Vinny’s syndicate get a hell of a run for their no money
The Hole In The Trousers Syndicate agog as their horse Eggo Bleu takes off like a rocket
There were nine runners in the Telltown Bumper at Navan and eight of them, according to the bookies, had a squeak of winning. The ninth, an unraced five-year-old, Eggo Bleu, was the unconsidered outsider at 33 to 1.
Not that many punters on a grim, grey Sunday were pinning their hopes on Eggo Bleu’s back as the bell rang for the jockeys to mount up.
With Liverpool about to kick off on Sky Sports, the crowds in the enclosures were thinning out as fast as the strands of hair on Vinny Fitzpatrick scalp.
But along with his fellow members of The Hole In The Trousers Syndicate, Vinny was agog with excitement as Eggo Bleu strutted around the parade ring before the final race on the card.
The first prize in the two mile four furlong bumper was a bog standard €3,800 but the far greater reward for the lads was being part of the Irish racehorse owners brethren.
At the same Navan meeting, horses had run in the colours of such illustrious National Hunt figures as JP McManus, Gigginstown House and Barry Connell.
Following the renowned silks of green and gold, maroon and white, and yellow and black, came the unheralded strip of royal blue, white sleeves and white cap – to reflect the Everton influence in Eggo Bleu’s chosen name.
The big boys
“Sure, what’s the difference between us and the big boys now?” grinned Spider, the syndicate spokesman, who used to ride for the Dreaper yard as a nipper.
“Around several million,” observed Vinny drily.
There was a loud harrumph as Mixer Mulrennan, Eggo Bleu’s trainer, approached his wide-eyed owners. “Gentlemen,” he said, raising his trademark trilby.
Mixer had just given the leg up to his nephew, Saddler Smithers, a seasoned amateur with a decent record in bumpers.
“Now, chaps, as you appreciate, this is very much a trip into the unknown for all of us today, particularly yer man there,” said Mixer, nodding in the direction of Eggo Bleu.
“He hasn’t shown us a lot of form at home but he’s fit enough, is fully recovered from his Leopardstown ordeal, and needs to be tested in a competitive environment.
“I gather you all like a flutter but I’d advise you to keep your hard-earned cash in your pockets until we get a firmer handle on what Eggo Bleu is about.
“Today is all about gaining experience, nothing more. I’ve suggested to Saddler that he goes off a fair lick, so you can pick him out and get a run for your money, so to speak.
“Oh, by the way, horses which finish outside the first three are unsaddled over there,” he said pointing to the far end of the parade ring.
With that, Mixer tipped the rim of his trilby with a forefinger and sauntered off towards the stands.
The lads could have followed Mixer, and stood in the section reserved for owners which commanded a fine view, but they headed for their usual pitch, on the rails by the finishing post.
As they weaved their way past the bookies, Vinny noticed many were folding up their pitches for the day, not surprising as six out of seven favourites had already won.
Vinny resisted that familiar tingling feeling in his fingers and toes, recalling the wisdom of Mixer, in whom the lads had placed their trust, and their few bob for training fees.
Anyway, Vinny had already had a bet that day. Half an hour earlier, he and the lads had a nibble on a long shot called Kindly Vinnie. “Sure you’d have to, lads,” smiled kindly Vinny, no relation.
Kindly Vinnie was a 50 to 1 no-hoper but the lads got him at 10 to 1 without the Willie Mullins-trained hot pot and lumped on a score each for a place – he finished half a length shy of the bull’s eye.
For Eggo Bleu’s grand entrance, for the first steps towards Cheltenham, the lads agreed to keep their hands in their pockets, and hearts in their mouths.
The start of the race, for horses yet to win, was on the far side of the racecourse and the lads could barely make out the runners milling around, such was the gloom.
“We should have brought bleedin’ binoculars,” observed Macker.
From the stands behind, they heard a familiar voice, Des Scahill. “The white flag is raised, and they’re off.
“And jumping off in front is Eggo Bleu, who has quickly opened up a six-length advantage over Doctor Tom, Echo Fotxtrot and Jumping Jupiter.”
A minute or so later, the onset of galloping hooves filled the lads with a fierce rush of adrenalin.
As Eggo Bleu went past the post for the first time, some way clear, there were shouts of encouragement from The Hole In The Trousers Syndicate. “Go on, ya good thing,” screamed Brennie.
Soon after, a strange occurrence happened. So strange that, looking back, it gave Vinny the colly-wobbles.
Down the far straight, with under a mile to go, the peerless race course commentator informed the peering punters below Eggo Bleu had extended his lead and was showing no signs of stopping.
Not only that; but the jockeys on Doctor Tom, Echo Foxtrot and Jumping Jupiter, as well as all the others, were now hard at work.
As Eggo Bleu turned into the finishing straight and began the climb towards the line, he was on his own. Saddler Smithers sat in the cock-pit, motionless, a bit like Ruby Walsh about to strike.
Eggo Bleu thundered past the post, entirely alone, a distance clear of his pursuers. He was a 33 to one shot and the lads didn’t have a sou on his back. “Mother of all Murgatroyds,” whispered Vinny to himself.
The syndicate members stared at one another, emotions in a whirl. If they looked like folk who had found a penny and lost a pound, it was because that’s how they felt.
After a bit, Spider broke the silence. “Mixer has some explaining to do.” As Vinny followed Spider’s wheel, he tried to get his head around what he’d witnessed. Eggo Bleu had some explaining to do too.