I get that a lot of what O’Leary has done over the years has been a shtick with a serious purpose. He was trying to make the point that, for the prices, you had to accept that the hitherto glamorous world of flight inevitably had to become the dreary and grubby world of buses.
What he forgot was the contempt. The contempt that oozes from every pore of his body. For passengers, for staff, for jockeys and, for all I know, for loved ones. I add jockeys, because he has spent his money and leisure on building up a massive National Hunt racing operation, ostensibly run by his brother. My best guess is that every time he’s contemptuous towards someone or something, the endorphins kick in and he celebrates by buying another racehorse. (Perhaps, instead, he should just pay his staff more. Just a thought - FT).
Whatever, he uses horse racing as another way to ‘keep score’ and does so against a group of like-minded grotesques who have splurged their ‘hard-earned’ money on castrated horses for the craic. For the cheers at Cheltenham.
Personally, I reserve my own hatred for Rich Ricci, named by Charles Dickens, dressed for a mid-March festival as only someone across the Atlantic could imagine an English gentleman would dress in 2017. Rich Ricci was a bankster, who somehow dodged jail and who now flashes his Osmond teeth at fawning Racing UK presenters, who should know better, as he talks ludicrously of his role in readying his horses for their Festival targets. ‘You pay for them, you jumped-up, cheating fuckwit, you don’t train them’, I shout at the telly, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
I happen to know someone who was a senior PA, during the Barclays’ glory years of Libor-fixing and money-laundering and sundry dodgy dealings, when the mantra was “you think we’re cowboys, you should see what they’re doing at Deutsche Bank.” She says, quite brilliantly, that “Ricci always thought he was Bob Diamond’s consigliere, when really he was his just his bell-boy.”
Anyway, remarkably, Michael O’Leary is more unpopular.
So, here’s my story. 2013. Cheltenham – The Ryanair Chase, one of the biggest races at the Festival and one of my favourites. I’ve backed O’Leary’s horse, First Lieutenant at 7/2 to win O’Leary’s own race. He goes off the 2/1 favourite and chases the grand old wonder that is Cue Card around the course. The race is getting serious when, three out, he clouts one, and the game is over. Cue Card wins and First Lieutenant battles on for second. I’m standing on the lower steppings of the grandstand, clapping Cue Card, a horse I love and whom I backed to win the bumper here years earlier at a ridiculous 80/1 and should obviously have backed every single run thereafter.
My disappointment was tangible. Standing next to me throughout was an old school, posh woman, about my age, properly togged-up in point-to-point rural finery, plus, in my memory at least, some pearls. I’d never met her before. We’d not spoken, nor even had eye contact. We had just shared the Ryanair Chase together. She sensed my pain. She turned to me and she said, purest cut-glass, “Oh well, never mind, at least that cunt O’Leary didn’t win…”