Power of sport and generosity of spirit at its best

It’s said that a week’s a long time in politics. That probably applies to every facet of life. In some cases, it’d be more accurate to say a day is a long time. Put either way, the point is that things can change quickly, and dramatically. Some of you will, no doubt, be aware of the long held ambition here to get into racehorse ownership. Earlier this year, it seemed as if that was poignantly going to happen. Anyway, it didn’t and admittedly there was a sense of heartbreak about it. Every road has a turn though. Shortly after the horse dream was put back in the stable, the opportunity presented itself to bring another long held ambition to fruition. Said development has been one of the best things that ever happened and long may it continue.

Johnny Murtagh
The love of racing still burns, mind you, and forever will. When watching the action in person or on television – or having a punt for that matter – sometimes the risks jockeys take to earn their living and entertain the rest of us tend to be overlooked. Recent life changing injuries sustained by riders JT McNamara and Jonjo Bright brought things into sharp focus.
A man who had spent his life steeped in GAA once told me that you find your good players when you’re getting beaten. Turn it a little and a similar theme ran through the excellent fundraising day held during a fixture at Limerick to raise funds for JT and Jonjo.
Sporting codes were transcended as people from all walks of life came together for a magnificent day. It really exemplified the power of sport and generosity of spirit of the Irish people at its best. Not to mention underlining just how closely knit the racing fraternity really are.
As was said, however, the occasion was supported by an amazing cross section of society. From well known figures in the football world such as Niall Quinn and Steve Bruce to Simon Coveney, our Minister for Agriculture. Repeatedly, the point was made that only in Ireland could such a feat be pulled off. Getting 10,000 to a race meeting on a Monday. Reportedly raising over €600,000 in the process.
To be fair, within the same week those across the water had an equally brilliant spectacle in progress – albeit in very different circumstances. The British Champions Day is now an integral part of the racing calendar. Moreover, it has – in part at least – been something of an Irish benefit since its inception.
This year was no different. And it was a particularly fruitful day for the Meath racing set. Johnny Murtagh enjoyed what was surely the greatest day of his fledgling training career thanks to the very talented Royal Diamond. Indeed, he was desperately unlucky not to double up when Belle De Crecy just got touched off.
Elsewhere on the same card, Dunshaughlin based Eddie Lynam again proved he is the king of training sprinters when his Slade Power stormed to victory in a race where the consistent Maarek – attempting to defend his title – missed the kick at the start. Other highlights – from an Irish perspective – included very encouraging runs by the rejuvenated Kingsbarns and Pale Mimosa. Though there was a sour taste left after the latter when Pat Smullen got a ridiculously harsh seven day suspension. Another case of stewards over there being grossly unfair to Irish jockeys, but that’s a story for another day.
Better to conclude reflections on a great occasion by praising all concerned for having – as well as some of Sir Henry Cecil’s personal memorabilia on display – an array of trophies from other sports. Such innovation is what attracts new people to a sport – those interested in other codes might go to see the trophies from the sports they’re interested in and end up hooked on racing – that’d never be a bad thing!
There’s no reason why such an initiative couldn’t work here. In fact, it already has to a certain extent. Gowran Park are to be commended for the novel attraction they put on at a meeting earlier this year where they had Brian Cody and most – if not all – of the Kilkenny panel there on the day and named races in their honour.
Surely, with Dublin currently being All Ireland football champions – and kingpins of Leinster hurling at the minute as well – there’s an opportunity there for the likes of Leopardstown to cash in on it. The link between the GAA and racing is a strong one – indeed it manifests itself again soon enough when Meath GAA hold their race day in Fairyhouse.

Try to come out and back this venture if you can and support the team and management as they strive to bring success back to the county. Who knows, maybe the next time they’re at the races they’ll have silverware with them – here’s hoping!

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