Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: 'Me and the goys are thinking of buying a horse'
All the posh schools have a horseracing syndicate. Why not Castlerock College?
Whenever I hear the phrase “hord border”, I always think about Hugo McAllister, who ruled over the dormitories of Castlerock College with what can only be described as a reign of terror. Hugo – the son of a Tipperary publican – was built like a Portaloo and his wedgies were so famous that everyone at the school was encouraged to carry around a spare pair of boxer shorts, teachers included.
Anyway, Hugo shows up in The Bridge last weekend while I’m giving the goys my official post-World Cup analysis over pints of the good stuff. Yeah, no, he fixes me with a look and goes, “There he is! There’s the man that has all the money!” – a traditional Tipperary greeting.
I’m like, “Hugo, how the hell are you?” replying in the native language.
He goes, “I’m sound out, so I am. I went looking for yee in that place where yee used to drink – ’twas all closed up.”
“Yeah, no, Kiely’s,” I go. “Closed a year ago. Still hurts.”
He’s there, “I heard the place never recovered after you started doing dry January,” then he punches me in the orm with such a force that it would be considered a common assault if we hadn’t played on the same Junior Cup team. “Did yee hear that, fellas? I said I heard the place never recovered after this b****cks here started doing dry January!”
The goys all laugh – you’d be afraid not to – and we all wait for Hugo to get to the point, which he eventually does?
“Do yee want to buy a horse?” he goes.
For a good 30 seconds, we all think we’ve possibly misheard him?
“A horse!” he ends up having to go again. “The fook is the matter with yee – I’ve it outside in the box?”
JP’s there, “Eh, why would you think we’d want to buy a horse, Hugo?”
He goes, “Because ’tis the new thing, yee pack of posh fookers. Racehorses. The Blackrock fellas has one. The Belvedere boys, the same. I was thinking, ’tis a bad state of affairs surely when there’s no horse out there running in the Castlerock colours.”
Me and the goys all look at each other. He’s definitely pushing the right buttons with us.
“It is a focking disgrace,” JP agrees.
As it happens, it was only, like, two weeks ago that I was sitting at the next table to the legendary Brendan Macken in Uno Mas on Aungier Street and he was all talk about the Blackrock College syndicate. I even heard Cheltenham mentioned. The whole school – we’re talking past and present pupils? – have got behind it. A pettier man than me might say that the horse is basically an emotional support animal who’s given the school a huge lift since they stopped being good at rugby.
“Goys,” Oisinn goes, “are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“If you’re thinking in terms of a Castlerock College Racing Syndicate,” Christian goes, “then the answer is yes.”
Listen to Ross
JP’s there, “It’s a chance to beat Blackrock College at a whole new game!”
“’Tis €50,000,” Hugo goes. “And I’m a man who prefers to deal in cash.”
I’m there, “Whoa, whoa, whoa – we’re not just going to hand you 50,000 snots for something we haven’t even seen. It’s not 2005 anymore, although it’s thankfully beginning to feel like it again.”
He goes, “If yee don’t want it, I’m hearing the fellas in Clongowes is thinking of setting up a syndicate.”
I’m there, “I didn’t say we didn’t want it. I just need to talk to my – I don’t know – bloodstock adviser?”
I step away from him and I whip out my phone. Ronan answers on the third ring. He goes, “Rosser, you mad thing – what’s the stordee?”
I decide to get straight to the point. I’m there, “Me and the goys are thinking of buying a horse, Ro.”
He’s like, “Ehhh . . . feerd enough,” obviously wondering what the fock that has to do with him?
I’m there, “I don’t want to come across as a total amateur, so I’m wondering could you maybe suggest one or two questions I might ask to make it sound like I know what I’m actually doing?”
There’s, like, 10 seconds of silence, then he goes, “Do you think that all northsiders know about horses, Rosser?”
I’m there, “Of course I don’t think that.”
I do think that.
He goes, “That’s veddy insulting.”
I’m there, “No offence, Ro, but you’re never out of that bookies.”
Again, there’s silence on the line. Then he goes, “How many hands is he?”
I shout over to Hugo, “My – like I said – horse expert person is wondering how many hands has he?”
Ro goes, “How many hands is he, Rosser? It’s a unit of measurement – fook’s sake.”
I’m there, “Sorry, Hugo, he meant to say how many hands is he?”
Hugo’s like, “He’s 21.1 hands.”
I’m there, “Did you hear that, Ro?”
Ro goes, “What do you know about he’s mutter and fadder, Rosser?”
I’m like, “I know his old man owns three pubs in Clonmel. I don’t know what his old dear does. I want to say she’s a sheep-shearer but that might just be me being prejudiced against country people.”
“Ine talken about the horse’s mutter and fadder! Jaysus, Rosser, stay where you are. Ine coming over to you.”
Half an hour later, Ronan rocks up in a taxi. I pay the driver while he climbs into the box and checks the horse out, running his hands over him like he’s examining drywall and asking Hugo a lot of presumably intelligent questions? Then he nods at me and goes, “He’s a good horse, Rosser.”
I’m there, “So 50,000 yoyos divided by five . . . Fionn, you’re the numbers whizz.”
Fionn goes, “It’s €10,000 each, Ross,” and he says it just like that – doesn’t even need to think about it?
With his brains, Ronan’s – hopefully – knowledge of horses and my competitive spirit, I can’t see how we can fail.
Hugo leads the horse out of the box on to the road. I’m there, “Er, does it not come with the box?”
Hugo laughs and goes, “Of course it doesn’t – ye fooken half-thick!”
Then he drives off, leaving us standing there on Pembroke Place with a thoroughbred stallion and not a clue what to do with it.
I’m there, “Goys, I think this is one of the best ideas we’ve ever had.”