Sport Horse Racing

Friday 19 September 2014

There's nothing like talking horses to make a living

Richard Pugh

Published 21/12/2012 | 05:00

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Of all the jobs I do to try and make a living, commentating is the most enjoyable. At the moment, Down Royal and Limerick are the two racecourse tracks I commentate from, so that's where I will be next week – Down Royal on St Stephen's Day and Limerick for the following three days.

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I love the challenge of it. A bit like a hand of poker, you don't know what way the cards are going to fall in a race. There will be times when you have your binoculars trained on exactly the right spot, and times when, no matter where they are focused, the action is somewhere else.

That means you are chasing the game a bit, but the key is to be as right as you can as often as you can. Obviously there is a degree of pressure to be accurate, so you want to be like a good referee or a goalkeeper – unnoticed, almost.

People wonder how we learn all the colours, but learning 15 sets of colours has never been a problem. I mean, I must have learned 15 essays for the Leaving Certificate!

With my Irish Point-to-Point Services company, we assess races and rate horses every week. Commentary is essentially live analysis for five or six intense minutes.

The challenge is to identify exactly what is relevant in a race and, coming from a point-to-point background, I know how important it is to relay the fate of every horse.

If a trainer is back at the boxes at a point-to-point getting another runner ready, they want to hear if the horse that they saddled fell at the first or won or finished last.

It's no different for people watching on-track or at home or listening on a phone, so I always strive to convey where every horse finishes its race. Because you can prepare in advance, it's not an overly tough day's work. Indeed, it can be a sociable day, as you're free to mingle between races. That is always a bonus, especially at a course like Limerick, where everything is so close.

There is a great atmosphere there at Christmas. My wife Jennifer will also be on duty there for each of the four days from St Stephen's Day – she is on the Turf Club panel of doctors.

We'll be up and down from our home in Naas every day, but it's only about an hour from Kildare Village, so it's no journey at all. With half a dozen point-to-pointers to be exercised as well, we'll be starting early, but that's nothing new.

'Pointing' has always been my passion, but it's my business too so I am very lucky. I rode for a brief few years a long time ago and wanted to stay involved in the industry, and the commentating and administrative services I offer allow me to do that.

Results

There has never been a better time – boom or otherwise – for buying and selling point-to-pointers, simply because the results are there.

No less than 60pc of last autumn's winning four-year-olds have since won on the track, and I've been privileged to call horses of the calibre of Flemenstar and Gold Cup heroes Best Mate and Imperial Commander winners for a first time in my role as a commentator.

I will call plenty more point-to-point winners at Limerick and Down Royal next week, though obviously not Flemenstar at Leopardstown.

There has been much talk of him staying three miles in the Lexus Chase, but people are quick to overlook pedigree. At the store horse sales, pedigree is the most important thing, yet it is ignored after a horse runs once. That makes no sense.

Flemenstar is a point-to-point winner and there is nothing in his pedigree to say he won't stay. The fact that he has so much speed just means he is classy to boot.

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

Irish Independent

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