The Seamus Meade Hurdle takes places at Leopardstown on Sunday, March 7th, as the Irish course pays tribute to one its most loyal and beloved patrons. Seamus’ daughter Patricia filled us in on her dad, his love of racing and how much it’ll mean to him and his family to have a race named in his honour…
My dad Seamus Meade was born on 26th August 1930 or, as he has always called it, nineteen and thirty.
His family owned a pub on George’s Avenue in Blackrock and as a boy, he helped out his parents collecting glasses and doing other small jobs in the bar. It was here that his love of horse racing, and of Leopardstown, really began.
Seamus says he always heard people in the pub talking about Leopardstown and the racing and he was fascinated as to what it might be like. At the age of ten, he decided to find out, so he hopped on his bike and cycled the few miles up to the racecourse.
He remembers that it was a penny to get in and another penny for a man to mind your bicycle while you were inside watching the racing. He must have thought that it was two pennies well spent because he has been a regular at the track ever since.
After he married my mum Kathleen in 1963, they took annual membership at Leopardstown and have been members every year since.
Those early years of membership coincided with the career of the great Arkle. Seamus saw him run many times in Foxrock and particularly recalls his victory in the 1966 Leopardstown Chase where he narrowly beat the mare Height of Fashion, a race in which Arkle had to give the runner up three stone.
Strangely enough, his favourite memory of being at Leopardstown for an Arkle victory was when that great champion was running elsewhere. It was St Stephen’s Day 1965 and Arkle was running in the King George at Kempton Park. At Leopardstown, all the racegoers were crowded round the speakers listening to the commentary of the race from England and the roar that went up when Arkle got up to win was something he’s never forgotten.
He brought us all there as children, my sister Liz and I and our younger brother John who used to pal around with a very young Ruby Walsh on race days. More latterly, he has brought his grandchildren along to share his love of horse racing and of Leopardstown, my son Mick has been particularly bitten by the racing bug.
Seamus tells me that what he treasures most from his 80-plus years of going to Leopardstown are all the great friends he has made down the years. Whilst they are too numerous to name, he particularly wanted to mention his fellow members Frances and Gerry O’Donohue and Sam Dunne who all passed away recently.
My Dad, now 90, has not been enjoying the best of health in recent months and this combined with the current restrictions on gatherings probably means that it’s odds against him ever getting back to his beloved Leopardstown.
Having a race named after him at the racecourse that has played such a huge part in his life is a great honour for him and all the family and we would like to thank everyone involved very much, particularly everyone at Leopardstown for facilitating it. I’m not even sure he will completely believe it’s actually happening until the horses take off in the Seamus Meade Hurdle and the racecourse commentator calls his name.
- Paddy’s Hall of Fame: Racing punter nets £2k off £2.50 bet
- Get the latest horse racing news from Paddy Power
- Cheltenham Festival dates, race times and antepost tips from our experts
- Cheltenham Festival fans allowed to attend Prestbury Park?