What is a treasured passion for all things agricultural often gets an airing here. Obviously, a fondness for machinery and an affinity with livestock are foremost. Equally as cherished, however, are the friendships which have materialised over most of a lifetime spent transfixed with all things farming. Now read on…
Back in the day, a sizable proportion of the local population gained employment – seasonal or otherwise – in one local agricultural establishment in particular. Among them several members of the Carey family. Thus emerged friendships for yours truly that have remained ever since and hopefully always will.
As well as farming, though, there has always been a strong sporting tradition in the family. One that was recently written into history. The Beggy sporting lineage scarcely needs further elaboration in Meath. It transcends GAA and rugby. Now, though, horse racing has added the greatest chapter of all. Given the groundswell of joy and pride which enveloped Dunboyne followed Padraig Beggy’s amazing, heroic deed in winning the Epsom Derby, it can only be speculated what level of orbit his parents Brendan and Mary, brother Michael, sisters Laura and Tara and extended family were catapulted to.
Saturday, June 3rd, 2017 must go down as the greatest day in Dunboyne’s sporting history. Knowing some of the sporting triumphs with which the place can proudly claim association, that may seem like quite the statement. But when you consider some of the luminaries of racing associated with the Derby, to have one of our own rank among them trumps all else.
Even for someone who was, for a long time, only loosely attuned to affairs of Flat racing, names like Dr Vincent O’Brien and Lester Piggott gave the early June showpiece some meaning. Since getting my act together regarding affairs on the level, you look at some of the riders associated with the race: Kieren Fallon, Johnny Murtagh, Frankie Dettori, Joseph O’Brien and Pat Smullen.
To have one of our now among their rank amplifies the magnitude of what Padraig has achieved. That’s without mentioning the mechanics of the actual victory in the greatest flat race in the world. Personally, all I can do is marvel and – in equal measure – beam with pride when considering the journey this very talented sportsman has travelled.
People being talented in several sporting disciplines is nothing new, and the hero in this particular story was – akin to his brother – a talented footballer in his younger days having, like countless young lads in the area, been under the stewardship of Myles Fahey. However, when considering the formative stage of Beggy’s career in racing, it strikes that he could hardly have had a better grounding.
With ample justification, Jim Bolger has long being heralded as an exceptional mentor to up-and-coming jockeys. Meriting equal accreditation, mind you, is the redoubtable Kevin Prendergast. Admittedly, I am in no position to wax upon the great man’s remarkable career in the sport. Or, for that matter, on the numerous young riders who attained their grounding in the sport in his care.
Two who stand out, though, are Padraig, most obviously, and Brian Hughes – who now, to my mind at least, lies behind only Richard Johnson in terms of jump jockeys in England. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago since an inquiry was made to Padraig’s sister, Tara, seeking a photo of him aboard the Paul Flynn trained Drunken Sailor after the combination won a valuable handicap in Galway.
Yet it is all of eight years ago. In a racing career – particularly on the flat – that’s several
lifetimes, but, belated as it may be, Padraig’s employment by the Coolmore operation was
seminal in itself. Aidan O’Brien, John Magnier et al haven’t made many mistakes in their time. Thus, the trainer’s reference to the Dunboyne man as a “World class rider” surely stands as the greatest endorsement any such professional could receive.
It has to be said, of course, that loyalty has been repaid in spades. Not just most recently either, with Padraig having built up a productive association with the filly Hydrangea in recent times as well. Even cognisance of that, however, cannot diminish the enormity of his most recent achievement.
His assertion that you don’t mind the price of a Ballydoyle inmate going into a Classic is in one way entirely plausible. Be that as it may, to many, this viewer included, Cliffs Of Moher had put the most compelling case forward. That is, taking into account that yours truly hadn’t witnessed what by all accounts was a taking effort by Wings Of Eagles at Chester.
Derby weekend was indeed a special sporting weekend in Dunboyne, as it also marked Andy McEntee’s first championship outing as Meath football manager. Having posted – as I always seem to do whenever something significant occurs – to wish Padraig all the best in the race, the point was made that it could be a very special weekend for the area.
Then again, there was no could be about it, for to have a mount at all was a massive achievement for the man himself and a historic day for the parish. For him to win it was truly the stuff of sporting romance. And like all good fairytales, there were twists and turns to the plot before the local hero came home in a blaze of glory.
For a dream run he certainly did not have. If anything, no combination endured a more hazardous conveyance around the famed circuit. What the nature of the journey did, mind you, was underline the rider’s skill, patience and judgement. The nearest comparison one could draw would be the old (nearly worn out) video of Dawn Run’s heroic annexation of the Cheltenham Gold Cup: “The mare’s beginning to get up”
Swap that for “He couldn’t make it, could he”? as Wings Of Eagles scythed through the field and powered past the seemingly cruising Cliffs Of Moher and Ryan Moore. Offering that the wheelchair nearly collided with the television is not done for dramatic effect, he mowed them down the way his uncles would have a field of hay long ago!
If feelings are genuinely held, their repeated stating shouldn’t diminish the sincerity behind them. So, as with when any Dunboyne or Meath team are in action, part of me was with Padraig in spirit as he galloped to glory too. Here’s where the story gets just a little more wonderful.
As stated earlier, Meath began their championship campaign the same weekend. With that in mind, the minute the action in Epsom was over, tracks were made for the GAA clubhouse to apprehend tickets for same. While there, however, the backside fell out of the sky. What a blessing that cloudburst turned out to be as it bridged the gap between Tattenham Corner and Dunboyne.
You couldn’t write the script. Delaying my return trip from the club enabled a timely, treasured and long overdue meeting with Padraig’s father, Brendan. Of all the days to bump into him. Had it not rained, I would have been down the road ten minutes beforehand and not done so.
Desire is to say the right thing on such occasions. But then, sometimes, no words are needed at all. I’ll just leave it with what was posted on social media in the aftermath – what a day for the man, for his family and for the parish!