Sport Horse Racing

Monday 20 January 2020

Fingers crossed our big day can help weather the storm

While I was racing at Navan last Sunday, I was there with my assistant trainer's cap on rather than my bookmaker's one. Derek Rocks is Bar One Racing's on-course representative, so he was on duty on the pitch.

My son Michael, who trains down the road from me in Castlebellingham, had two runners, and that's what brought me to the track. Neither horse featured prominently, but they came home safe and sound, which is the main thing. I love to get involved with the horses and the daily business at the yard.

Michael does the vast majority of the work, but often he'll take a Sunday morning off and I'll go around and feed the horses for him. Horses are a way of life that we are all very passionate about, so it's lovely to be involved in a hands-on capacity.

The crowd at Navan was really encouraging ahead of our flagship racing sponsorship at Fairyhouse this weekend. It was an amazing turnout -- in excess of 4,000, I gather.

When I spoke with Derek on Monday morning at our head office in Dundalk, he said that we generated over 700 slips through the course of the day. In the context of the current climate, that's a huge number.

The only other place that we'd turn over more than that is at Galway in the summer, so it was fantastic to hear. That said, it was the sole bit of good news that he had, as the bumper, which was won by a 25/1 shot, was the only result to really go our way.

Before heading to the office on Monday morning, I made my daily visit to Michael's yard at around 7.0. I like to check in there to see the horses and find out what he might be running over the weekend in advance of sitting down to the day job.

He has two in at Fairyhouse tomorrow. Sweet Shock lost its form earlier in the year, but he was a pleasing third at Punchestown recently, and Mooney's Cottage could also run well in the Irish Racing Yearbook Bumper. He was second first time out two weeks ago, so fingers crossed now that he might win for us on our big weekend.

Bar One Racing also sponsors Crossmaglen Rangers football team. This is our fifth year involved with them and they are a wonderful team to be backing.

I suspect even many inter-county teams could learn a thing or two about attitude from the Crossmaglen boys. They are just so focused on winning and it's impossible not to feed off the positive vibes that they bring to the table.


Still, I'm a National Hunt man myself, so to have the opportunity to promote what is the biggest pre-Christmas jumps meeting means a lot to us. The weather has thwarted the Fairyhouse fixture over the past few years, but we should be okay this time.

If we got a nice, crisp winter's day like we had last week, that would be just perfect, as it promises to be a cracking card on Sunday.

On the ante-post book, Bog Warrior is the horse that we've seen most interest for in the Drinmore Novice Chase; we opened at 5/2 about him, but we've trimmed him to 13/8 favourite in recent days.

For most of the week, everyone at the office has been busy tailoring the competitions and specials that we are offering to promote Sunday's card.

The BBC's Gary Wiltshire has come over for a few days to do a bit of work with us, including at Dundalk's dual meeting tonight, as he is a great man for the dogs.

He will sign copies of his book in our shops over the next two days, too. Hopefully, that will entice people to the shops, because business on the street is in freefall.

About six months ago, I took on a number of shops that were in trouble with the intention of trying to salvage something from them, but I've had to close them. The turnover just wasn't there to break even, let alone make a profit, so it wasn't feasible.

Thankfully, we've not had to lay our people off, but the staff realise the difficulties we are faced with, and have rolled up their sleeves accordingly. We are all eager to weather the storm -- although we would appreciate it if Sunday's Grade One card at Fairyhouse didn't have to do likewise. That's a road nobody wants to go down again.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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