Please sir, I’m riding at Listowel

Stolberg - but not the horse!

Schoolboys down the years have given all sorts of explanations for missing a day at school to go to the races. Mine alternated between an aged relative who had passed away and mysterious colds that cleared up in 24 hours. Not very imaginative, I know.

It’s to be hoped that JJ Burke told the truth to his teachers yesterday. He went to Listowel where his profile was considerably higher than mine ever will be on the racecourse. The 16 year old was bunking off school to ride, not to watch. And it proved well worthwhile.

The racecard for the last race on the card there, an amateur riders bumper, simply showed the name Mr JJ Burke alongside the name of Stolberg. That the jockey had a seven-pound claiming allowance showed he was inexperienced, but five of the other jockeys had their weight reduced by the same amount. There were no clues in print as to his youthfulness. Only when he came out to ride could you spot that this was not just a claiming rider, but a very young one.

In what was his first ride at Listowel, and only his 17th in all, Mr Burke showed considerable skill and judgement of pace to bring the debutant home ahead of the other 12 runners, and claim his third victory in a fledgling career. He’s no doubt stuck the Sporting Life’s summary of his ride “Waited with in rear, headway into 5th before straight, ridden to challenge in 2nd over 1f out, led well inside final furlong and stayed on well” into his scrapbook this morning.

Trainer Andrew McNamara will be delighted both with an unexpected winner (Stolberg went off at 16/1) and with his decision to give the Mr JJ Burke the ride.

Not a bad day off school, but it’s back to the maths now. If you bet 20 euros on a horse at 16/1 and laid it off at 14/1 with 5% commission, how much would you have won on the race?

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