins camp talk about him in season previews they really like this horse and could be one at 8-1 E/W for an Arkle as we don’t know where Facile Vega will end up. 
  1. Affordale Fury: It’s great to see Noel Meade have a really talented horse on his hands again and he has a very smart one in the form of Affordale Fury. He won two weeks ago in Galway on his first start over fences having been previously seen finishing 2nd in the Albert Bartlett & Irish Daily Mirror at Punchestown. He looks to love jumping fences and will stay all day. He’s currently 16/1 for the Brown Advisory and I have a few quid each way on him for that.