Reverend left reeling as Vinny comes up trumps
AGAINST THE ODDS:Cool dude Carberry has the regulars spellbound in Boru Betting, writes RODDY L'ESTRANGE
When it came to backing winners of Grand Nationals, one of his favourite punting pastimes, Vinny Fitzpatrick’s rheumy eye often landed on the bull.
Not for any sound, deep-founded, racing reasons; instead, the middle-aged bus driver used quirky, almost irrational, logic to pick out the odd winner or two.
His contemporary dream-chasers in Boru Betting on the Clontarf Road often scoffed at his haphazard approach. The Reverend, for example, was a stickler for the merits of hard-necked form over any soft-hearted fancy.
“Never wonder about a horse going on the ground, staying the distance, or if it’s a safe conveyance. The information is always there in front of you. Never wonder,” he thundered in an overbearing way which reminded Vinny of Mr Gradgrind from Hard Times, a book he had despised in school.
In Vinny’s case, the selection process was far more random, often expensively so.
When it came to a name, Vinny usually sided with horses of two words, hence his preference for Kauto Star over Denman. For numbers, he had a curious predilection for odds over evens.
Not all of Vinny’s foibles were quite as irrational as he contended that horses carrying more than 11 stone in a handicap chase over three miles in mid-winter were unlikely to win.
As he assessed the runners for the Welsh National on Saturday afternoon, fresh from a morning shift on the 130, Vinny drew a line through the first four horses in the handicap, which included Teaforthree, the hot favourite, as they had too much weight in his book.
With number seven a non-runner that left six odd-numbered candidates, only four of which consisted of two words. One of them, Mon Mome, was as old as the Chepstow hills and could be discounted.
Of the other three, it was the jockey booking, Paul Carberry, that caught Vinny’s attention. “What the Dickens is Carberry doing in south Wales for one ride?” he thought.
Sufficiently intrigued, Vinny invested a tenner each-way at 11 to 1 on Monbeg Dude, a horse he knew little about, and took his customary pitch in front of the oldest telly in Boru Betting where he was joined by The Reverend and Charlie St John Vernon.
The Welsh National was a slog at the best of the times. On rain-softened turf near the Severn basin, it would be a marathon affair of around eight minutes, allowing plenty of time for in-race observations.
Charlie Vernon, whose family owned half of Clontarf, had lumped a nifty 50 each-way on Michel Le Bon, which ticked none of Vinny’s boxes – even number, three words in the name and more than 11 stone on his back.
“Ruby’s like the postman, he always delivers,” purred Charlie, as the white flag was raised. Only Ruby wasn’t in the plate. He’d taken a hefty fall in the previous race and had been replaced by a claimer. Vinny glanced at The Reverend and raised an eyebrow. “I think you should tell him,” he shrugged.
With Charlie Vernon cursing loudly, the race unfolded. Vinny winced as he spied Monbeg Dude hit the third fence, then the fourth, and fifth. After one circuit, he was out of shot and seemingly out of contention. Vinny was bemoaning his luck.
“Come on Carberry, get the lead out,” he snapped.
The Reverend sniffed.
“So much for your madcap theories, Vincent. There will only be one winner, Teaforthree, which I had the perspicacity to back this morning at five to one. When he wins, I suggest we repair next door to Foley’s for something a little stronger than tea for three?
“Here is another suggestion,” said The Reverend, glancing at his mobile. “Your chap is trading at 50s on Betfair in running. As I’m feeling generous, I’ll give you tens against him making the first three.”
Vinny reddened. He hated it when The Reverend took pleasure in showing him up. He didn’t like losing money but losing face in Boru Betting was even more costly. ‘You’re on, for a tenner,” he said.
While Monbeg Dude appeared to be travelling well, he was back among the tail-enders, too far back for Vinny’s liking.
As the runners headed downhill on the final bend, the camera closed in on the front-runners. Teaforthree was prominent under granite-jawed AP McCoy and Vinny counted 10 others in picture.
There was no sign of Monbeg Dude; he was out with the washing.
With the Reverend tapping his mahogany stick on the wooden floor – a habit he had whenever a horse he’d backed was going well – Vinny spied Monbeg Dude making ground on the outside.
He was lying about sixth or seventh but was motoring smoothly and Chepstow’s long straight, Vinny knew, was as penal as Haydock or Aintree. “Go on, my son,” he urged just as Monbeg Dude clouted the fourth last.
The next minute or so was a slice of time Vinny would never forget. Bit by bit, Carberry coaxed Monbeg Dude into contention. Ahead of him, the contenders were burnt off. Approaching the final fence, only Teaforthree was in front of Monbeg Dude.
By now, The Reverend’s cane was loudly rapping the floor, 90 to the dozen, while Vinny was roaring his head off. Even Charlie St Vernon got in on the act, although his goose was cooked.
Despite a rickety jump at the last, Monbeg Dude’s momentum, and Carberry’s class, was enough to sweep past Teaforthree in the dash for the tape. Vinny went berserk and The Reverend flung his cane across the shop floor with venom.
Some 15 minutes later, the three dream-chasers were in the snug in Foley’s, one of them richer to the tune of around €220. Emotions were back in-check; friendships firmly intact.
“Gentlemen, I think it’s time for pints for three,” said Vinny raising a glass and tipping an imaginary forelock – it was many years since he last had one – to Paul Carberry. One cool dude.
3pts Lay Edinburgh to beat Munster in Heineken Cup (10/3, Paddy Power, liability 10pts).
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