A LONDON businessman has returned to Kildare town to train for the charity Cheltenham race, which he is taking on in memory of his father who passed away from cancer.
Brian Bunyan has been working hard out at the Curragh over the past week with the help of his brother Darren, who is a horse trainer from Rathbride.
His mother Mary, who hails from Maryville in Kildare town, will also be travelling over to cheer on Brian along with his sister Susan Duggan and niece Hayley.
“I’ve been flat out. It’s more than I bargained for,” declares Brian, who hasn’t sat on a horse for 25 years.
Despite this, the fact that he competed at amateur level in his younger days means he has some pedigree in the racing scene. His father, Arthur, trained horses for trainers on the Curragh for many years and would have been well known in the industry. He passed away 10 years ago.
Brian applied to take part in the race but never thought he would be accepted, as there are only 12 jockeys chosen from over 100 applications. The St Patrick’s Derby is a charity flat race, over one mile and five furlongs. The race begins at 5.15pm this Thursday, March 14.
Over the past two years, in excess of £650,000 has been raised for Cancer Research UK, which works with cancer organisations globally in trying to find a cure.
“They believe they are really making progress, some cancers they can cure, and they feel they are really getting close to nailing other types,” he added.
The 12 jockeys riding out include riders based in England, Ireland and France with a wide range of equestrian skills. Brian will be shaping up against ,well known faces including Sky Sports broadcaster Alex Hammond and Garda James Fenton.
Kildare also has a second representative in the race, as Equidia presenter Sally Ann Grassick, who is from Newtown Stud, is also taking part.
The last time, Brian was out riding on the track, he remembers bringing in notes to the De La Salle brothers in school seeking permission to miss lessons to take part in races. These days, he works with a bank in London and spends a lot of time in Asia, which makes preparing for this race quite hard. Although he ran last year’s London marathon and is preparing for this year’s mammoth event, he stressed that riding requires a different kind of fitness.
“For the physical training, the Keadeen Hotel have kindly let me use the gym and the pool, and then I go down to my bother’s yard near Rathbride and I also use the simulator in the RACE Academy,” he outlines.
He will be riding his own horse, Age of Glory, which is trained by Darren. Brian is impressed with the four-year-old but maintains he can be a little unpredictable and immature.
Brian said he likes to jump, so he might show him a few fences before the flat race begins to get his adrenaline pumping. Brian has to raise E4,300 but he is hoping to target E10,000. Anyone who wants to sponsor him can log on to www.justgiving.com/brianbunyan
He has been blown away by the support at home: “Many thanks to all who have sponsored me, including Las Rada Wine & Tapas Bar in Naas (sponsored my racing colours), Red Mills (sponsored my breeches), Thoroughbred Remedies (sponsored the horse’s paddock sheet).
“Also thanks to Barry Walsh at RACE for his help on the horse simulator and to Keadeen Hotel for allowing me to use their gym and pool facilities for training during my week home,” he says.