Ballinode (foaled 1916) was an Irish racehorse who won the 1925 Cheltenham Gold Cup. She was the first mare and the first Irish-trained horse to win the race. She was known as “The Sligo Mare.” In fact, she was trained in the townland of Ballyglass, Calry.
Ballinode was a chestnut mare bred in Ireland. She was one of the few horses of any consequence sired by Machakos, a son of the Coventry Stakes winner Desmond. Ballinode’s dam, Celia, was a half-sister to the Ascot Gold Cup winner Love Wisely. During her racing career she was owned by Christopher Bentley and trained in Ireland by Frank Morgan. The mare was named after a village in County Sligo where Bentley lived.
The Bentley family lived in Ballyglass House after the property was sold by the O’Connor family following the death of James O’Connor in 1910.
Christopher Bentley and his family are shown in the 1911 Census as being resident and farming in Ballyvorneen townland in Kilmurry, County Limerick. The household return form also shows his wife Margaret Monahan whom he married in 1901 and the extensive household includes two daughters (Aileen and Joyce) and an older son, James. Also listed are his mother-in-law (Margaret Monahan), a jockey (John Mahony), a stable boy (Edward Hickey) and two female domestic servants (Annie Connors and Kathleen Moran). The two servants hailed from County Sligo. Judging from the household return it would appear that the 39 year old Christopher Bentley was already well established in Irish racing circles.
The household return form is available HERE.
In her early racing career Ballinode won several races in Ireland, acquiring a reputation for being fast but making occasional jumping errors. In March 1924 she was sent to the Cheltenham Festival for the first time and finished second in the National Hunt Handicap Chase. A month later she finished eighth in the Grand National. In the following season she returned to Britain for the autumn meeting at Aintree Racecourse and won the Grand Sefton Steeplechase, beating Ardeen into second place. She won again at Nottingham Racecourse in February 1925. On 11 March 1925 she was one of four horses to contest the second running of the Cheltenham Gold Cup and started the 3/1 second favourite. The other three runners were the odds-on favourite Alcazar, the 1924 runner-up Conjuror and the National Hunt Chase winner Patsey V.
Ridden by Ted Leader the Irish mare settled in second place behind Alcazar and the pair soon drew well clear of the other two runners. Ballinode took the lead at the second last and won very easily by five lengths. Eighteen days later the mare started 10/1 second favourite for the Grand National but failed to complete the course.
The Sligo Champion of 24 March 1925 reported on the numerous congratulatory messages that Mr Bentley received following Ballinode’s famous victory. The article may be viewed HERE.
In their book, A Century of Champions, based on the Timeform rating system, John Randall and Tony Morris rated Ballinode a “poor” Gold Cup winner. She is remembered in the name of Ballinode Close, a residential street in Cheltenham.
One of the children shown on the 1911 Census form is James Charles (“Jim”) Bentley who later emigrated to Kentucky, USA and from there to Canada where he made a name for himself in horse racing.
He was inducted to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1981. Jim died on 7 July 1984.
His Hall of Fame citation is available at:
Contributor: Gerard Cunningham
National Library of Ireland
The Sligo Champion
Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame