Hopes and dreams beyond Naas Road
March 24th, 2022 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News
Truth to tell, I struggle to keep up with modern expressions although I can see the attractions of a ‘bucket list’.
I read Ulysses and Proust’s In Search Of Lost Time a few years ago but Don Quixote in its entirety remains a challenge. I have yet to visit Venice off-season and follow Donald Sutherland’s footsteps in Nic Roeg’s wonderful film Don’t Look Now and, at 73, I have still to enjoy Listowel or Sligo and take part in the all-night poker games which follow.
As for writing the history of Baileys Irish Cream and/or listing the times racing turns up in Irish novels or short stories, I need to press on. Before people started letting me report on racing and football matches, I travelled the length and breadth of Britain, sounding out opinions in pubs and clubs when ‘Mac’ McPherson in Gilbeys’ Research and Development department in Harlow New Town finally achieved the perfect harmony of cream and spirit in bottle. Baileys, which was always destined to become a Gilbeys of Ireland product, was miles ahead of the opposition. A couple of years later, in the late 70s, there were 142 brands worldwide but they were pale imitations.
When Mister Baileys won the 1992 Two Thousand Guineas at Newmarket I cheated a bit and wrote about the product in the old Sporting Life, though I knew the equine Mr Baileys was named after horsefeed. The late David Dand, Gilbeys of Ireland supremo in Naas Road, not only backed the horse at 16/1 but was thrilled with the piece and invited me to lunch. Happy, happy days.
The Baileys book is taking shape but the ‘literary racing’ one merely floats around in my rambling 3am thoughts. J P Donleavy (in The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B) and William Trevor are certain starters but I can also see James Joyce looming large. In Ulysses there are two or three references to Sceptre, who was still contesting top races in the year, 1904, that Joyce chose to set his masterpiece.
‘Lenehan gets some good ones. He’s giving Sceptre today’.
‘Who’s riding her?’
‘O Madden, and a game filly she is. Even money. I knocked against Bantam Lyons in there going to back a bloody horse someone gave him that hasn’t an earthly’.
Clearly it was easy enough to get the money on and the conversation is remarkably similar to those we hear, and engage in, every day. ‘O Madden’ was Otto, born in Hungary to English parents (his father regularly rode the great, unbeaten Hungarian mare Kincsem). Otto was champion jockey twice but was warned off ‘for associating with persons of bad character’ and missed all of 1902, when Sceptre won four of the five Classics, though not the Derby.
The William Trevor piece, from Mrs Eckdorf in O’Neill’s Hotel, is beautifully written and guaranteed to strike a chord with all everyday punters ‘d’un certain age’.
‘Malacca was tipped to win at Harold’s Cross. Rumours about Yellow Printer’s limitations were denied. At Brighton the £35 filly Qalibashi had won at twenty to one. Eugene sat considering a few of the facts he had absorbed. Within a couple of minutes he returned to sleep. He dreamed he was standing in O’Riordan’s public house.’
That’s the trouble with people like Eugene and me. Dreaming, always dreaming. And in similar surroundings, too, our only comfort being that we have no desire to change and not enough time left anyway.
The William Trevor excerpt brings back a few memories. Yellow Printer was a famous greyhound before the cognoscenti debated the relative merits of Scurlogue Champ and Ballyregan Bob. He was UK Greyhound of the Year in 1968 and even turned up in a popular song around the same time.
No racehorse trained by the eccentric John Meacock, who’d served with the British Army in the Gulf, could replace Vakil-ul-Mulk (who ran in the Derby but preferred Wincanton) in my ‘Persian’ affections but Qalibashi would press Karkeh Rud for second. She had only a modicum of ability but won that Brighton race and was later purchased by BBC racing presenter Julian Wilson, who sent her to Neville Dent in the New Forest with a view to winning a tiny hurdle race at Southwell.
The money was down on a day when attention was focused elsewhere and right well she ran, too, but even the great Jules could not allow for the Southwell executive deciding to paint the wings of the hurdles bright orange. Qalibashi shied at every one but still came second. They’d backed her to win.
Wilson, sadly gone now, tells the story in his autobiography Some You Win. He was an extraordinary character with a colourful life outside racing. Not averse to paying for his pleasure with very expensive ladies of the night, he was also known to hurtle head-first down the bobsleigh run at 100mph. Few would convincingly defend him against the charge of snobbery but it would be kinder to say he was an Englishman who’d have sat comfortably enough in the pages of Evelyn Waugh, even if he more closely resembled Anson, F Scott Fitzgerald’s Rich Boy. Whatever else happened to Anson, there would always be women ‘to nurse and protect that superiority he cherished in his heart’.
One or two Newmarket batsmen may have despatched Julian’s gentle off-breaks, but no one came close to denting his superiority.
Ian has written two books which we have published which can be bought from our online shop by clicking here
He is also a weekly contributor to our weekly publication The Weekend Card.