Syndicate startled as schooling session takes a turn for the worst
Drama unfolds as Vinny and his pals’ runaway horse causes consternation in leafy suburbs
As Mixer Mulrennan, stiff-backed like a Grenadier guard, led Eggo Bleu out on the racetrack at Leopardstown for his first public schooling, the members of The Hole In The Trousers Syndicate were agog with excitement.
Deep into his 57th year, Vinny Fitzpatrick felt like a street urchin left unattended in a sweet shop as he hopped nervously from one foot to the other. “Cheltenham, here we come,” he said leaning into Fran playfully.
It was a balmy Sunday evening, curiously so for October, and Eggo Bleu, a three-year-old upon which much was pinned, was preparing for his first public gallop since his purchase, for €14,000, by Vinny and his racing-daft pals in Foley’s.
Mixer barked out an order to the jockey and strode across to the running rail, trademark walking stick to hand.
“Gentleman,” he said, doffing his trilby to reveal a shock of jet-black hair which Vinny was sure was blackened. “As you know, this is Eggo Bleu’s first serious piece of work on a racetrack. He’s shown promise at home and I’ve entered him in a couple of three-year-old maiden hurdles next month.
“Today, he’ll do two circuits. I’ve instructed Skippy, my stable jockey, to do the first at half-pace with a couple of other horses for company, and the second at a steady three-quarter gallop, this time on his own to give him a proper feel of the track.
“Each time, he’ll jump over a couple of hurdles which should be of benefit.”
With a raise of his stick, Mixer signalled to Skippy he was ready and soon the future winner of the Champion Hurdle, Gold Cup and Grand National, had broken stride.
Flanked by a couple of tyros from an all-powerful Curragh yard, Eggo Bleu, named after the great Everton and Irish winger, Tommy Eglinton, took flight.
As the thunder of hooves receded, Vinny and the lads repaired to the lower steps of the grandstand for a better butcher’s hook.
Vinny had his field glasses to hand and followed every stride of Eggo Bleu’s maiden racecourse run. “Go on my son,” he said aloud, to no one in particular.
After a successful, if uneventful, first lap, Vinny and Spider, a former jock who had cobbled the Foley’s syndicate together, ambled over to the far side of the racecourse for an alternative view. “He’ll jump two hurdles there and we can see how he takes to them,” said Spider.
By the rear of the Leopardstown Golf Centre, the two men, one large, one little, watched in silence as Eggo Bleu approached from their right. With a jab of Skippy’s irons, Eggo Bleu flew the first hurdle like Pegasus.
Landing, he picked up the pace as Skippy asked him to lengthen his stride approaching the next flight.
Eggo Bleu was moving at around 30 miles per hour, Vinny reckoned, when he suddenly lurched violently to his right, as if stung by a dart, and ejected a startled Skippy out of the saddle.
A disbelieving Vinny then watched in horror as Eggo Bleu, wide-eyed and whinnying, muscled through a gap in the entrance to the driving range and galloped off in the direction of Foxrock.
Aware of the damage a half ton of loose horseflesh could do to himself, and to others, on the open roads in leafy suburbia, Vinny felt his blood chill.