A Day At The Races

Wed 8th Apr 2015, 10:02

Sarah Jane, Emma and David at Leopardstown Blog 8. July 2014. Michael O' Callaghan's Indian Tomahawk is running at Leopardstown. Myself, Sophie and SJ from WillFredd Theatre follow him up the M50 to find a big crowd for a summer evening's racing. There will be a band playing after the racing, and the crowd seem to be a mixture of racing people and newbies like myself. I test my new-found knowledge of reading the form by reading the race card to David Donohue, our resident racing expert. I think I've got it right. I better have, I want to win a few quid! Something to set me up for my retirement from dancing, which I suspect is a similar age as that of a jockey.

The bookies are hard at work, each and every one of them has a particular style. For a fleeting second they hold the dreams of the punters as money passes through their hands. Watching them is like seeing dozens of mini -performances all worthy of a good review. It looks like such an exciting job and it's engrossing to see them in action. I'm looking for movement between them, for signs of 'tic tac' I've heard so much about, but it isn't there. Racing like everything else moves fast with the times. All the boards are digital, the odds change quickly and there's nothing for me to decipher. It seems I'm a little late for tic-tac.

Watching a horse run as a punter is one thing. Watching a horse run that you met on its home turf a mere two hours ago is completely different. And watching a horse when you've put a few quid on to win is different again. He doesn't win, in this case. He runs well, he's in third for a long time and then in the last furlong pushes back to come fourth. I wonder if Michael is pleased with this result and where it fits into Indian Tomahawk's future. It's a long game, and there are so many tactics to training, as well as, it seems, pure instinct and knowing the horse. At the end of the day everyone's hopes and dreams are riding on a win; jockey, trainer, owner and punter. The win is the great equaliser.

This feels different to Derby weekend, which was my first time at the Curragh a few weeks ago. The excitement was high then, and being on the Curragh felt hallowed, especially at such a thrilling meeting, but actually knowing a horse and trainer, even a little bit, changes how I watch the race. It's become more than just a day out.

As the jockeys come out of the weighing room I can't help but think about what must be going through their minds as they walk up to the trainer, owner and horse. How much training, wasting and sacrifice has led up to this moment? David points out how certain jockeys ride, and their different riding styles. I can see some of my grandfather Phillip's observations in practise, and am starting to notice when a jockey has 'soft hands.'

This is a week of working and racing. After a days work in the studio - my first time dancing and responding to some of the material created from the people that we have met so far. I feel like I can genuinely begin to show horse, jockey and dancer, and look at how they interact with each other.

At this point, racing readers and blog followers, I must let you know that Jockey by WillFredd Theatre and myself will premiere at VISUAL, Carlow on 15th and 16th May before Dublin Dance Festival [20th,21st, 22nd May Samuel Beckett Theatre], Bray [Mermaid Theatre 28th May] and finally The Riverbank Arts Centre in Newbridge on 6th June.

I will be in the racing counties of Carlow and Kildare, so come and see the final moment of my journey! There is currently an early bird ticket offer for Carlow performances, if you quote IRISH RACING whilst booking, you will get a discount!

NEXT WEEK: The moment has arrived - riding a real racehorse!

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