Over the years, the value and/or importance of tradition has cropped up several times on these pages. Whether it was in terms of rivalries between different teams or things that happen even fairly regularly that are associated, say, with a particular area. All of the above recently came back to mind, now read on…
The occasion was Thyestes Chase day in Gowran Park, the highlight of their season at the Co Kilkenny course and, as it happens, a special day every year for the people of our locality as well. You see, Thyestes day is also the annual outing for the members of Brady’s Betting Club in Dunboyne.
The club has been going for about a dozen years and though it’s only in more recent times – through the kindness of Sean Nealon, Eoghan D’Arcy and everyone else involved – that I’ve been aboard, it means the world to me to be part of it all. As ever, this season’s venture was a day of great craic with great friends, and there was a nice few quid made as well!
Sometimes the simplest things make the greatest difference. Now, while in one way the day is also tinged with a degree of sadness – for me at least – (not least the fact circumstances don’t allow me to stay for the ‘festivities’ in ‘extra time’!), it’d be hoped that all would understand when it’s said that the presence of one man made the day for me this year.
Gary Clarke was one of the founding members and remains a driving force behind the club. Last year overcame very serious illness and his strength and courage have been nothing short of inspirational. Gary, thanks for taking me on board, and may the Brady’s expedition continue for many years to come.
Anyway, apart from our trip, history was repeated multiple times on the day in other ways. Willie Mullins winning any race is hardly a surprise nowadays, still, his annexation of the showpiece on that particular day was quite the achievement. For, the victory of On His Own – a second in the race for the horse – was a fifth for his trainer. Thus equalling the record of the legendary Tom Dreaper in the race.
Ironically, history came within half a dozen lengths of repeating itself in another way also, 2014’s Thyestes marked the 50th anniversary of the victory of the mighty Arkle – trained, of course, by Dreaper – in the race and turning into the straight it appeared his son, Jim, was about to mark the occasion in the best way possible as his Los Amigos – with Andrew Lynch up – was bang there with three to jump.
In the end, they only succumbed to the might of the Mullins artillery, and there’s no shame in that. At this point, Los Amigos would appear one to put in the notebook for the Irish Grand National, while the victor would look to be well on target for his stated aim of having another crack at Aintree.
Elsewhere on the card, as with any meeting anywhere at this time of year, there were clues to be found for the forthcoming spring festivals. Outside of Mullins, a couple of the more obvious ones hailed from the Gordon Elliott yard. Mala Beach has, throughout his fledgling career, looked a horse capable of going places. And though the ground is unlikely to come up soft enough for a tilt at the World Hurdle, there appears every chance big days will be had with him. Similar feelings abide concerning his oft luckless yet ultra consistent stable mate, Un Beau Matin.
Bumpers have always held a special place in this corner. Probably traceable back to a day Noel Meade was encountered on the way into Fairyhouse. Noel was practically the only one known to me in racing at the time and, though his own horses had been off form around the same period, his words that day engrained what’ll hopefully be a lifelong love of racing. The advice was that the steed “Paul’s sister” was aboard in the finale was worth a punt.
That, of course, meant Nina! Ms. N. Carberry (5) duly triumphed on Echo Point, trained by Ger Lyons and for a long time thereafter, whenever I was having a punt, anyone who knew me could even tell it’d be ‘Nina in the Bumper’! Meeting Noel all that time ago was a blessing, he’s an utter gentleman, one of the best in the business and hopefully will always be so. Not even he, however, has been able to live with the might at Mullins’ disposal in recent campaigns.
Nowhere has his dominance manifested itself greater than what is generally the concluding race on the card. Whenever one is enduring a bad day’s gambling, the get-out clause is usually to latch on to whatever Closutton send out in the last. So it has been on the last two excursions to Gowran.
Last year, Sizing Tennessee hacked up and was duly earmarked by yours truly for the Cheltenham Bumper. That didn’t happen, but, as of now, Black Hercules looks the one they’ll all have to beat. Biggest dangers may yet come from his stable mates.