Well, knock me down with a sixpence for a fan! They say a broken clock tells the right time twice a day and yesterday I somehow managed to turn the tidiest of my Cheltenham Festival profits.
Any Currency, Diego Du Charmil and Blaklion — all more than reasonably priced — teamed up to turn the flesh wounds of the opening day into a distant memory. Last night, I stretched to an extra piece of keema naan with my traditional Cheltenham half-time curry and it dawned on me I was comfortably in profit.
Not that any of it mattered. Sometimes — often, in fact — money is a distant runner-up to the sheer joy of racing and, just as I had hoped and dreamed but never quite believed, we had it in its most glorious technicolour yesterday, courtesy of the frankly unbelievable Sprinter Sacre.
Frequent readers of the blog will know I am hopelessly fond of a fallen hero. We admire greatness but deep down we feel better connected with those horses who are great but have suffered adversity. Sprinter Sacre is the ultimate racehorse, in that regard. And his trainer Nicky Henderson deserves to be knighted for what he did with this fragile, sensational superstar.
To watch him, on the rails, surrounded by over 50,000 dreaming believers pick off the mighty Un De Sceaux with a casual flick of his tail was to be transported to a truly special place. As roars go, this roar out-roared the lot. It was the stuff of unfettered emotion and for those of who were lucky enough to be there we will hold it dear in our hearts.
Once again, yesterday I was struck by the sheer pleasure of meandering across this now truly great racecourse. It wasn’t always like this. On Gold Cup day, especially, it could be hellish trying to beat the crowds but the JCR and Cheltenham Executive have done a sensational job in delivering a sporting venue fit for purpose and the status of this unique meeting.
This morning, the sun is shining but a sad piece of news has just broken: No More Heroes, the Gigginstown Stud owned novice chaser has sadly been put down due to an injury sustained in yesterday’s RSA Chase. He has been one hell of an exciting horse this season and his owner, Michael O’Leary, who is lead sponsor here today, is sure to feel the pain. It’s another reminder, were one needed, that all the riches in the land cannot soften the emotion that horses bring to us.
Looking ahead to this afternoon, I am almost tempted to ‘have and hold’ before I inevitably give my winnings back to my bookie of choice. Sadly for my wife, that’s not how I’m wired so we’re going into battle with some more each-way plays, courtesy of Three Musketeers in the first for the very talented Dan Skelton. The near-impossible Pertemps Final can go to Missed Approach for Warren Greatrex who deserves a change of luck.
The Ryanair Chase ought to go to Vautour but I’ll struggle to cheer him on, given the chicanery of his lining up here, and I’ll side with my old pal Al Ferof each way at 14/1 or thereabouts. The World Hurdle is a great renewal and I fancy Paul Nicholls can score with either Saphir Du Rheu or Aux Ptits Soins, both of whom will be cursed by my each-way money. John’s Spirit is more than well treated on his best form and can go close in the Brown Plate, before Bantam in the Mares race and Upswing in the Kim Muir can seal another winning day.
OK, it’s unlikely, but thanks to Sprinter Sacre and a day from the Gods yesterday I am happy to dream.
Top image: The crowds watch the action at the Cheltenham Festival, by Andrew Matthews/Press Association Images, courtesy of the Cheltenham Festival