Florida Pearl was arguably the best chaser in Ireland early this century and the two-time Cheltenham Festival winner – previously placed in two Cheltenham Gold Cups – triumphed over none other than Best Mate in a deserved success for trainer Willie Mullins, jockey Adrian Maguire and owner Violet O’Leary.
Remarkably, the jockey only got to the track an hour before the big race and was originally in contention to ride Florida Pearl in the midwinter highlight. Maguire was due to ride at Wetherby that day – over 200 miles away – but that meeting was abandoned while the jockey was in the car on his way to the Yorkshire track. He then ventured to Market Rasen to ride for his boss, the late Ferdy Murphy, only for that fixture to be also be abandoned, necessitating the dash to Kempton Park for his big-race ride.
Florida Pearl beat the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate in a memorable finish in what ranks as one of Maguire’s best days – the jockey widely recognised as one of the best-ever to never be officially crowned champion jockey.
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