Showing posts from March, 2016

Cheltenham 2016 - What now?

The All-weather championships from Lingfield are doing very little for my Festival hangover this glorious Good Friday afternoon. I’ve ‘hearted’ a few of the pretty pics on Twitter of racegoers sunning themselves at the track. That’s as far is it goes. Uttoxeter’s fine Midlands National meeting the very day after the Gold Cup struggles to hold my attention for long, so a smattering of tapeta action in rural Sussex doesn’t stand a chance. This is the trouble with buying in to the Festival heart and soul. Nothing else comes close. In the cauldron of the Barley Mow, deep into the afterglow of Don Cossack’s authoritative   victory in the Blue Ribband last Friday, Bacchy looked at me through the alcoholic hubbub and asked, “So what now Davoski?” He knows very well the post-festival void, but has a much stronger flat hinterland than I do. “I’m not having the Lincoln meeting!” “The Lincoln’s shite. What about the Dubai World Cup?” The finest horses in training compet

Cheltenham 2016 – Up for the cup

The thrills keep coming. Another wonderful day at Prestbury Park. I don’t know whether Thistlecrack didn’t impress just as much as Vautour. Scintillating performances, the both of them. A joy to watch. Hard to disagree with Rich Ricci’s perplexed comments in the post race interview that suggested he remained baffled about Vautour not running in the Gold Cup. When Mullins revealed that Vautour’s ‘poor’ work was alongside Djakadam, that one was quickly backed in to favouritism for the race. Thistlecrack was quoted at 10/1 for the 2017 renewal, such was the power and poise of his performance. On a personal level, this was an average punting day that saw me trying to give back plenty of the hard won profit of the first 14 races. The starter didn’t help me. Snapping up the tapes whilst Zabana was side on ensured jockey Davey Russell was dumped on the ground. He was furious. I was despondent. But then Russell was aboard the winner of the next – the Pertemps Final. Mine was only 2 nd .

Cheltenham 2016 – Return of the Black Aeroplane

If Annie Power’s thrilling Champion Hurdle romp set the emotional bar high on Day 1, Sprinter Sacre’s extra-ordinary Queen Mum performance booted it into orbit on Day 2. I’ll bore rigid anyone who cares to listen about my love for this race as a fast-paced jumping test with no margin at all for error. The Black Aeroplane just sealed the deal on one of the most populist renewals ever run. The story of this horse with the film star looks has all the dramatic elements of triumph and tragedy - and triumph again – that we lap up. The perfume of vindication and restoration permeated the races on Day 2.   Phrases like ‘dreams do come true’ and ‘the power of sport to thrill and unite’ were bandied about Prestbury Park with all the misty eyed schmaltz of a Disney script reading. This is no fairytale though. It’s as 24-carat reality as the signet ring on Nico De Boinville’s little digit. Coming back from a fibrillating heart condition and other physical issues after carrying all before

Cheltenham 2016 – Making the calls

I got two big calls wrong yesterday. Annie Power was most definitely up to the task in the Champion Hurdle. The mare, as everyone refers to her, was imperious and won in the style of true champions: flag fall to post, with Ruby gradually turning up the burners all the way round. She’s no supersub for Faugheen, she’s the real deal. And to think that without the reigning champ’s injury, Annie Power might have been confined to the shallow pool that is the mares hurdle. That was my other wrong call. Vroum Vroum Mag proved easily good enough to beat an average bunch of mares. This has to be the softest Grade 1 at the Festival, given prominence in the collective psyche only because of the achievements of Quevega. My pick, The Govaness was running a big race and looked booked for good prize money until a horrible fall at the last resulting in her being put down. A sickening moment and a race I’ll not look back on too often. The one I got right was the opener. I’ve finally shaken the

Cheltenham 2016 – Absent without leave

I do acknowledge, albeit at a barely conscious level, that the Festival is not the centre of everyone’s world. I was reminded of this yesterday when Mrs A’s business partner, on speaker phone, enquired of her whether I was off to Chelmsford “or wherever” this week. “FFS” I spluttered from the other room, before wiping flecks of granola spittle from my Oddschecker screen. “Chelmsford?” The grim reality, though, is that I am not visiting the gladiatorial cauldron of national hunt supremacy this year. For the first renewal since 1999 I will be watching the action only on telly. I’ve been reconciled to this self-imposed year out for some time. At least I thought I was. Come Cheltenham morning it’s a different story of course. Watching the Morning Line I’m suddenly aching to go. Shots of last year's heroes streaming over the last in front of packed stands, Cleeve Hill staring down serenely on the theatre. Scenes that have me shaking my head and wondering why I’m not heading there r

Thirty years of hurt

Here’s a repost of a piece I wrote for the Gold Cup Blog website... I have never backed the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Ever. The most prestigious race in the jumps calendar. And I am potless. It is a shocking admission. The first Gold Cup bet I really remember, as a callow youth cutting my teeth in smoky northern betting shops, was a punt on Wayward Lad in Dawn Run’s astonishing 1986 victory. Everyone remembers ‘the mare getting up’, as Sir Peter O’Sullevan so memorably called. All that I remember though, is Wayward Lad patently not getting up – the hill, that is. A little form study would have revealed the same thing happening in 1983, during Michael Dickinson’s staggering 1-2-3-4-5. Dickinson was a legend in the north. Wayward Lad was one of his stable stars, winning the King George thrice. However, the Gold Cup was a stamina test too far. By the time I began attending the Festival in 2000, sampling that unique, heady atmosphere in person, I was a bit better pr