Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

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The Curragh, Sunday 29 March

No one ever tells you when a market peaks. So even something as trivial as buying euro is a bit of a guessing game. I'd missed the 1.40 but was happy to trade at 1.365. What terrific value for travel in Ireland or indeed anywhere in Europe. I can remember when it was not far off parity.

A staple like a pint of Guinness is typically five euro so this clocks in at a reasonable £3.66.

When in Dublin for a weekend I would normally go racing on both Saturday and Sunday. Not this weekend. The Saturday meeting was Navan. Not a favourite of mine not least because it's a poor journey from Dublin. There is no longer a "race" bus so you have to take the regular bus which will (eventually) drop you about 3km from the track. Handy eh? Instead I spent a few entertaining hours at the National Concert Hall. An 11:00 am concert featured music by J. S. Bach with the famous cellist Natalie Clein. This was followed at lunchtime by the Artis Quartet playing amongst other things Dvorak's string quartet No. 12 (American), a particular favourite of mine.

Natalie Clein takes the applause

After that it was over to Davy Byrne's for a late lunch, a superb crab salad washed down with Guinness. Betting wise it was the opening day of the flat at Doncaster, featuring the Lincoln of course, a race that has fascinated me since I backed the winner at 100/1 exactly 40 years ago. Not a tremendous amount of success in this race since. Today was to prove no exception. I backed Belgian Bill at 16/1 which was subject to a late plunge after the trainer tipped him up on C4 shortly before the start. Finished well down the field.

The Irish equivalent race - the Irish Lincolnshire - was to be run at the Curragh the following day.  This was the focus of my trip. I'd been looking at the stats for the race for the last few seasons in the lead up to my weekend. It's normally run on easy ground and this year was to be no different. Heavy overnight rain was to turn the ground description to 'soft to heavy'. There is normally around 20 runners and the winner for the last three years had been drawn high. Therefore I decided to concentrate my study on the horses drawn 22-26 (there were 26 runners declared). The shortest price of the five - Hasanour -  had only ever won on good ground so I swerved it. Of the remaining four I excluded Cheval Rouge which looked like it might start 66/1 or even bigger (using the betfair market as a guide). With due regard to bookmaker market moves (including betfair) I ended up selecting Bold Thady Quill and Aussie Valentine from the remaining three possibles. Annoyingly I missed 33/1 the former with Paddy Power. However I backed the selections EW at 25/1 and 33/1 respectively (on Saturday night) with bookmakers who were offering 1/4 odds the first five places. Not all firms were offering these favourable terms.

On Sunday morning after an early morning swim and an excellent breakfast I took the Luas tram from outside my hotel - The Spencer - down to Heuston station. I was early for my train so I thought I'd check out the National Museum which is five minutes walk from Heuston. Incredibly it's only open 2-5pm Sundays and is closed on bank holiday Mondays. When are most people free to visit museums?

At Heuston I caught the 13:25 to Kildare where a complimentary bus takes you to the track. The train was a few minutes late arriving so that made it very tight for the first race at 14:10. We arrived at the track at 14:05. The feature race was sponsored by the Irish tote. By simply showing your tote card at the turnstiles you were granted free entry. I hurried through the non-existent crowd up to the enclosures to appraise quickly the market for the first. This was an interesting 2-y-old race which was won by subsequent 2000 Guineas winner Dawn Approach on his debut in 2012. The ring market revolved around Tribal Beat (11/8) also from the Bolger stable. Two selections' prices caught my eye on the tote. They were 10/1 and 12/1 in the ring but at least twice those odds on the machine. So I had a swift punt on racecard numbers five and six. Suddenly they were off and I wasn't even aware of the names of my selections. I could see the five coming with a run on the outside, State Of Emergency got up and incredibly paid 25.80 for the tote win against the 10/1 SP! That would never happen in the UK unless the tote market was rigged!

I'd not had time to purchase a racecard or even a Racing Post at an extortionate 3.10 euro. There were complimentary copies of the truly horrible Daily Mail comic at the track so I just used the racecard from one of those for my jottings - even if it did try to tell me that high drawn horses raced on the far side of the track! The next four races proved too difficult to solve. Despite having two selections in each race I couldn't find a winner. Other punters must have struggled too - there was even a 100/1 winner which only paid 90.50 on the tote so no value there! I went close with a couple at huge prices though. Master Speaker was around 35.0 on the tote (last show) and ran well in the 6f handicap - up the favoured stands' side rail - to finish second. I went even closer with Mandamus which was touched off by a head at 25/1 (bigger on the tote). Thankfully I was still nicely in front because of the first race result.

The Curragh has a great collection of historic racing prints which adorn the corridors. Here’s one which must date from around 1980. It features Steve Cauthen, Barry Hills, Susan and Robert Sangster:

So it was on to the big one. Twenty-three faced the starter (three non-runners). My selections had seen some support and went off at 16/1 and 20/1. As they came into the straight as expected the field tracked middle to stands' side. However DeSousa, ridding Aussie Valentine, made a bold bid heading for home up the stands' rail about three furlongs out. It nearly paid off but he was caught about 100 yards from the finish by the 8/1 shot Onenightidreamed. These two finished clear of the remainder. Bold Thady Quill could only finish ninth. No matter as it proved a winning race with my 33/1 runner-up:

First two home came clear in the 23-runner field

In the last race I opposed the AOB hot pot Jacobean with Appeared and Ashraf, the latter winning easily @ 3/1 but paying 5.10 to tote patrons.

Back in Dublin centre in time for dinner. The Poles were in town for the ROI v Poland Euro 2016 qualifier. Dublin has a 150,000 Polish community. There was a very good natured atmosphere in the bars. They were all showing the match on big screens and my chosen eating place was no exception. This was The Bank on College Green near Trinity College. Visually a very impressive building:

I had broccoli and blue cheese soup served with sour dough bread followed by a concoction involving beetroot and goats' cheese. Both excellent. My waitress was from Wroclaw – which incidentally I've visited - and was one of the minority who didn't cheer when Ireland equalised in injury time!


An enjoyable and profitable trip thanks mainly to a quirky payout on the Irish tote!