So here we are, another little example of how Covid-19 put paid to what once passed for ‘normal’ life. The last Thursday in January. Thyestes Chase Day in Gowran Park. Which means the annual outing for a busload from Brady’s of Dunboyne – and a van load from our yard – descending on the banks of the Suir for the Brady’s Betting Club’s yearly excursion to the cattery.
Had this year’s roadtrip gone ahead, if memory severves me correctly, it would’ve the 20th consecutive such adventure. And a magnificent seventh for yours truly. Mind you, no pleasure is taken in admitting that some not so gentle persuasion was engaged in with the senior bossman, God rest him, to ensure my inclusion on future expeditions when I’d missed out on Paul Carberry and Tony Martin doing what they did best with Dun Doire.
Thanks to the kindness and understanding of people like Gary Clarke and Sean Ryan and Kevin Synan and – in particular – the man who made the whole thing possible, the late, lamented, dearly loved and desperately missed Eagle himself, Christy Moran.
Christy Moran was the Brady’s Betting Club (BBC) as much as it was him. It was his pet project, though run with the military efficiency of Norman Schwarzkof. The stapled bundle of papers – the ‘itinery’ for the two day stamina test – weighing down the pocket of the top coat.
2010 was my novice run. It pelted snow the entire day in Kilkenny. Whinstone Boy, trained by the king of Conna, Jimmy Mangan, took the big one while the Willie Mullins-trained Paul Kristian looked set for stardom in demolishing the bumper field but hardly ever raced again.
From a perspective though, the real ‘fun’ of the occasion dawned when it came to heading to the Kilford Arms for the grub. Or to be more accurate, getting into the dining area in our home from home in the other land of black and amber. The grub was served in a raised area to one side of the bar.
Of course, it would have been easiest for me to stay on the flat and eat in the bar, but the touring party wouldn’t have of it, so three of them – who should probably remain nameless – went off and ‘borrowed’ a sheet of plywood from a building site next door and all was well with the world again!
In the intervening years, the club have come through many tough times together, with many beloved members gone to the gallops far away and one who went up, had a look around the setup, decided it wasn’t all it was blown up to be and came back again. Yet I think and hope most people will understand and agree when it’s said that Christy’s sudden passing in August of 2018 left a void in a lot places that may never be filled.
Having said that, what better tribute to our late friend could there be than to keep the club of which he was such an integral part going. Now, I don’t make it every year and it’s only through the kindness of the lads – and Eoghan D’Arcy in particular – when it does happen but being stuck at home this year was just another part of what used to pass for a bit of a life destroyed by this bloody virus.
Be that as it may were it not for horse racing still being televised at least, I shudder to think what state my mental health would be in. Furthermore, days like that at Gowran this week make life’s arduous potholes all the more negotiable. Ironically on a day when the Kilkenny venue was just about usable, all the headlines ended up being about a beach – Coko Beach, that is.
Before the Gigginstown owned steed gave Gordon Elliott, the owners and winning jockey Jack Kennedy their second win in four years in the showpiece, Jim Dreaper got the day off to a great start for those from this part of the world when his Forrard Away was an impressive winner of the day’s opener. Building on some promising previous form.
More significantly, mind you, the winner very appropiately marked a milestone birthday for his legendary trainer too. Following on from recent news relating to Greenogue, thankfully it appears the most storied place in Irish jump racing has a few more chapters to be added to its annals yet.
The same can of course be said of two other men in the green and gold corner, Gordon Elliott and Gavin Cromwell. Though in both cases they’re fairly volumnous tomes already.
As mentioned earlier, Coko Beach gave Elliott, Kennedy and Michael O’Leary their second Thyestes triumph in four years while trainer and owner were also responsible for the runner up – the very promising Run Wild Fred. A little further back, the Willie Mullins pair Class Conti and my old favourite Acapella Bourgeois ran with enough gusto to have them merit consideration for the Nationals to come later in the year.
Cromwell’s contribution to a good day’s punting and tipping had this corner thinking of that great line from John ‘Hannibal’ Smith of the A-Team – “I love it when a plan comes together”! Now read on…
One of the very few good things to emerge in the world of sport as a result of Covid has been the introduction of 48-hour Declarations into Irish racing. For those not au fait with vernacular of the Turf, that is the official list of runners and riders for each race at a meeting is released a full two days before the fixture. The same system operates in Britain.
Where we differ from our neighbours, though, is that Bumpers here (flat races, traditionally the last on the menu) are confined to amateur riders. And, within the ranks of same there are few – possibly only two in fact – who merit comparison with Derek O’Connor.
Thus, the ageless Galway great tends to have a multiplicity of smitten suitors for such heats. Therefore whatever ends up plumping for is always worth noting and keeping in calculations.
Seeing Mr D. O’Connor listed beside an unraced newcomer from the Cromwell yard, and going into battle in the silks of the trainer’s wife, Kiva, was signpost enough for me. It’s not always a hunch like that works out but there will be no hesitation in admitting to being quite proud and pleased with myself seeing Perceval Legallois bolt home at an unbelievably generous 12/1. Two things are fairly certain now – he’s unlikely to be anywhere near those odds the next time he runs, but quite likely to be in rather familiar colours!
FOGRA: As for the following day’s tipping, the less said the better. A pat on the back really is only six inches from a kick in the a…!