Prayer fails to do trick for Paddy backers

BERNADETTE Coffey went to the church in Bantry yesterday morning and lit a candle for Paddy.

Forpadydeplasterer, that is. That he would return safe from his Cheltenham adventure, and that he would storm up the hill and get his nose in front for the Goat Racing Syndicate.

Somebody tore up the script when it came to the race itself, with the fairytale season for the 22 owners not finishing off with a win. A lost shoe may have had something to do with that.

But at least the horse came back healthy and well, in fourth place, so Bernadette’s candle-lighting wasn’t in vain. It was much appreciated by her brother Richard Coffey, a member of the syndicate, in any event. “I got a text this morning from her about it,” he said. “The whole of Bantry are watching it.”

In the end, it was another Irish horse that thwarted the Sunderland scarf-wearing owners, Fiveforthree for the Ruby Walsh/Willie Mullins axis. Tiger Bay made it six Irish wins in the Grand Annual Chase, with 50/1 shot Silver Jaro making it a seven-timer for 2008.

“We’re a bit disappointed,” said Goat owner, syndicate leader and Sunderland investor Charlie Chawke after their race. “But it’s great to be here and great to have a horse good enough to be here. Unfortunately, he didn’t win, but we’d a great time with this horse. We’ll be back next year and we’ll get the silver.”

Charlie was heading off to Sunderland — “to beat Chelsea” — but had Niall Quinn in Cheltenham for support yesterday. He also managed to get another sporting love, Adare’s senior hurlers in Limerick, into his post-race musings.

Asked beforehand about the horse’s name, Charlie joked: “Paddy was a friend of everybody in Dublin. Very generous, he gave money to people. He was like a Santa Claus…”

Richard Coffey and the gang may not have come up trumps, but for Fermoy breeder Colman O’Flynn and his family it was a day that will live long in the memory. Daughter Rita and son-in-law Edmond Kent were there to see Denman — bred by Colman and broken in by Edmund — take the Gold Cup in impressive style. Virginia O’Flynn and Colman Jnr were also caught up in the Denmania. “I was smiling from the off,” said Edmond.

The cup was presented by Princess Anne, who arrived earlier in the afternoon to much attention from the public and the media. Apart from smiling at the racecourse officials there to welcome her, she didn’t communicate a whole lot to the masses, or even offer her opinion on Forpadydeplasterer.

Kate Middleton, she of Prince William fame, was also around but didn’t get the whole police outrider and public barrier treatment.

Neither did Frank Naughton from Ennis come in for any special attention, despite it being his birthday.

“This is my present, being here,” he said after arriving on the course with his wife Anne. “That’s what they gave me.”

It was their first time at the Cheltenham festival, and also first time for their son David, who was there along with Caroline Keane. While natives of Ennis, David and Caroline live in London.

“We might have a bit of luck today, and have a horse ourselves for next year,” said David.

With the group were Martin Brassil and Kay Brassil from Kilrush. “No relation to the trainer,” said Martin. “Maybe a distant cousin,” added Kay.

Cillian Hogan from Douglas in Cork had literally screamed himself hoarse when willing Inglis Drever on to victory on Tuesday. “It was brilliant, brilliant. We had High Chimes as well at 17/1,” he said. Also there from Douglas were Ian Mahony and Vicky Mahony, along with Brian Dillon from Tralee.

Jockey John Cullen from Wexford arrived with his parents Peggy and Willie Cullen, as well as Anne-Marie Moloney from Thurles. John was booked to ride Maralan, trained by the colourful Oliver Brady.

“I haven’t backed a winner yet, not at all,” said Anne-Marie “Maralan has a chance, hopefully anyway.”

As it turned out, there was to be no opportunity for winning enclosure fun for the team, with Maralan finding the Cheltenham jumps a bit trickier than those back home.

Former minister Joe Walsh, enjoying retirement from the Dáil since last year, was on Forpadydeplasterer, but had a good week nonetheless. Nina Carberry did him a favour on Garde Champetre on Tuesday, while yesterday yielded good results through Alberta’s Run and the Champion Chase winner. “I did Master Minded, which was the most impressive winner I’ve ever seen in Cheltenham. That I’ve ever seen in the last 20 years. Absolutely outstanding.” So he was enjoying the festival: “Very much, a great week.”

As Joe looked forward to Gold Cup afternoon, the sky was like a scene from a Vietnam film, with helicopters coming from all angles to ferry the great and the good to the climax of this year’s festival.

The Irish politicians weren’t among them. “The Dáil is sitting this week,” Joe explained with a satisfied smile.

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