Well, given that the next time I will get chance to write will be Wednesday, if I’m going to do this before the big meeting starts, it has to be tonight.
Yes, starting next Tuesday, for 4 glorious days, is the Cheltenham Festival, the biggest jump racing meeting of the year. And though, in theory, it might not be my last one working in the betting industry, it would seem quite possible that it will be. Mind, I wont be alone, as it will also be the last festival for someone who is one of the greatest jump jockeys of all time, A P (Tony) McCoy. He’s retiring, whereas for me, it will just be a different workplace, hopefully.
It will be about my 25th Cheltenham Festival, but dont quote me on an exact number. All I know is, that I’ve seen, and going back to the very early days, heard a few of them. Yes, back when I started in the betting industry, in the late 70’s, we had no live pictures in the shop. My, havent things changed?
Equally, back then, we opened at 10.00, shut at 5.00 in winter, the latest of 6.30 in the summer, so that has changed too.
But the first Cheltenham memories I have, go back a lot further than that. Yes, I remember in the mid 60’s seeing a horse called Arkle galloping triumphantly around the track. Yes, as I say, I’ll be 57, a few days after the meeting is over. Normally my birthday falls within Cheltenham, but this year, its the week after.
I cant imagine it will be the last time I see racing from the Cheltenham festival, just be the last time I’m taking phone calls at work about it. My favourite race nowadays? None of the quality stuff, its the cross country race! I just love something a little different, thats all.
And though I wont be gambling strictly on the racing, I’m pretty sure I will be risking a tenner in the office competition held over the meeting. It would be nice to win something, especially this year, but I will be up against shrewd tipsters, so I doubt it very much.
So yes, I have one more working Cheltenham festival to ‘look forward to’ at least, but this may well be the last one.
The racing? Tips? You have to be joking, dont you?
So fine, the video is about as old as my first Cheltenham memories
So alright, just for once, lets talk about the literal side of work, some horse racing. To the thoroughly uninitiated amongst you, there are 2 types of horse racing, flat racing, where the horses gallop, and never see an obstacle on the course, and then there is national hunt (or jumps) racing, where yes, you’ve guessed it, lots of obstacles in the way of fences and hurdles which have to be jumped, without losing their jockeys in the process.
Technically, within the latter area, there is something that is just ever so slightly different, called cross country racing. There are only 2 tracks in the UK and Ireland where this takes place, and both are holding races over those courses this weekend, Cheltenham and Punchestown. A lot of the fences are similar, though banks (like running up a hill, then back down again) are certainly not seen in normal races. Punchestown goes a step further, and even has a water splash, and used to have a stone wall too, but judging by the film (end of blog), the Health & Safety people have done away with that?
I would actually imagine its as close as we get to the original form of steeplechasing across fields, between 2 steeples nowadays?
Some horses have fits when they see these strange fences, others love them! Some Irish horses only run in cross country races! The most famous example of that over the years was a horse called Risk Of Thunder, who won so many of them, the race at Punchestown this weekend is named after him!
Being honest, apart from the big races, these are my main form of interest in horse racing nowadays, and hopefully I get to see at least part of the fun between calls this weekend. To play the pun on Star Trek, its horse racing, but not as we know it lol!
Anyway, as an example of this magical mayhem, I include film of the most famous of these races each year, the La Touche Cup, this years version in fact, with quite a rousing finish.