Dublin and the Laytown Races Coast


Dublin and the Laytown Races

Neil Oliver visits the Irish capital on the Liffey, and Amanda Krestovnikoff enjoys horse racing on the seashore at the Laytown Races.


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Sprawling out from the River Liffey

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Dublin is home to more than a million people.

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That's over a quarter of the Republic's total population.

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It was the Liffey and its link to the open sea

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that brought Dublin its prosperity.

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This is Dublin's Great South Wall.

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Built nearly 300 years ago to protect ships sailing into the River Liffey.

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On the far side of the estuary is the Bull Wall

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added a century later

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and designed to stop the sands of Dublin Bay choking the river.

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Almost two thirds of the Republic of Ireland's sea trade moves through Dublin.

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These two massive walls are still vital in keeping the seaway open.

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Between them the deep shipping channel remains open at all tides

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while the beaches on either side are dried out twice a day.

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The sands stretch the full sweep of Dublin Bay.

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I'd never been here before

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but Dublin writer Fionn Davenport revels in his city's secret Riviera.

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-I never pictured Dublin like this.

-I know, yeah.

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With a great huge beach.

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15 miles of beach stretching right from the north

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down to the very south.

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It's great, isn't it?

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I'm ashamed to say when I hear the word "Dublin" I just think

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pubs and pints and Guinness.

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This is how we sell ourselves.

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The great secret of Dublin

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is our beaches, we don't talk about them,

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we don't tell anyone about them, we keep them

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the way we want them, empty.

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The Irish are known for their hospitality

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whether their visitors are invited or not.

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Nowhere more so than Dublin.

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In fact, historically, this city has scarcely been Irish at all.

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The history of Dublin is the history of invaders.

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Right from the very start

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it was created by invaders, populated by invaders,

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so in a sense Dublin is an invader city.

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-Who were the first people to settle here, then?

-The Vikings.

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In the ninth century they came here on their raping, pillaging

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warring ways and they settled.

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And they built this trading port.

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The name Dublin comes from the Irish Dubh Linn

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and the original viking settlement was built around this "black pool"

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where the word comes from.

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Dubh meaning black, linn the pool.

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-Blackpool.

-Yes.

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Not something Gaelic and lyrical like,

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shining city by the sea?

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A Viking Blackpool

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that's a scary thought.

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Then in the 1100s another wave of invaders flooded up the Liffey.

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The Normans.

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They, and their English successors, would stick around for 800 years

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long enough to make a mark.

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Dublin's best known brewery, Guinness,

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was founded by an Anglo-Norman family.

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And Dublin architecture still reflects

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the long-standing link across the water.

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In Ireland's capital city

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what is Britannia doing up there?

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Ah, because secretly Dublin is still a little bit British.

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It's a very English city. 800-odd years of English rule.

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Dublin was created, conceived of, developed and built by the English.

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And behind us is the Custom House, which was

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built when this was the second city of the British Empire.

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I dispute that, as a Scot.

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We were always told that Glasgow was the second city of the Empire.

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You see that's the tragedy, the Scots were lied to for so long,

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because Dublin was the second city of the Empire.

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Today Dublin takes second place to no one.

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Glass and steel has transformed the old waterfront.

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It's Dubliners flooding to the Liffey now.

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This coast witnesses an event that brings thousands flocking...

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to Laytown.

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Miranda Krestovnikoff has come prepared.

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No diving gear just a pair of binoculars.

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Racing horses on the beach is a tradition that goes back centuries

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in Ireland.

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But today, Laytown host the last remaining race

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on the seashore held under Jockey Club rules.

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Laytown is the only beach race in the whole of Europe.

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The jockeys are training in preparation for the big day.

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And I'm here to find out exactly what it takes

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for a horse to win on the sand.

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Marcus Callaghan is a local trainer and regular racer at Laytown.

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Last year his six-year-old, Paris Sue, was a winner.

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For him the secret of winning

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starts with training on the beach.

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I generally walk all me horses here.

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As in the summer the ground's too hard at home.

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And to walk them in a straight line takes the pressure off their legs.

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So that's why we come up to the beach, for us to enjoy it.

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The Laytown races happen just once a year

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when the tides are lowest.

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Each time the course is built from scratch.

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And each time the organisers have their own race

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to get through the programme before the tide turns.

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There's been racing here since 1867

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and there's nothing else like it.

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It's the only strand racecourse left.

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There used to be quite a number of them here,

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from Dundalk, Bettystown, Laytown, down to Skerries.

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One by one they fell by the wayside.

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Erosion played a part,

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you know, stones come on the track you can't race.

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This is the only one that's left.

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And it's a unique spectacle and it

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attracts huge numbers of people.

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Things are hotting up, the tension's building,

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people are placing bets.

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People have travelled hundreds of miles for this annual spectacle.

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But the fact the race is on sand makes the odds hard to calculate.

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These horses have form on turf

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and now they're performing on sand.

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So you have to take it on trust the horse will run on sand.

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They always used to say training a horse on sand shortens its stride.

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And they also said the horse couldn't quicken on sand.

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So a frontrunner had an advantage.

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So it is unpredictable, you could get

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an outsider that would come and win?

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-Yes you can, indeed.

-Fantastic.

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It's fun, cos they're a holiday crowd and they back outsiders.

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We're very interested in Paris Sue, she's at 7/2.

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-Can I put a bet of 10 euros on Paris Sue?

-Yes, er, 10? 10 euros.

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We want her to come in.

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'It's a six-furlong race

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'and the going is...well,

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'as good as it gets when the tide's just gone out.'

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Now, just wait until everybody's ready. Just wait.

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-< Come on!

-Come on!

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With just two furlongs to go,

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Paris Sue is struggling to quicken her stride.

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Come on!

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My 10 euros could be running into the sand.

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< Come on, Paris Sue!

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Close but not close enough. Paris Sue came in second.

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Blocked in behind the frontrunner she never found her true pace.

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And...there's always next year.

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Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

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E-mail [email protected]

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