He won!!! By eight lengths! Can you believe it? I can’t.
Look, I’m sorry to spoil all of the anticipation but, come on, this is so exciting. Hope you forgive me. I will give you all the build up and excitement in a minute but for now can we just take a moment to reflect? Thank you
Why don’t you watch the race and then we can resume our story..
It was so cold and windy when we arrived at Galway. The rain had subsided a bit but it was pretty miserable. Bernard and John were almost as excited as me and, after a couple of quick pints, we decided to tone it back a bit so as to avoid being half-cut by the time the race came around. Bumpers are always the last race on the card so pacing alcohol consumption is an important part of the day. With a couple of races to go before Bay of Freedom’s race we went to the Owners and Trainers Bar. We had avoided this earlier for two reasons:
1) We wanted to appear cool and not flaunt our Owners entitlements, and
2) The bar is hopeless and has no draught beer
Just before race 5 this frantic guy came over to me, asked if he could borrow my binoculars and rushed away as soon as he came. I thought I recognized him and, sure enough, when he returned (which I was always 60% certain he would) it was indeed Arthur Moore. I don’t know if my binoculars are particularly good or that I look like a sucker but he did exactly the same for the next race. His horse, Sea Beat, was placed 3rd and , this impressed me, he came running into the bar to return the binoculars before he went to the paddock to see his horse.
We had spoken briefly to Peter earlier and he had gone off to the stables to get Bay of Freedom ready. Apparently he had not been confronted by some scary vet this time and he had managed to pee on schedule. We went into the paddock and he looked magnificent; good enough to win the best turned out award (luckily enough he avoided that curse on this occasion). Katie came in and introduced herself to the guys who were loving every minute of this...she was a little concerned. The ground was officially good but she had walked the course and it was pretty tacky out there. She was also concerned about Captain Von Trappe as the rumour was that he was an aeroplane and was pretty much a certainty (Katie is sister-in-law to Nina Carberry who was riding Captain Von Trappe so is well placed to hear any rumours you would think) I thought her concern was pretty cool – it struck me that she really wanted to win and, despite the rumours, was still hopeful.
As Katie galloped down to the start Peter and I had a quick chat about a recent tannoy announcement regarding a colour change for horse No. 1. I listened to this with interest as apparently Bay of Freedom was not going to wear the green with black stars but just a plain green cap; had the stars fallen off or something? Peter immediately called Ber at home thinking she hadn’t packed the right silks; I like Peter so later regretted not stopping him from taking this foolish action. We later found out that Katie had picked up the cap worn by another of Peter’s horses in an earlier race and hadn’t dug deep enough to find the right cap.
By the time the race started Captain Von Trappe was a prohibitive 1/2 favourite (meaning that for every $2 invested you would win $3 if he won) Bay of Freedom was 2nd favourite but had drifted to 7/2 (that same $2 would now win you $9 if he won)
We watched from the stands and the race worked out perfectly. Katie sat in just behind the two leaders until the pace increased about three furlongs out. Bay of Freedom, once again, showed a little inexperience when the pace increased but as soon as Katie moved him to the outside and changed her whip to the her left hand, he just picked up ; in a matter of strides he went from two lengths down to two lengths up and then proceeded to pull away to win by eight lengths. It was remarkable! The race had not been run to suit him but he had displayed a level of acceleration we never knew he had. As Peter said, there are very few horses which can finish like that at Galway. We were all shouting (and if you listen to the video we weren’t the only ones ; or, if we were, our voices had gone up a few octaves) but, truth be told, any shouting was redundant; the race was over with 300 yards still to go.
Katie was really happy about the horse and actually said she thought she may have gone too early; he certainly wasn’t stopping in front so I assume that she always felt very confident and that she had a lot of horse under her.
We had a few photos taken, Peter and I were asked a few questions and I collected the very impressive glass trophy. We were then invited to have some champagne and we were able to start relaxing. We watched several replays of the race and, at one point, Peter leaned over to me and said that he had a missed call from Brightwells just after the race; they had a bloodstock auction coming up at Cheltenham three weeks later so we could guess what that was all about. I said to Peter – “I’m not interested” and that was pretty much that ...or so I thought!
The next day I had stayed in Galway for the races and Bernard and John and caught the bus back to Dublin Airport. After three nights of hope, anticipation and celebrating fueled by adequate quantities of Guinness, wine and cognac, we were all exhausted. I was on my own at the races but bumped into a few people and had a couple of very interesting conversations:
The first was with a lovely couple, Derry and Kay Connolly. I had met then the previous year when we had stayed at the same hotel. They very graciously offered to give me a lift to the course when I was asking for directions at reception; they did this on both days. We had spent some time talking and I must have mentioned Bay of Freedom at the time. It turns out that they had been waiting for him to run ever since, had seen his run at Listowel and had guessed that I would be back at Galway this year. When he was entered they actually called Peter and asked for my contact info so they could wish me luck; Peter , and I agree with this, doesn’t like to give out personal information, but not to be deterred they had spent the previous day looking for me; now they had found me and it was wonderful to see them
The second conversation was with Padraig, a breeder who Peter had introduced me to the previous day. We stood at the paddock and he complimented me on the win and said that I “would make a fair turn on him if I was to sell” Once again, I said that was not going to happen but, just out of interest, what sort of money would we be looking at? He said “you’ve got to be thinking at least 120000 Euros" ($155000) – oh well, now I knew but it still didn't change my mind. This is my dream and the reality is playing out the same way as the dream so why would I sell?
I drove back to Newbridge that night and arranged to go over to the stables on Tuesday morning and have dinner with Peter and Ber that evening. This would be the day that Bay of Freedom running in the Cheltenham Bumper would go from being a crazy idea to a real serious plan.
The Cheltenham Dream was about to begin.....