Paul Carberry remembers ‘machine’ Harchibald

“I rode a lot of good horses but he was definitely my favourite.”

Paul Carberry has hailed Harchibald as “a total machine of a horse” as he paid tribute to Noel Meade’s hurdling great following his death at he age of 25.

Some would say Harchibald and his ever-loyal pilot were a match made in heaven, with Carberry’s style and ice-cool nerve perfect to maximise the son of Perugino’s quirky personality but undoubted ability.

The duo linked up 28 times together on the racecourse, returning to the winner’s enclosure nine times, and while both would become popular racing figures in their own right, their affinity for each other stood the test of time.

Meade described Harchibald as his favourite horse upon the news of his death and that sentiment has been echoed by Carberry, who holds his former mount in the highest esteem.

Harchibald in action
Harchibald in action (Fiona Hanson/PA)

“He was a serious horse and my favourite horse as well I suppose,” said Carberry.

“Noel said he was his favourite horse, but he was my favourite too. He was a quirky character but a total machine of a horse.

“He had so much ability and his quirkiness meant he was the type of horse I liked to ride. He was one you had to land on the line and you couldn’t go too soon on him.

“His jumping was also very good and he was the best hurdler I ever rode – he was very fast and I suppose that is what made him pretty special.”

A motionless Paul Carberry aboard Harchibald (centre)
A motionless Paul Carberry aboard Harchibald (centre) (Barry Batchelor/PA)

Harchibald and Carberry joined forces to score at Grade One level on five occasions, with trips to the UK proving fruitful for the Irish-based pair as they won both Kempton’s Christmas Hurdle and the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle twice.

However, for all the many great days they enjoyed together, they will perhaps always be remembered most for the time defeat was snatched from what looked the jaws of victory in the 2005 Champion Hurdle.

Carberry was sat motionless up the run-in but ultimately lost the battle with Hardy Eustace, going down by a neck with Brave Inca the same distance away in third.

However, the Irishman feels there can be no regrets about that day and Harchibald was simply a victim of circumstance having travelled supremely into contention much earlier than anticipated.

Carberry continued: “We had some great days and I think he is the horse I rode the most Grade One wins on. We had some very good days and also one particularly bad day. I think people probably remember that day more than any other day.

“I think that day he was just a bit unlucky, he got gaps when I probably didn’t need them and he just got there too soon. It was a fair horse that beat him as well so you can’t really complain too much.”

Another of Harchibald’s narrow reversals, to Straw Bear in the 2007 Christmas Hurdle, had Meade questioning why Carberry never reached for his whip to try to bridge the head differential with AP McCoy’s mount.

However, the brilliant bay’s rider was never in any doubt that his accomplice was giving maximum effort and explained that no matter what impression Harchibald may have given to the viewer at home or spectator on track, he always had the most tenacious of triers underneath him.

Harchibald locked in battle with Straw Bear at Kempton
Harchibald locked in battle with Straw Bear at Kempton (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

Carberry added: “I always knew he was giving me his best, but nobody else knew that. He would always give his best and give all he could give, that was just the way he was.

“You just had to know how to time it right to get the best out of him, go slow at the start then finish fast.

“I don’t think he really stayed two miles, he was more of a one-mile-six horse and you just needed to regulate that a little bit to get the best out of him.”

“I rode a lot of good horses but he was definitely my favourite.”

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