Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

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Leopardstown – 5 March 2006

It’s gradually beginning to dawn on me that global warming for the British Isles means it’s getting colder. We thought it would be sensible not to travel to Ireland for racing in January or February, because of the uncertain weather. We never thought that there would be a weather risk to meetings taking place in March.

We travelled to Dublin from Birmingham with Aer Lingus. Excellent flights they were too without the “Ryan Air rush” to get your seat. All seats pre-booked to your choice. Prices competitive with Ryan Air.

Yet another new hotel, Jury’s at Croke Park a mile or so north of O’Connell Street. Hotel is only about twelve months old. Crap area but good hotel. Don’t walk back late from the centre at night but safe enough in daylight.

The hotel is very well equipped including 26” LCD flat screen TV with internet capability in the hotel bedroom. Huge en suite bathrooms offering both bath and stand alone power shower cubicle.

At La Mere Zou on Friday night we ate what turned out to be the most expensive meal of the weekend, but by far the best. King scallops and langoustines served with sauté potatoes and washed down with Sauvignon Blanc. Belgian chocolate mousse and dessert wine to finish.

It started snowing quite heavily on Friday so on Saturday morning my first thought was to check on teletext whether Fairyhouse was going ahead that day. Amazingly my flashy flat screen TV didn’t have a text facility. What’s more I couldn’t get the internet function to operate. But this was Saturday morning so surely all I had to do was tune into Channel 4 and watch the Morning Line!

No news is bad news

I sat through the whole of the Morning Line. Plenty of stuff about who Mark Kershaw had Sunday lunch with. Chapter and verse on Small Mac’s visit to the dentist. But not a single mention of racing at Fairyhouse. Time to advertise a premium rate telephone number though, so that Irish punters could contribute funds to the programme by entering their tipping competition.

I found out later that the meeting at Fairyhouse had been abandoned, following an 8 am inspection, information that could easily have been broadcast during the C4 programme. A disgraceful snub to their Irish audience.

A quick change of plan then, as there was no Saturday racing. We did the tourist thing and went to the Guinness Storehouse – the 55 acre site near Heuston station where they brew three million pints of Guinness every day. Don’t go at peak time like we did (Saturday afternoon) because you will have to queue for nearly an hour.

To be honest the tour is a bit boring but the view from the Gravity Bar at the top of the building is magnificent, complete with James Joyce quotes on the plate glass windows.
 A view from the Gravity Bar

The complimentary pint of Guinness is probably the best you’ll ever taste and the food is pretty good too (try the fish cakes).

Saturday night we found ourselves in “Oliver’s” in Temple Bar, listening to some superb musicians – including fiddle players from both Lord Of The Dance and Riverdance. Incredibly the musicians play until 3.00am and the pub serves until 3.30am.

Sunday it was off to Leopardstown. Thankfully the temperature was up a bit and racing went ahead without an inspection. Whatever you do if you like to study the Racing Post do not go racing without a copy, as they do not sell it at the tracks. A trap that I fell into. There was none at the track not even in the administration offices. 
A distinct lack of Racing Posts at the track

It would be easy for me to blame my lack of punting success on the absence of a Racing Post. The high number of winning favourites is a more likely reason though. We opposed the favourites in the first three races and they all obliged: 8/11, 9/10 and 11/8. Amongst others in these races I backed the seconds – returned 14/1, 5/1 and 20/1. Not e.w. of course.

In the fourth we were second again when Kheetam, absent for nearly 900 days, overhauls our main selection Feel Good Factor in the straight. Our selection was a 14/1 shot which was showing 80s on the tote at the off!

The pain continued when the final three races were won by 5/2f, 4/6f and 5/2 2nd f. These were not working men’s prices! It’s a while since I’ve been to an Irish track and not backed a single winner but that was the way it was going to be. Michael O’Brien landed a treble and his runners at Cheltenham next week should command respect.

We stayed on after racing as there promised to be some revealing racecourse gallops. Those in action apparently included Moscow Flyer, Asian Maze and Hardy Eustace. In fact there were between 15 and 20 horses out cantering on the track. We were hoping for some identification from the commentary box, but there was no commentary on the proceedings and it was impossible to tell who was doing what out there.

We left the track and made the short journey up to Johnny Fox’s to see if we could secure a table for dinner. An hour and a half wait. Obviously not our day. We drove back towards Dublin stopping at the Purdy Kitchen in Monkstown. A table at last. Crayfish and Prawn Pil Pil served with a nice crisp Caesar salad and French bread. Yummy.

Monday saw us on the flight back to Birmingham , wondering how many Cheltenham Festival winners we had unknowingly seen galloping in the Leopardstown twilight.

 Mike Quigley

10 March 2006