“I had a dream” Clare Balding told me as I started to explain my win in the Epsom Derby. Poor Clare. I wanted to know, I really did but unfortunately with the overexcitement of the main race, I’d been reduced to a babbling mess. I needed to tell her the story of my day, which in racing terms had a magical twist of fate.
It had all started gently enough. Whilst waiting for my comrade in arms for Epsom at the train station a coffee truck pulled up and before you could say ‘Mine’s a cappucino’ I was chatting to the cab drivers, one of whom treated me to a latte: Things were looking good so far.
An hour later found us still struggling to find our carpark, but once inside the media tent all that was forgotten and the race was on.
A day at the track is like no other. Time flies but in the most surreal way. No sooner have you watched one race than horses parade in the paddock for the next. Bets are placed, champagne or beer is ordered, a roar comes up from the grandstand as you realise you’ve missed the 2.35 and need to get your act together for the 3.10.
Then, there’s the arrival of the Queen, just a week before her official 90th birthday, and you have to guess what she might be wearing, in French, with a party of that country’s finest gentlemen as you all endeavour to get a photo of her.
What seemed like moments later, I leaned across the railings next to a handsome man in a top hat chatting to his friend. “Where are you from in Ireland?” I asked.
“The Curragh” came his response.
“I’m from Meath – just next door – near Trim.”
“Oh yes, I know it. I used to have to drive through Trim all the time to get to Navan.”
“To the races?”
I asked him what he was doing here today. “We’ve got a horse in the Derby – Harzand” he told me. “My Father’s the trainer.”
“No! You don’t study the form do you?!” came the retort with a grin.
In fairness I hadn’t had time, but this was all I needed. “We must get to the Tote!” I said to Chloe. I’d heard first hand Frankie Dettori’s tips for the Derby (‘The main challenge for Wings of Desire is US Army Ranger’), and John McCririck had also weighed in with his comments before he waved me off and told me to ‘Keep blogging’. But this. This was pure gold.
Cakes and coffee by the winning post preceded an inspiring victory by Harzand with one of my each way bets coming in second.
On the train home I conversed with yet another fellow Irishman. We high fived our Derby success. “I won big” he told me.
“I broke even, and a bit more” I replied.
A bit of magic more in fact.