Donn's Articles » Diary of John Hynes, Sea The Stars’s groom

Diary of John Hynes, Sea The Stars’s groom

We left John Oxx’s yard at Currabeg in the horse box with Sea The Stars at nine o’clock last Saturday morning, me, Jeff Houlihan and Jimmy O’Neill, got to Dublin Airport before 11, got loaded up and we were off.

The flight was good, Sea The Stars is a good traveller, he just takes everything in his stride. He’s a much better traveller than me, I wouldn’t be the most comfortable flyer in the world, but we were both fine. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at around 2.00pm French time, where there was a horse box waiting for us, and people with cameras, lots of people with cameras. I was surprised at how many people were there just wanting to see him and take photographs of him. We got across Paris and in to the yard at Longchamp in about 40 minutes. Once there, I just took the horse’s travelling boots off and let him relax, got him some water and hay and left him for about an hour.

We took him out for a little bit then, just to let him stretch his legs, he was very well, he had flown to Newmarket and Epsom and Sandown and York before, so he is well used to travelling and to settling in in a different yard. We left him at about eight o’clock that evening. The Aga Khan had his security man over with Tanoura and Alandi, so he took over from us then. We went and got something to eat, myself, Jeff, Jimmy and Jack O’Shea, who was looking after Alandi. I had intended getting an early night, and I probably should have, but we went for a few beers after that and it turned out to be a later night than ideal.

I was up at six o’clock on Sunday morning, big day ahead, fed him, he’s a great grubber, and then took him out again. I led him and Jimmy O’Neill sat up on him. He’s so strong and he was so fresh and well, you wouldn’t want to be leading him without someone riding him, and you wouldn’t want to be riding him without someone leading him, you’d be afraid he’d run away with you. We just took him out in front of the stables and around the parade ring, just so that it wouldn’t be all completely new to him later that day.

Back in the stable, there were so many people looking at him, people coming and going all day, lads who were connected with other horses running on the day, just coming over, taking pictures of him, wanting to see him or pet him. You’d be a bit afraid, you’d have to tell them not to touch him, but he didn’t seem to mind, he seemed to quite enjoy it actually. He’s getting used to all the attention now.

We were with him all day, counting down the time. We took him out at 3.45. The race was at 4.15 and the parade ring is right beside the stable yard, so there was no need to get him out any earlier, got him saddled up and into the parade ring. It was unbelievable, the reception that he got just when he entered the parade ring, just walking around, people clapping and cheering and just looking at him with admiration, you could feel it. I got a lump in my throat just walking around with him.

It must have been about 4.05 when Mick got up on him and we led him onto the course, me on his left leading him, Jack O’Shea on his right, Jeff had gone down to the start just to be there, just to make sure that everything would be all right when Mick would get down there with him. Actually, Mick said that he nearly dropped him on the way to the start, he was so well in himself.

I watched the race from the gate, the exit from the racecourse back to the parade ring, mainly on the big screen. I was a little concerned when he got shuffled back early, and when he was behind a wall of horses turning for home, but I know the turn of foot that he has, I knew how well he was, I never really thought that he wouldn’t win. I cheered all right when he hit the front, but I probably didn’t do as much cheering as I usually do, I was a bit more nervous than usual.

It was unbelievable when he won. It’s hard to describe the feelings that this horse creates in you. I ran down the track to meet him and Mick on their way back, the stands were still buzzing, everyone was cheering, cameras everywhere. I got to him around the furlong pole, well done Mick, brilliant, and I turned around and saw the owner, Christopher Tsui, out on the track, and I thought, it must be some feeling owning this horse, actually walking out onto the track to come down and meet this horse that you own. It was wonderful for him, I was delighted for him.

The way back in was all a blur, all the cheering and shouting, all the hugging and back-slapping, loads of Irish voices and people waving Irish flags. There were all the photographs in the winner’s enclosure and then I took him away from it all, back to the yard to wash him down and let him settle again, gave him some hay and some water. About 20 minutes later the vet came down to take a urine sample and a blood sample. For the rest of the day people kept coming down to see him and congratulate him. He’s just a star. He was back in his box about 20 minutes before Alandi went out to run in the Prix du Cadran, which he obviously won as well to cap a great day for the whole team.

We left the track at about eight o’clock, back to the airport for nine. There were three other horses back on the plane with us, Tanoura, Alandi and the Dermot Weld-trained Famous Name, who had finished third in a Group 2 race on the Saturday, but Sea The Stars had his usual position, pride of place at the back near the door where there is plenty of head room for him. It was the least he deserved.

We were back in Dublin by 11.00, back down to the yard by midnight, home around about the same time as the boss. We had the horse back into his box, safe and sound, by 12.15. Some day. The party had to wait till Monday!

* John Hynes was talking to Donn McClean

© The Sunday Times, 11th October 2009