Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

   Home      Gowran Park and Curragh March 2012

From Camelot to Caravaggio

(24/25 March 2012)

Both tracks for this weekend’s trip were some way out of Dublin so there were options to stay nearer to the action. 

For example, it could have been the Keadeen Hotel at Newbridge for the Curragh and maybe somewhere in Kilkenny for easy access to Gowran Park. 

However the attraction of Dublin proved irresistible so on Friday we pitched up at the Davenport Hotel, somewhere I’d not stayed before. We’d booked ourselves rooms on a three nights for the price of two basis and we were not disappointed.

The impressive façade (1863) of the Davenport Hotel

The Davenport is well placed just a few yards from Merrion Square. Rooms were spacious and breakfast was excellent. 

My only negative was the lack of free wi-fi which is a problem for someone who has an Ipad permanently attached to his left arm. However the café over the road had a free wi-fi service so all was not lost. 

We had a tight schedule for the Gowran Park expedition. Heuston Station, as you may know, is about three miles from the centre of Dublin. 

Being relatively fit (old) men we decided to walk in order to catch the 11:10 to Kilkenny. The train takes 92 minutes so we had around 18 minutes to locate the 1.00 pm free shuttle bus to the races. It turned out the bus departs from Castle Gate one hour before racing and this is about 15 minutes walk from the railway station. The last time I was on a race bus in Ireland it was full of old men (like me) but most of Saturday’s racegoers were under 30 which was nice to see. 

The track was not busy. Fifteen euro gave you access to all areas. The seven-race card started with two maiden hurdles and I got involved taking on the short-priced favourites. Both absolutely trotted up. The rest of the card was kinder to me. There were untouchable winners in the fourth and sixth (at 50/1 and 20/1 respectively) but in the other races I did pretty well. From a couple of selections in both the third and fifth I found Ghahreer 7/1 (8.70 tote) and Pontiac 13/2 (10.50). 

RM Power with Pontiac. Jessica Harrington looks on

In the last I played up some winnings by taking on the two market leaders in the bumper. Often a good strategy. I went for Hidden Lite third favourite @ 9/2 which returned 7.40 on the tote. Rather like Pontiac it led all the way for an emphatic victory with the talkers both tailed off.

Hidden Lite with the delighted connections

It had been a good day's punting. 

And so began the long trek back to Dublin. A pint or two of course in one of Kilkenny’s many pubs and then another in the Brazen Head once back in Dublin. Sunday was a day very much courtesy of Tote Ireland. We had been given complimentary places for a morning guided tour of Kildangan Stud, owned by Sheikh Mohammed and situated just a few miles from the Curragh. In the afternoon we had free entry to the Curragh because we were Tote Account members. Once again if you are going racing in Ireland I strongly recommend that you open a Tote Account with Tote Ireland and then join their “Go Racing Club” which is free of charge. There are racing offers most weekends. 

We had an earlier start, having had to meet the Tote coach at 10:30 at the Curragh to be taken to the Stud. So this meant the 09:10 train at Heuston which was really the 08:10 as the clocks had gone back! About 50 account holders took part in the guided tour. We were shown around the huge estate by the Managing Director Joe Osborne. 

The powerfully built Shamardal gives us the eye

 Looking the part after just three days on the planet


As for racing at the Curragh this proved far more difficult than Gowran Park. I did manage a winning wager on Redoutable in the 30-runner (second race) maiden. This popped up at 9/1 (but tote paid me 13.20). Apart from that it was tough going, not least in the feature race the Irish Lincoln. I picked three against the enormous field and they all ran well finishing second, third and fourth. Shamardal had the last laugh – he sired the impressive 3/1 favourite winner, the Aga Khan’s Sharestan.   

Losses at the Curragh made a large dent in Saturday’s haul but overall it had been a profitable two days’ racing. 

After racing Aidan O'Brien galloped 40 of his string on the racecourse - yes 40! This included the current Derby favourite Camelot who was not extended in his gentle exercise.


Joseph O’Brien astride the valuable Camelot


On Monday we had time to take in the National Gallery, situated just across the road from the hotel. I like to drop in here occasionally to look at their Jack Yeats’ portfolio. There were only five on show - which was disappointing - perhaps the remainder were out on loan. 

We also had a look at one of the gallery’s most famous paintings: Caravaggio’s "The Taking of Christ”. We listened in amazement and great interest as a young art teacher described the painting in tremendous detail to her class of ten-year-olds. By their responses we could tell they clearly understood what was being communicated. I’ve been to many art galleries in England and have never heard such fine teaching at this level.

That’s Caravaggio far right holding the lantern


 April 2012

Link to additional photographs on Facebook: Mike Q on Facebook