There are times when writing something is a hell of a lot easier than saying it, or trying to say it, or just actually finding the words to say it. Be that in finding the words to ask for help or, for me, trying to figure out a way to say publicly what you think with no first-hand experience and when the fear of expressing what you think leads you to feel you shouldn’t voice your opinion.
I was a professional jockey, I am a father of four daughters, a husband, a son, and a brother. I have had the pleasure of feeling the highs gifted to me from winning at the highest level in my chosen sport and felt the lows of losing, injury, falling and the tragedy of losing friends on the track in front of my eyes. Life is not level, even or fair.
Of course I knew Liam Treadwell. I rode against him, changed in the same dressing rooms as him and, on occasion, have been at the same social events as him, where we would have had a drink and a chat. I said I knew him but when I really think about it, I didn’t. I have met Liam Treadwell on many occasions and, like thousands of people I think I know, I actually don’t.
I didn’t know Liam had one brother or that his parents Mark and Lorraine both worked for John Dunlop or that Liam served his apprenticeship with Amanda Perrett before moving north to join Dandy Nicholls.
In fact, I didn’t know that Liam Treadwell began his career on the Flat, I just assumed he started with and always worked for Venita Williams because that is where I first remember meeting him and where I always associate him working. Mon Mome winning the Grand National at Aintree being the day no racing fan will ever forget Liam Treadwell for.
Likewise, I now realise that I didn’t know Rose Patterson. I met her many moons ago when she came to Willie Mullins’ one morning to ride out and then had the enjoyment of riding at Aintree racecourse as she steered the ship there since 2014. I have, of course, met her several times in the last few years, always at a racing-related events and our conversations always revolved around how the Grand National could be made even better.
I can only add that Liam was a gent, and Rose was a lady. But their unexplained deaths this week have left me saying, to quote the Vicar who spoke at James Banks’ funeral four months ago, “there are no answers at this time, only questions.”
James was a former National Hunt rider who also died in unexplained circumstances in February. I met him many times too, but I didn’t ever know him, but I do wish I knew them all.
I can’t answer the ‘why this happened’ question. I don’t have the qualifications or knowledge of how to advise anybody else to not choose this course in life, but I am human, I do have feelings and like every human on this planet, I experience good days and bad.
When Ronan Keating wrote the lyrics ‘life is a rollercoaster’ he never wrote truer words. What exactly he meant I don’t know, but I do know what they mean to me because, for me, that is what life has always been: ups and downs.
But, unlike gravity, with what goes up must come down, in life what goes down must be lifted back up. The ability to talk, confide or trust in somebody else is not a given for everyone and nor is the ability to listen bestowed upon us all either. But the ability to soldier on is.
Night follows day, but light also follows dark. Where there is life there is hope. The answer to anyone’s problems may never be found, nor will the outcomes of what we seek in life always be the results we want. But, while you can still look for, dream of or chase after whatever it is you have wanted in life, be it as simple as happiness, there is the chance you may find it.
The day you can no longer ask those questions of yourself is only the day somebody else starts. Your pain isn’t gone, it hasn’t been shared like it should have been to lessen the load on yourself, only simply inherited by someone else. It’s not the end because the world is round, and it will keep turning. Talk, confide, write a letter, send an email or make sure you listen. The real glory is in living.
Meanwhile this evening at 7.15pm, 14 three-year-old colts and one filly will line up for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby. Never before has the race been run before its English or French equivalents, but also gone are days when the French and English winners would clash here on the last Sunday in June.
The consistent rise in standard of the horses trained here in Ireland, primarily by Aidan O’Brien, has led to a few weak renewals of this event in the last couple of years - but only a couple, unlike what others may think.
Capri beat Cracksman and the Epsom hero Wings Of Eagles here three years ago and before that Harzand, Jack Hobbs and Australia were all successful. Not exactly a poor roll call.
Last year was a strange result but the cat-and-mouse tactics played out in the first two furlongs by the leading fancies enabled 33/1 shot Sovereign to steal an unassailable lead.
As for today, Seamus Heffernan is proving to be Ballydoyle’s go-to man on these shores, with Ryan Moore unable to meet quarantine regulations and ride both here and in the UK. But Moore did ride Santiago to victory at Ascot last week and I think Seamie will follows suit today.
The race will have a huge global audience this evening with Fox Sports broadcasting it in the USA to its 100 million viewers, and the Green Channel, which is free to air in 40 million homes, showing it in Japan.
Add that to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, 17 counties in the Middle East, the vast majority of Europe, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean and you start to understand how a big a shop window Irish Racing has right now. A competitive 15-runner Derby might just have come about at the right time.