Book Picture A Tip From Dublin In Ballinrobe

Sitting at breakfast in Wicklow we were reading the racing schedules for the day. The only race that was "on" that we could possibly reach in time was in Ballinrobe on the other side of Ireland.

Could we make it especially since we needed to go to Dublin and exchange the car? The left front wheel was squealing at the least bit of pressure on the brakes. Having to go to the Dublin airport to exchange the car was a bit daunting since we picked the car up in Shannon and we weren't familiar with the airport in Dublin. The owner of the B&B shared his paper with us which had a front page story about a fatal car wreck blamed on faulty brakes. He suggested the garage in town may be able to fix it but alas the garage was closed.

Fortunately it was Sunday morning and the roads we empty. Once we noted the signs in Dublin pointing the way to the airport it was a snap. The automatic transmission was not available on the car exchanged but the paper work was quick and we actually were going to get a rebate. Now we really were on our way.

For the next few hours we questioned ourselves about the trip we were taking clear across Ireland but it wasn't long before we located the race track and started looking for a nearby B&B. O'Grady's was on the main road and had one room left. We had looked at a number of B&Bs all full because of the race and decided we should take the room and worry about the road noise later. Mrs. O'Grady was a very friendly woman who incidentally had a twin sister in San Francisco and was delighted to get a little news from that area. With our luggage stored in the room and our room key in hand we decided to go to the track early and get familiar. We were just about to pull away from the curb when there was a sharp rapping on the roof of the car. It was Mrs. O'Grady with something in her hand.

"I've a tip from Dublin if I can just find it - I've written it down somewhere here in my address book. I remember it was "lock" something. Just look for Lock and bet big on it."

My question was about whether these tips from Dublin could be relied upon.

"Oh", she said "I don't get them often but when I do - I bet. You'll get plenty of tips but not many from Dublin and when they come from there the big boys are in." This was encouraging. We were early and parking was not a problem so we parked along the road strategically facing the way we wanted to go after the race. The walk was short and the race track was beautifully set with a back drop of clouds and mountains to the west. The lay out was simple compared to Golden Gate Fields near Berkeley. There is a road 1/4 mile long through a grassy area where people park that leads to a gate where the entrance fee is collected. Just beyond is several buildings for food or betting and then an open area where people congregate. To the right is the "Tote" a building that houses the official betting windows. The odds are not good but can be trusted. On the other side is the Stands (no seats) and track. Straight ahead is the paddock where they parade the horses before the race and on the other side of that is the jockey meeting rooms where they are weighed. Further down is the horse stables. To the right of the paddock is an area where the bookies set up with their umbrellas and electronic odds boards. Some of the old timers use a slate board with chalk. I hope you have some idea of the layout now although I should probably draw a map.

This description is to help you vision the movement that took place between races. First we would study the racing card which lists all the horses, jockeys and all the statistics around each plus a little recent news on the horse. This was listed for each race. Some of the commentary was very funny such as:

If you bet on Skyrocket you'll be one of a handful. The horse has never finished a race yet.


Caughtfrombehind is a good name for this horse except that it is inappropriate in that he has never actually been out in front.

There was at least three or four horses that the writer felt had no chance to win. Occasionally the comments were less critical but hardly encouraging. If the horse was favored the comment was: No money to be made here since the horse is everyone's pick except some foolish long shot betters. Better to pick one of the other horses to show.

We enjoyed each and every race and actually had won about 5 races between us but at two Euro you don't expect to pocket much and we were not experienced enough to play the Exacto or any of the other bets available. Some of the characters you see looked liked they lived for nothing else. We had several conversations with horse race enthusiasts who had come from Northern Ireland just for the races - wouldn't miss them. Their insights were interesting. One man said he had done well winning over a thousand Euro so far and would probably call it a day. His wife (bearer of truths) said if he hadn't spent 1500 Euro to win 1000 then he would truly be a winner. The man grumbled being exposed but said it was better than last year and didn't we have fun today.

We were ahead but I didn't have the heart to mention it besides what is 50 Euros to someone who expects to play 1000 or more. Just then my wife said here is a horse called Load and Lock - do you suppose that is the horse that Mrs. O'Grady meant. We hurried off to the paddock to look at the horse. Not too promising as it was limping in a very uneven gait. My wife said who would bet on a limping horse? I said I would because maybe it is a trick to put all the betters off. I said how many times are we going to get a "Tip from Dublin"? Once in a lifetime. So from the paddock we walked over to the bookies to see what odds they were giving Load and Lock. A little better than 5 to 1 which is not to bad. Then we noticed that the race was 3 miles long. From the bookie area we went over to the Tote and placed our bets. Some young boy jumped in front of me to place a bet. He turned back at me and said. "It's for me ma". Right! I bet on some other horse while Patricia put down 20 Euro on Load and Lock to win. From there we went over to the stands and got up as high as we could which wasn't that far up actually. The stands were about 60 feet wide, maybe 20 large steps up and covered. You had to stand but there was a railings here and there so you could hold on. In a matter of minutes it would be packed and after the race emptied in minutes. The alternative was to go down to the fence by the track. That was dramatic when the horses went thundering by but you couldn't see the entire track at ground level. At the stands we could see the entire oval. It was not round or even symmetrical but just generally oval and had high and low areas. Soon they were off and around they went the first of three times around. As the horses passed the stands Load and Lock was behind them all. By the second passing he was in the middle and as they rounded the last turn he was in the lead. The crowd was yelling come on Load and Lock, come on Load and Lock, over and over as if we could yell the horse to victory. It was very exciting, everyone jumping up and down as Load and Lock came flying by. For a limping horse he could really move. Back to the Tote to collect our winnings. We both won on that race and did quite well for the day. My wife won 105 Euro for her 20 Euro bet and I won 15 Euro for mine. We were up 180 after expenses. Mrs. O'Grady said to quit after the 7th race because it was nothing but untested horses a there was no way to really place a bet. Besides you'll want to beat the crowd. If you win go to the Sopranosí Restaurant for a nice meal with your winnings. We did and it was a lovely meal indeed.

Back to the B&B, well after midnight we crept up the stairs and were about to crawl under the sheets when there was a light knock at the door. It's me she said - I just want to know if you bet on Load and Lock like my husband and I. I said yes and she said they both were filthy rich now and she would see us at breakfast. She was in a good mood the next day but only mentioned that she rarely gets a tip from Dublin and she was so happy that we were able to use the tip too. I asked her if she had gone to the track and she said no she had merely walked up the street and placed a bet in one of the local establishments.

We took a few photos of us leaving and I sent them to her from home. It was a rare experience that Tip from Dublin. .

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