Cheltenham Festival and the Irish

If it wasn’t for the gambling, who’d be bothered with a shower of midgets riding around on horses? someone wrote recently.

The annual festival of so called Irishness is underway at Cheltenham as we speak, while  back on the mother ship a biblical recession is laying waste to all and sundry.

Our childer are on the streets trying to flog Daniel O’Donnell CDs to well heeled tourists, whilst their parents have agreed in principle with our Protestant brethren to cease paying  homage to yer man in Rome and start following Glasgow Rangers in exchange for bowls of soup – like some did in the 1840s.

However, as we scavenge for food, and er, Jack Daniel’s on ground zero, we read that bookies estimate that circa 500m doubloons will be riding on Lilliputian festooned nags tearing around by the banks of the Chelt.

When it comes to gambling, drinking and general debauchery, Paddy, correctly figuring that the rest is just propaganda, will always find the readies.

Paddy, swinging the proverbial tackie with gay abandon below in the Cotswold’s, will also remember that the English were once of a similiar frame of mind, until they started coming across all civilised as Huckleberry Finn might say.

Paddy will also recall that in Thomas Hardy’s Mayor of Casterbridge (TV taking artistic license) that the drunken Michael Henchard lost his wife in a game of cards, deuces were wild.

But along came the advent of democracy and feminism and you couldn’t even have a flutter on the missus, not even with three aces or a straight flush. Feminists had issues with wagering her indoors.

Meanwhile, deep in the bowels of the Nationals the sports Eds, heads down and arses up, just like the jocks, are furiously working away on glossy supplements on the grand festival of man and beast, supplements that no one but the completely insane will read, I may add. But they lash it out anyway, because the Indo have one.

Vertically challenged, bony arsed, bird legged, homunculi atop mounts with flaming nostrils dominate the sports pages letting on that they are engaged in a sport.

Some of the riders are so thin – easy on the laxatives lads – if they turned sideways and stuck out their tongues you’d swear they were zips. If they were boxers they’d be elusive if they were standing still.

Paddy – and Paddy Power –  meantime, is waxing lyrical about how the Cheltonians are rolling out the green carpet and are getting all misty eyed about their long forgotten Irish granny, who was probably a Pikey to begin with anyway.

Then again, I supposed we’d all unearth our Irish grannies if the Celtic hordes  were dropping a couple of hundred million in a few days.

And as for the bookies, they wouldn’t give a rattling fuck if a shower of Khmer Rouge descended on the place, as long as they were prepared to lose the shirts off their backs on the 2.30.

So is horse racing a sport? If you took away the gambling would anyone have any interest in it?

Speaking to a gentleman in the Duck ‘N Drake on this subject last night he insisted that he’d watch horse racing even if he did not have money on a race.

“Ah, but you’d still be studying the form for a future bet even if you didn’t have money on that particular race, ” said I.

He agreed that there was an element of truth to this assertion but persisted with the view that he likes looking at horse racing anyway – there’s some very odd people being served in the local these days I might add.

However, I must admit that horse racing did provide one of the top ten sports sound bites in its day.

Commentating on a race a few years, Ted Walsh told an astonished TV audience: “This is really a lovely horse, I once rode her mother.”

It’s better than losing her in a game of poker Ted, like that wretch Henchard. The beast.

18 replies on “Cheltenham Festival and the Irish”

Grand National winning jockey Mark Fitzgerald: “Sex is an anti-climax after that!”

Desmond Lynam: “Well, you gave the horse a wonderful ride, everybody saw that…..”

I’m almost looking for permission to get into this, Cheltenham would’nt be my thing but The Equine species and Racing are a part of my DNA, I have tried to remove the ” obsession ” but it’s like a limb, I can’t, So will I get into this ?

I don’t think I have backed a horse since I spent an afternoon of leisure along with three other reprobates of a musical persuasion (ergo: “on gardening leave”) watching racing on the telly in TC’s in the late ’80’s.
After 3 hours or so of beer-fuelled excitement we found ourselves (as you do) VERY seriously “quids-in” on the back of a Pat Eddery quadruple. That was back in the days when “an arse” and my trousers were never, ever bed-fellows…
Ironically, just yesterday, my neural network informed me in no uncertain terms that bum-deLeer and “the elements” are once again directly communicating; “useful discussions; frank – even frosty – exchanges of views” are, I believe, high on the agenda.
Well, instead of making a bee-line for TK Maxx and getting a few pairs of new duds, for the first time since the halcyon days when one pulled ones own teeth rather than visiting a dentist, I seriously considered sticking a patch on.
Now it wasn’t that I had in the intervening years become adverse to sewing a patch on, but even me, my humble self et al, had come to feel that time might be better spent doing something other than patching my jeans, mon.
Where is the irony? Well, this has not happened since the bad old days of the 80’s, when we often experienced enforced “afternoons-of-leisure”, and beer mats were also used for putting-off a visit to Franklins until afer dole-day; I remember marvelling one evening at the reverse print of “Guinness” on the sole of my foot as the sock was shot-through as well…
I digress however, and need to reel this back in:
Well, yesterday, for the first time since that fateful afternoon in TC’s, deLeer had a flutter on todays World Hurdle at Cheltenham.
…God bless “Powerstation” – thanks to his efforts at Cheltenham today the coffers at chez-deLeer are replenished and we’ll be suckin’ diesel tonight…

I don’t know whether all of the foregoing is a harbinger of doom, or indeed, whether or not it is sport, but this afternoon, just like TC’s all those years ago, sure as hell was fun!

(BTW, anyone know where all the TK Maxxs’ high-holed “yummy-mummies” have gone? You know; the impossibly svelt “incognito” ones dressed in black kashmere, black jeans, sporting very black HUGE shades, that used to float around hoovering up everthing in sight via coolie-pushed, heavily laden uber-trollies. The ones that would then deposit all into blacked-out, VERY BLACK, high-end black (!) yummy-range-humvy More X More’s, and cruise – glide almost – away to residences probably “somewhere-in-the-county”, but undoubtedly safely out of arms-length of the unwashed…
Any ideas?…)

My favourite bit is where, after whipping some unfortunate nag for about half a mile, a beaming owner/trainer/jockey comes on the teevee and says…….” he loves it here “

Fair play if your sucking diesel from the bookies Shawn – but @ yourself and Norman. Is it a sport?


Well there is an element of “jolly-hockey-sticks” about it, but on the other hand it certainly is “just not cricket” and hockey and cricket are certainly both sports so the thick plottens and we’ll proceed.
It does, like tobogganing or motor sports, involve propelling aero-dynamically clad “smallies”(usually) at some speed towards a checkered flag placed at an indeterminate distance from a starting point, so on those terms it is a sport I suppose.
On the other hand one could also look at the Medieval practice of dwarf-throwing. (we hadn’t warmed to the concept of involving the available animalry yet, except in jousting etc and in any case the very notion of a dwarf, or indeed any not of blue blood persuasion be-seated astride the noble horse would have put the local in-breds all irate, like )
In the “Meaning of Liff” Adams and Lloyd hint that this was considered a sport in the past, but was not, I would imagine, great sport for the propellees, and would not be tolerated now except maybe in parts of Middle America and remote parts of Bavaria (You got to admire that quirky sense of humour).

So maybe it is a sport Jim, but not as all would define it…

… and don’t start me on Darts!…

Lapsedmethodist; Your comment is ludicrous, there are very strict rules in regard to whip use, ” whipping some poor nag for half a mile ” just does not happen ”
Bock; Clearly jockeys have to control their weight, they train appropriate to their requirements as any athelete in their particular sport, guaranteed professional jockeys are solid muscle, and as im sure you know the more muscle the faster the metabolism.
There is some mysterious link between Horse and Human, Whether the horse is of the magnificent , elegant TB variety right down to the hairy coloured variety, people become drawn, addicted, intrigued.
Maybe it’s history, the horse served man in work, war, sport, over half a hundredweight of muscle and bone, beautiful or ugly, they are almost mystical.
Its true that a horse is most likely to make a liar of a man, and the sport or general involvement is the most likely to make you lose your shirt, whether you gamble or not So why do the most astute of people get involved ? In my opinion they just get intrigued always chasing something elusive.
Racing is very much a sport, A sport where the comradeship of Jockeys in particular can be held up as the epitome of all thats good in sport, You will never see jockeys fighting or bitching about opponents, in a sport where man and beast is pitted against each other at high speed the sense of responsibility to each other and the genuine admiration for each others challenge does’nt waiver.
Gambling is a totally seperate sport, for the public who might never own a horse, it’s probably that few minutes of ownership of the possible prize that creates the buzz, i’m only speculating there because other than the odd 20 i have never gambled on horses.
The work involved from conception of a foal to the race track is ardourous and full of pitfalls, to create an a supreme athelete which can amass vast amounts of money is only one part, The many remaining parts are filled with hard work, devotion and endless seeking of knowledge.
The amount of people involved in the culmination of a horse appearing on a race track is vast, the stats of probably 1 in 2000 foals born passing the winning post are probably about right.
For most people working in the racing industry the money isn’t great, Its that elusive dream of winning a big one that keeps most people involved, That and possibly even more so the bond formed between human and horse is inexplicable to anyone who has’nt experienced it.
There is no degree of ” jolly hockey sticks ” for people working hands on with horses 7 days a week, They are in fact particularly grounded with no bullshit, any attitude of ” jolly hockey sticks ” is the preserve of those who only want to be ” seen ” at the races.
For every great winner, you can be guaranteed that trainer, jockey and a lot of owners have had a million knocks, dissapointments and maybe even heartache.
Cheltenham seems to be the ” battle ground ” of the Irish versus the English horse, not so much any place else, Its probably a bit primitive in that regard, A lot of whooping and Hollering of the battle cry variety, I don’t know I have never been there.
People involved in the everyday production of racehorse almost speak a different language, terms exclusive to horses, not used in any other arena, So it might seem exclusive but it isn’t.
Betting brings Racing to a vast audience and of course supports the business of bookies, but you don’t have to bet to enjoy the sport, Its not the sport of Kings its everybodys sport, It generates millions for the economy, it provides livlihoods for a vast range of enterprises,
Not all horses are supremely intelligent , but the one that is…………….words cannot describe.
The industry is full of characters interesting, courageous down to earth hard working people, Its also full of people who like to be associated with something they think they understand, but it does’nt matter because ultimatly it’s about the mystical link between man and horse which is historical and profound.
I have had many great ” buzz ” moments, I have also shed many tears and buried my much loved “friends” many moments stand out for me but one in particular, One of my daughters had saved about 1500 euro for a car, hellish shift work to get it, she wanted some kind of car to go to college, We were at the horse sales and this really miserable looking foal came into the ring, pulled her heartstrings, she wanted to take him home, I said no, don’t do it, 1200 gone down the swannee and no car, i thought, she took the gamble went ahead, She minded him like a baby, prepped him for yearling sales the following year, I checked and found there was an decent update in his pedigree, She got 65k for him at the yearling sales and it was just the look on her face when that hammer fell totally confirming her own judgement and risk……….priceless plus car and college sorted !

Why do RTE and others in print media go on about this race meeting in the English Cotswolds as if its some kind of great cultural experience, somehow having a unique hold over the Irish nation.

Rattling on forever about our ‘love affair with the horse’. Pure codology, as someone whose only experience of horses is confined to having settled tinkers let their pets stray, shit, piss and gallop all over our estates without censure, and then see a gathering of these loose animals take off for no reason at one end of Cals Park and scatter six football teams to the safety of high ground, I can’t see the reason for this other-worldly reverence that takes over our airwaves whenever Cheltenham is mentioned.

It must be what Knock is like for sun-blinded catholics.

And to add further insult, we must cheer on the Irish horse. Well I’ll freely admit to have occasionally stuck a few shekels on a horse but it was strictly a matter of financial gain (and inevitably bad advice). I couldn’t give a flying fuck if the horse was born in Tel-Aviv as long as the fucker won.

Do these RTE Sports heads think if Swanky Boy wins the Cheltenham Cup he’s going to get up on a podium and whinny out Amhrán na bFhíann while crying his eyes out as The Tricolour is raised high? Maybe wondering what witticism he’ll come up with when Colm Murray interviews him for the excited viewership on Six-One?

ffs. The horses have more sense than the lot of them together, yet he’s the only one there likely to be put down if he fucks up, unlike the pikey hordes who are frittering away the last of the easy money before returning home even more broke than Seanie Fitzpatrick – and probably owing it to the same banks.

Sport me bollix.

I couldn’t give a flying fuck if the horse was born in Tel-Aviv as long as the fucker won, a great line, ironically named Hoof. And so say all of us.

Irish nags have to whinny Ireland’s Call these days by the way, because the Northern mares are kicking up about the “pushing conney around the field” one.

Hoof; Whereas you are fairly hilarious, I find your comment completely devoid of a morsel of logic.
You admit your knowledge of Racing is limited to an occasional ” flutter ” outside of which your experiences are garnered from bad experiences of tinkers horse piss, So how do you qualify in any regard to dismiss Horse Racing as a sport ? My own knowledge of Soccer for example is limited to my Grandsons playing and attending their games, I cannot imagine dismissing it as a sport even though i may not enjoy it in most regards apart from the personal interest.
This country has little enough to be proud of at this point in time, But Internationally we are highly regarded as the top bloodstock producer, in Sporting terms we deservedly hold a very high world ranking in Racing, To dismiss it as a non sport is insulting to your own people.
People like Paddy Brennan who won the Gold cup to-day, A young man from Ardrahan who brings pride and hope to many.
Is it so easy for you to dismiss and denigrate sports such as Horse Racing and possibly Golf because there is an element of inverted snobbery in the view you profess, yet admittedly coming from an area of zero knowledge or experience.
We have all discussed here at great length the ” mind set ” of the Irish person ” A people so beset by division and begrudgery and ground down in judgement and criticism of their fellow Irishman, To expound so vociferously on a Sport that you even had to bring it onto another seperate post dealing with the appaling behaviour of S Fitzpatrick, That is precisely the mind set that keeps us on our knees, No facts just judgements based on nothing.
Any and all sports are defined and determined by the participants who strive to be their best at the challenge the sport presents, Be it Soccer, Rugby, Racing, Darts, Whatever, To judge and denigrate on the basis of mind set or ignorance of the workings of individual sports is to further the divisive mind set which has us where we are.
To the many hard working people who deserved their success in Cheltenham, Congratulations ! The bookies cleaned up and that happens too, but it won’t detract from the Irish successes.
We are all Irish and we deserve to be proud of the best this Country produces, I’m fairly certain my comment will have little impact but i’m one of those people who gives some creedance to ” fuck the begrudgers “

The last horse I put money on is still making his way around the track James. The race started in 2007

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