Roddy L’Estrange: Will our heavily favoured hero fall for a frisky filly at the last?

With Cheltenham here, lucky Vinny hopes to stay out of trouble on the home stretch

Vinny Fitzpatrick had never bought the karma angle that good turns deserved another. In was in his nature to say please and thank you, to hold doors open for folk, and to offer help for those who needed it, if he could. His Christian actions weren't fuelled by any desire to build up credits with the great big bookmaker in the sky; rather it was the way his late Ma, Bridie, had raised him.

And yet, as he whistled on his way home from work on a mild Monday afternoon, he wondered what he had done to invite such advantageous fortune into his wee world.

Everything he touched recently, and things that touched him, had turned to gold and he couldn’t get his head around it all.

“Perhaps I should just back Willie Mullins’ runners in every race this week, sit back and count the cash,” he thought.


Vinny hadn’t had providence on his side since marching with Heffo’s Army in the 1970s. All week, he had surfed a series of tidings of comfort and joy.

It began in the wake of his “Mutiny on the Buses”, which he felt was a potential suspension.

Instead, by the time he reported to Socket Twomey’s office, talks between union and management had come to a head and drivers were given the green light to carry on listening to their trannies.

“Ye dodged a bullet Vinny. Ger’ outta of my sight,” snarled Socket.

Vinny’s mood had further improved on Friday when Angie called from Seattle, sounding decidedly chipper.

“My energy levels are improving, and Emma and I have been invited to dinner tonight by the lovely people in the local Leukeamia and Lymphoma Society,” said Angie.

"Better still, I can get Racing UK on the TV in my room, so I can follow Cheltenham over breakfast. Enjoy the races love, and don't go mad," she warned.

Roll of the dice

From there, the roll of the dice fell Vinny’s way as a cluster of favourites trotted in, helped by the fact a few bob were involved.

He had a score on Everton at 6/4 to beat Chelsea in the FA Cup on Saturday, and felt sufficiently emboldened to place a nifty-fifty on the Dublin hurlers to beat Waterford, at the same odds, on Sunday afternoon.

He’d left the footballers alone but watched the game over a pint on Saturday night in Foleys and reckoned Down were one of the worst Division One teams he’d ever seen. “Even the Gaels would give them a run,” he said aloud.

There was only one way his happy lot could be improved, and that was by way of a bountiful Cheltenham.

He’d checked his Huntly and Palmer biscuit tin earlier that morning and found all was present and correct. He had set aside €600 for wagers, less than some of the regulars in Foley, but more than sufficient for his means.

Unlike a lot of punters, especially those who inhabited the corners of Vernon Racing, Vinny chose to ignore multiple bets, the doubles, trebles, and Yankees.

Rather, he liked to have an interest in every race, so he could enjoy the outcome in its entirety. It was a safe, if unspectacular form of gambling, but it reflected Vinny’s persona, as he rarely overplayed his hand.

With 28 races at the Festival – far too many for his purist mind – he would put €20 on per race, and keep a €40 kicker for Friday's Grand Annual finale, for which he had a inkling for Rock The World, trained by Jessica Harrington.

“No better woman than Jessie for prepping a horse for Cheltenham,” he thought.

Coconut whiff

His sunny mood continued as he turned into Mount Prospect Avenue. Though it was past six, the sky was bright, the evening birdsong was in full voice.

Vinny loved spring, when the gorse carried a coconut whiff and St Patrick’s Day approached at pace.

This year, Dublin Bus had been asked to march on the Paddy’s Day parade and again on Easter Monday, to mark the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Men with 30 years’ service were given first dibs and Vinny had opted for the Easter gig – he would be finished in good time for Fairyhouse.

For the moment, his thoughts were on Cheltenham. Would his run of luck continue? Would King Willie rule again? Would Ruby rock on? The next few days would tell. Turning into his home, he was startled to see a tall blonde lady perched on one of the pillars.

“At last, you are here. Help me down please, Mr Vincent.”

The interloper had legs like Cyd Charisse, which she wrapped around Vinny’s torso as she slid suggestively off the pillar.

“A damsel in distress always needs her Prince Charming?” she said, towering above her rescuer.

Vinny gulped. “Hi Petra,” he said, stealing a peak, left and right. “What brings you here?” he said as casually as possible.

“You do, of course,” smiled Petra.

Silent pledge

The blonde vixen from Vilnius worked in Fran’s launderette, Bubbles On The Bull, and had never hidden her feelings for Vinny, not least when their paths entwined in a steamy shower in Poznan at Euro 2012.

The details of that rendezvous would always remain silent, safe to say Vinny made a silent pledge never to, er, expose himself in such a way again.

“With Angie away I wondered would you like some company?” asked Petra provocatively.

Vinny took half a step back. He was a creature prone to prevarication, a ditherer in front of goal, a dawdler over a short putt.

He could hem and haw with the best. Not this evening. “I’m grand thanks, Petra. I think we’ll leave it there so.”