'Start Of A New Legacy' – Jetara Bids To Do Outstanding Family Proud At DRF

Gerry McGrath (right): gets a post-race debrief from Barry Geraghty along with Kate and Jessica Harrington | Racingfotos.com

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Gerry McGrath, breeder of Champion Hurdler Jezki (Ire) (Milan {GB}) and high-class performers Jett (Ire) (Flemensfirth), Jered (Ire) (Presenting {GB}), Jetson (Ire) (Oscar {Ire}) and Jenari (Ire) (Milan {GB}) all out of the outstanding broodmare La Noire (Ire) (Phardante {Fr}), has outlined hopes that the legacy can continue with leading Dublin Racing Festival contender Jetara (Ire) (Walk In The Park {Ire}).

A granddaughter of La Noire, the mare who was famously gifted to McGrath by his late father in the nineties, Jetara will take on the boys in the G1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle on Saturday and will arrive at Leopardstown in the form of her life after posting three wins on the trot. 

It was in 2020 when McGrath, 72, decided to offer the majority of his breeding and racing stock as part of a dispersal at Tattersalls Ireland. All bar the first foals out of each broodmare he owned were offered under the hammer and, once again, lady luck was on the breeder's side with the now Grade 1 aspirant Jetara one of the fillies he decided to retain. 

McGrath joked, “It's hard to get out of this game! It was a couple of years ago when Michael O'Leary said he was getting out but he still has plenty of horses. Basically, Jetara is the start of a new legacy, isn't she? If she stays safe, she is going to continue on the line.”

There is a common theme with McGrath's horses. They all begin with the letter J and, for the most part, they have been trained by Jessica Harrington. 

McGrath may well have felt that the final chapters of his famous association with the La Noire family had been written after the dispersal of less than four years ago which makes Jetara's emergence as a top-notch prospect all the sweeter.

“I hope that the best may still be to come with Jetara,” he explained. “She was superb in a Grade 3 at Leopardstown the last day and Jessica says that she will be even better on a nicer surface. We will see how Saturday goes but we will probably skip Cheltenham and target Fairyhouse and Punchestown, although that will be Jessica's decision.”

He added on his association with Harrington, “She is fantastic. Jessica is straight-talking and you know exactly where you stand with her. She always does the best she can by you and, what she has gone through last year, she is as strong as an ox. Nothing keeps her down.”

What makes McGrath's achievements even more mind-boggling is the fact that, prior to being gifted the amazing foundation mare La Noire, he had no knowledge about breeding or racing horses. Nobody could accuse him for being asleep at the wheel with Jezki's memorable Champion Hurdle performance in the colours of JP McManus last decade put forward as an obvious highlight.

He said, “Jezki winning the Champion Hurdle was an amazing day. And it's funny, you know, everybody knows the horse but they don't know his name. They call him jet ski. He was named after my daughters Kim and Zoe. So, as usual, we start off with the J, and added in the Z for Zoe and the K for Kim.”

It may be common practice in some jurisdictions for a horse's name to begin with a certain letter depending on when they were born. However, in this case, the naming of the steeds is once again down to nothing but pure superstition. 

McGrath explained, “Well, the mother was La Noire, which translates to black, and I just thought when you think of black, you think jet black. The first one beginning with the letter J was successful and, given we are a very superstitious crowd, we kept it going.”

He added, “I wasn't born into horses. My Dad was big into the breeding but he used to give away the fillies and race the boys. I was out helping him in the yard one day and he told me he was about to give La Noire away but asked me if I wanted her first. It was purely timing, otherwise somebody else would have owned La Noire. I hadn't a clue about breeding but learned as I went along. I knew what I had and I knew what I hoped to produce. One and one doesn't always make two and, even when you think you have the perfect formula, it doesn't work that way with breeding. But luck has been on our side. La Noire was so prolific. I must also say that Coolmore have been a great help to me.”

Having carried McGrath's colours for the early stages of his career, Jezki was sold to JP McManus, for whom he sported the famous green and gold hoops of the legendary owner when out-battling My Tent Or Yours (Ire) (Desert Prince {Ire}) in the 2014 Champion Hurdle. Similarly to Jezki, two more siblings, Jenari and Jered, were sold mid-career to McManus, and McGrath revealed that Jetara will probably change hands at some point in the near future such is the need to keep the wheels turning. 

He said, “Jetara reminds me so much of Jezki. The way she jumps and travels is similar to him and, you know, she's probably a roomier mare to La Noire so she should make a very good broodmare down the line. I don't have an interest in breeding anymore so, if somebody does come in for this filly, there is a likelihood that she will be sold. It has to make some business sense.”

He added, “When we had the dispersal, I decided to keep the first foal out of each of the mares. I kept Jetara in the hope that she'd be good and thank God that luck has been on my side again. We also have Jekiki (Ire) (Soldier Of Fortune {Ire}) in training. She is out of Jeree (Ire) (Flemensfirth), who hasn't produced anything of note yet, but she has a lovely four-year-old by Order Of St George (Ire) who is in Jessica's and is apparently showing the right signs. Do you want to know what he is going to be called? Jerrari. Like Ferrari, only with a J in front of it. Now, he's not red, but hopefully he's as fast as one!”

It's not just the naming of McGrath's horses that have captured the imagination down through the years. His bright orange colours, which can be seen from outer space, are just as synonymous as the names. 

“I am a bit of an artist so I drew up some blank colours and started colouring them in to see what worked. Orange and black works nicely so, when it came to getting the colours made up, I had two types of orange to choose from. I went with the bright fluorescent orange. You can see the colours through the fog. 

“But it's funny, they say racing is the sport of kings. Well what town in Ireland do you associate kings with? Tara. Say no more!”

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