All the fun of the Fairyhouse
I MADE my annual pilgrimage to the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse, out there in the fields and mounds of North County Dublin where the horse very often comes before the people.
"Arkle lives there" said mine host as we sped past a farmhouse that surely must have had a few human beings around. The racecourse, at any rate, was alive and throbbing with people, go-carts and babies as prevalent as high-fashion hats and highhat ladies.
We were warned over the speakers about the presence of pickpockets, just stopping short of giving them star billing with the Punch and Judy show for the little ones and the Jazz Combo for the big ones.
My bookie's private benevolent fund began to swell from the moment I offered Slaney prince my support in the first race. The only winning tip of the day came too late for my tired legs to take me to the Big Satchel.
One well-meaning owner told me not to touch her first-outing four year old; and, of course, it romped into second place at mouth-watering each-way odds.
By the fifth race, I was banking down despairing hysteria with a show of hollow "Ha-Ha's" and anecdotal putme-downs, like the bookie offering me points over the odds on anything I'd care to select.
Confidence or consolation on his part I couldn't decide. They were under starters orders now as I turned to the man beside me in the packed stand.
"I'll show you what 1 mean. Let's pretend. Fm having a hundred quid each way on .. .". Glancing down at my race card, Number One caught my eye instantly . . . "on Another Pooka". They're off! They were meant to go two miles and about a half; but within seconds the green hoop and the green cap with canary hoop of my ghostly Pooka disappeared at the first fence and were never seen by me again. And so it went on until the final Ballyhack Flat Race left me in precisely the same condition.
Later, my wife showed that her knowledge of the sport of kings was on a par with my own. She tuned in late to a couple of knowing ones in the company who had been analysing the day an d the going and the handicapping and all the other factors that makes professors of the turf.
"It's my opinion that horse was carrying too much weight." Before I could stop her she was in the numbing logic "Well, why don't they put him on a diet then?"