A treasured day remembering the men who made it possible

This piece should have been done more than a month ago. For that I apologise. When you’re dealing with mental health issues, though, days blend from one to another. Then weeks, and before you know it, months. It’s like that phone call you meant to make or the text you meant to send that got the ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’ treatment. But tomorrow rolls into another day and before you know it time has got away on you.

In this case, however, I didn’t care if it took me until Christmas to get it done. With GAA and racing being such central tenets of life in this corner and the place Brady’s holds therein scarcely needing further elaboration, the opportunity for an amalgam of all facets was sought for years and completely cherished when the dear, departed boss finally acceded to my efforts to join.

However, even with the gaffer’s blessing my tagging along on the annual excursion to Gowran Park for Thyestes day wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of the main men behind the Brady’s Betting Club (BBC). My association with the group has always been poignant, or at the very least emotional.

I first made pilgrimage in 2010 and that was quite the adventure. But then, it always is when Eoghan D’Arcy and I are let loose together. Seriously, however, a few things stand out from that maiden excursion. Firstly, it pelted snow all day in Kilkenny. Then, there was a certain member of our touring party – no names – having to ‘borrow’ a sheet of plywood from a neighbouring building site thus enabling my conveyance into the Kilford Arms for what was a most memorable feed.

Memories of a truly great day, though, are now tinged with poignancy. As it was the only venture one managed to share with Frank O’Connor who was called to the gallops in the sky just a few months later. Looking back on it now, it was also the only occasion on which I recall Tommy Dempsey being there when I was. Alas, our great Wexford friend is now holding a Steward’s Enquiry above as well.

Having then missed out on a year, my next sojourn to the banks of the Suir was also an emotional affair. Gary Clarke has been one of the main men in the BBC since its inception and without his assistance my inclusion therein wouldn’t have been possible, having fallen gravely ill some months before the Gowran run in question, that he was with us at all was nothing short of a miracle.

So to be able to be there with him on that particular day was something I’ll always treasure. That was a special occasion in other ways also, mind you, as it was the day during which Willie Mullins equalled the record of the great Tom Dreaper for wins in the race as On His Own galloped to annexation of the impressive trophy.

However, whatever about any that went before, the most recent incarnation of my being present was the most special and yet the most heart breaking at the same time. In many ways, Christy Moran was the BBC. Certainly from my own perspective, my addition to the merry band of men never would have been possible without his assistance and encouragement. He went out of his way to make me feel part of it all and for that I shall be eternally grateful.

It was also for that reason that there was no way I was missing this year’s excursion unless it was humanely impossible. Being there was a treasured day for me remembering the men who made my being there possible. What made things all the more poignant was having Christy’s two sons, Colin and Chris, and his daughter Sue’s partner, Kieran, aboard.

I’m sure there were plenty of tears shed in Christy’s honour during the day and my wet-eyed moment arrived upon seeing Chris’s photo in O’Hara’s of Thomastown on the way down. It was captioned, simply: “Dad’s Day”. No more needs to be said.

Now, if this column had been completed when originally intended, the following morsel of information may have proven valuable – but then maybe everything does happen for a reason. We ended up parked beside Philip Reynolds, owner of Presenting Percy, while Ted and Helen Walsh weren’t far away either.

On the way out, Philip was in buoyant form, complete with the John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle trophy, and looking forward expectantly to Pat Kelly’s charge’s big day. Of course, we now know that didn’t exactly go to plan, but they weren’t the first nor will they be the last set of Cheltenham plans to go awry. Just ask Joseph O’Brien.

That, however, shouldn’t lessen the standing or quality of Philip’s horse. The gelding has had many great days in the past and assuredly will do again. As the owner very graciously put it, at least he has a horse to take home. Others weren’t so lucky. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a one-horse owner or someone with a string, the loss is the same.

Anyway, I didn’t actually get to talk to Ted on the day – I’m not sure he’d remember me though a wonderful day was spent in his company at Navan a few years back – but, from a long way out his inmate Any Second Now was a horse I’d had on my radar for the four-day racing feast. Especially once Derek O’Connor was booked for the mount in the Kim Muir.

As Hanibal Smith used to say in the A-Team “I love it when a plan comes together”. Another bunch for whom plans have come together of late are the Mulvanys Bar Syndicate. The lads had some great days with Mydor a couple of years ago and they now appear to have two very useful performers on their hands in both Drakensberg and Sil Ver Klas.

They certainly have had a month or so to remember with the former scoring twice around Dundalk in quick succession under Wayne Lordan and Robbie Colgan respectively while the latter ran a fine race to be second at Leopardstown to be second to what may turn out to be a blot on the handicap from the Gordon Elliott yard before backing it up with another fine effort in a similar contest at Navan when a Gavin Cromwell inmate, Ejaytkay was the only one to get in the way!

On one of the nights Drakensberg won at the Co Louth track, it turned out to be a great occasion for Dunboyne racing folk as firstly the Dan Daly-owned Chapparal Dream chalked up one of a number of recent successes for the owner and trainer Adrian McGuinness on the polytrack surface.

The occasion of Drakensberg’s first win also saw the Rugby And Racing Syndicate – in which there is also local interest – notch a double. Indeed, they have had a lot of horses run well lately. So, even though the withdrawal symptoms and regular downer which follow the conclusion of action in the Cotswolds has well and truly set in, there’s been enough going on to keep the mind even slightly distracted until the next chapter of the sporting year takes off.

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