Cheltenham Festival – Day 4
Dispatches from the front line of The Greatest Show On Turf – Friday 15th March
I cried today. Not because of a narrow defeat or an overdose of Champagne, both of which would’ve been decent excuses. Nor for the over-crowding which, as usual, was ridiculous despite an apparent reduction of 5,000 versus last year’s Gold Cup day. No, these tears were provoked by the unseating of amateur rider Jane Mangan in the Foxhunter Chase. Her mount Oscar Delta (backed by my sister and brother-in-law after their third child – that’s Oscar rather than Delta) had travelled like a dream and was still full of running as he led over the last. An exuberant leap appeared to have sealed it but the horse jinked left and Mangan fell out of the side door. Only when watching the replay did I clock the jockey’s reaction, immediate and utter devastation, and that’s what set the old lachrymal glands off. Nothing gets me like the theatre of sport.
Our Conor was the most impressive winner of the Triumph Hurdle I’ve ever seen. Soft ground can have the effect of exaggerating winning distances but it was hard not to be bowled over by the way Dessie Hughes’ charge hacked all over his rivals, not coming off the bridle to score by fifteen lengths. You could make an exhilarating 2014 Champion Hurdle field from this year’s novices alone: Our Conor, Champagne Fever, My Tent Or Yours, The New One. Mouth-watering stuff for next season.
In the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, At Fishers Cross relished the testing conditions, biding his time before taking the lead over the final flight and accelerating away from his rivals up the hill. A first victory of the week for champion jockey AP McCoy.
And, as you’ll know by now, Bobs Worth won the Gold Cup. Nicky Henderson’s doughty stayer added the blue riband event to the Hennessy he won earlier in the season and in the process maintained his unbeaten record at the home of Jump racing. It was a thrilling encounter. Long Run, fitted with cheek pieces for the first time, – headgear that had sparked him into new life according to his work rider – attempted to make all. He gave it a darn good go too. Sir Des Champs came there to challenge heading for home and the long-time leader was just starting to feel the pinch. Then Bobs Worth, patiently ridden by Barry Geraghty, appeared on the scene and once he grabbed the lead, there was no stopping him.
So that’s it for another year. Battered, broken, beleaguered. It takes a full 365 days to recover. But only a day or so before you wish all those days away.Tagged in: betting, cheltenham festival, gambling, horse racing
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