Mike Quigley

Irish horse racing, betting and other stuff

   Home      Tipperary 2002
We took the long way to Tipperary

More than six months since the last Irish racing trip, probably the longest gap for ten years. But now we had the opportunity to visit two tracks for the first time – Killarney and Tipperary - and halve the unvisited track list.

Ryanair flight to Cork and a hire car for the fifty-mile drive to Killarney. Adrian had selected the first hotel, the Dromhall, right in the centre of Killarney. Lots of bargains about because of the sharp drop in American tourists. If you haggle you can get yourself a half price deal. He’d come up trumps with this one. Leisure Centre on site with pool, gym, sauna, steam room all looking like it just opened last week. Use of tennis courts at neighbouring hotel.  

The four Killarney race days were attractively scheduled as evening, afternoon, evening, afternoon. I’d seen pictures of the track with the backdrop of the mountains and assumed it was in a rural setting away from the town. Imagine my surprise when the hotel receptionist pointed towards the window and declared “turn left at the garage and it’s two hundred yards in front of you!”  

The views from the track are just breathtaking. The mountains dominate the horizon and draw the eyes constantly away from the foreground action. It was sunny now but it had been raining for months. In fact they’d already abandoned the chases and switched the flat course around to rescue the festival.  

Adrian had come up with one in the first. This was a two-year-old maiden race and he was drawn to the King Of Kings colt King’s Mountain. Owned by Michael Tabor and trained by David Watchman. Yes David Watchman.

I think Adrian picked it partly because he was such a great fan of the sire, backing him at chunky prices to win our 2000 Guineas. Anyway the debutant had been withdrawn at Gowran on his first start, having been unruly in the stalls. He was scrubbed along at halfway and only fifth about 150 yards out. Photo finish. Looked like he’d been beaten a neck and the ring chalked up 4/1 against in the photo.  

Result: first No. 4 King’s Mountain 8/1! Incredible and what a start. One to watch out for as you would expect him to improve from this scrappy win. Turns out David Watchman is going to marry Sue Magnier’s daughter in August – might be why he’s training this colt!  

I must just tell you about an apostrophe nightmare. Having spotted “Ladie’s Toilet” (sic) at the track, my attention was drawn to this advert, every day in the racecard:


What’s more it appeared to be advertising some sort of journalistic enterprise. I wouldn’t claim my grammar to be the best in the world but for a country with such a literary heritage I found this unbelievable!  

On to the Jackpot and there was a 4,000 carry-over to chase, so we permed up a shared bet and then went out on the first leg. All was not lost though as I took a small Tote bet on the 10/1 winner, Night Of Nights, which paid 25.30. The fourth was another competitive handicap and small bets on the Tote were rewarded when The Cushman obliged @ 10/1 and paid 24.40. Apprentice jockey MC Hussey (5) is definitely one to watch, winning this two miler cleverly from the front. No luck for me in the remaining races but we both came out comfortably ahead despite the Jackpot losses.

The morning of day two was spent exploring Killarney including a visit to the Internet Café to pick up the market moves on oddschecker.com. This might help us with the Jackpot selections. The pool had been carried over again and 11,000 would start things off. We also booked flights to Prague for £60 return with some newspaper promotion called Go bananas. That’s the Pardubicka sorted then.

Tuesday afternoon at the track and a civilized 3pm start. Three of the five flat races were divisions of a one-mile handicap. The draw bias is low. As you may know I used to be a big fan of the draw but I think all the value of this approach has gone in the UK. It’s the main topic on the Morning Line for any flat race these days! Courses are at last waking up to it too, with Beverley at long last switching the stalls for their five-furlong race, after practically every winner has started against the far rail.  

Anyway the draw bias proved valuable in the second with Embassy Belle a hot 2/1 favourite in box one. I bankered this to beat the 2,3 and 4 in Exactas. Result one and two draw away. The second horse was a 33/1 chance on the Tote and the Exacta paid a tasty 138.20 dividend.  

Not such good news on the Jackpot. We increased our perm, because the races looked harder and so it proved to be. We had the 8/1 winner of the first but were out by the second leg when the unraced Dyrick Daybreak popped up at 25/1. Punters found the going equally as tough and the 35,000 pool carried over to Wednesday.  

One more winner on the card for us to ensure a profitable day as 8/1 claimer Little Rort paid 19.10 on the Tote.  

Two winning days and time to splash out on an Egon Ronay restaurant from my trusty 1996 Guide. Nick’s Restaurant was the chosen venue situated in a little town called Killorglin a short drive away. Sounds parochial? Not a bit of it, an absolutely amazing find. Tuesday night and we were lucky to get a table at eight-o-clock. Live piano (and later violin) music and a superb seafood menu. Adrian went for the seafood platter (half the ocean on a plate). I opted for the lobster and prawn thermidor. Washed down with one of the house whites, an excellent (French) Sauvignon Blanc. Outstanding and strongly recommended if you are in the area.  

Wednesday was an evening card again so time for some tennis before the oddschecker.com routine. Then went to the local record store to buy some CDs as this was what the hire car played and we had only minidiscs and cassettes with us. All these formats! Anyway as we arrived the proprietor was playing air-guitar to something that turned out to be Superman by Five For Fighting. Never heard the track or band before. If this hasn’t already been a hit (and I wouldn’t know) then it definitely will be. Turned into the anthem for the holiday. “I’m only a man in a silly red sheet….” etc.  

Anyway back to business and a 5.45pm start at the track. This was the hottest afternoon I’d ever experienced in Ireland. The temperatures were truly Mediterranean and didn’t seem to drop at all until after 8pm.

An even bigger perm for the Jackpot was the order of the day. The pool had reached 80k +. Poor start with no joy in first two races and then in the third a total shock (the first Jackpot race) as the complete outsider of the field trotted up. Out of the Jackpot for the third day running. We were praying someone would win it so we didn’t have to play again!

No joy in the fourth race but the fifth race was to provide the best result of the holiday. We backed Miss Moore, which was 10/1 in the ring. Came bursting through to win narrowly. Crowd were silent as we jumped up and down by the winning post. Photo finish equipment failed but fortunately the judge was sober and saw the result the same way as us. Tote dividend 47.80!!  

Thankfully one lucky punter landed the Jackpot for a 60k+ payout.

Despite not having to play the Jackpot on the Thursday we had an absolute mare. Eight race card and not a single winner. The previous three days’ winnings evaporated. I won’t bore you with details of the card, as there weren’t many highlights. There never are when you are doing your cash!

Suffice to say that the biggest Tote win dividend-in eight races-was in single figures. You know the old adage. “When the crowd wins………….”  

Time to console ourselves with another “Egon”.  

There were several Egon recommendations in the town to choose from. We went for Foley’s Town House. Although Gaby’s Seafood Restaurant two doors away looked equally as promising. I opted for two dishes recommended in the Guide: Lambs kidneys in burgundy sauce followed by poached turbot in a cream and chive sauce. No pandering to fashions here. The dishes were exactly as described in the ’96 Guide! All washed down with buckets of Guinness. Another top drawer place and strongly recommended.  

A two-day break from racing and time for some culture. We made the long drive up to Galway on Friday morning. Slap bang in the middle of the annual two-week arts festival: theatre, concerts, street entertainers and pubs open ‘til 2am every night. An exhausting time not least because our hotel was next to the Railway station and adjacent to Eyre Square, where all the drunks ended up at 2.30am. Noisy or what?  

Purchased the Arts Festival memorabilia-bags, t-shirts, bookmarks etc then hit the road to Tipperary. No “Egons” within a fifty-mile radius so hit a local pub for some soup and sandwiches before the last battle commenced.  

The track seemed enormous compared to Killarney. Much flatter landscape of course so your eye travels further.  

“Come on lads, on the first event….” The bookmakers had priced up at last.  

This is AP O’Brien country and his intended in the first - One Nice Cat - was withdrawn only to be replaced by the unraced reserve The Great Gatsby from the same stable. The punters weren’t fooled and still made O’Brien’s selected a hot favourite. Kinane looked as if he arrived on the scene a bit late and the debutant finished a close second. Could be another useful 2-y-o.  

I played the Jackpot starting with another AP O’Brien hotpot Tasmanian Tiger, a 3-y-o not seen out for 119 days. I was surprised to find myself ending up with tickets on six selections in the last Jackpot race. You can guess what happened. The favourite won and the winning dividend just covered my total stakes.  

Meanwhile Adrian had bumped into this chap from our hometown of Teignmouth. We probably last saw him thirty years ago. Well Puck me if it wasn’t Robin Goodfellow! Not the Shakespearean character or the Daily Mail nom de plume, but the former west-country racecourse bookmaker, whose real name is Robin Goodfellow. Small world!  

On to the lucky last. This race, the two-mile bumper, looked good to me from the outset. Huge field, unexposed horses and some ‘talkers’ from the top yards. Fascinating activity in the ring with not much change out of a 200% book. I supported the two Francis Crowley runners, Hemisphere Man and Merlyn’s Monty on the Tote, both around 8-10/1 in the ring. The latter absolutely trotted up and pays 25.30. Adrian’s on this one independently. What a great finish to the week.

We had come the long way to Tipperary. From Cork via Killarney and Galway, some 270 miles in total. To quote Alain De Botton “Journeys are the midwives of thought” The trip had certainly given us plenty to think about: off the scale visuals, top drawer eats and adrenalin rush racing. Beats lying on the beach.       

Now just Ballinrobe and Tralee to complete the set.  

And Killarney must become our number one festival – with Bellewstown relegated to a worthy second spot.

26 July 2002

Note: All currency amounts quoted are euro (except Prague flights).