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Liam Horan philistine’s guide to Ballinrobe Races

A philistine’s guide to my local races

Liam Horan

1 The well-dressed man who sold out-sized bars of Tiffin and even more out-sized pears at the corner of the stand.
2 The purple – yes, purple – hair of the wife of the well-dressed man who sold out-sized bars of Tiffin and even more out-sized pears at the corner of the stand.
3 Jimmy Tierney, and how he led the revival of the course, when all seemed doomed. And, in the inimitable phrase, ‘all in his own inimitable way.’
4 My father telling me afterwards about the ‘good winner’ he had. Afterwards.
5 Being asked by Paul Claffey to do a live commentary on a race there, circa 2001. I can’t for the life of me think why he asked me, and me a racing philistine.
6 Saying yes to Paul Claffey. I can’t for the life of me think why I said yes, and me a racing philistine.
7 Never being asked again by Paul Claffey.
8 Going to Knock Airport with Louis O’Malley and his video camera to meet Lester Piggott off the flight when he came to ride in Ballinrobe.
9 The in-depth interview we did with Lester in Knock Airport. Not.
10 Post-Connacht final Mondays at Ballinrobe Races. Players, mentors, and supporters: all in perilously close proximity to each other.
11 Horses going this way. Me, and other philistines, looking that way.
12 The awesome power of the horses when you stand there near the last fence.
13 The frightening crack I heard the day I saw a horse break its leg going over a fence. He ran on for what seemed like 40 or 50 yards before falling down.
14 Jockeys. Much respect. Wouldn’t do it for all the money in the world, even if nature had cut me out for it, which it hadn’t.
15 Jockeys partying in Flannery’s Bar the first night of a two-day. And to think they got up the next day and threw themselves at the mercy of the horses again the following day. Much, much respect.
16 Standing beside an owner as his horse made a big push coming around the last bend. The sickening moment when he saw the horse fall over the last fence, and not get up. He feared the worst through his binoculars. The worst happened.
17 Traffic-jams.
18 “We’ll go home through Creagh, and around by Rahard, miss the traffic.”
19 Trying not to look bewildered when hard-core aficionados speak in tongues, presuming you to be as enthusiastic as they are.
20 People you haven’t met for years.
21 People you haven’t met for years, and no harm either.
22 People you haven’t met for years, but wished you met more often.
23 Working in Ken Murphy’s during the summer holidays. Sudden fall of rain on race day. Clean-out of umbrellas, plastic leggings, hats, and raincoats in no time.
24 Little surge of pride on races morning when Des Cahill mentions ‘racing today is in Ballinrobe, first race off there at 5.30.’
25 Pat Gallagher on Mid-West. As I said, what I know about racing could be comfortably housed in a mouse-hole. But Pat always sounded knowledgeable to me. Plus, unlike my father, he always told you his tips beforehand.

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