Paddy Kehoe: 'I've Backed Princess Zoe to win €50,000 – I got the Value'

Paddy Kehoe: “This mare is going to win.” | Racingfotos.com

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He didn't crack the code to the Irish Lottery, have his colours carried by the record-breaking Grabel (GB) (Bold Owl {GB}), invest eye-watering sums in the stock market and battle with the bookmakers on an almost daily basis by being short of an opinion or two. 

Now, Paddy Kehoe is preparing to back his latest theory that his pride and joy Princess Zoe (Ger) (Jukebox Jury {Ire}) can land the G1 Ascot Gold Cup on Thursday and, if correct, the 75-year-old businessman and renowned racehorse owner will net himself a cool €50,000 to go on top of the winner's cheque for the £500,000 Thursday showpiece. 

“This mare is going to win,” says a confident Kehoe, as he sips through his fourth pot of tea in Dublin's Burlington Hotel on Sunday morning. 

“She has the form in the book. Tell me another horse in the race with better form than Zoe? Stradivarius (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) was a brilliant horse but he's gone. One of my biggest bets of the week will be on Zoe to beat Stradivarius in a match bet and I could get odds of 2-1 on that. I'll definitely get 6-4. 

“That is an absolute house job. If we can't beat Stradivarius we may as well give up. If he is to win the Gold Cup this year, he'll want to start on Wednesday.

“He was a great horse, it's not like he hasn't done it, because he has, but he's an 8-year-old now and we beat him easily last year. 

“That's despite the fact that we were blocked in our run. Joey [Sheridan, jockey] was too far back because he was watching Stradivarius even though I told him that he wasn't the one to be worrying about. 

“If we rode our own race last year, we'd have won the Gold Cup, and I think we're bringing a better mare to Ascot this year. Where is Stradivarius going to find the improvement to beat us? I can't see it.”

This may sound like pub talk but, then again, so, too, is the idea of devising a plan to win the lotto. But that's exactly what Kehoe, along with mathematical genius Stefan Klincewicz, did back in 1992 when they beat the system and landed the most audacious gambling coup in Irish history, changing the way the National Lottery is run as a result.

“There was every sort of obstacle put in our way,” he says, almost tired of telling the story. “I remember driving out the South Circular Road and the Gardai, the people from the Lotto and the press were all following me. It was world news at the time.”

He added, “One of the lads was on holiday and he picked up a newspaper in Spain and who was on the front of it? Me! He phoned home to Jamesie O'Donnell [another friend] and said, 'what's Kehoe after doing now?' That was a couple of years after Grabel won the richest jumps race ever run in America. It was mad stuff altogether.”

That Irish lotto coup will go down as one of Kehoe's greatest payouts and, the man who understands odds more than most, is all too aware that there is more than just probability to overcome at Ascot next week. 

Having said that, the County Wexford native is confident that his trainer Tony Mullins, who was in the plate aboard Grabel on that fateful day in Kentucky back in 1990, has Princess Zoe in even better shape than 12 months ago, when the mare finished a gallant second to Subjectivist (GB) (Teofilo {Ire}). 

“I've a lot of money on her,” he says. “I have her backed to win €50,000. We've backed her each-way at 16-1, 12-1 and I'd another €500 each-way on her the other day at 12-1 when she should have been 8-1. We have the value and we have the horse, the jockey and the trainer. If she wins, great, but if she doesn't, it won't be the first time it's happened and I'll put it down to bad luck. I know in my heart and soul that she's a better mare this year so we're confident.”

Kehoe added, “You have to give Trueshan (Fr) (Planteur {Ire}) the respect that he deserves but it doesn't look like he's going to run now because of the ground. What does that leave as favourite? Kyprios (Ire) (Galileo {Ire})? And what has he beaten? 

“He beat Search For a Song (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) at Navan and she has been well-beaten since. Fair enough, he won again at Leopardstown [the G3 Saval Beg Levmoss S.] but that was an egg-and-spoon race because he started as a 1-10 favourite which tells you what he had to beat. 

“Kyprios hasn't won beyond 1m6f either so he's not certain to get the trip. For my money, the Gold Cup is a two-horse race between Zoe and Scope (Ire) (Teofilo {Ire}), the horse who won the G1 Prix Royal-Oak last year, and now I see that he's a doubt to run because of the ground as well.”

Kehoe likes a bet as much as he does a pint of Smithwick's, hates referees as much as he does jockeys, has never married and never intends to either. It's an all-singing, all-dancing operation, which begs the question, where does he find the time to fund the whole thing?

“I get up at four every morning, five at the latest-when I'm not drinking-to price jobs so that I'd have it all done. You'd be finished your work at 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning and you'd have it all done. I could never sleep. The way I look at it is, when you get to 75 years of age, every minute of the day that you're alive is a bonus. What the f*** would you be lying in the bed for?”

Kehoe makes no secret about the fact that he's fond of a good night out-and when Wexford won the All-Ireland in 1996, rumour has it there were several-but he also runs a hugely successful business that specialises in suspended ceilings, travels to race meetings and sporting events all over the world, which goes some way in explaining why sleep falls down the pecking order in his list of priorities. 

“A fella was slagging one day, telling me that I can remember everything that is said on a night out, and I told him I can remember the day I was born!”

It's at this point where Kehoe's phone lights up for the seventh or eighth time within the space of an hour, each number different to the last, none of which have been saved under a name. No need.

“I don't bother saving them. I know every number in there, I'd have them all in my head. I'm not big on computers. Never was. Sure my mother [Ina] is 96 years of age and she can tell me everything that's going on. I was talking to her this morning and she was talking about tennis, the results from the soccer matches, everything.

“The first thing I do every morning is check the stock markets and switch back over to Sky News to see what's happening in Ukraine. My mother would have all the sports news and everything for me. She's even booked in for the Galway races again this year.” 

It's at Galway where Princess Zoe shot to prominence, winning two premier handicaps at the summer festival before returning to Ballybrit later in 2020 to win the Listed Oyster S. and she has since confirmed herself as one of the most talented stayers in the business. 

Princess Zoe has netted Kehoe €238,500 in career earnings, not bad for a mare who cost just €39,500, but he doesn't subscribe to being labelled lucky to be associated with such a money-spinner.

“If I didn't have bad luck I'd have no luck,” he says, only half-joking. “Take Antarctic Bay as an example. He won the SunAlliance in 1985 and was favourite for the following year's Gold Cup. He never set foot on the track again after his Cheltenham win. Abbey Glen (GB) (Furry Glen {GB}) was beaten a neck in the Arkle, went for the Irish Grand National and pulls up entering the straight after breaking down. He was also favourite for the following year's Gold Cup. Two ante-post favourites for the Gold Cup. Both gone. And people tell me I'm lucky? Stop.”

A night on the town with camp Kehoe is not for the faint-hearted. It may be easier to predict the lotto numbers than to forecast the outcome of Thursday's race but the greatest certainty of them all is that the travelling contingent of Irishmen and women will make the most of the occasion.

“There'll be 15 or 16 of us heading over to Ascot and we'll be back in Cassidy's Pub in Dublin by 11.30pm on Thursday night. There's lads coming over from Paris, New York-all over the place-and they all believe that she will win. 

“I've told them not to be disappointed if we're beaten because we'll drink as much if she loses as we will if she wins. It won't make any difference.”

The money is secondary. 

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