e were in Portugal on a training camp one year with the Dublin hurlers when I read out those words from John O’Donohue’s poem ‘For a new beginning’.
For a long time, the hurlers were safe, they hurled safe.
The Dublin footballers had all the danger because they were under the spotlight. I wanted the boys to take more risks, to be braver, to hurl without the seduction of safety.
I was reminded of those lines yesterday when I watched Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins tear Cheltenham apart.
Those guys don’t operate under the seduction of safety. Their courage is always kindled once they step onto that sacred ground.
I got a text from my good friend, Colin Higgins, (not a Ruby fan for some reason) on Wed evening. “Would Ruby not just leave it to the young lads at this stage,” he suggested.
A lot of other punters were probably thinking like Higgy after Ruby’s first couple of days in the saddle but then the ‘King’ comes out yesterday and reminds everyone why he is the ‘King’.
His 56th Cheltenham winner confirmed as much. To round it off, Willie hit his 52st winner. Talk about farming out the place.
He set the tone in the first race on Yorkhill before going to another level in the Ryanair Chase on Un De Sceaux.
Everyone felt he would have to be held up and come late but Ruby made the decision after four fences to let him off.
The commentators were saying that he couldn’t keep it going but Ruby gave him an unbelievable ride.
At the end of the race, the camera flashed to Michael O’Leary, who gave the thumbs up to Willie Mullins.
When Willie and Michael had their disagreement last year, Willie reputedly said to O’Leary: “Michael, I don’t tell you how to fly planes.”
Willie knows best how to train horses but O’Leary’s reaction afterwards showed how businessmen just get on with it in this game.
It must have been sweet for Willie to be on a podium laced with Ryanair gear but business is business. And gets business done.
I had backed Empire Of Dirt, a tip I got from Bryan Cooper in a chance meeting in Dublin last week. He never got into the race at all but no horse would have lived with Ruby.
In the Stayers’ Hurdle, most punters would have smelled a favourites day and waded into JP McManus’s Unowwhatimeanharry.
All looked to be going to plan coming to the last but suddenly he began to wobble and it looked as though outsider Lil Rockefeller would hold on. Suddenly from midfield who shoots up the rails only Ruby on Nichols Canyon, an 11-1 shot.
The Irish were cleaning out the English trainers and Mullins was firmly back.
I delved into that world of safety yesterday. I threw an extra tenner into the account and went for a €2 e/w lucky 15. I went for three fairly fancied horses and a lively outsider, who ran a cracker.
My last leg on the four-timer was a tip I got on Twitter from Mike Flynn from the Na Piarsaigh club in Limerick. Barron Alco was trained by Gary Moore , with son Jamie, on his back.
He was a front-runner and Mike reckoned he had a great chance. He ran a great race and led all the way with the favourite making a few bad mistakes, along with being hampered by another horse, all until Bryan Cooper appeared in the Ryanair colours on Road To Respect to do us up the straight.
That was O’Leary getting his kickback two races later.
A win at 14/1 would have brought our winnings up to a nice little sum but we had a winner and two places to return €67.78 for €60. I comforted myself with the thought of the misfortunate who staked £400,000 on Douvan on Wednesday.
How did he feel waking up in some hotel this morning?
This game is a mixture of talent, bravery and luck and maybe Willie Mullins’ has just turned at the right time.
The Gold Cup is the one prize that has eluded the Carlow legend but maybe his time will come today with Djakadam. Few would have been predicting that possibility after the first two days but that’s what we love about National Hunt racing — the absolute uncertainty.
People like Willie and Ruby don’t operate in a world seduced by safety. They just seduce us all through high-wire risk and drama.