Here for craic: Aidan Shiels at the Melbourne Cup barrier draw. Photo: Daniel PockettWizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all RacingDownloadable Cup sweep
The word around Melbourne in the past few days hasn’t been so much about whether Irish raider Heartbreak City can win the Melbourne Cup – it’s about the horse’s connections potentially drinking the town dry.
New York-based Irishmen Aidan Shiels, Niall Reilly and Charlie Gavigan already have a reputation for enjoying a drink in celebration – or commiseration – after their horse runs.
When the horse won the Ebor, Europe’s richest flat handicap, at York in August, their well-marinated post-race interview broke the internet.
Fittingly, Shiels owns pubs in New York, and at the Irish Rover in Queens next week there will be a heaving Melbourne Cup party in full swing as Heartbreak City attempts to defy a bad barrier draw.
The name of their syndicate: “Here For The Craic.” In other words, the good time.
“We’re good friends,” declares Shiels. “We drink, we go out, holidays together, do it for the craic, that’s what it is.
“People think we are crazy, but what are you going to do? Walk around and shake hands after winning a big race – it could be five years between wins. Jesus, enjoy them because there are too few of them. We don’t care about the money. The money doesn’t mean anything.”
They will raise a glass after the Cup win or lose. Yet there’s a sobering aspect to their trip to Melbourne. When they arrive at Flemington on Tuesday, they will be thinking of their late friend, George Swan.
“A good friend of ours owned this horse last year – George Swan,” explains Sheils. “He won a two-mile race in York and then he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August and he was dead by November.
“We are good friends with his wife, and she’s not a racing person. [Trainer] Tony Martin wanted to keep the horse in the yard and asked us if we wanted to buy it. And now we’re here, trying to win the Melbourne Cup.”
Said Martin on Sunday at the traditional international gallopers breakfast at Werribee: “I’d really love him to win for the man above. The man was only 50 years of age when he died of cancer. I think he’ll be looking down – whatever he does on Tuesday I think he’ll be rooting for him.”
Presently considered a $15 chance, Heartbreak City is a French-bred seven-year-old that is getting better with age.
He was drawn barrier 23 but jockey Joao Moreira has told the three Irishman not to worry about it.
“Our jockey is the magic man,” grins Shiels. “We’ll find out on Tuesday if he’s a magic money.”
Indeed, the owners cannot understand the fuss about the wide alley.
Says Reilly: “We have two-mile races at home and it doesn’t matter what barrier you come from. It’s interesting to see how the media play that up here.”
Shiels and Reilly have raced horses together for the best part of two decades. But this is Gavigan’s first horse.
“Unbelievable,” he says. “Can’t believe I’m here to be honest. It’s the first racehorse I’ve ever been involved in. This horse came up and I said [to Shiels and Reilly], ‘Do you mind if I go with you?’ They said, sure, for the craic. I would’ve been happy to see a horse running, not winning. He won the first day in Cork. He’s run five times since we’ve had him and he’s won four.”
How many big nights have they had after a win with Heartbreak City? Which one stands out?
“It was a good night after the Ebor,” he laughs. “We came back and we had a party in Ireland with 205 people. We gave it hell for a night. And a party in New York. Then we knew we were coming here so we put ourselves in quarantine for a few weeks.”
Then Gavigan reflects on another big win the year earlier, when Swan was still alive.
“He watched that night and he’d just done his first bout on chemo that day. He was gone three months later. It’s a cruel, cruel disease, the way it can take someone. But I am sure he’s been with us the last few days.” The ultimate racing form guide with free tips, live odds and alerts for all racing.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.