The award for the biggest grin of the day surely went to Jimmy Nesbitt after his syndicate's Riverside Theatre landed the Ryanair. When asked before the race whether he'd had a bet, Jimmy twinkled his Irish eyes and remarked "I may have had a little tickle..." It wouldn't have been much fun being around AP McCoy afterwards. Albertas Run put in a wonderful round of jumping and was winning everywhere but on the line. This was the best of steeplechasing: a searching, brutal gallop and a compelling, breathless finish.
What felt like only a few short minutes later and I was on my haunches in front of the telly, nose scraping the screen, baying my lungs out to get that beautiful little mare Voler La Vedette up the hill and past the Big Buck's. This is a not uncommon scenario. And one that my girls have taken to exploiting. If they have friends round on a Saturday afternoon, they'll sneak into the lounge doorway and shake with mirth at my helpless contortions at the mercy of these equine demons. ROFL could have been invented for these performances.
My urgings were not sufficient on this occasion, however. Although Andrew Lynch pulled Voler right over to the stands rail in order to keep her away from the intimidating Big Buck's, the three-time World Hurdle Champ made it four. "Where are you going?" I screamed, memories of Cotton Mill's refusal yesterday uppermost in my mind. And for a moment I thought she was going to succeed where a long and commendable series of challengers had failed. But it was not to be. Big Buck's is an iron horse with deep wells of reserves. A worthy champion to be savoured and revered.
Daughter No 2 came in after school, just as I was weeping at the 2nd fence exit of Notus De La Tour in the Festival Plate. I had quite fancied him for that.
"Daddy, are you watching racing again?"I don't think she was impressed.
"Yes, my love. Cheltenham goes on for four days. Good isn't it?"She eyed me sprawling all over the sofa, cups of coffee littering the table. Papers strewn on the floor. Laptop beaming to no-one.
"Have you done any work today?"There really is nowhere to hide!
It was a poor day on the betting front, but the most rewarding in terms of dramatic action. I've only got Voler La Vedette's stirring place money to show for my efforts though and I'm now looking for the greatest come back since vinyl:
Triumph: Darroun, 14-1 e-w. The Irish form has crept in under the radar a little as the big four British horses have been taking each other on. Must have strong place claims at least.
County Hurdle: Via Galilei, 40-1. Outsider, but with SkyBet paying 6 places I'm happy to side with this Gary Moore who, with a generous interpretation of form, could still be progressive. Also Raya Star, 14-1 e-w who has done nothing wrong all season (does that give me the grand slam of cliches now?) Solid and consistent.
Albert Bartlett: I'm not sure I can see past Boston Bob here, but I'll side with Mount Benbulben on the basis of price and that his reversal with Boston Bob last time out was because he wasn't right. Straws. Clutching.
Gold Cup: Weird Al, 20-1 e-w (ante-post) and Burton Port 8-1.
Foxhunters: Salsify, 6-1. Because Marten Julian said so.
Conditionals' Hurdle: Make A Track at 14-1 e-w. A 40 to follow horse who has shown a good level of form and already been campaigned in decent handicaps. Trip will suit.
Grand Annual: Kid Cassidy, 6-1. Fancied him for the Arkle and am sticking with him here.