Racing veteran's odyssey ends with 260/1 reward
HORSE racing is his passion and one punter has fulfilled his dream of visiting a meeting at every flat and national hunt track in the UK and Ireland.
It took John Rowe 61 years to make it as far as Listowel Races in time for the 155th harvest racing festival at the Co Kerry course.
But it was worth his while as a €1 wager in a forecast netted him a massive €260.30 return. In fact, Mr Rowe, who travelled from Saffron Walden in Essex, with his wife Teresa, couldn't understand why it had taken him so long to get there.
"It's a lovely country course and I love going to the meetings for the buzz and the atmosphere," said Mr Rowe, who has been a member of Fakenham Racecourse in Britain for the last 40 years.
He attended his first race meeting in Brighton in 1963 and returned to the Sussex course this year on the same day, 50 years later.
However, it was a different story for Mary (Baba) Sullivan, from Ballough, Bansha, Co Tipperary. At 92, Mrs Sullivan has rarely missed a race meeting at Listowel in the last 40 years.
She wasn't having much luck yesterday though.
"The first time I came here was about 40 years ago and I lost all around me then as well," said the sprightly great-grandmother.
The big race was the Guinness Kerry National, which was won by 'White Star Line', owned by local man Pat Byrne. Businessman and racehorse owner JP McManus had to settle for second place with his horse 'Carlingford Lough'.
It was one of seven horses owned by Mr McManus in the race but so far having a winner of the Guinness Kerry National has eluded him.
In days of old the turnout of government ministers and Fianna Fail big-wigs was paralleled only by the Galway tent. Nowadays, it's a more low-key event and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, once a regular, has not been seen in recent years.
Spotted at the race track yesterday were two other Fianna Fail racing stalwarts, former agriculture minister Joe Walsh and former justice minister and ceann comhairle John O'Donoghue.
Former Kerry North TD Tom McEllistrim, who recently announced that he was seeking election to the county council, was also seen at the racecourse.
Other well-known faces in the crowd were the former Tanaiste and Labour leader Dick Spring and retired Tipperary and Cork hurling managers, Nicky English and Conor Counihan.
Racing in Listowel continues today with the first race at 2.35pm.
Friday is Ladies' Day, with large crowds also expected before the seven-day festival draws to a close on Saturday.