Monday, 14 March 2016


Dazzling sunshine; 1799 words of book; a grand schooling ride on my dear brown mare; a lot of HorseBack work; and dreams and dreams and dreams of Cheltenham.

I thought I might be sad, thinking of my first Cheltenham without my mum. There will be so many brave, bonny horses running this week that she adored. I’ll miss the early morning excitement as I would take her a copy of the Racing Post; I’ll miss the post-race telephone conversations. But the melancholy which has been floating about seems banished by the sunshine. It’s my favourite four days of the year, and this year I shall be shouting for two.

I hoped I might be able to take the week off and give myself my traditional Cheltenham holiday, but there is too much going on in my work. So I’m going to be juggling pure pleasure and serious responsibilities, which sounds about right. I can’t just stop the world because the best horses in Britain and Ireland will be gathered together under the benign, timeless gaze of Cleeve Hill. But oh, oh, oh, the glory. There will be all the things I love and admire most – bravery, beauty, dour determination, dazzling natural talent, enthusiasm, grace, a refusal to give up. There will be the old friends and the new shooting stars. The crowd will sing Ruby, Ruby, Ruby. (My mum used to ring me up and say, a dying fall in her voice: ‘Oh, Ruby.’ As if he were a cherished son who turned out to be a prodigy.) Willie Mullins will wear his special hat. The hot favourites will be nailed on, as if the memory of Annie Power plunging at the last is not seared on every punter’s mind, and, as always at the festival, absolutely anything could happen.

The Mullins battalions seem invincible, but never far from my mind is the year that Norton’s Coin won the Gold Cup at 100-1, having been driven to the races in a trailer by his trainer, Sirrell Griffiths. Nobody goes to the Gold Cup in a trailer. Griffiths had been up at dawn to milk his cows and only had two other horses in his stable. Yet he lifted the greatest prize of all. Colin Tizzard has a few more than three horses, but he also is a milker of cows, three hundred and fifty of them, so perhaps that is a sign for dear old Cue Card. Cheltenham is the place for stories, equine, bovine and human. I’ve heard those stories all my life, since my fearless father stormed up the hill in the Kim Muir. Absolutely anything can happen, and I can’t wait. 

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