PAT HEALY: This week Pat looks forward to the Epsom Derby and pays tribute to Lester Piggott.
Even with all the big race days around the world now, of which there are many compared to years gone by, in the likes of Australia, America, Hong Kong to name but a few, I think the Epsom Derby is still the pinnacle and the one that everyone wants to win. This is the race that has stood the test of time and there won’t be another race to surpass this one, just ask any owner, breeder, jockey or trainer what race they dream of winning, and it’s usually this one. The older I get the more I enjoy it and I’m really looking forward to being there this weekend. On Saturday morning I will walk the track like I always do, I’ll arrive early at about half past nine and I’ll enjoy an amble across the middle of the racetrack from the start and take in the full mile and a half, I just love it.
I’m looking forward to a great race, hopefully with an Irish winner, but I think the market has it spot on with the two at the top of the betting in Desert Crown and Stone Age. I’m sorry that I’m not being original, but I do think the winner will come from one of those two, although you have to respect Charlie Appleby’s decision to supplement Nations Pride.
What is there to say really? Lester Piggott was a true icon that transcended the sport, from his first race in the 1940’s to his retirement in the 1990’s. He was unique but he was box office, and in an era of no social media or television, he was the king. Everyone knew who he was, the newspapers loved him because he could sell papers, and his record as a jockey speaks for itself. I was lucky enough to meet him on a number of occasions both here and in Ireland and he always had time for a chat and a laugh. Even though he never rode at Listowel we were delighted he came to visit one time with his good friends Barney Curly and Tommy Stack. We had a box for them at the racecourse and they had a great day, I remember having a drink with him in the town afterwards and it was great craic. Every time I saw him, he’d always smile and ask how everyone was in Kerry, he’ll be sadly missed and not least by everyone in Kerry too.
We kick off our three-day meeting this weekend at Listowel and we’re looking forward to great racing, good craic, and welcoming everyone back. There’s always a nice buzz around the town for the June Bank Holiday race meeting and on Saturday we’re only charging €10 as a welcome back offer for our racegoers. We’ve been watering the track since Tuesday so hopefully everyone will be happy!