Over the stable door: No ordinary trip to the races for Irish contingent

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FIVE YEARS ago I invited some Irish friends to the Bedale Hunt Ball to make up a table. The three single chaps, who live in London, readily accepted the invite. They always enjoyed their trips to Yorkshire, having delighted in the company and hospitality of the county’s female population on many occasions.

It was on this evening, about the time when my matchmaking skills seemed at their most successful (three marriages and only one divorce) that love blossomed for one of my Irish pals, Dave.

Up until then Dave had been more obsessed with the figures involved in flat racing statistics than those gyrating in front of him on a Saturday night when we would frequent the dancefloors of London’s finest.

A lawyer by trade, Dave is a highly intelligent chap. Although the right build and nationality to be a jockey his passion for horse racing comes from the ground. An anorak knowledge of form figures won him a prominent position at an online betting company in its early days. He thrived working alongside other like-minded eccentrics whose fingers would twitch if spent too long away from a lap top.

When he met my friend Amanda across a raucous bar at the hunt ball we were all pleased. Amanda knew what she wanted and wasn’t planning on missing this enchantingly funny Irish chap who had tinkled her heart strings. Meeting a woman like her was just what Dave needed. I don’t think any of us, least of all them, ever envisaged five years later they would be setting up home together having just renovated their new family house.

To celebrate the housewarming last week Dave decided he wanted to do something a little different. There was a large contingency arriving for the weekend from Dublin along with work mates, professional gamblers and Yorkshire pals so he couldn’t disappoint. He booked a box at Ripon races to be followed by drinks at the new home.

I knew there was something out of the ordinary happening when I received a text earlier in the week from him checking I was definitely going to be at Ripon.

Some of the Dublin lads had sponsored a race on the card so when I arrived it was no surprise to find the first race named the ‘Dave loves Amanda handicap’. Thinking that would sufficiently embarrass their pragmatic reserved host the lads were taken aback when Dave played them a double bluff.

Tris and I arrived at the box to find the mood filled with expectant excitement. Dave had also sponsored a race. The fifth race was called ‘The Marry me Amanda Maiden Stakes.’

Earlier in the day he had left the race card open in front of her and proclaimed it to be a question. It took our bride-to-be a short time to twig she was indeed ‘the’ Amanda but on doing so was overjoyed to accept.

For all to see later he was forced to get down on bent knee and do the job properly, his astonished pals there to bear witness.

As if to make the day complete a horse owned by them all came in at Haydock with odds of 25-1. Everything seemed to slip in to place. We had a wonderful day and night toasting the happy couple. I’m so glad one of my Irish pals has finally settled down with a good Yorkshire woman.