I am writing this at a million miles an hour at just after six. I’ve been awake for an hour, so excited about Cheltenham I cannot sleep.
I had slightly hoped I would wake early, and then I could go through all the form one more time, and invent the most cunning accumulator of all time, and make my old dad proud. Instead, I did some writing for HorseBack, because today is real red letter day and I had to mark it.
It’s possibly slightly more red letter-ish for me than for them, because it locks into my great passion as I charge off to the races. Today, I am going to meet Monkerhostin.
There is no time now to tell you how or why or all the delightful details. Monkerhostin was a really good racehorse, tough, genuine and talented. In his retirement, he is doing something even more remarkable than storming up the Cheltenham hill. He now lives with Sergeant Major George Beilby, and helps the Royal Marine through the struggles of post-Afghanistan life.
Anyway, the sergeant major is going to do some work with HorseBack, to highlight how horses can play such an extraordinary role in the path to recovery, and so, in my official capacity as Writer-in-Residence, I am going to meet him today and his glorious horse. I am beside myself. Monkerhostin is everything I love about the jumps. This is what his previous owner said about him: ‘He never gave up. Sometimes watching him down the back straight you thought he had no chance, but he never saw it like that. He wasn't always good enough but he always gave it everything he could.’
Those are the ones that stick in the memory, and make the heart lift.
So if you are at Cheltenham today, look out for Monkerhostin in the parade at 12.15pm. If the people at Channel 4 can get their act together, they might even show it on the television. And think of me, vibrating with excitement and trying vainly to act normally, when I get upsides these two remarkable people.
I can’t revise all the form now, so I’m just sticking with my beloveds. The Irish in me is strong this morning, and I’m staying true to my two darlings from over the sea, Quevega and Hurricane Fly. I’ve put them in a treble with My Tent or Yours as my charity bet for HorseBack. Channel 4 does charity bets, so I’m going to do one too. It does feel a bit cheesy, just choosing three favourites, and possibly unwise, since the favourite statistics at Cheltenham are not great. But they are the ones I love today and that’s all she wrote.
I really, really want Hurricane Fly to win, with every beat of my ridiculous heart, because I love him and because no one has regained the Champion Hurdle for forty years . But there is a reason for that, and I do think Zarkandar will run a huge race. Even when he was a baby, a raw four-year-old who knew nothing, he was amazingly tough. He’s a fighter, and he won’t go down without a tussle.
After all that, Rock on Ruby will probably beat both of them. I’d like to see Countrywide Flame run his race. He’s another of whom I am enduringly fond, although he’s probably not quite good enough to make the frame in this.
But really, today is all about a former champ, the lovely Monkerhostin, and his Royal Marine. The parade, at 12.15. Tell all your friends.
Only one picture today, of the special Cheltenham hat. I shall not be bringing the horse, you will be amazed to hear:
Oh, and to those of you going and those of you watching and those of you, like me, shouting yourselves hoarse, have a glorious day and a lot of good Guinness, and perhaps a winner or two.
PS. This is almost certainly atrociously written and riddled with howlers. Been up since five so brain already a bit addled. Forgive me.