The Thick Of It

It’s all go now. Not just the punting. Everything. I looked at the wall calendar this morning (in these electronic, virtual times I am strangely reassured that synching and sharing our household appointments is still physically delivered with thick indelible ink). It is filled with school fairs, concerts, landmark birthday parties, Christmas parties and assorted social engagements. I’m not moaning. These will all be top notch events (with the possible exception of the girls’ violin concert for the old folks. I don’t know who to feel most sorry for. Bless ‘em). But there goes Christmas.

We’re kicking off tonight with my bruv-in-law’s 50th. It’s a surprise. (I don’t think he reads this…..) My sis-in law is home especially for this, from Tenerife where she’s lived and worked for 20 years. That’s the surprise. This should be a good laugh.

But before we leave for revelries in Old Stratford, I have Day 2 of Cheltenham’s Open Meeting to savour. This is how we know we are in the thick of the jumps season. The Paddy Power Gold Cup Chase is about the first real crown jewel of the season. Good line up today. Long Run from Henderson’s yard is a class horse and will go off favourite. I like Mad Max from the same stable, with Barry Gerraghty up top. Massive beast, Mad Max. Closer to a dray horse than jumper. And acted like one in some of his races last year when he went through fences rather than over the top. But he got his act together in considerable style at Aintree in the Spring. The Pipe yard has Great Endeavour, Nicholls and Nigel NTD have three each and there are Irish raiders. This will be super-competitive. Tanya Stevenson has been tweeting her titbits this morning. (I’m digging the racing twitterati now.) “Nine of the last 12 winners came from the first three in the betting”, “No horse aged over nine has finished in the first three since 1992.” And perhaps less helpfully, “Since Fondmort won in 2003 Nicky Henderson’s last 9 runners have been beaten.” I’ve also got Cannington Brook in the 3m novice chase 1.20pm. That should be a good race, too.

Loved yesterday’s action from Prestbury Park. Day 1 of the Open meeting. Traditionally, the lads would blag the afternoon off work to base ourselves in the Jugged Hare and shuttle to the Laddy’s next door. This is the first meeting to feature in the precious Ten To Follow competition, run by the Racing Post and Tote. Inevitably, we have our own off-shoot comp with local rules. Bacchy runs it. This day used to be the beer-soaked, bravado fuelled great unveiling. We’re scattered to the four winds now, but the comp is still alive and well. I got off the mark with Cue Card yesterday, a seriously impressive novice hurdler and winner of last season’s Champion Bumper. It later transpired that Nev did too. And Brynaldo scored with the classy looking Time For Rupert in the belting staying novice chase last on the card. The day was a jolly for me after Rustarix went in at 16-1 in the opening amateur riders chase. Rustarix is a horse I’ve followed for a couple of years and he repaid all his debts with a beautiful round of jumping and the best attitude he’s ever shown up the hill.  

Monday night will be a belter too. Another of those calendar-busting social engagements. It’s our Fantasy Cricket Curry Night. Yes, one more piece of evidence for the prosecution’s allegations of anorak sadness. Well, guilty as charged. Because this year I’m the winner! Not only will I bag some CASH and retain a nice silver(ish), engraved (possibly) trophy to put on my shelf (Mrs A is delighted. It will be hidden, no doubt, behind the casserole pot that we never use next to the Fantasy Festival trophy that I also hold. Ahem.) But we will also be settling a few curry side bets too. This means I don’t go home hungry. I will be insufferable all night (what’s new). And I’m starting right here! 


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