Danoli: What Makes a People’s Horse?

Good Evening!

Welcome to a new post and part 3 of me new What Makes a People’s Horse series. Today I am bringing you a Twitter suggested horse from none other than racings very own Richard Hoiles. When I asked who people would like me to research, Richard replied to my tweet with Danoli, a horse which was a little before my time, so of course I had to research this one as I have no idea who he really is. After Richard’s tweet I then had multiple other people tweeting and suggesting I definitely look into him, so today that is exactly what I am doing!

Danoli was foaled 14th May 1988, by The Parson (GB) out of Blaze Gold (GB). He was bred by Francis Austin in Ireland. As a three year old gelding he was sent to the Goffs Sale in June 1991 but failed to attract a buyer and was subsequently acquired by Dan O’Neill who sent him into training with Tom Foley in County Carlow. He was named Danoli by combining his owner’s name Dan O’Neill with his daughters name Olivia.

Danoli’s career started in 1992, when on 31st October he appeared in a National Hunt Flat Race (also known as a bumper) at Naas over 2 miles. He started the race at 16/1 with Mr P English on board. Danoli, shocking absolutely everybody, ended up winning the race, beating 11/10 favourite Atours.

We then move into 1993, on 30th January Danoli appeared back at Naas again in a bumper race this time over 2 miles 3 furlong, he started this race at 10/1 again with Mr P English riding. Continuing to surprise racing fans, he once again won, this time beating odds on 9/10 favourite Sea Gale. Three weeks later on 21st February Danoli then headed to Punchestown for another bumper race, returning to 2 miles, this time starting as the 5/2 favourite under Mr P English for the first time, he also won this race making it three out of three.

Danoli then took a 268 day break before returning to the track on 16th November 1993, this time at Fairyhouse in a maiden hurdle over 2 miles 4 furlongs, he went into the race as the 4/6 favourite, with Charlie Swan riding. Not many people were shocked at this point to see him get another win under his belt. A couple of weeks later on 5th December he returned to Punchestown for the Ballycaghan Hurdle over 2 miles where he won as the 8/11 favourite with Tommy Treacy riding. On 27th December Danoli headed to Leopardstow for a Novice Hurdle over 2 mile 2 furlong with Tommy Treacy riding again. Shocking many racing fans, he only managed to finish 3rd as the 4/5 favourite being beaten by Winter Belle (3/1) and Minella Lad (3/1) who, interestingly was trained by one of the greatest trainers I have ever seen, Aidan O’Brien.

After suffering the first defeat of his career Danoli returned to action in 1994 on 23rd January at Leopardstown in a Grade 1 hurdle race over 2 miles, dramatically stepping up in class against more experienced hurdlers. He went into the race at 12/1 with Charlie Swan riding. Not disgracing himself, he managed to finish second behind odds on 4/5 favourite Fortune And Fame. Just a couple of weeks later on 13th February he returned to Leopardstown for a 2 mile 2 furlong hurdle race, where he started the race as the odds on 4/5 favourite, winning under Charlie Swan.

Next up for Danoli was his first trip into the British mainland for the Cheltenham Festival’s Novices’ Hurdle Grade 1 over 2 mile 5 furlong where 23 ran on 16th March 1994. Danoli went into the race as the 7/4 favourite and won by two lengths under Charlie Swan. George Ennor wrote in the Racing Post:

They cheered him down to the start, they cheered him as he started, they cheered more loudly as he took the lead, and they raised the roof as he passed the post in front.

https://www.irishracing.com/news?headline=DANOLI-IS-RETIRED&prid=2487

If you want to watch his famous Cheltenham win, including shots of him returning to the the winners enclosure, then you can do so right here (I highly recommend you do, it is fantastic and the reaction from the crowd gave me goose bumps when watching!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRONfw1A3qk

Danoli returned to the British mainland a month later on 9th April 1994 where he faced a much tougher field in the Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 over 2 mile 4 furlong. Starting the race at 9/2 under Charlie Swan, Danoli shocked many by winning by a massive 8 lengths, finishing the season with another classy victory.

After taking a 211 day break, Danoli returned to the track on 6th November 1994 at Punchestown for the Morgiana Hurdle Grade 2 race, starting as the odds on 1/5 favourite with Charlie Swan riding. Surprising nobody, Danoli won easily by 8 lengths. A month later on 4th December Danoli travelled to Fairyhouse for a Grade 1 Hurdle, where he started, once again, as the odds on 4/6 favourite where he won, again under Charlie Swan, this time by 4 lengths to Dorans Pride (7/2). Next was the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle Grade 3 on 28th December where positions were switched. Danoli started as the odds on 1/2 favourite under Charlie Swan, this time finishing second behind Dorans Pride (7/2).

We then move into 1995 and after a 76 day break, Danoli returned to the track at the Cheltenham Festival on 14th March for the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 where he started as the 4/1 joint favourite. Danoli ended up finishing third under Charlie Swan behind Alderbrook (11/2) and Large Action (4/1J). One month later, Danoli returned to the British mainland for his final race of the season at Aintree in a Grade 1 hurdle race on 8th April. Danoli started as the 2/1 joint favourite and won by 3/4 of a length with Charlie Swan riding. After this race Danoli returned to the stable very badly lame, further examinations revealed that he had a fractured cannon bone in his right foreleg. He was very swiftly operated on at University of Liverpool’s Leahurst Veterinary College but at this point, his racing career was left hanging in the balance, with many worrying he may never be fit enough to return.

However after a 288 day break, trainer Thomas Foley worked wonders to get Danoli back on the track. Returning to Leopardstown for the Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 21st January 1996, where at 10/1 he finished 3rd with Tommy Treacy riding. However, his comeback was so strongly received by the public that eventual winner Collier Bay (5/1) was basically ignored as all of the attention was on Danoli’s huge comeback, which many thought would never happen.

Next for Danoli was the Red Mills Trial Hurdle Grade 3 at Gowran Park on 17th February 1996, where he attracted a record crowd! Winning as the 2/5 favourite under Tommy Treacy, the scenes were electric with the Daily Record describing it as:

a huge, happy, raucous party.”

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Not+so+much+a+horse+race…more+a+lap+of+honour.-a061279920

Danoli then headed to the Cheltenham Festival again to compete in the Champion Hurdle Grade 1 on 12th March 1996, with Tommy Treacy riding, Danoli finished fourth at 5/1 behind winner Collier Bay (9/1), Alderbrook (10/11F) in second and Pridwell (33/1) in third. Danoli then headed straight to Aintree for the Aintree Hurdle Grade 1 on 30th March, finishing 3rd as the 5/2 favourite with Tommy Treacy riding, behind winner Urubande (100/30) trained by Aidan O’Brien and rode by Danoli’s other regular jockey Charlie Swan, with Strong Promise I (25/1) finishing in second place.

After a 216 day break, Danoli returned to the track on 1st November 1996, interestingly the day I was born, at Clonmel for his first race over fences, this time winning as the 4/5 favourite under Mr P Fenton. Just 8 days later, Danoli returned to Naas for a Novice Chase on 9th November, winning as the odds on 2/7 favourite under Tommy Treacy. With his chasing career off to a seemingly flying start, Danoli headed to Fairyhouse for a Grade 1 Novice Chase on 1st December. He started the race at 100/30 with Tommy Treacy riding, however he ended up taking his first fall of his career. But do not fear, on Boxing Day 1996, Danoli headed to Leopardstown for a Grade 1 chase, starting as the 5/2 joint favourite and coming back from his first fall with a bang, winning under Tommy Treacy.

Moving into 1997, Danoli sadly started the year with a fall on 19th January at Leopardstown with Tommy Treacy on board as the 9/10 favourite, however a couple of weeks later on 2nd February 1997 he returned to Leopardstown where he won the Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup Grade 1 at 6/1, again under Tommy Treacy. Next for Danoli was the Cheltenham Gold Cup on 13th March 1997, being rode by Tommy Treacy, he went into the race at 7/1 where he unfortunately fell 2 out.

Due to multiple injury problems, the next time Danoli would be seen on a racecourse is after a 580 day break when he made his much anticipated return at Gowran Park on 14th October 1998. He finished 3rd at 15/2 under Tommy Treacy behind winner Dorans Pride (7/4F) and second place Hill Society (5/2). However, he was then hit with injury again, meaning another extended break from the track. This time being 480 days.

Danoli returned on 6th February 2000, now as a 12 year old, for the Leopardstown Gold Cup Grade 1. Starting the race at 40/1 Danoli unseated jockey Tommy Treacy after making a bad mistake 3 out. 13 days later on 19th February 2000 Danoli appeared at Gowran Park for the Red Mills Trial Chase where he finished 3rd at 5/2 under J R Barry. One week later Danoli then went to Naas for a Grade 2 chase on 26th February, where he finished second at 5/1 under J R Barry behind 7/4 favourite His Song.

On 25th March 2000, Danoli headed to Navan for a 2 mile 4 furlong Chase where he started as the 7/4 favourite under J R Barry, showing his class once again, he ended up winning by 2 1/2 lengths.

Just over a month later Danoli headed to Punchestown, for what would be his final ever race, the Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 on 3rd May. He started the race at 16/1 under J R Barry, however ended up falling.

In August 2000, Danoli’s retirement was announced with trainer Thomas Foley saying:

He’s given us some great memories and is a horse we’ll hardly ever see the like of again. We just don’t want to take any kind of chance with him in a chase and see him being put down.”

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Racing+News%3A+Danoli,+hero+of+a+nation,+is+retired.-a064142287

Danoli ended up spending the majority of his retirement at the Irish National Stud in Kildare, where he became inseparable from Melbourne Cup winner Vintage Crop.

Sadly in April 2016 Danoli was suffering with a severe bout of colic and unfortunately had to be put down at 18 years old. Thomas Foley saying:

He was a great horse for us, and we will always have fond memories. They tried everything they could and had no choice but to put him down, which was a great pity.”

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4946080.stm

Charlie Swan also spoke out about the death of Danoli saying:

People loved him because he was such a tough and genuine horse, If he could have jumped fences as well as he did hurdles, he could have even been a Gold Cup horse.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/other_sports/horse_racing/4946080.stm

After going through his incredible career, I am going to go into a few facts about Danoli, so lets just jump into it.

Firstly, I am going to go through Danoli’s race record of all of those races I have just been through:

111/1132111/11231/3143/11F1F1F/3/U321/F/

So let’s now sum those numbers up! Apart from falling 4 times, unseating his rider once and finishing 4th once Danoli always finished within the top 3! Now let’s narrow that down:

32 Races
17 x 1st
3 x 2nd
6 x 3rd
1 x 4th
4 x Fall
1 x Unseated Rider

Overall, I think the statistics speak for themselves for Danoli. He was a horse that always gave his best and even when he took a fall he’d always come back and give it his best next time out. I was born in the middle of Danoli’s career so of course I don’t remember it, but I have sat watching videos, reading articles and interviews and speaking to some followers who did witness his greatness and I could only dream to have been around to watch him, especially his 1994 Cheltenham Festival win. I linked a YouTube video further up this post with footage of him entering the winners enclosure and if you haven’t watched it then please do, I loved watching it, seeing him push and push to the line, then the crowds reaction, it blew my mind. Clearly he was such a loved horse and the true definition of the people’s horse, being known as the ‘People’s Champion’ during his career and even a plaque being placed on his stable door saying so.

Again, I really hope you enjoyed this post. I am thoroughly enjoying researching and writing them and so far the feedback I have had is incredible and I am super grateful for that. If you haven’t already seen, I do have a further 2 posts in this series so far, Native River and Faugheen so please do also check them out. I asked on Twitter for suggestions of the horses people want me to focus on in this series thinking I would receive 10, maybe 20 to look into. However, it went a little bit wild and I received over 100 suggestions, so gradually I am working my way through the list and I will be posting more of these posts throughout the year. I also have plans for a couple of new interviews and more posts in my Horse Racing History series so plenty of content during 2021. I am sticking to my schedule of 2 posts per week, one on Wednesday evening at 6pm and one on Saturday morning at 11am. It seems to work for myself, and with the blog figures I have had lately it seems to be working for my readers too.

Again, I want to thank Richard Hoiles for this suggestion and thank you to everyone else who has suggested names too! Hopefully I will see you all on Saturday for my next post!

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