Posted by Tania Kindersley.
If there are any children reading, I would like say: gambling is very bad for you and will make your teeth fall out and your lips turn blue. If Steve Jobs is reading, I would like to say that the in-built typewriter on the iPad is pure toytown and guaranteed to make any self-respecting typist cry and self-harm. If William Hill is reading, I would like to say: if I am very good, can I have my money back?
Of course I lost all my winnings from yesterday, and all the sure things turned out to be quite uncertain after all, and even though the Irish horses kept smiling, they were the wrong Irish horses. Now I shall have to go home and eat gravel for the duration.
It was very familiar. This is what happened every week during my childhood. My dad, who liked complicated betting, would do a Yankee or an Accumulator (known as an acker) or a variety of doubles and trebles sometimes called a patent, and usually there was swearing and tearing of hair as everything went crashing down on the first leg. Occasionally, the equine gods aligned and there was clapping and shouting and drinking in celebration. On one mighty occasion, he won so much money at Cheltenham that he had to be escorted to the car park by two burly minders, because the bookmakers were certain he would be mugged. The cash was given to him in a SUITCASE. Once, the accumulator came so marvellously good some time in the 1970s that a little soft top Mercedes arrived for my mother. Six months later, back to the garage it went.
Never mind. I always have one rotten day during the Festival. I am already plotting for tomorrow. Even though he is not a great price, I hope that the lovely Poquelin wins, and I shall have my boots on him. I hope the Irish go on winning, because they do the best celebrations in the winning enclosure. I hope that Ruby Walsh roars back to magnificence, after a most humdrum day today (although this is the nature of National Hunt racing; it does not matter how much of a champion you are, there are always days when you kick on and there is nothing there, or you get no luck in running, or your horse puts both front feet into the open ditch).
The Three Year Old regards the Channel Four coverage with some suspicion. 'Is that silly man going to come on again?' she asks, seriously. She means John McCririck, whose headgear she has taken against.
Alistair Down does rather a touching history of the Festival Meeting. There is wonderful archive footage of Arkle. The baby stares at the flickering black and white pictures. She points at Arkle. 'He is the BEST,' she says.
How does she know this? She is like a horse whisperer. Arkle is the best there ever was, and probably will ever be. I start telling the Three Year Old about the glory days when Arkle beat Golden Miller. Alistair Down was saying something in the background about Vincent O'Brien. The baby interrupted me, frowning furiously at the screen. 'That man,' she said, 'is too shouty.'
'Oh darling,' I said. 'All racing people are shouty.'
She contemplated this for a while. She turned back to the television, where Arkle was skating up in the Gold Cup, with that extraordinary action of his, that made him look as if he were running on rollers.
'Horses go faster, faster,' she said. Today, the horses I chose went slower, slower. But there is always the hope of tomorrow.