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Contact: John Cooney (859-224-2714)

ST. PATRICK'S GREAT DAY FOR THOROUGHBREDS TOO

Much as Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated with parades, music, dancing and even a pint or two of an adult beverage, so too is the spirit of Ireland's patron saint celebrated by Thoroughbred owners and breeders who happen to be blessed with the birth of a foal on March 17.

No fewer than 17 Thoroughbreds born on Saint Patrick's Day since 1990 directly reference Ireland's patron saint in their name including, appropriately enough, Saint Pat's Day. Among those currently racing are the four-year-olds St. Patty's Tour, a multiple winner of $47,858 in Florida, and St Patti's Charm, a multiple winner of $15,076 in the Southwest.

Some owners have gone a step further by incorporating specific legends of Saint Patrick into their name selections. Two -- the winner St. Patrick's Fire and the unraced Saint Patty's Fire -- recall the Easter bonfire lit by Patrick on the Hill of Slane that so enraged King Loeghaire that he sent out nine chariots to extinguish the blaze and kill Patrick. Loeghaire was unsuccessful and the event marked the beginning of Patrick's victory over Paganism.

One of the greatest legends of St. Patrick involved his use of the shamrock, with its triple leaf and single stem, to explain the Holy Trinity to assembled chieftains on Easter Sunday. Shamrock begins the names of seven Thoroughbreds born on St. Patrick's Day during the last decade, including the Maryland-based five-year-old Shamrock Affair, a winner of $15,930.

Although now used as both a walking stick and a hockey stick in the Irish sport of hurling, shillelaghs were brandished as weapons during Patrick's time. Indeed, Patrick is said to have used one himself in defense of his followers. Shillelagh Lady, born on March 17, 1993, did not have the luck of the Irish with her during her brief racing career which spanned three undistinguished efforts in three weeks during 1996.

Other owners of St. Patrick's Day foals have incorporated general Irish folklore into their name selections, with three opting for names based on the mythical leprechaun. Leprechaun Kid currently is searching for his crock of gold in the three-year-old maiden ranks in Southern California. Seven-year-old Leprechaun Joy ended her pursuit in 2000 with earnings of $56,582 from 15 starts. Leprechaun, a yearling filly, should embark upon her quest in the next couple of years.

Some owners and breeders don't need the impetus of a March 17 foaling date to assign Irish names to their horses. Two well-known horsemen on the New York Racing Association circuit, Austin Delaney and Leo O'Brien, are quite familiar with Irish horse names. Delaney has owned and O'Brien has trained Irish Linnet, Irish Actor, Irish Ore, Irish Daisy and Irish Glory, who finished third at Aqueduct on Wednesday.

"Austin usually waits to see if the horses are going to be any good before he gives them an Irish name," O'Brien said. "He never names them early."

O'Brien, a native of Dublin, often includes a pint of Guinness when he feeds his horses each evening. "Irish Linnet, Fourstardave and Fourstars Allstar all enjoyed drinking it and they were pretty decent horses. They say a bottle a day is good for humans so maybe it's good for horses too."

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