The bosses nephew – an all-time equine hero

April 26th, 2022 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

Britain is a small island and Wales a small country. That seems a fair assessment until you try to reach Fishguard from Bristol for the night ferry to Rosslare because, suddenly, you run out of M4. You are on your own against the clock on dark roads with all sensible Taffies tucked up in bed. There is no one to ask and garages are few and far between.

Deciding at a late stage to make Punchestown, come what may, in 2010  –  the year of volcanic ash and cancelled flights  –  is met with disbelief and derision on the part of the womenfolk. If wife and daughter are abed early, there will be no help west of Swansea so the mobile is suddenly irrelevant.

But there is still time, even in the dimly-lit streets of Fishguard, to make everything happen. The final obstacle is a row of battered parking meters near the docks. This may have changed but in 2010 passengers fed enough money into the machine to cover three days or whatever. Using as many coins as possible was advisable because the ferry itself resembled a floating arcade, all winking lights and whirring noises, not Las Vegas but a nice little earner, as Arthur Daley used to say.

When I made this trip, the memory of which will stay with me for the remainder of my allotted span (if ‘allotted’ means someone plans these things) I was met at Rosslare by Michael Mara, son of Michael senior, who runs a garage in Bagenalstown. We’ve been friends since Cheltenham in 1986, when Jonjo O’Neill not only won an unforgettable Gold Cup on Dawn Run but followed up in the County Hurdle on Jobroke, tipped to me that morning by Mike Dillon in Winchcombe and duly passed on to Michael and Patsy Murray and other Irish legends. 8/1 paid for a few rounds.

Anyway, Michael’s wife Marie cooks the sort of breakfast to render tiredness irrelevant and she drove me to Naas, where fellow miscreants were assembled in Grace’s, drinking Guinness, pondering the toughest handicaps you’ve ever seen and generally forgetting about the rest of the world and its cares for a few days.

Tuesday was quite uneventful, as I recall, but Wednesday was astonishing and netted a profit second only to the day in 1987 when Hopping Around and Pat Eddery, pressing Steve Cauthen for the jockeys’ title, won an Edinburgh claimer.

It’s fair to say I’ll spend quite a bit of time on the Placepot when it attracts me and I was happy enough with the perm that day, which came to 72 euros. It ticked over nicely in the first two or three races, safe and solid, nothing spectacular.

However, only Sivota, who won the opener, was clear favourite and in the Grade 3 novices’ hurdle I managed to find the first three home. Then there were some safe seconds and thirds, with the bet starting to take shape in quite a meaningful way as we approached the sixth and final leg, the Irish Daily Mirror Handicap Chase, where I had three going for me  –  a favourite’s chance, you might think.

When I think back on it now, the race resembled those hunting scenes on old place mats  –  riders and horses all over the place, someone peering over a fence after being unshipped, mayhem everywhere with the leading pair miles clear. I sort of gave up because Jayo fell at the sixth and Four Chimneys, never remotely in contention, had already been pulled up. And yet, and yet. In Grace’s I kept looking at John Brassil’s The Bosses Nephew, who’d been pulled up last time but had run well in third at Leopardstown before that and had Tom Doyle back on. He was 20/1 but I couldn’t quite leave him out and here he was, a fairly distant fourth but keeping on steadily in a 16-runner race.

And then, with the sickening lurch familiar to many committed gamblers, I realised I hadn’t checked for any non-runners. Therefore, I was praying for something that might not have counted anyway. Briefly, The Bosses Nephew went third, then back to fourth, and that’s where he stayed, the great man Doyle keeping him going to hold the fifth, Fantoche, by three-parts.

I don’t know how other people set about learning their fate but when Hopping Around won I stood at the door of a William Hill shop in Finchley and looked sideways at the screens as if I hadn’t a care in the world  –  which, for a few days afterwards, turned out to be true.

At Punchestown there is a Ladbrokes close to the Racehorse Owners’ tent so I sidled over, easy come, easy go, and when the result came up I was that gambler in the South of France, outside a casino, waiting for the girl in the sports car in the shattering blue of early morning, my tie loosened in a louche yet irresistible way. It’s just a pity my heart was beating on the wrong side of my shirt, which was now unmistakeably damp. But then, suddenly, there were four names up there and all I said was: ‘Only in Ireland, only in Ireland’ because, at home, I’d have taken a short price about there being a single non-runner or even two. But not here, not here. Not in this magical place south of Dublin, where all 16 go, no doubt about it!

The Placepot paid 1,752.80 euros, three times, and I held on to it for a while until tradition kicked in. It was nearly the best part of the day but not quite, because until you’ve seen Wednesday become Thursday in the company of the local musicians in the West Wicklow pub in Blessington, you haven’t truly lived.

A cabbie said he’d take me back to Rosslare later in the day for the evening ferry. I probably shouldn’t have driven because the trees were moving in the dark by the time the first Bristol signs appeared. But on Friday evening I was due at a wedding reception at Chepstow (where The Bosses Nephew also turned up three years later, having moved to Richard Mitchell). A good friend had married earlier in the day and my wife came along, too; I’m pleased to say I guided her through the Placepot with remarkable ease.

It paid thirteen pounds. Sometimes it takes a much-travelled, world-weary old pro to sort these things out. I seem to qualify all right.