Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Too much love

I'm not really blogging at the moment, because I am on holiday at the Cheltenham Festival, but it turns out there are some words I have to write. It's like a disease. Type, type, type, eh Mr Gibbon?

It's just after seven and the winter sun is shining. I wake up like a child at Christmas and think: it's Sprinter day and Sire de Grugy day, and my heart is cleft in twain. I adore and admire them both, and can't choose between them, and just hope both of the mighty fellas get round fine and come home safe. They have given so much joy and owe nobody one single thing. Anything more is jam.

This is not a betting day for me, but a pure love day. My relation-by-marriage, The Horseman, said to me yesterday: 'Did you see many friends?'

'Well,' I said, 'equine friends.'

It's true. The old compadres had four legs, although there were some new friends made too, like Douvan and Un de Sceaux, who flew into my heart and lodged there, who made me smile and clap and howl like a banshee. 'Ruby, Ruby, Ruby,' sang sixty thousand people, as that dazzling smile lit up Prestbury Park, and all the good Irish horses turned out to be exactly as good as Willie Mullins thought they were.

Ted Walsh, Ruby's father, when asked on the Morning Line whether his son could indeed win on four hot favourites, shook his sage head. 'It's Cheltenham, not Disneyland,' he said, dismissive. After Douvan soared away from the pack, and Un de Sceaux did what everyone said was impossible, by going off in front in the Arkle and staying there, jumping for fun, and Faugheen finally proved beyond any cynical doubt that he was the real deal, I ran down to the winner's enclosure, part of a heaving, joyful, delirious crowd, and I yelled at my brother: 'Damn it, it IS Disneyland.'

The friends do have four legs, and when one of those legs buckled, and the gleaming powerhouse that is Annie Power went down on her knees, I groaned and cried out loud 'Oh, Annie,' as if she were my own.

I do not drive five hundred miles for a cocktail party, although it's always lovely to catch a glimpse of old muckers; I drive for the equine stalwarts who feel like friends to me. I drive so that I can stand up close to the thoroughbred beauty that makes my heart sing. I drive to look in their genuine eyes and watch their swinging walk and be dazzled by all that bunched, muscular power.

Today, I'll watch these two glorious athletes with my race glasses shaking in my hands, and hope with my whole heart that both their stars shine again.

Meanwhile, in a quiet Scottish field, the red duchess is reportedly enjoying her holiday immensely, luxuriating in sunshine and the good hay, which the kind farmer just delivered for her. She is being wonderfully well looked after in my absence and the new field joke is that she is boring the arse off her poor Paint friend by telling endless stories of her own racing days, in honour of Cheltenham week. (For some reason, imagining what horses would say if they really could talk always makes me laugh.)

I also want King's Palace to win the RSA, but I adore The Young Master and Don Poli too, and I have a huge soft spot for Southfield Theatre. There is never a race when I can pick one and ignore the rest. All the champions have come to shimmer and shine under the benign gaze of Cleeve Hill; all the young hopefuls and the fast improvers and the ones who have had their problems and are on the comeback trail; the handicap blots and plots, the talking horses and stalking horses and the nearly horses and the dearly beloved horses. In my idiotic, soft heart, I sometimes wish that they could all come over the finishing line together. I think that only I and the handicapper dream that. The handicapper and I should have a drink some time.

I have taken some pictures, of which more tomorrow - in the meantime, here is one red mare, and one new star:

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