EVERYONE knows that Enda Bolger's horses will always give you a run for your money around Cheltenham's cross-country course, but you have to feel sorry for amateur rider Jacqui Coward who was leading one such race on Friday as they came around the final bend only to take the wrong course, along with six others.
The error allowed two Bolger-trained horses, Garde Champetre and Chamirey, to claim first and second and the trainer was quick to acknowledge his good fortune. "Lady Luck was on our side," he said. "I thought I was going for seventh and eighth place but I ended up getting the first two -- that's cross-country racing. My two jockeys walked the course. I'm not saying the others didn't, but perhaps we had the most experienced jockeys in this race."
The winning jockey, JT McNamara, gave his mount most of the credit. "My horse knows the way better than me," he said. And he's right, that was Garde Champetre's sixth success around the track. Horses for courses indeed.
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Those devotees of the royal and ancient game experiencing increasing difficulty in braving the chill of these winter days may be encouraged by findings last week from the World Golf Foundation (WGF).
In fact, the foundation's fascinating conclusions could prompt a re-think about golf as a desperate athletic recourse for doddery old men.
It seems that social golf may be a lot healthier than we ever imagined. The WGF tells us that since walking is biomechanically more efficient than running, an 18-hole round of golf is roughly equivalent to a 3.5 to four-mile run. Walking 18 holes per week also provides sufficient weight maintenance for all ages. And the exercise intensity and energy cost of playing nine holes equates to 40 minutes of lawn-mowing for adult men.
Meanwhile, on the subject of calories burned, further findings are: Playing 18 holes from a buggy = 1,300 calories; Walking 18 holes and pulling a trolley = 1,500; Walking 18 while carrying your clubs = 2,000.
Finally, all critics of golf should note that the five miles of walking involved in the average round meets the 10,000 steps per day guideline for exercise recommended by most medical and clinical physicians.
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Minister Leo Varadkar had a few engagements last week as guest speaker and found himself getting great mileage out of his speech's opening joke.
At Thursday night's Texaco awards, he began by apologising to the media for breaking with tradition by not circulating a copy of his speech before the event. Unfortunately, he said, he had been so busy that he hadn't had time to run it past the Bundestag.
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WHEN the Irish Olympic team bunks down in the Lensbury Sports Hotel in Twickenham next year, there will hardly be anyone old enough to remember, but they will be brushing cheeks with a little bit of television history.
The hotel is situated next to an arm of Pinewood Studios and their gardens were used as a setting for the high-speed chases at the end of The Benny Hill Show -- a comedy sketch show which enjoyed huge popularity in the 1970s and '80s.
The programme always finished with Hill and assorted others in a speeded-up pursuit around the garden after several scantily-clad ladies. If the Irish athletes can emulate Hill's speed in these chases, they might be bringing home a few medals.
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The Longford GAA community was plunged into shock last week following the sudden death of county star Alison Smyth.
Widely regarded as being among the most outstanding sportswomen of her generation, the Athlone IT student was also noted for her displays with Longford Falcons basketball team.
An All Star nominee in 2009, the daughter of former Longford star Brendan Smyth was a hugely popular figure in ladies football in the county.
Dermot Gilleece, John Greene, Fergus McDonnell
Sunday Indo Sport