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Tributes paid to record-breaker Provideo’s lad Syd McGahey

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Tributes have been paid to Syd McGahey who died on Wednesday and will be forever associated with record-breaking racehorse, Provideo.

Syd, who was 75, and lived in Valley Way, had worked in racing all his life after coming to England as a 15 year old from Derry in northern Ireland.

“He saw an advert in the paper for an apprentice jockey in Malton in north Yorkshire with trainer Pat Rohan and he got the job,” said his widow Carolyn.

Syd McGahey with Provideo who set a 20th-century record for wins by a British-trained two year old.
Syd McGahey with Provideo who set a 20th-century record for wins by a British-trained two year old.

Like most apprentices Syd had a few rides under rules but his destiny was to be one of racing’s backroom boys and in 1967 he made his way south to Newmarket to work for Paul Davey who, at the time, was private trainer for the multi-millionaire David Robinson at Carlburg stables. He later worked for town trainers Doug Smith, and William Hastings-Bass, before he joined Bill O’Gorman’s team at Graham Place.

It was there that he came to look after a two-year-old colt called Provideo who was to define his working life in racing.

In 1984 the colt set a 20th-century record for a British-trained two year old when he won 16 of his 24 races, his winning run starting in the Brocklesby Stakes at Doncaster in March. By July he had equalled the 20th century record of 13 wins by a British juvenile which had been set in1975 and matched by another Newmarket colt, Spindrifter, in 1980.

Provideo’s trainer, Bill O’Gorman, said: “Syd played a big part in Provideo’s success; he was not a nice horse to deal with but the two of them seemed to get on well together and, as with Alan Houston and Timeless Times, that was a big part of such a strenuous campaign.”

Provideo, who Syd called Seamus, went to to to equal The Bard’s all time record of 16 wins an effort which saw Syd named Stable Lad of the Year. After leaving Bill O’ Gorman Syd worked for William Haggas, and for Luca Cumani for 10 years retiring in 2010.

A three-time stable lads’ boxing champion he suffered a number of injuries during his racing life. “It wrecked his body,” said Carolyn, who recalled how as a 17 year old he had been given the last rites after rupturing his liver. He was also badly bitten by Provideo, described as “a devil to manage” when he took the colt to race in California in a bid to break The Bard’s win record.

Out of racing Syd was a regular at his local, the former Palomino pub in Valley Way, where he worked behind the bar for more than 20 years.

He leaves his widow, daughters, Gail and Ciara, and grandsons Eoin and Aedan. His funeral service will be held on Wednesday and friends are asked to gather outside the Racing Centre in Fred Archer Way at 11.30am to bid farewell as his cortege passes on his final journey.

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