Sporting Legend

DANOLI: 1988 by The Parson- Blaze Gold;  Owner (Dan O’Neill), Trainer (Tom Foley)

When Dan O’Neill and Tom Foley went to Goffs to buy a mare and came home with a gelding who from Myshall could have ever guessed the fun and big racing days that lay ahead. Dan called the horse Danoli after himself and daughter Olivia who persuaded him buy to a horse. Dan O’Neill from Hollybrook, Myshall was the registered owner of Danoli but it was like he was only spokesperson for Myshall as every time he ran Danoli had a fan club all of his own as the people of Myshall really got behind and supported the People's Champion as he was to become known. The parish of Myshall was on the world racing stage. From his first run in Naas to his big Grade one wins in Leopardstown and Fairyhouse and then this Myshall wonder horse carrying the hopes and wager of a nation was to strike the first blow for Ireland in the grade one novice hurdle on the second day of the famous Cheltenham Festival in 1994. Cheltenham erupted with noise and amongst them a strong travelling party from Myshall-some of them making their maiden voyage out of the country.

Cheltenham very rarely saw scenes like the one that greeted Danoli, Dan O’Neill, Tom Foley and Charlie Swan as the proud owner lead his horse……… well Myshall’s horse into the famous winners enclosure in the Cotswolds of Cheltenham and then it was onto Aintree where he enjoyed further success when as a novice he beat the first four home in the Champion Hurdle……. What a performance!

Myshall had a huge street party for the homecoming of Danoli and the O’Neill’s and the Foley’s. Every man, woman and child lined the street of Myshall to gain every advantage point as the families and special racing guests made there way into the street on the open top lorry. There was song, dance and much much more as Myshall celebrated into the early hours of the morning. What a night!!

Tom Foley (left) and Dan O'Neill (centre), Gold Cup Winners

Danoli went on to record loads of victories and give the people of Myshall great racing days and celebrations but in his bid to win The Aintree Hurdle for the second year running he sustained a leg injury that proved to be life-threatening. The support, get-well cards and mass cards that were received were unbelievable, not only from the people of Myshall, but also from all over the country and even as far as England. Letters arrived with just addressed Danoli- The wonder horse, another title for this remarkable animal.

Charlie Swan onboard Danoli

Danoli recovered against the odds and with great time and effort from trainer Tom Foley he nursed his stable star back to the racecourse where he finished a brave 3rd beaten only ¾ l in the Irish Champion Hurdle. The reception that greeted him that day in Leopardstown was unreal as the winner was practically ignored. The crowd was delighted to see their horse and hero had made a safe return. Danoli continued to race and one of his great achievements was winning The Hennessey Gold Cup as a novice chaser. Dan and Tom had to make a decision to retire their warrior as the leg injury started to come against him and so Danoli retired to the paddocks of the National Stud along side Vintage Crop and the two became inseparable as Danoli drew a bigger fan club and received plenty of visitors every day.

In April 2006, Danoli got a severe bout of colic and had to be put down which was devastating news for owner, trainer and Myshall as people started to remember the good old Danoli days. Young and old alike who would have never watched horse racing let alone bet on a race had their few pound on him every time he ran. What value he gave, Danoli ran 32 times won 17, 2nd 3 times, 3rd 6 times and 4th once. He never finished out of the top four when he stayed on his feet.

Danoli will fondly be remembered as THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION.

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