Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 21 July 2018

Mouse, Jamie and Tiffer enjoy Grand fairytale

Mouse Morris (centre) with son Jamie (far left), Anita O'Leary, Michael O'Leary and his mother Ger celebrating the Grand National win in Mullingar (Picture: Frank McGrath)
Mouse Morris (centre) with son Jamie (far left), Anita O'Leary, Michael O'Leary and his mother Ger celebrating the Grand National win in Mullingar (Picture: Frank McGrath)
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The blood sport of politics claims many victims. The falls are more spectacular than in horse racing and if the rules of racing applied to politics, the main players would be hauled before the Ceann Comhairle for over use of the whip.

The top trainers seem to have no idea who will end up in their stables. The shifting list of non-runners makes it impossible to back a winner. Two months on and we are still trying to figure out who got up in the photo finish at the end of our General Election.

The result of the Irish and English Grand Nationals had us all crying for Mouse and his family. Mouse lost his son Tiffer in a terrible accident. Mouse looked up to heaven when the gallant Rogue Angel won at Fairyhouse and again at Aintree where Rule The World with his twice broken, bone-China pelvis, found a turn of foot after more than four miles of relentless galloping and jumping.

Rule The World looked beaten, but then he came through on the wings of the angels. And now we know where the legend of Pegasus came from - Greece, a country famous for creating drama from tragedy.

I met Mouse 25 years ago on a plane when he was on his way to London for an appeal against the disqualification of Cahervillahow in the old Whitbread Gold Cup. Mouse lost his case, wrongly so, and we met again on the flight home.


I had a big head of Afro curls back then and Mouse had a blond furze bush, growing away gloriously without any pruning or fertilising. He still has that natural look but Mouse is a planner who patiently prepares his horses over five or six or more for big races. His horses are given time to mature.

Mouse is son of Lord Killanin who was President of the International Olympic Committee, back in the innocent days when the fastest runner won the race. Mouse's other son, Jamie, who came back home to help out after Tiffer's accident, has the task of following on from a man who has won Gold Cups and Nationals as well as riding Skymas to win two Champion Chases. Michael O' Leary attributed much of the success for the three Nationals to Jamie.

What I always say Jamie is I do not walk in my father's footsteps, I walk alongside him. Jamie spoke with the local paper when Rule The World was paraded up the Main Street of Fethard, following on from the first leg of his world tour of the Midlands in Mullingar.

Jamie gave his story honestly and openly as is the way of many young men nowadays who are not afraid to show their emotional side.

There was a time when men were only allowed cry after big wins at football or too much drink. Emotion was a sign of weakness and depression was to be endured silently and alone. Tenderness was seen as work for women and Dads only kissed their daughters.

Hard fathers make for hard sons. Hard doesn't necessarily mean brave. Hard is just another word for closed and afraid. Mouse cried when his horses won and there was no braver jockey. But he was really crying for his boy. He mourned his son out in the open.

Here's what Jamie made out of Tiffer's passing. "I was saying to friends, if I put my last two years into a book, people wouldn't believe it. Dad asked Tiffer for a bit of help before the Irish National and he did it and before the English National he said can we ask Tiffer for a bit of overtime…I know he's pulling the strings up there."

Friends in the racing game told us the brothers were so close. Jamie describes the sadness as" unimaginable." Sport doesn't always have to end in heartbreak but racing families know only too well their kids could fall victim to injury, even paralysis or death.

But then, why do so many racing families follow on in the tradition?

I was trying to figure it all out and the only conclusion I could come to was the racing families just love horses and racing. For the jockeys it's the thrill of it all. I don't know if you've ever stood next to a fence when the horses come galloping in at speeds that would have car drivers banned by too many penalty points.

There's a whoosh when the horses brush through the top of the birch. At the last it's full belt and you can see then how jockeys find retirement so hard to take.

Tiffer's carbon monoxide accident was different though. He didn't have any choice did he?

The wins brought Tiffer back to his family and it was his way of showing he's still around.

So today Mouse, Jamie, Tiffer and the O' Leary boys are going for their fourth national of the season.

Most of the racing statisticians will tell you it's three but Rogue Angel won the Kerry National in Listowel last September. Rule The World was third. Centre of the universe or what?

Ayr it is for the Scottish National. Mouse's Folsom Blue faces another marathon with 27 fences and a big field. It might be a bit too much to expect Folsom to win, even with Tiffer on overtime. But you'd never know.

Mouse's grandfather was a Canon. I wonder how many of you out there reading this are Canon's grandkids? But Mouse's granddad was Church of Ireland and sensibly he was allowed marry.

Still, I've no bother in giving Mouse some tips on the geography of spirituality. Mouse, you always look up the sky when you're thanking Tiffer. Here's a lesson from Saturday school.

There's this wonderful spiritual woman heading for 80 and her name is Sister De Sales. She is the last nun of Dingle and we have written about her here before.

I visited her a couple of years back and what I didn't write, was that the last nun of Dingle spends Christmas Eve and Christmas night all on her own in the huge old limestone convent on the edge of the western world.

She has plenty relatives who would love to have her stay over. You see, Mouse, De Sales doesn't want to leave her friends. They were all laid to rest in the convent grounds but she knows they stay with her in their old home at Christmas. I believe her. You can feel their presence in the place.

De Sales was a teacher and she used to explain to the kids that heaven is all around us, down here where we live, and is not some sort of exclusive resort in the sky.

So, Mouse, the next time you are talking to Tiffer or thanking him, or thinking of him, because by thinking of him you are talking to him in your thoughts, look beside you. And it's there you will find your boy.

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