Gabriel Mcdonagh will never forget the past couple of weeks. Just recently his fiancee Alicia Byrne gave birth to their first child - and then last week the 'Harness Racing Irishman' landed his first Australian winner.
“When Cheyanne was born a couple of years ago – that was the greatest thing to happen to me. But in racing nothing compares to this first win. I drove 20 to 25 winners back home but they were nothing like this. Who would have ever thought I would have achieved this. I can’t stop smiling,” Mcdonagh told Harnesslink.
The 29-year-old won behind his boss Chris Lang’s 3yotrotter named Kyvalley Rap. The gelding wasn’t fancied in the 3yo Trot – he paid $19.10 (see video).
It was Kyvalley Rap’s first win in seven starts. He paced the 2,200m standing start event in 2:56.9 (mile rate: 2:09.4) and lead time: 50.4. First quarter 32.7; second quarter: 32.7; third quarter: 30.9; and last quarter:30.4.
Enniskillen-born (Northern Ireland) Mcdonagh is from a show jumping background and only fell into harness racing by accident.
“My show jumper broke his back and after that no-one was allowed to ride him. So I raced him in Ireland and Wales and the addiction to the standardbred grew from there.
“I had 20 odd wins in Ireland and one in Wales with a couple of horses – but they were nothing like winning a totalisator race in Australia.
“I broke a track record back home but because it’s low-key there this Ballarat win was a dream come true,” he said.
Mcdonagh said he ended up in Australia because he wanted to visit his brother who is an insurance broker in Melbourne.
He liked it so much he got a job for six months at John Salanitra’s Caulfield galloping stables before switching gaits again.
In July last year he landed what he termed was his “dream job” - working for Chris Lang at Nagambie.
“I got the job through the Harness Weekly. I couldn’t believe it. Chris is the best trainer of trotters in Australia and to work for someone so notable is a privilege. You never stop learning here. I’m loving it and I’m learning heaps,” Mcdonagh said.
“Now that I have my B driving licence, I’d love to one day get an A-licence. I love Australia,” he added.
Mcdonagh said he wasn’t home-sick and had no intention of returning to North Ireland to live.
“This is home now. The trotting bug has really got me. Alicia and I have a new baby girl and we couldn’t be happier. I’ve also got a job that I love. I also get to work with one of Australia’s best horsemen and some of Australia’s best standardbreds. What more could I want?” Mcdonagh said.
Lang works a team of 25-28 horses in Victoria and has a staff of about half adozen.
Outside of harness racing Mcdonagh likes to spend time with his fiancée and daughter - and also enjoys rugby.
“The three teams I support are Ireland, then Munster, and then the All Blacks.” He said.
Good on ya mate! Great choice that third team!
By Duane RANGER (editor)
(1) Gabriel Mcdonagh’s first Australian win at Ballarat on Wednesday May16:
(2) Gabriel Mcdonagh’s home town of Enniskillen in Northern Ireland:
(3) Outside of harness racing Gabriel Mcdonagh is a big fan of rugby. His three favourite teams are in the videos below:
(c) The All Blacks: