Saturday, 26 January 2013

A thrilling afternoon

A bright day with a frigid wind howling in from the north-west. Red the Mare gathers her little band together under the big tree which they love the most, and makes sure that they are all facing in the right direction. Autumn moves the wrong way and gets a proper telling off. Myfanwy stands right by Red’s flank, as if saying: look at me, did my homework, top of the class.

I get very excited about the racing. The mighty Sprinter Sacre comes out and does his thing. He wins in a gentle canter, as if he is out for a little bit of schooling, leaving perfectly good horses toiling in his imperious wake.

In a thrilling finish, Nigel Twiston-Davies almost gets the old warrior, Imperial Commander, back from two years off the course to win the Argento Chase. The bonny horse goes down by half a length, fighting to the line. I shout my head off, even though my cash was on the winner.

I win some money; I lose some money. Ironically, my saving bet comes in the race which I decided I could not unravel at all. My sure things weren’t quite so sure.

I think of my dad and laugh, ironically.

Channel Four Racing gets a little better, but still won’t show me the horses in the paddock, or going down to the start. At one point, I get so frustrated that I tweet it is as if they are doing espionage. Moscow bloody Rules. I rarely get cross and rude, but I think whoever is in charge is an idiot, whose sole purpose in life is to make me sad. I’m taking it very personally.

Just as I started to write this, the last televised race came on. My betting has not been terribly successful today; my certain trebles crashed and burned. I had everything riding on The New One, and he lost by a neck. My last flickering hope was a tiny long-priced double on Cape Tribulation, who had won the Argento, and Reve De Sivola, who was up against the talented Oscar Whisky. It could resurrect my gambling fortunes. But I could not believe it would come true.

Dear Reve de Sivola travelled beautifully through the mud, stayed composed and balanced over the undulations of Cheltenham, pinged the last, and hit the front. But the ferocious Barry Geraghty and Oscar Whisky were coming at him, coming at him, relentless. I leapt on the sofa and started yelling. Stanley the Dog started jumping and barking, in the manner of The Pigeon. It was on the nod. For a moment, Oscar Whisky drew ahead. But the doughty Reve dug deep, stuck his bold neck out, and said No, you don’t. He motored past the post, the winner by a nose.

Mr William Hill, who had been counting his money, ran and hid behind the sofa.

It was a really great afternoon. It had everything. The soaring class of Sprinter Sacre, the fighting spirit of Reve de Sivola and Cape Tribulation, the almost fairy tale of brave Imperial Commander. It was overcast by a fleeting shadow, when a very nice horse of Lucinda Russell’s, Bold Sir Brian, had a crashing fall and lay winded for a while. Everyone feared the worst. When he got to his feet, shook himself, and walked away, he got the biggest cheer of the day.

I love them all, these mighty horses. I love their guts and their beauty and their talent and their unquenchable will to win. It’s my perfect afternoon, to be in their presence.


Today’s pictures:

26 Jan 1

26 Jan 2

26 Jan 2-001

26 Jan 3

26 Jan 3-001

26 Jan 4

26 Jan 6

26 Jan 7

26 Jan 8

26 Jan 8-001

26 Jan 10

The herd:

26 Jan 16-002

26 Jan 16

26 Jan 16-001

Love that last face. It’s her ornery face.

Stan the Man:

26 Jan 15

26 Jan 15-001

Still enjoying the snow vastly.

Almost translucent hill:

26 Jan 20


If you want to see the astounding creature that is Sprinter Sacre, there is a link to the Racing Post here:


  1. I have family in 'Nam (as the youngs call Cheltenham) and my niece/goddaughter was there this afternoon, according to a photo uploaded to FB. Must find out where she put her money.

    Here in mid-Wales the snow has been washed away by rain, and yet not very many miles away in Lancashire they had another foot of snow last night. What an extraordinary few days it has been - weather to make a person feel humble.

  2. Love that Stanley has learned how to watch horse racing.



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