Brendan Duke: Life’s a beach when it comes to punting at Laytown

Our racing-loving writer has his bucket and spade packed for the traditional beach races at Laytown and looks ahead to Saturday’s meeting at Haydock…



As I wander through my middle years it seems the possibility of doing something for the last time becomes more likely than a new experience.

Not this week though as I plan to sample the delights of beach racing for the first time. On Thursday at approximately 3.45pm, the tide will ultimately decide the off time and I will be on the Laytown strand for their annual fixture.

Attendance has never been a high priority of mine, but in this unprecedented summer – when I’ve embraced the joys of sea swimming, swimming in the sea, in the sea off Ireland –  it seems the appropriate time.

As with any race meeting, I’ll be thinking about punting strategies.


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As a unique fixture I’m intuitively thinking ‘horses for courses’ would be the logical play. Then again it’s surely a kind surface to gallop on, similar in nature to all-weather tracks.

Perhaps all horses act on it. Surely no jockey has ever returned to the Laytown parade ring saying his horse wouldn’t let himself down on the quick ground.

Though I suppose in that case horse and rider may simply never have returned at all. Quicksand being the stuff of childhood nightmares.

Does the heart of the modern, pampered thoroughbred quicken at the sight of the open sea?

Or rather do they consider this the height of madness when they have a perfectly lovely, heated equine swimming pool at home. Given I’m trying to get inside the mind of a horse perhaps no bet and an ice cream would be the best strategy.

Mind you, in almost 30 years I’ve never gone racing and not had a bet. Two unprecedented acts in one day seems a little reckless. Whatever happens I shall report back from the seafront next week.

The highlight of the week will surely be the return of Harry Angel. What happened at Ascot was a desperate shame.

His comeback run when giving 5lbs and a good beating to Brando and Sir Dancelot suggested he was better than ever.

Some cribbed the way he ran about towards the finish, but I was more taken with how well he settled during the race. I thought he was just learning how to maximise his freakish talents.

Hopefully in Haydock on Saturday we will see a repeat of last year’s demolition job.

I expect him to win comfortably, but will be surprised if he’s any shorter than the current 5/4 come Saturday morning.

I don’t like backing horses at under 2/1, but will make an exception in his case. Barring another stalls calamity he should win.

Horse Racing

Sunday sees the seven-day Harvest Festival kick off in Listowel. What is it with these week-long Irish race meetings?

Ascot and Goodwood weigh in at a hefty five days – seems plenty. Perhaps it’s just an Irish thing.

At a wedding I got talking to an English woman. It was very late and we were in a residents’ bar. She explained that this wouldn’t happen in England. Sometime between midnight and 1am people leave.

It’s bedtime in fairness. Maybe this is what happened. Galway and Listowel thought five days would be enough, but people just wouldn’t go home. As Irish solutions to Irish problems go it’s not bad.

It’s a real ‘horses for courses’ track. The ground can become desperate, so much so that some soft ground horses can’t handle it.

They’re expecting a good drop of rain on Saturday, but the ground is currently on the quick side so that will do little harm.

Hopefully the weather holds and I’ll look at the Kerry National in next week’s piece.

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What do you think?