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Stories about your favorite retired racehorses. For archived stories, click here.

You could say Carrickboy (Ire) was an impulse buy, and you wouldn’t be wrong. 

Trainer Ricky Hendriks hadn’t noticed the horse in the catalog for England’s Goffs spring horses in training sale at Doncaster in 2015. But when the 11-year-old gelding walked past, Hendriks did a double-take. 

“I had gone over to look at some horses for George Mahoney, and I just happened to see Carrickboy walking around the ring,” Hendriks said. “I was like, ‘OhmyGod, look at this one!’ He just looked different than all the other horses. He had a great presence about him. I looked up his form real quick; he was walking around and was going in the [sales]ring in about five minutes. His form was good; he had won a Grade 3 at Cheltenham. And I was like, ‘OK, we buy this horse and bring him over, and he’s a maiden over timber. OK.’ ”

Bred in Ireland, Carrickboy was destined for National Hunt racing (hurdle, steeplechase and distance turf bumpers) as a son of distance-loving Irish-bred turf horse Silver Patriarch – who won England’s St. Leger Stakes-G1 in 1997 – and the Irish-bred Prince Rupert mare Alaskan Princess. 

Trained by Venetia Williams, Carrickboy made his debut as a 4-year-old in 2008 and won twice over hurdles in Britain the next year. Switched to chasing in 2010, he won four times through 2014 – highlighted by that handicap score at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival (at 50-1).

By spring 2015, he was in the catalog with an uncertain future. Hendriks found himself bidding against Williams, who wanted the horse back for a young girl in her barn. But when the hammer fell at $6,290, agent Shane Flavin signed the ticket and Hendriks had the horse as a potential timber prospect for his son McLane to ride.

“The point-to-point people over there weren’t even looking at him because of the races he’d won,” Hendriks said. “But he had so much experience, and he would jump anything. So I bought him for McLane.”

Carrickboy came to the United States with six wins in 33 starts throughout the United Kingdom, including Aintree, Ascot, Chepstow and Sandown. The bay gelding settled in for a bit of downtime at Hendriks’ Pennsylvania base, spending the autumn of 2015 foxhunting – something that, to Hendriks’ knowledge, the horse hadn’t done before crossing the Atlantic.

He made his American debut in an allowance for amateur apprentice jockeys at My Lady’s Manor in April 2016 and finished second with McLane aboard. Three weeks later, they won a maiden timber at Winterthur, galloping in 37 lengths clear in soft going. After a third at Fair Hill, Carrickboy missed the 2017 season but returned as a 14-year-old in 2018. He and McLane were fourth on the Grand National card at Butler, Md., in April. Back at Winterthur two weeks after that, the injured McLane was replaced by Archie Macauley. The jockey misjudged the finish line and stood up early, but realized in time to get to the wire a half-length in front. 

After his summer break, Carrickboy headed to Far Hills for a start in the New Jersey Hunt Cup and was fourth under Jack Doyle. They were fourth again in the season-ending Pennsylvania Hunt Cup in November. 

Still up to the task at 15 in 2019, Carrickboy made two more starts, finishing third at My Lady’s Manor and Willowdale with McLane. Carrickboy retired with a record of 42-8-4-6 and $193,732 to his credit (plus two American point-to-point wins).

“The most memorable moment for me was winning on him at Winterthur for my dad,” McLane said. “It was special because it was a win on a horse he had brought over for me, and it was on a track so close to where we live. Lots of my friends from school were there, as is tradition, so to win there was incredible. I’ve also had many memorable days out foxhunting on him. He’s just everything you could ever ask for in a horse – powerful yet extremely kind and intuitive.”

Melissa Gartland echoes McLane’s sentiments. She began working for Ricky in 2020, and learned the job on Carrickboy. 

“He was pretty much the first horse I was put on,” she said. “We’d go out into The Laurels and through the gallops out there, and I would get to tag along on him and learn the ropes. I had never done anything at all with racehorses before that, so I got to learn where to put my body, where to put my hands, how to stay out of his way. He was great to learn on, and like Ricky said – you were always ‘going.’ I fell off plenty of times.”

Along with her mother Judith (“Jeddi”) and sister Sara, Melissa has foxhunted since childhood and has also competed extensively in sidesaddle classes. In summer 2022, she was offered a whipper-in position with Radnor Hunt in nearby Malvern, Pa.  

“It was something I had done as a kid and wanted to go back to doing it. When I talked to Ricky about it, he allowed me to take Carrickboy as well as Officer Sydney (Ire) to use. I was absolutely thrilled because I have always adored the horse.”

In July 2022, Officer Sydney came to live with the Gartlands at their Oak Springs Farm in Cochranville, Pa. Carrickboy followed in September. Both adjusted seamlessly to the new jobs and living arrangements, but Melissa considers Carrickboy the true superstar in the hunt field.

“He’s phenomenal with the hounds. If I have to go out and get hounds and bring them back with me, he loves having them around him,” she said. “He was really quick to get the game. The hounds hit a certain pitch [when on a line], and he knows that pitch. You can feel him get excited. There are some horses that are a little bit funny with the long lash whip, but he actually never cared about it. I can even shoot a pistol off of him.”

She had to pause and think when asked about the horse’s odd habits or quirks, but laughed when the light bulb went on. He absolutely hates the heat, bugs and hot summer months, but thrives in cold weather. And he loves mud. He and Officer Sydney regularly stroll down to the creek in their field, wade in chest-high and splash. Thank goodness for hot running water in the Oak Springs barn.

Like McLane, Melissa has one special memory. 

“In spring 2022, Ricky let me take Carrickboy to the Foxhall Team Chase in Maryland, and it was great fun,” she said. “I loved this horse before that, but they had this big 4-foot hedge on the course. I was a little nervous about it, but he did not care one iota. Ricky told me to just keep my shoulders back, so I sat up, he locked on it, and that was it. He took me over it. It was the coolest feeling I’ve ever had on the back of a horse, and that pretty much cemented it.”

Ricky Hendriks couldn’t be happier for the now 20-year-old gelding.

“Melissa is great. She always sends me pictures of him, all kinds of videos. He looks like he did the day we bought him – just fantastic.”

But McLane had the last word. 

“Yeah, he really hit the jackpot with Melissa.”


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