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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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EditorialsUp Front 11/15

Up Front 11/15

I grew up close to the Curragh racecourse. As a child I ran along the wide open spaces that surround Ireland’s Curragh army camp, and marveled at the sights and sounds of enormous beasts that appeared on the gallop out of the early morning mists. To a small child, jockeys seemed so tiny on top of such tremendous creatures, yet they appeared to glide effortlessly in time with their mounts. Even in the near darkness, I imagined vivid racing colours replacing their mud splattered working clothes and cheered in a squeaky voice, as though they were sailing past the winning posts. In those days, the staff and customers in our eatery and public house would talk for hours about trainers, owners, jockeys and of course odds, wins and losses. I was surrounded by people at the top of the industry and shared in their triumphs and defeats. Lester Piggott was the hero that everyone aspired to; an oil painting of him took pride of place on the wall opposite the front bar. And local jockey, Paddy Powell, had his own seat in the lounge bar, which would be happily vacated whenever he came in for a drop of Powers whiskey. Such close proximity to the Sport of Kings could have influenced my life tremendously, however, I drifted away. I had no natural kinship with horses and as for the odds; well, we know where they are stacked. However I still love a day at the races and with a niece married to another recently retired jockey, I still hear about, and am drawn to the emotion and excitement that the nags can deliver. Watching the trailer for the upcoming movie, Being AP, brought a lot of memories flooding back. The film follows the final year in champion jockey A.P. McCoy’s career as he aims to build an unbeatable winning record before he retires. It looks to have all the ingredients of a powerful movie; stunning photography, thrills and spills (and painful spills at that) and a gripping narrative. However there is another level at play; human fallibility and the disturbing mental processes that drive some people to push further than perhaps they should. As this blind ambition and desire contributes to an estimated $650 billion in global revenue attributed to sport, exploring it is a fascinating and very worthwhile process.

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