Day three dawns and a text arrives. “I see from your Examiner column that you’re doing as badly as I am.”
It’s not just me, then. Phew. But no more negativity. This is the day the fightback begins. Well, hopefully it is.
The feature race is the Stayers Hurdle. The hot favourite is Paisley Park. It’s difficult to know which is more noteworthy, the horse’s name — for music types anyway — or its owner.
Andrew Gemmell is a huge Prince fan and avid sportsman who’s attended Ashes test matches all over the world, been to the Kentucky Derby and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and is a West Ham season ticket holder. One other item of interest about Andrew: He’s been blind since birth.
Yes, reader. Very witty of you. Kindly note how I refrained from making the obvious West Ham joke.
Anyway. Paisley Park has been backed in from 9/4 this morning to 11/8. Too rich for my tastes — for old times’ sake I have a small interest on Faugheen, the former machine — but it’s a race to look forward to. The hotpot will need “a really strong gallop”, AP McCoy warns, and there’s also his habit of hitting “a little flat spot during a race”.
Sure enough, Paisley Park hits a little flat spot coming down the hill before rocketing up the stands’ side inside the final quarter of a mile.
A blunder at the last fails to halt his gallop and the most popular winner of the week is home and hosed. Purple reigns.
All eyes turn to Andrew Gemmell. Will he go crazy? Does he intend partying like it’s 1999? And so on and so forth. Sports sub-editors all over these islands have doubtless been sharpening their headlines in advance of the favourite obliging; Friday’s papers will make for interesting reading.
For the benefit of the hardworking subs on the Examiner’s sports desk, here — and at no extra cost! — is one I’ve had in the oven for a while: “Paisley Park is Prince of Prestbury Park.” See what I did there?
In terms of emotional highlights it is quite the afternoon. Bryony Frost wins the Ryanair on Frodon. Lizzie Kelly wins the 4.10 on Siruh Du Lac. I mention these as highlights because, for the third day in a row, my highlights were minimal. Yet again I am not bearing tidings of great joy.
The scene in Blackadder the Third where Rowan Atkinson, having been captured and tied up by Miranda Richardson’s cross-dressing highwayman, is waiting to be murdered springs unstoppably to mind. “This is turning out to be a really rotten evening,” he laments. “Shot by a transvestite on an unrealistic grassy knoll.” This is turning out to be a really rotten meeting.
Granted, the free bets and money-back clauses are staunching the blood flow, and in the Pertemps I make a small profit when Jessica Harrington’s Not Many Left finishes third at 16/1.
She leads at the last and I have visions of paradise but she’s headed with 100 yards left and that’s that.
Of the first five races on the card, three are won by the favourite and two by 9/2 shots. The sixth sees a Willie Mullins 50/1 shot short-head a Willie Mullins 66/1 shot, which isn’t a lot of use to me either.
Hang on, though. Looking for something to get me out in the last (don’t try this at home, kids — and yes, I’m well aware of all those time-honoured sayings about cutting one’s losses, not throwing good money after bad, there’s always another day, etc, etc) I scroll back over the day’s recommendations from one tipster I follow. He suggests Any Second Now. I scan the form, which is encouraging without being earth-shattering, then scan the connections. Owner: JP McManus. Trainer: Ted Walsh: Jockey: Mr Derek O’Connor. Sounds good to me.
And lo, it is good. With Any Second Now carrying 11-11 I’m hoping that he’s not too prominent throughout. I shouldn’t have worried. O’Connor nurses him along and produces him at the perfect moment. Winner all right. Winner at last.
My festival hasn’t suddenly and magically been transformed.
But at least it’s no longer such a rotten evening.