Graeme McDowell thrilled with above-par performance from Givemefive at Kempton

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell. (Photo by George Tewksbury/PA Wire)Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell. (Photo by George Tewksbury/PA Wire)
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell. (Photo by George Tewksbury/PA Wire)
Graeme McDowell was happy to concede defeat to his hero Sir Alex Ferguson, as sporting worlds collided in the Coral Adonis Juvenile Hurdle.

The 2010 US Open champion was represented at Kempton by Harry Derham’s Givemefive, a horse he was obliged to purchase after losing a bet on the golf course to the young handler, and one who McDowell has also persuaded five-time major champion Brooks Koepka to become involved in.

Having impressed his owners watching on from Florida with impressive victories at Market Rasen and Warwick, there was no way the Northern Irishman was missing his biggest assignment to date, calling in at Sunbury on his way to play in the Middle East to get his first ‘in person’ taste of the ownership experience.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

While green jackets and Claret Jugs were not up for grabs at Kempton, Givemefive showed all the guts and determination that has always impressed those close to the four-year-old, producing an above-par performance to claim a silver medal.

He went down by the barest of margins to Kalif Du Berlais, with not only Derham’s uncle Paul Nicholls spoiling the party but also the former Manchester United manager Ferguson, who was in Saudi Arabia to watch his Spirit Dancer land a very valuable prize.

“It’s my first experience as an owner live and Harry has made this an unbelievably cool experience,” said McDowell.

“We were gutted but Sir Alex is one of my heroes, so I’m happy to let him have that one there – he looks a hell of a horse as well.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“They think very highly of Kalif Du Berlais and I thought we had it for a second, but it was a lot of fun, it was a great race. I couldn’t have asked for anything more and if he popped his head in front there that would have been dream stuff, but it was a lot of fun.

“There are a lot of parallels to golf and you could get a horse with all the talent in the world, but the wrong attitude and it’s not a champion horse. Givemefive is not the biggest horse in the world, but we love his attitude and his work ethic and the team at Harry’s keep calling him a little dude. That was a hell of an effort.”

The three-quarter-length defeat did little to diminish the enthusiasm of McDowell who admitted to being bitten by the racing drug after this first visit to watch his charge.

He went on: “There’s nothing quite like doing it in the flesh, it’s a first time for me and it’s really cool. It’s a bit of a drug and I can see how people get hooked.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Brooks was supposed to come, we’re on our way to the Middle East right now and on the road for three weeks, so it was tough to get away for an extra day away from the kids, but I really wanted to come and see this race and it was sort of on the way.

“I flew in this morning and I got a little red eye going, but a few beers and I’ll be OK.”

McDowell revealed Koepka has also been fully engrossed in Givemefive’s progress from his Stateside base and was immediately on the phone in the aftermath of his Kempton appearance.

“I think Brooks wants a stable full of the things and he wants to know if Givemefive is running in the Kentucky Derby this year!” quipped McDowell.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s been a fun experience and Brooks has enjoyed it, he’s texting through and obviously we’re disappointed but we love the effort from Givemefive.

“I think Brooks was wondering what I was dragging him into. The story is Brooks had won his fifth major last year and we had just got Givemefive and we’d spoken about it and I said to him ‘I think we’ve got a horse here you need to get involved with’.

“We have a WhatsApp group and it’s lighting up all the time and Brooks is texting away.”

McDowell and Koepka are far from the first members of the golf fraternity to flirt with horse racing, with the legendary Gary Player, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood just a few who have a keen interest in the sport.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Following Givemefive’s progress has proven far from straightforward due to the busy nature of the golfing calendar, but the latest duo to swap their golf clubs for the racecourse have been extremely impressed by the way Derham has made them feel part of his close-knit community of owners.

McDowell added: “There is a big crossover with golf and horse racing and I have spent a lot of time around guys like JP McManus. I think for the guys growing up in the UK and Ireland like myself, then racing is kind of in the blood.

“I got to know Harry through AP McCoy actually and when he was talking about getting his own yard, I said ‘hey when you do, let’s do something together’. I’m so happy for him and he’s such a nice guy with a great team. It’s been great to see his success and also to be a small part of it.

“I was walking behind Harry coming out from the stables into the paddock and I was thinking ‘this is kind of cool, what you have to do’. You see these guys training at home and getting to see them grow into the athletes they are and then coming out of here and competing.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We’ve had so much fun so far and Harry and his team have really made it fun and exciting and interactive, living in Florida and still feeling very connected to the yard and the training and everything that is going on.”

In Givemefive, both Koepka and McDowell now have a high-class performer to take them on the next stage of their ownership journey.

Having provided one half of the golfing duo with a day to remember at Kempton, exciting plans for the future will now be formed over a celebratory drink at the 19th hole.

“I’m going to spend some time with Harry because I’ve not seen him since I lost the bet with him in London last year about Givemefive,” said McDowell.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It was a decent bet to lose and if you are going to lose a bet, it may as well be that one!

“My heart was racing harder than it’s raced for a long time there and with what they think of Kalif Du Berlais and what he could go on to achieve, for Givemefive to hold his own as a smaller horse and to hang in there the way he did shows his work ethic.

“He’s a cool horse and I think we’re going to have some fun with him.”