Florida Pearl Horse Of A Lifetime

One of the few positives about the current Pandemic is it gives you a chance to look back at some of the sports iconic horses. I am going to take this chance to look back on one of my all-time heroes Florida Pearl. It is worth setting the scene before the emergence of Florida Pearl. The late 1980s and early 1990s were a dismal business for Irish jump racing fans. The Cheltenham Festivals from 1987 through to 1992 featured very few winners for Ireland with no Irish winner at all in 1989. There were circumstances for this an economy in tatters in Ireland and the export of our best horses to top UK owners. This was the reality for Irish jump racing and its supporters. A group of horses would emerge from the dire landscape in the 1990s to change the jump racing narrative back in favour of Ireland. Those horses would include, Danoli, Dorans Pride, Imperial Call, Istabraq, Klairon Davis and of course Florida Pearl. This group of horses would capture Grade ones at the Cheltenham Festival and usher in a golden era for Irish jump racing. Florida Pearl would also propel an up and coming trainer Willie Mullins forward. Florida Pearl would become the Closutton maestro's first real top horse in a career that would run from December 1996 through until February 2004. As a young man learning the sport Danoli, Dorans Pride, Imperial Call, Istabraq, Klairon Davis and of course Florida Pearl would become my heroes and teach me the sport as regards ups and downs. They would be joined by other stars like Moscow Flyer, Hardy Eustace, Brave Inca and Kicking King. For me, it would always be Florida Pearl who stood above them all in my eyes.

Florida Pearl was born 21-4-1992. The Sire was Florida Son & his Dam Ice Pearl, both of whom were British bred. Florida Pearl made his debut when winning a four-year-old Maiden point to point at Lismore in March 1996 winning by three lengths. Florida Pearl first came to my attention at Leopardstown on December 26th 1996. Florida Pearl won the bumper on the prestigious Leopardstown card by a stunning five lengths from the Aidan O'Brien trained Promalee who himself would turn out to be a very decent horse. I did not see Florida Pearl's victory live, however, I was in Leopardstown on the 27th. They showed a replay of the later races from the 26th. I was blown away by Florida Pearl, his stride and his speed stuck with me.  Florida Pearl. was then stepped straight up to Grade 1 class for the 1997 Cheltenham Festival where he won the Champion Bumper by five lengths in his final appearance of that season. Florida Pearl was breathtaking on the day controlling the race from near the pace, setting sail for home coming down the hill. Florida Pearl opened up to pulverize the field. Among the beaten horses was French Holly beaten nearly ten lengths in sixth. Florida Pearl returned 6/1 after a significant drift on the day. Irish eyes were very much smiling as Florida Pearl was considered many peoples bet of the week.  It was very clear leaving Cheltenham that Florida Pearl was a star of the future in the making. I was into Florida Pearl now.

It was announced Florida Pearl would go straight over fences. It seemed to make perfect sense he was a big horse with lots of scope. Florida Pearl was already being spoken of as a potential Gold Cup horse. Ireland had only had two Gold Cup winners since 1985. Dawn Run 1986 and Imperial Call 1996. The Irish racing press and the racing public longed for the days of Arkle and the domination of the Dreaper era. The search was constantly on for the new Arkle. Florida Pearl made his chasing debut on 29-12-97 at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.  Florida Pearl won the Beginners Chase at Leopardstown by twenty lengths at evens under Richard Dunwoody. Florida Pearl jumped and travelled superbly. I went to the local bookmakers to watch it I was delighted.  Following that Christmas victory, Florida Pearl was stepped up in class for the Grade 2 Dr.P.J. Moriarty Memorial Novice Chase, for which he was an 8/11 odds on favourite and obliged with a 1-length victory over Boss Doyle. The third horse was Hill Society 31 lengths behind in third. The fascinating thing about this form was Boss Doyle would take the Grade 2 Mildmay Novice Chase at Aintree's Grand National meeting. Hill Society was "beaten" by the official verdict of a short head it would be a nose now in the Arkle at Cheltenham. Many people including myself believe the Arkle was a dead heat. The Leopardstown form for Florida Pearl worked out well.  Florida Pearl was sent off the 11/8 favourite for the RSA Chase, he would carry the burden of being the Irish banker. I was not found wanting and was happy to have my biggest bet of that festival on Florida Pearl. The race was an easy enough watch as Florida Pearl travelled and jumped superbly kicking off the home turn with a nice turn of foot. Florida Pearl jumped the last fence very well he was a ready winner as he defied his relative inexperience over fences (just two runs)  to record a 1½ length victory over Escartefigue, under Richard Dunwoody, maintaining his unbeaten record.

I was hoping Florida Pearl would become a Gold cup horse, having been brought up on stories of Arkle. I hoped Florida Pearl would step up to the mark the next season. That was it for the season and the new Arkle talk began in the newspapers. At this time my brother Dave was playing cricket in South Africa. I used to send him any newspaper clippings I could find about Florida Pearl, sending them off by Air Mail. There was no internet then. I used to write letters to Dave about Florida Pearl's current progress as well as my hopes for potentially great days ahead.

Florida Pearl's first start of the 1998/99 season at Leopardstown in December in the Ericsson Chase where he was sent off an odds-on favourite. Travelling strongly in the race, Florida Pearl slipped on the approach to the fence forcing him to make a mistake three out which resulted in him falling, leaving Doran's Pride to win. I was so disappointed Florida Pearl fell losing his unbeaten career record in the process, my mood was not helped by my triumphant father Jim having backed Dorans Pride. Dad rubbed it in, with him being Arkle's biggest fan it was a long car journey home. I knew it would not take long for Florida Pearl to strike back. Despite the fall at Christmas, Florida Pearl was still sent off an odds-on favourite for the Irish Hennessy in February 1999, where he recorded a 2-length victory over old rival Escarefigue with very little fuss. It was a great day for me as I went through the card at Leopardstown. Knife Edge 4/6, Alexander Banquet 1/2, Nick Dundee 4/6, Limestone Lad 11/4, Florida Pearl 8/15, Elegant Lord 1/1 and Three Kings 5/1. I had them all in 35 win trebles 35 win four folds and an each-way accumulator. Not a bet I would do now however it remains the only time I went through an entire card. The closest I came to doing it again was at Epsom on 31-5-13. The winners that day Thistle Bird 3/1, Resurge 6/1, Gregorian 3/1, Vainglory 12/1, Well-Acquainted 4/1, Heavens Guest 6/1. The only one I missed was Talent who won the Oaks. There were also no multiples this day all singles. On both occasions, I was at the races in Leopardstown and Epsom.

Anyway after that diversion down memory lane back to Florida Pearl. Before the 1999 Cheltenham Gold Cup. There was a race meeting at Leopardstown on 7-3-99. It was announced Florida Pearl would work after racing. There was nothing else to do but go and watch. I had got Cricket training in the morning. I convinced my younger sister Helen to come. We managed to convince our dad Jim to drive us out to Leopardstown collecting me from training on the way. We had a decent day backing four winners. It was all about the gallop after racing. It was very cold and nearly dark. Helen was trying to understand why I was so keen to see it. I explained I won't be in Cheltenham so I just want to feel part of it. Florida Pearl moved through the gears very well. I went home happy. Helen said, " I am freezing he better win the Gold cup after that". We also had to make our way home Dad not falling for the return leg journey.

On the back of his, Leopardstown victory Florida Pearl was then sent off the 5/2 favourite for the 1999 Cheltenham Gold Cup under Richard Dunwoody I was looking forward to this although I was not in Cheltenham for this one. I had the day off work. I had decided to watch it on my own as I wanted to enjoy every second of it. I also knew if Florida Pearl got turned over I would be very disappointed and some things are better suffered alone. I was very confident going into the race.  That confidence was tested early on in the race which was a disaster from start to finish Dunwoody opted to hold Florida Pearl up way off a strong pace for some reason. I knew Florida Pearl was in trouble early. The horse seemed disappointed at being held up he wanted to go but Dunwoody kept holding him up. It was an infuriating watch, Florida Pearl wasn't making bad mistakes however he just was not his usual fluent self losing momentum. Turning in Florida Pearl was in second and briefly looked to have a chance. That hope faded fast Florida Pearl finishing a 17-length 3rd behind the winner, See More Business. It was a hammering and a very deflating experience. I watched the race back and started to wonder if Florida Pearl stayed the trip of the Gold Cup he got very tired after the last. I put it down to Dunwoody's negative ride and moved on from it.  Florida Pearl made his final appearance of that season in April in the Punchestown Gold Cup, where he was once again sent off the odds-on favourite and finished a 14-length 2nd to Imperial Call. Although Imperial Call was an old friend and I was happy to see him win. I was getting very concerned about Florida Pearl's margin of defeats. The summer had come hopefully next winter Florida Pearl could get back on form.

A change in the season saw a change in jockey as Paul Carberry took over from Richard Dunwoody who had retired. I welcomed a change although I still thought Florida Pearl needed a prominent ride. The style of Paul Carberry was generally one of a hold-up ride. I did think Carberry would use Florida Pearl's speed very well. An attribute that people often overlook when discussing Florida Pearl. The 1999–00 season began in the Grade 1 James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase at Down Royal. Florida Pearl won it from Doran's Pride by 2½ lengths. It was a comfortable success with the result never in doubt. A Grade one win on seasonal debut things were looking up. Florida Pearl then contested the Ericsson Chase for the second season in a row, where he again failed to justify odds-on favouritism when finishing 2nd to Rince Ri. This was very disappointing as Florida Pearl was well clear of his rivals on ratings. Carberry seemed to have a lot of horse under him jumping the last, however, Florida Pearl got beaten a neck. I was gutted. Florida Pearl then came back to Leopardstown to contest his first Handicap, where he only just defied top weight when running out a short head winner from subsequent Grand National winner Amberleigh House. It was a brilliant weight-carrying effort as Florida Pearl gave Amberleigh House Forty Pounds (40). I backed Amberleigh House when he won the Grand National, it was this race that made my mind up to back him on the day!!

Florida Pearl then contested the Irish Hennessy for the 2nd successive season and was a 5½ length winner over old foe Doran's Pride with Rince Ri a further 35 lengths back in third. This was a brilliant performance, taking the race by the scruff of the neck six fences out jumping superbly and powering away. Leaving Leopardstown my spirits were high I felt Florida Pearl could win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The partnership with Carberry was going well four races and three wins. There was one horse I was worried about in the Gold Cup his name was Looks Like Trouble. I had previously had a bad experience with Looks Like Trouble. This horse had won the 1999 RSA Chase. Looks Like Trouble was very much the villain of that race in my eyes. I was a fully paid-up member of the Nick Dundee fan club, this horse had an incredible engine. In his three starts before Cheltenham Nick Dundee won by Fifteen Lengths, a distance and Fifteen Lengths. Still to this day, it was the biggest bet of my career in relative terms. I had been backing Nick Dundee every week from Christmas and again on the day. It was all going to plan until the third last Nick Dundee came down sustaining a serious injury, never to fulfil his enormous potential. Looks Like Trouble under Paul Carberry was within two lengths of Nick Dundee at the fence to be fair they were a distance clear of the third horse. It was a dreadful day in every respect from my point of view, however, it was also a great punting lesson. I can recall the feeling when Nick Dundee was about to fall. I also can remember my feeling when I saw poor Nick Dundee standing on three legs in terrible pain in one of his hind legs. I learned two things that day. No matter how good a horse is Cheltenham is not Disneyland, you do not always get a happy ending. The second lesson was I was more upset for Nick Dundee, the money lost felt unimportant compared to the stolen future, the potential unfulfilled. The unanswered questions. Nick Dundee would recover thanks to Coolmore's brilliant vets, however, he was never the same again dying as a ten- year old at home having fractured his leg. The money lost was a blow at the time of course, however like I said great lessons I still live by now.

I just felt Looks Like Trouble had been able to stay with Nick Dundee so he was a bigger danger then See More Business Looks Like Trouble had won the Pillar Chase at Cheltenham at the end of January and he was two from two at Cheltenham. Martin Pipe had the very talented novice Gloria Victis a real trailblazer. Gloria Victis had destroyed a good field in the Racing Post Chase at Kempton by ten lengths. Gloria Victis was a top novice having won the Feltham by eighteen lengths over Christmas at Kempton. I hoped Carberry could sit on the tail of Gloria Victis with Tony McCoy sure to force the pace in my view. I could not wait for the Gold Cup it was shaping up to be a vintage renewal.

Florida Pearl went back to contest the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where he was sent off the 9/2 joint 2nd favourite behind the previous year's winner and favourite, See More Business (9/4) drifted on the day from 13/8. Looks Like Trouble was really solid in the market at 9/2. Gloria Victis also drifted from 7/2  out to 13/2. I thought the market was about right. I backed Florida Pearl each way at 5/1. I thought it was a better race this time around than the 1999 race. I was happy to not go mad betting wise and savour the race.

The pace was strong as Gloria Victis took them along. Florida Pearl made two mistakes on the first circuit one bad one. Looks Like Trouble made a bad mistake on the first circuit as well. Florida Pearl and Looks Like Trouble were racing together the race was unfolding as I expected. See More Business pressed Gloria Victis for the lead going out for the second circuit. Gloria Victis began to jump markedly to his right, however, his massive engine saw off See More Business he was beaten at the third last. Paul Carberry made his move off the home turn charging into the lead Florida Pearl showing a nice turn of foot. I roared Florida Pearl on thinking this was it this is the moment. Florida Pearl jumped the second last in the lead. Looks Like Trouble was not backing down, Johnson galvanized his horse. Gloria Victis crashed out at the second last when getting the worst of the argument.  Florida Pearl and Looks Like Trouble settled down to fight it out on to the run to the last fence. Looks Like Trouble had a length lead they both jumped the last well. Looks Like Trouble powered away for a five-length win. Florida Pearl got very tired in the last 100 yards he just held on for the second place. It was a great race, I was proud of the race Florida Pearl ran he gave everything. Carberry had ridden a superb race, Looks Like Trouble was a worthy winner. In a race which was marred by the subsequent death of the brilliant novice Gloria Victis. It was very tough on Martin Pipe who got a lot of criticism for running the novice in the Gold Cup as a six-year-old. After what happened to Nick Dundee in the RSA the previous season. I could understand why he ran Gloria Victis. The horse had so much potential it was a real shame. Martin Pipe was a regular target for certain sections of the media, they pursued Pipe after the Gold Cup in a very unpleasant manner.

In the cold light of day, Florida Pearl had been unsuccessful in his bid to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The realization hit me he was probably never going to win the Gold cup he just did not stay the last furlong. It was that straight forward, he was a brilliant three-miler. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is Three Miles Two Furlongs and 110 Yards. It is that last furlong and the 110 yards that makes all the difference. We saw it with One Man. I began to think that the One Man story could be a lesson for Florida Pearl's connections. I thought maybe the King George was a better target then the Ericsson Chase Florida Pearl had been beaten twice in that race. Florida Pearl's speed would suit the King George. These were all questions for the  2000/01 season.

In the 2000/01 season another jockey started the campaign Ruby Walsh, Florida Pearl made five appearances, all at Grade 1 level.  Florida Pearl had no luck in his first three races of the season, starting in the James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase, where he finished a distant fourth to reigning Cheltenham Champion Looks Like Trouble.  Florida Pearl was dispatched by over 20 lengths. Florida Pearl went on to be denied by a short head by Native Upmanship in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown. I never liked Native Upmanship he never really took part in a race his whole goal was to sneak into the race and mug an opponent late on. It was especially galling that he managed to steal the race from Florida Pearl. There was good news post-race. Florida Pearl was heading to Kempton for a go at the King George. I was delighted with this and was sure the race would suit Florida Pearl. See More Business was the market leader at 6/4 I was full sure Florida Pearl would take care of him. I knew nothing about First Gold from France except Francois Doumen was a very good trainer and had a good record at Kempton in King George when coming over.

I woke up on St Stephens day (Boxing day in high spirits) confident of victory for Florida Pearl. My younger brother Ronan was bringing his girlfriend Rachel to St Stephen' s day dinner. We had never met before. Rachel was in the front room with me watching the build-up to the race. Rachel said she knew nothing about racing. However, in this story, Rachel was a superb witness. Rachel described my three emotions, build up = Total confidence, no thought of defeat. During the race = confidence getting replaced by concern followed by disbelief. An hour after the race = acceptance, coupled with Florida Pearl will win the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, what date is it on? Ronan and Rachel got married 19-10-2007. They and there two children Ryan and Sarah now come with myself and other family members to Leopardstown on the 28-12 every year. Rachel and I still laugh about our first meeting at family nights.

  The race itself was run at a frantic pace with Edredon Bleu setting a scorching gallop. Florida Pearl made a mistake early, however, Ruby Walsh brought him into the race at the home turn going well. The French horse First Gold powered away to win by ten lengths with Florida Pearl second eleven lengths clear of the third horse Bellator. I was sick after the race the best horse had won on the day, however, Florida Pearl had run a good race. The words of commentator Simon Holt felt like a knife in the heart " Florida Pearl has to settle for second again". Florida Pearl regained the winning thread under another new jockey Richard Johnson, when winning the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup for the 3rd successive season, beating stablemate Alexander Banquet by 2 lengths. He was unable to run at the Cheltenham Festival because it was abandoned due to the 2001 Foot and Mouth Outbreak. In his final appearance of the season, Florida Pearl finished a 6-length 2nd to Moscow Express in the Powers Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. This was the Punchestown Gold Cup in reality however it was rerouted to Fairyhouse due to track problems at Punchestown.

The 2001/02 season started with Paul Carberry back on board. It was to be a successful season for Florida Pearl.  Although it began with a 2½ length 3rd behind Foxchapel King in the James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase. Florida Pearl exacted sweet revenge on Native Upmanship from the previous season with a short head win in the John Durkan Memorial Chase. I got a great kick out of this as it was wonderful to see Florida Pearl hold off Native Upmanships late mugging tactics. It was back to the King George which I was looking forward to. Another crack at First Gold now owned by JP McManus. The new star was Best Mate everyone was talking him up. I thought a horse of Jonjo O'Neills called Legal Right could run well. I was pretty hopeful about Florida Pearl's chances. Adrian Maguire came in for the ride late falling the abandonment of Wetherby. Willie Mullins unbelievably still had no confirmed jockey on the morning of the race. As a punter, I am much more interested in the horse then the jockey. That said I was delighted Maguire was on Florida Pearl. I was on at 10/1.

The race was perfect from start to finish Maguire jumped off in a prominent position using Florida Pearl's speed and jumping. Florida Pearl did not give First Gold any peace. Best Mate was held up by McCoy. Florida Pearl turned up the heat from the home turn seeing off Bachannal and First Gold. It was then the young pretender Best Mate who was the last challenger. Florida Pearl sailed over the last with a brilliant jump. Again Simon Holt calling the race " Best Mate with a fight on his Hooves, Florida Pearl can he hang on today?"  Florida Pearl will win the King George and no horse deserves it more". It was superb, unreal I was jumping up and down in my parents front room. Placed in two gold cups, however now a King George winner becoming only the fifth Irish horse ever to win it on a list that included Arkle. I was delighted for Florida Pearl, he was finally going to get the recognition he deserved. Florida Pearl went back to Leopardstown to contest the Irish Hennessy for the 4th successive season, where he was sent off the 6/4 favourite and finished a 25-length 4th behind the winner and stablemate Alexander Banquet. He went back to contest the 2002 Cheltenham Gold Cup, where he finished 11th of 18 behind the winner, Best Mate. These were two puzzling efforts maybe the King George had taken a lot out of him, he was never a factor at Leopardstown or Cheltenham.

Florida Pearl returned to England for his next start in the Grade 2 Martell Cup Chase (now the Betfair Bowl), where he cruised to an 11-length victory over Cyfor Malta. I think this was Florida Pearls best performance he jumped from fence to fence and butchered the field under Barry Geraghty. Florida Pearl made one more successful appearance that season when winning the Punchestown Gold Cup by 3 lengths over Native Upmanship (always nice to beat him).

In 2002–03, Florida Pearl failed to get his head in front in five attempts. After being beaten a distance in the James Nicholson Wine Merchant Champion Chase and the King George, behind More Than A Stroll and Best Mate respectively, he was pulled up in the race associated with him, the 2003 Irish Hennessy. He was then dropped down to 2 miles at the Cheltenham Festival and finished 8th of 11 behind Moscow Flyerin the Queen Mother Champion Chase. I was a fully paid-up member of the Moscow Flyer fan club at this stage. It was hard seeing Florida Pearl just trying a race. I backed Moscow on the day, however, on my way up to the parade ring I went to the losing parade ring to see if Florida Pearl was alright. I saw he was and I joined in the Moscow Flyer party.  In his final start of the season, he finished fifth behind old foe First Gold in the Punchestown Gold Cup. The season had been a disaster. A back issue was found in the summer.

The following season, 2003–04, proved to be Florida Pearl's final season racing, and he only made two appearances on the racecourse. Richard Johnson was on board for the season He began the season in January 2004, where he made a successful return to action at Fairyhouse in the Grade 3 Norman Grove Chase over two miles one furlong, running out a 2-length winner over Rince Ri. In his final race, Florida Pearl returned to Leopardstown to contest the Irish Hennessy one last time, where he was sent off the 5/1 fourth favourite in the betting under jockey, Richard Johnson. I went to Leopardstown knowing in my heart of hearts this would probably be my last time to see him on a racecourse. I thought he could win. Florida Pearl jumped well throughout he took it up the running four from home going well. Harbour Pilot crashed out at the second last leaving Florida Pearl clear. The Leopardstown crowd roared him on. I started running down the terrace getting right behind Florida Pearl. The loose Harbour Pilot ran across him at the last Florida Pearl was nicely clear. Florida Pearl defied the odds to win the race for the fourth time at the age of 12, with a 3-length victory over the 15/8 favourite, Le Coudray. It was amazing Florida Pearl got a brilliant reception. I was beaming I couldn't stop smiling for hours. I hoped he would be retired after the race. Florida Pearl was officially retired in the summer of 2004.

Florida Pearl was retired to the Irish National Stud living out his days as part of the living legends exhibit. Mine and Florida Pearl's paths were to cross one last time. Two very good friends of ours Andy and Celine Dunne got married in Barberstown Castle Co Kildare 28-3-2008. There was a party the next night which were staying for 29-3-08. My wife Siobhan suggested we go to the National Stud she knew Florida Pearl was living there. I had missed it when we arrived our tour guide said you will get the to meet and greet the living legends including Florida Pearl. I was dumbstruck, we got to the end of the tour however the horses had been put away for the evening. I went into the office explained to the girl big fan etc. Her reply was you know what he looks like he is in that barn go and get him you can walk him around. I entered the barn there Florida Pearl was I couldn't believe it. I was genuinely starstruck. He had his long rein on. I walked over rubbed him, gave the rein a tug he came with me. I spent 45 minutes leading him around etc. I did not want to give Florida Pearl back.  It was an incredible experience.

Florida Pearl died on Saturday evening 5-5-12, aged 20, at the Irish National Stud. I heard the news I was saddened he had not had long in retirement but having seen him I knew he had enjoyed it. Florida Pearl left a huge legacy.  A career which contained Grade One wins in seven seasons. One of the greatest steeplechasers we have seen, his speed was also obvious in his Cheltenham Championship Bumper success. Florida Pearl won 16 races, nine of which were in Grade One company, from 33 starts. Significant victories included the Champion Bumper, Royal & SunAlliance Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, the Martell Cup at Aintree the Punchestown Gold Cup, The King George at Kempton and a record-breaking four Irish Hennessy Gold Cups.

Willie Mullins said at the time of Florida Pearl's death: “He was the best chaser we’ve ever had. He was a huge horse in my career and he gave myself and the O’Learys some fantastic days. “In winning a King George and four Irish Hennessys, as well as two wins at the Cheltenham Festival, his record speaks for itself.“He enjoyed a fabulous retirement at the Irish National Stud and I’d like to thank them for the way they looked after him.”

Former jockey Adrian Maguire was aboard Florida Pearl when he defeated the great Best Mate by three-quarters of a length in the King George. Maguire said at the time of Florida Pearl death: “ He had it all, he had size, he stayed well, he jumped brilliantly, and he also had speed.“He was my last big-race winner in the same year I broke my neck, and as you get older you appreciate those great days even more.“It was certainly one of my greatest days in the saddle, he was just a fantastic racehorse.“He was also great for Ireland. He had such a great following and generated amazing interest whenever he ran. He’ll be badly missed.”

I got to meet Paul Carberry a few years back. We were both guests of REA Grimes at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday. We ended up having a drink together. We chatted for about ten minutes about Florida Pearl. What Paul Carberry told me was " Florida Pearl was so classy, he had speed lots of it and a great jump in him, he was a lovely horse to ride ". I enjoyed the conversation so much, a fantastic insight. Paul Carberry told me " I rarely get asked about Florida Pearl usually Harchibald"

I would finish by saying. I enjoyed every minute of following Florida Pearl, I learned so much about racing from him.  Florida Pearl's painting hangs in our kitchen it always will.  My wife Siobhan bought it for me a few years after Florida Pearl retired. It is very much a treasured item. Whenever I walk into Leopardstown racecourse Florida Pearl is the first horse I think of. Great days, great horse and one I will never forget.