'Moment Of Impulse' Has Legendary Hall Looking Forward To First Runner At Naas

Robert Hall | Tattersalls Ireland

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The much-loved Robert Hall, who fronted Ireland's terrestrial television coverage of racing on RTE for 37 years before retiring in 2020, says he is optimistic of “a forward showing” but more importantly “something to build on” with his first horse, Frogman (Ire) (Ol' Man River {Ire}), who makes his eagerly-anticipated debut in the closing bumper at Naas on Sunday. 

Frogman may be Hall's first runner but eagle-eyed observers may recognise the black and red silks that the four-year-old will carry as they are the exact colours of the old Stablemate Racing Syndicate, a successful ownership venture that Hall was involved with alongside Denny Cordell in the late eighties. After a 30-year hiatus, the black and red is back and the hope is that Frogman can prove up to the task. 

“It's my first runner in my own name,” the legendary broadcaster explained. “They are the old Stablemate Racing colours. Stablemate was an old syndicate that we had and there were just short of 800 subscribers to it. It was a company set up by the late Denny Cordell, a famous music producer and racehorse trainer, and we had horses with about seven or eight different trainers. 

“A lot of our proceeds came from the telephone lines. Premium numbers had just come in at the time and we realised there was an opportunity there. So, we did very well and had a lot of fun. All bar one of our horses won races and we had one or two decent ones. We had horses with Willie Mullins when he started out–and I actually won on one of those! We also had horses with Michael Cunningham, Denny himself, Dermot Weld, Arthur Moore and a good few others. They've been lucky enough colours.”

He added, “We closed Stablemate Racing down after six years. When we closed it down, the subscribers very kindly registered these colours for a lifetime to myself. I think it is the first time since 1993 since these colours have been used and it's the first time I've had one in my own name.” 

Hall has been retired from broadcasting for over three years now but remains part of the Tattersalls Ireland media team. It was at the May Sale last year when Frogman first caught his attention and, while he didn't set out to snap up a store on the day, came home from work the proud new owner with trainer Richard O'Brien, who he'd previously never met. 

He explained, “I got this fella at the May Sale at Tattersalls Ireland. I do a bit of work with Tattersalls and I can remember I absolutely loved this horse when he came into the ring. I couldn't buy him because I hadn't seen him outside. Anyway, he got knocked down to Gerry Hogan who was standing beside me and I said to him, 'what a lovely horse'. He then told me that the horse was for Richard O'Brien. 

“I was interested in the horse because he has a lovely pedigree. It goes all the way back to Mumtaz Mahal, who was an incredible filly, one of the best of all time. I mean, she has just been the most incredible mare and so many good horses, including Alpinista (GB), can be traced back to Mumtaz Mahal. You know, I love all of those old families and, sometimes in this game, you need to look back and see what's not on the page to get a bit of value.”

Hall added, “The next thing I did was look up Richard O'Brien. I liked hugely what I saw of him and then I said to Gerry that, if Richard hadn't found anyone for the horse, I'd love to have him. By the end of the day, I owned him.”

In O'Brien, Hall has identified a man with a proven track record for winning this race at Naas. The County Limerick trainer sent out Impulsive Dancer (Ire) (Dragon Pulse {Ire})–who would later be sold to Simon Munir and Isaac Souede to race with Willie Mullins–to win this in 2022 while his fingerprints were over last year's scorer Cut The Rope (Fr) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) given he sold the horse to Paul Nolan just a few weeks before the first four-year-old bumper of the year. But Sunday is not about winning for Hall. It's about much more than that.

“Since giving up my television role,” he explained, “I just felt there was a danger of me not drifting away completely, but losing my connection with racing. It's funny, the last horse I bought on impulse like this turned out to be the dam of Indigenous (Ire) and she was incredible. I've always kept my eye in and it's good to have an interest.”

Hall bid adieu to RTE Racing after almost 40 years at the helm of Ireland's terrestrial television coverage of the sport. He provided countless hours of entertainment, often alongside Ted Walsh, with the duo building up a loyal following, especially through the infamous Ask Ted segment, which generated lots of laughs–and some hairy moments–in more recent times. 

However, all good things comes to an end, according to Hall, with the 68-year-old revealing that he doesn't miss broadcasting. He also acknowledged how much things have changed, especially over jumps, since his departure. 

“I don't miss it and I'm glad I got out when I did because I would have hated to have broadcast during Covid when there was nobody on the track. Also, when we were doing it, there was a hell of a bigger spread of talent among the leading trainers which you're not getting these days. That's tough for them, but that's the way it is.”

When it was put to Hall that it was therefore admirable that he kept Frogman with O'Brien, a trainer who doesn't have the same numbers to go to war with compared to a Willie Mullins or a Gordon Elliott, he explained how working with someone of O'Brien's ilk is what provides him with the biggest buzz.

Hall said, “I love them all. I mean, Willie is a pal and I appreciate Gordon hugely, but do you know something, I don't think I'd have gotten any buzz about having a horse in a big yard. I really don't. I love the smaller operations and I think it's great sport. We'll see how good this fella is but I really enjoy working with the smaller trainers. Of course I do. And when we had Stablemate, a lot of our horses were with smaller trainers as well.”

If you're waiting for a clever explanation into the backstory of where Hall came up with the name for his first ever runner, there isn't one. Ask Ted may well have been a better fit but, as long as Frogman can gallop, Hall won't be heard complaining. 

He concluded, “Ol' Man River is obviously the Mississippi and Paul Robeson wrote that wonderful song. The Mississippi is full of interesting frogs and the dam's name is sort of northern Ukraine and Southern Russia and they are all quite ugly names. I couldn't attach any names to the horse so I just went with Frogman. I'm not into my nature, terribly, but it will be a great name if he turns out to be any good. 

“Before they run, you've always got a smile on your face, haven't you? We think he's a nice horse but he is obviously going to come on a lot from the run. He's a horse for the future. I'm hoping there will be a tomorrow and that he can progress.”

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