Mug's Game: Okay, so I was steeped but a win is a win — isn’t it?

Mug's Game: Okay, so I was steeped but a win is a win — isn’t it?
Crowds during Cheltenham's final day. Photo:Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Remember Thursday’s jeremiad about the frequency with which I was twanging the woodwork, only for the ball to keep bouncing back out? Well…

One of the tipsters I follow mentions Burning Victory in the Triumph Hurdle. It’s the Mullins/Townend combination and she – she is a she – is 14/1. On with the usual €3 each way.

Burning Victory is patently not the best animal in the race. Patently the best animal in the race is Goshen, who’s a mile clear coming to the last. But the hurdles are there to be jumped and Goshen makes a pig’s ear of it, decanting Jamie Moore out the side. Who’s running on to pick up the pieces? Burning Victory.

She is steeped. I am steeped. (Think I care?) Willie, who manfully announces that this “a victory I’m not going to celebrate too much”, is steeped.

If Ferny Hollow’s win in the bumper on Wednesday was, as he put it, like scoring a goal just before half-time, this was the equivalent of one that took two deflections, ricocheted off the centre-back’s arse and was fumbled over the line by a combination of Adrian and Lloris.

Nonetheless I have, as per the blueprint, hit the net early doors and I intend to kick on.

The 2.10 is the County Hurdle. Seeing the overnight money for Ciel De Neige (the Mullins/Mark Walsh combination) I’ve gone in big with a tenner. But hang on, what’s this? There’s been a late rush for Saint Roi (the Mullins/Geraghty combination). 

On the basis that I can afford to be double-handed I put a fiver on Saint Roi and get him at 11/2.

No joy with Ciel De Neige who finishes down the field. Much joy with Saint Roi who finishes first. 

After being barely able to get an effort on target for the first two days I have now bagged a brace from three attempts. My Expected Goals figure must be off the scale. Thanks to Willie for the assists.

Let’s not change a winning team. Mullins and Townend and Monkfish in the Albert Bartlett. Another fiver at 5/1. In a driving finish Monkfish wins by a neck and a nose. This is getting ridiculous.

After three days of Cheltenham-imposed self-isolation I venture out to watch the Gold Cup. As Archive Sister has instructed me to avoid betting offices I head to the pub, which I am relieved to see is not busy and has nobody sitting near each other.

For the record: the subject of whether Cheltenham 2020 should have gone ahead is above this column’s pay grade. But I hope I don’t see any attendee in a social situation for the remainder of the month. Not too much to ask, is it?)

Twelve months ago, some readers will recall, Al Boum Photo did me a considerable favour in the blue riband: 14/1 considerable. 

I was grateful and always will be, but at 7/2 this time around he’s too skinny in an open-looking field, even if his preparation – Tramore on New Year’s Day – has been exactly the same.

For the sake of value, then, I’m on Kemboy, his stable mate and a first-fence casualty last year. 

Just before the off, on seeing one bookie going five places, I put two euro each way on Monalee at 20/1, largely because the mighty Rachael Blackmore is up – and let’s face it, Rachael is going to win the Gold Cup at some stage.

Can Willie keep banging them in? Of course. He’s Willie. Can I keep banging them in? Of course not. I’m me.

Kemboy is going backwards from an early stage while Al Boum Photo again proves a cracking advertisement for the health-giving benefits of Tramore’s seaside air in wintertime.

But hey, Monalee keeps plugging away to finish fourth and I get some cash back. It is a small but oddly satisfying triumph, like finding a fiver you’d forgotten about in a coat you hadn’t worn for a month. 

To repeat an injunction from earlier in the week, it’s important to shop around.

The Foxhunters I couldn’t care less about. I assume Don Poli is still running as you read this.

There’s further place money in the 4.50 with Éclair De Beaufeu, mentioned by another pundit, who finishes second, but I strike out in the last race despite a couple of pin-sticking each-way punts. 

No matter. It’s been a golden day for WP Mullins and a merely silver day for your columnist.

Any festival goers with similar good fortune to report, do tell me. But not till April, thank you very much.

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