Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Taking on the big boys just makes my day

This day last week, I was regaling punters from the winner's enclosure at Down Royal. Duroob won a handicap hurdle there for me, and I never miss an opportunity to entertain the crowd. That is just part and parcel of me.

I try to bring my county into the limelight as much as I can, so I usually begin by exclaiming, 'Up Monaghan!' Then I might recite some of my rhymes, anything that comes to mind really. The race-goers would be shouting at me to get me going and I just respond to whatever they are saying.

It all started when Gazalani won the Jameson Gold Cup Novice Hurdle for me at Fairyhouse in 1997. I had £1,000 on him at 33/1. He beat one of JP McManus' hotpots, Finnegan's Hollow and I went a wee bit ballistic in the enclosure, saying things like 'Up Monaghan' and 'I can take on the big boys'.

Since then, the punters always gather round, waiting for me to celebrate a winner. I like to keep the whole thing going. I enjoy it, and I think it keeps me going as well.

I've had two operations for cancer, a quadruple bypass, and I also had a major operation on my eyes after losing my sight through diabetes. So, as I say, the celebrations keep me going.

I don't think about the sickness that I've incurred. I have to take over 30 tablets a day to keep me right, but I don't let it bother me. I feel that I'm lucky; I've got an opportunity to help others. When I go to the races, people come up and talk to me about their bad health and I give them what advice I can.

I also set up the Shabra Charity -- which you can learn more about on www.shabracharity.com -- to help those who are deprived. We've donated over €300,000 to schools and missions in Africa, to St Luke's Hospital for a cancer machine and we have an eyesight machine going into the Mater in a few weeks' time.

I'm glad to be able to give something back and I'd say 50pc of what we raise comes from racegoers. There's hardly a race meeting goes by without someone handing me €50 or €100 or €200.

One of my favourite boasts when I'm entertaining in the winner's enclosure is that I don't run scared of the big fellas. John Oxx, Dermot Weld, Aidan O'Brien or Jim Bolger; I'll take them all on. On Sunday I went to Leopardstown with Caesar's Song, a little horse that cost me just €7,000.

He won a bumper for me at Limerick in May and on Sunday he finished third in the Saval Beg Stakes to Profound Beauty and Age Of Aquarius, two high-class horses. Aidan O'Brien came to me afterwards and shook my hand -- I enjoyed that.

Caesar's Song will run again at Listowel on Sunday if the ground is right. He should win there and then we'll head for the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Outfit

I've never worn a top hat in my life; I don't know if I'll don one for Ascot, but I'll certainly come up with some sort of an outfit. And I will have the Monaghan jersey on underneath, just in case we win!

The jersey that I have at the moment was presented to me in Parnell Park by the Monaghan County Board, so they must like me wearing it to bring me there for a presentation.

Of course, the footballers play Armagh on Sunday. We're neigh-bours and it will be a tight match, but I think we can win. Monaghan have a good enough team, so if they stick at it with a bit of deter-mination, they could get a result.

It would be great if Aidan O'Brien could bring the Epsom Derby back to Ireland tomorrow as well. In fact, I think that has the makings of a nice treble: O'Brien to win the Derby, Monaghan to beat Armagh, and Caesar's Song to win at Listowel. It just might happen.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie

Irish Independent

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