Clouds roll in but Rebel Fitz’s win lifts spirits

Kanturk is officially out of recession after the whole town came to Galway, raided the big race and bolted back to north Cork with their pockets bulging.

Less than two hours after Rebel Fitz squeezed home as second favourite in the Galway Hurdle, they were already queuing at the Alley Bar in Kanturk.

It wasn’t just a good night, it was a great night. If trainer Michael Winters declares the recession over, you know there was no shortage of money dragged from Ballybrit to be spent on porter in Kanturk. Everybody in the town has some connection to the horse. John D O’Connor, husband of Eilish, the owner of The Alley Bar in the town, was just one of many who took the party bus up to Galway and back again.

Sounding a bit worse for wear, he had a soft chuckle when asked what the first port of call was after the bus arrived back into the town.

“Well we had some day. We took a bus up there, a whole load of us and the Point to Point crew, everybody went. We were straight out after the win and were back here at about 11.30 and sure then it was straight to the bar. It was some night,” he said.

And while John might have had a hell of a night, his better half made sure half of Cork made it home in one piece.

“It was mighty and sure Eilish made sure everyone got home to all sorts of places like Liscarroll and Buttevant and other spots so the whole day couldn’t have gone any better really.

“We’ll have another big night tonight, you can be sure of that. It’s great though and it’s great for Michael (trainer) because he a great young fella, he really is,” he said.

Another man sounding pretty chipper was Michael’s brother and assistant trainer Tony Winters. With the whole town punting on Rebel Fitz, he was thrilled everyone could have a party on the back of the bookies.

“We were all there for the day and back again to Kanturk. Sure there was a queue outside both of the pubs from about 7.30pm, I’m told, and sure we were in there all hours. Like I said to you, Kanturk is officially out of recession after that one,” he joked.

While the whole town was on the beer for the weekend, spare a thought for poor old owner Brian Sweetnam. While the town partied hard, Brian, a banker in London but from Cork originally, had to be back at his desk bright and early yesterday morning. He said the success of the horse was down to the fact that everybody in Kanturk felt it was their horse, making Rebel Fitz a local horse in every sense.

“When Daddy talks about him being a local horse, that’s down to Michael Winters and how he involves everybody — the local cab driver, the local publican, everyone. And that’s great because on days like this the celebrating is for all of us,” he told the Racing Post.

For his part, father Jerry sounded even prouder than his owner son, professing the big win to have been beyond “our wildest dreams.”

While it might have been a hell of a night in Kanturk, one unfortunate punter made the mistake that many amazingly still seem to make of backing against Dermot Weld. After lumping €10,000 with Ladbrokes on Aidan O’Brien’s King of the Romans at 2-1, he was more out of pocket than most.

All in all it’s been a week for the bookies at Ballybrit this year. Numbers might be down, gambling figures might be down but the madness is on a par with any other year in the West. Shop Street heaved for the week, while the hub of all things partying for Race Week — the Radisson Hotel in the city centre, played host to a staggering 5,000 people on Ladies Day alone.

With a bank holiday on the way, people could be carrying their livers around by the time they are back in work on Tuesday.

So, while the West might be awake, it’s Kanturk that’s in the money.


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