77-year-old Kildare trainer stuns Matt Chapman with inspirational story
"You don't realise how shrewd this man is. You want to see him out riding in the Curragh on his own."
When Frank Oakes comes looking for a jockey, he usually gets them.
The veteran Kildare trainer is minding two horses at present - he has three, but one is retired - and it's Frank himself who is putting them through their paces.
At the age of 77, Oakes is the one who is riding them out and it's him doing it every day. And even as time has passed and the Curragh trainer closes in on the end of his eighth decade, it's not like he does it as just a hobby. He's still a winner through it all.
On Thursday in Thurles, he shocked the country with Mountain Fox. A 25/1 outsider, not even Frank had money on his own project because of the performance in Dundalk - and the money he wasted there by backing the horse. But, in Tipperary, Mountain Fox drew mass silence from the stands by racing home past the post clear of the field with very few tipping it as a winner.
Afterwards though, Oakes endeared himself to the wider horse racing community when Matt Chapman conducted an absolutely brilliant interview for At The Races.
Frank: I've only a couple of horses. I ride them out myself. I ride him [Mountain Fox] out all the time and he's brilliant to ride.
Matt: Hold on! You ride them out all the time? How old are you, Frank?
Frank: Oh, Jesus... I'm at the wrong side of the wrong side, I think. 77.
Matt: 77 and you're still riding out horses?
Frank: Every day. Two every day.
Matt: The beautiful thing about horse racing in Ireland is that there are characters like you riding work at the age of 77. The horse is such a part of the world over here, isn't it?
Frank: It's fantastic altogether. I'm going back about 30 years ago, I walked this track one Wednesday evening, I had a horse in the bumper the next day. I walked the track and then came down here, first day out, and he won at a canter. He went on to win the big bumper at Punchestown.
It's stories like Frank's that will be missed when At The Races is replaced by a new channel.
This is a man who has dedicated his life to horse racing, he has unbelievable tales to tell and reporters like Chapman are only too keen to uncover them and present them.
But if At The Races is no longer in Thurles, for example, they'll miss these stories and these inspirational characters.
Not as much as I will meeting these awesome people. Ireland is just the best.
— Matt Chapman (@MCYeeehaaa) November 29, 2018