My local racetrack at Navan, Co Meath
Official website of Justin Doyle
My life-long love affair with Horse Racing began, as it always does, at home with my parents. Every year we eagerly awaited the Grand National at Aintree and I can recall great horses such as Red Rum, Andy Pandy, The Pilgarlic, Ben Nevis.
Then later came greats like West Tip, Corbiere, Durham Edition, SunyBay, Earth Summit.
Every Christmas I can also remember my father going to pick up a family friend – Sister Ann from the Convent in Athlumney, Navan – and bringing her and her friend over to our house. They were particularly fond of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival races and a little tipple!
I placed my first bet when I was just 12 years old. My first win was on a horse at the Cheltenham Festival. I placed the grand sum of 20 pence on Casbah at 2/1 on favourite and I was over the moon to collect 30 pence!
I’ll never forget one of my first trips to a racecourse. It was the Curragh on Irish Derby Day as I marvelled wide-eyed at all the beautiful people on a scorching day and enjoying themselves with literally thousands of bottles of Champagne, Guinness and Budweiser.
But my biggest memory from the Curragh on Derby Day was following the great Lester Piggott out of the course. He was carrying a leather bag with his whip sticking out. A lady vendor in typical Dublin twang shouted at him:
“Lester, come ‘ere ta me til I giv ya a punnet of strawberries.”
He smiled, carried on walking and I continued to follow him through a gap in the hedge to a waiting helicopter in the middle of a field where, to my astonishment, the great Pat Eddery and a rather glamorous blonde lady were standing by the chopper waiting for him.
I asked both jockeys to sign my race-card which they did and then I asked Lester for his whip but he declined telling me (in his hard to understand speech impediment) that his whip was personal and had given him many glorious moments.
A day I’ll never forget!
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