Hattons Grace Weekend

The Hattons Grace meeting at Fairyhouse is one that get’s circled on the calendar every year. Galway, Easter, Leopardstown at Christmas, Punchestown, Dublin Racing Festival, Champions Weekend, Listowel and Hatton’s Grace meeting. These are the holy grail days for our firm. Holidays, Weddings, Days off and life in general gets planned around these 30 or so day’s. They define the year so the build up to them can be strange. I always look forward to the hustle and bustle of these big days, they have a special atmosphere, but they also bring a certain amount of pressure. While it is enjoyable to be in the thick of the action it’s important to make it count. Losing at these meetings can be very sore on a number of front’s. The turn over is big and the racing is competitive so I generally tend to be more aggressive at them, when the results fall our way it can be lucrative and thoroughly enjoyable , when the opposite happens it can be extremely costly and it’s the last place on earth I want to be. The hush that goes all around a racecourse when a hotshot is turned over in a finish of a big race is very satisfying and it can be bruising when several results go against you on these important days. The roof getting raised off a grandstand by a wall of noise is generally not a good thing in my world…

October and November have been reasonably quiet for me on course, however I’ve managed to make a significant contribution to punters all the same. They are two dangerous month’s.

December is when the real stuff starts so the Alarm is set for 5 am on Saturday morning. The mares at home are getting heavy as they get closer to foaling date so there’s an hour’s work to do in the yard before I head for Fairyhouse. We’ve one pitch in the ring and one upstairs in the Bobby Joe restaurant. Last cars in at 9.30 am so it’s a long day but one that I’m really looking forward to.

The business upstairs in the Bobby Joe is brisk with a good spread of bets and some decent wagers too. Sometimes those corporate areas can be hit and miss depending on the people in attendance. Fortunately for us there is decent punters upstairs. The ring is steady without being spectacular however the plan for today is not to do any damage before the big day tomorrow. Results are a mixed bag and we have our noses slightly infront going into the last when all of a sudden money starts coming at us from all angles. Shannon Royale , Stellar Story and Nick Rockett are stinkers, Gordon Elliott saves the day with his 3rd string and sends us home happy with a substantial winning day. Galway was the last time we had a day as good as this. God bless bumpers!

5 am alarm again on Sunday morning. We arrive in Fairyhouse at 9 and its freezing cold and lashing rain. Horrible dirty weather with no sign of letting up. We get both pitches set up and then head for shelter.

Malina Girl wins the first to start us off on a small losing note. The business is steady. Cromwell has a loyal following here at his local track, when he trains a winner we rarely get off the hook.

Business steps up a few notches for the juvenile hurdle ,  Zarak the Brave is the one punters want to be on. 2 k at 6/4 followed by 800 sterling at 6/4 get the ball rolling nicely, Comfort Zone is also well supported in the ring despite a late drift on the exchanges. Lossiemouth is a talking horse but we see no real support for it. Risk Belle is one we see late each way money for.  

We are back in the game as Lossie delivers for us. I’m conscious not to say anything to colleagues around me as it may not be a good result for every layer. Sometimes its important to get the bounce of the ball on the big days.

The rain is getting heavier, and my toes are numb, my fingers are numb, my wet gear is no longer waterproof as I can feel my sleeves are wet as is the collar of my shirt. My woolly cap is keeping my ears warm from the wind buts its just soaking now like a wet mop. Its time to dispense with it or ill have pneumonia tomorrow!

Punitive costs us a few quid in the handicap chase but nothing major, a race where we knew our faith a long way from home. The first 3 home were our 3 losers.

Champ Kiely was being punted like he was the second coming. I presumed he was going to be 9/4 or 2/1 so when the first bet we laid was an even 1,500 followed by an even 2 k sterling I couldn’t help myself but drive on into the race. All duck or no dinner. We stand him for what we are winning for the weekend so far which probably isn’t the wisest move but its a chance I am willing to take. We take loads of each way money on Path D’oroux also.

We get the result we want. That was an important one. We won’t lose for the day no matter what happens now.

Mighty Potter wins the Dinmore and he’s a small winner for us. Banbridge and Three Stripes Life were our two losers and neither looked like seriously challenging at any stage. Mighty Potter was backed from11/2 into 3/1 on course so we are possibly fortunate to get a few quid.

I Fancy Honeysuckle so don’t get stuck in. She goes off a loser for 280 euro in our book. We win 1100 on the race. Hindsight is wonderful but maybe I should have stood her for more when I was getting a turn on the day. She was and is a great Mare. I’m sure she’ll be back. If she wins at the Dublin Racing Festival the scenes will be surreal.

Merlin Giant wins the 100 k handicap. He looks thrown in. We have a decent race here. Emmet Mullins and Charles Byrnes horses are no no’s for laying in feature handicap for me. They are too good. Sometimes its important to accept that and move on. It certainly makes more business sense.

We don’t take part in the bumper, our computer is on the blink, its wet, I’m wet, my phone is wet. My socks are squelching in my ‘waterproof’ boots, and we are just happy to go through the motions.

We put back-to-back winning days at one of the big meetings together. That’s a relief after a tricky run in October and November. Fairyhouse is a racecourse that is superbly well ran by Peter Roe and his team and Barney O Hare of Bar One Racing deserves huge credit also. He has put huge money into Irish racing in recent years with sponsorship. When he sponsors he gets huge crowds through the gates with tickets. Its very different when feature races are sponsored by companies that aren’t located in the area.

We arrive home after 7 pm soaked to the skin and frozen solid but with a few bob more than we started with. Who said the life of a bookmaker was glamorous!

Next stop Punchestown on Sunday for the John Durcan Chase. Go and see Gallopin Des Champs if you can at all. I don’t think you will be disappointed!

See you on the racecourse!