Thursday 14 December 2017

Never dull trying to organise confusion behind the scenes

FOR the past 11 years, I have lived and breathed my job as Horse Racing Ireland's communications manager.

Through it all, I have built up an extended racing family, getting to know so many of its great characters.

Horse racing is a very grounding sport and the players all tend to be very sound people, as while you might win the Aintree Grand National on a Saturday watched by a billion people worldwide, you could be on your bum in a novice chase at Limerick the very next day. Few people get too big for their boots.

With over 16,500 people employed, racing is one of our leading indigenous industries and one of our most successful international sports.

It really is a good game played fast and, when all the pieces slide into place, it can be truly wonderful.

We have tracked so many of these stories here in the 'In The Stables' diary, featuring over 150 people across three years.

As well as that, I have converted many of our star names, such as Davy Russell, Barry Geraghty and Johnny Murtagh, into fervent Twitter and Facebook users with hundreds of thousands of followers.

I have had the pleasure of being present for so many key racing moments in the last 11 years, from Moscow Flyer's two Champion Chase wins to Sea The Stars' Irish Champion Stakes triumph.

Organising homecomings after major international successes is all part of my brief, which makes for a pretty frantic existence at times.

As soon as Sea The Stars won the Arc at Longchamp, I was liaising with three television crews, eight photographers and 25 journalists to be at Currabeg on Monday morning.

Small details like flowers for John Oxx's wife Caitriona and balloons, bunting and flags all needed arranging in less than 24 hours, so you can imagine the juggling required to host a reception worthy of a racing legend.

The PR business is quite reactionary, as you never know in advance that there will be 14 Irish winners at Cheltenham or that an Irish horse will win the Grand National.

Monty's Pass, Silver Birch, Numbersixvalverde and Hedgehunter all won at Aintree during my tenure.

It was great to be part of those celebrations, albeit they were often hectic for me.

I remember literally escorting Gordon Elliott on to the plane after Silver Birch won in 2007 to make sure that he would be there for the horse's homecoming at the Curragh the next day!

Easter Monday will be my last day in the job as I recently decided to set up my own PR events consultancy (www.tamsodoyle.ie).

I will be sad to leave, but I'm looking forward to tackling a wider variety of projects. It will also be nice to enjoy some family time with my husband David Cox and our daughter India while things take shape.

Ladbrokes Irish Grand National day at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday is fairly typical of my frenetic schedule.

Last year, for example, I was dealing with sponsors, interacting with the press and keeping an eye on the best dressed lady contest, while at the same time I was responsible for chaperoning An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny.

It was also a tremendously important family day, with David's father Dermot having Out Now in the National itself.

Our Taoiseach very kindly insisted that I take the time to watch the big race with my family, and I won't deny being slightly disappointed that we finished second. After all, he was presenting the trophy to the winner.

Monday will be more of the same, minus the added distraction of a runner in the National.

At this stage, though, it looks as if Ninetieth Minute will represent us in the English equivalent at Aintree next week, which is something we're all very excited about.

I dare not dream that he'll win but, if he did, for once it would be someone other than me rushing about behind the scenes organising everything.

Now that would be ironic.

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

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