Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I was sitting down to write the blog after an extraordinary first day at Cheltenham, when – smack, shudder, sizzle, flash – all the lights went off, with a very scary flickering effect. The speakers attached to the computer made the most terrible wailing noise. I went outside. There was a fire in the beech avenue. A tree branch had come down, scythed through our power line, which was severed and slithering free on the ground. One of the cows was electrocuted. It was awful.
So, no computer, no lights, no nothing. I pulled myself together, lit all the candles, and gathered the family around. The Younger Niece is here, with the Man in the Hat, and the Landlord and The International Traveller drove down, and we drank Guinness and built up the fire and mourned the poor old cow.
The amazing men from the Scottish Hydro Electric drove out like princes to the rescue, and put up arc lights, and worked all night to fix the thing. So, suddenly, the power is back on, and I must give you a blog.
I wanted to tell you the whole story of the day, but I am too tired now.
There were many extraordinary moments. Perhaps the greatest was watching the young novice, Sprinter Sacre, saunter round the difficult course at Cheltenham as if he were out for a training gallop.
Some people said he would not go up the hill. He made the hill look like it was for amateurs. He never came off the bridle. He is a big, bonny, old-fashioned looking sort of horse, dark bay, with big ears and an honest head. He is the great, shining star of the future. When the mighty Kauto retires, we have another champion to make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. He has so much raw talent that it is like watching an elemental force of nature.
Perhaps the happiest story was in the last. There is a lovely horse called Hunt Ball, who started off the season at a very low rating, in the sixties. To give you a comparison, Kauto Star is rated at 180. Hunt Ball is trained by a young trainer, in a small yard. His owner is not a storied aristocrat or a moneyed plutocrat; he is a dairy farmer from Dorset, who gets up at four every morning to see to the cows. He is famous for whooping and crying in the winning enclosure; once, he even leapt on the horse himself, and rode him back to the winner’s circle. (The stewards crossly fined him one hundred pounds. He didn’t care. The crowd didn’t care. The horse appeared to love it.)
Since the autumn the lovely, honest Hunt Ball has gone up 73 points. This is almost unprecedented; that much improvement is quite stellar. The thought today was that the handicapper had caught up with him; he was going over the two and half miles with twelve stone on his back. I had a heart over head bet of a tenner, at 8-1. That is a hell of a top weight, to lug over those huge fences, and up that unforgiving incline. I backed him through a sheer want for him to win.
The horse jumped like a stag all the way round, eased into the lead at the second last, and galloped home, ears pricked, to the absolute delight of everyone watching.
It was not one of the championship races; it was the final contest on the card, when some people have gone home. But the exhilaration of the connections was so infectious, and everyone there seemed to know this rags to riches story, so that he got the biggest cheer of the day by far. The good Cheltenham crowds recognised true loveliness when they saw it. They rose as one; the farmer threw his arms in the air with sheer joy; the horse lifted his head in salute. It was one of the finest things I ever saw.
Hunt Ball, by Tom Jenkins for the Guardian. Very happy owner on the right:
Glorious picture by Edward Whitaker:
Sprinter Sacre, on his way to dominate the Arkle:
Red the Mare is on the road. Arrives Thursday. Can hardly believe it. It is all equines with me, just now.