The acute pangs for the Cotswolds began early yesterday. To unload the frustration, I tapped on my phone and screamed as loud as I could on Twitter. ‘I hate, hate anyone heading to Cheltenham today’.
I inserted a few of those little emoji fellas, the little lads with the yellow heads, mouths wide open and the tears streaming down their cheeks.
I was feeling sorry for myself. Nobody else did.
The boys from Sixmilebridge who I meet in Listowel every year took great pleasure in silently sowing it into me.
‘Greetings from the SMB Listowel crew’ they tweeted back.
I could picture them inside in the Mandarin Bar with half of Clare inside with them.
I was lucky enough to be there a few times when the Celtic Tiger was roaring loudly but, while the sitting room isn’t the same as the Mandarin, Cheltenham is still always Cheltenham.
You embrace it lovingly no matter where you are.
My good friend and former Clarecastle and Clare team-mate Stephen Sheedy rang early yesterday morning, as he always does on the Tuesday of Cheltenham, to chew the fat.
I told Sheedo that I’d prefer to be the bookie than the punter on the day, but I still laid out my plans for my €50 for the race card. I don’t think Sheedo was rushing down to Paddy Power afterwards.
I staked €30 on a €1 each-way lucky 15 with four horses. I picked three with middling chances but the last horse, Powersbomb, was selected more through emotion than cold-blooded calculation.
The horse is trained by Brian McMahon from Kilmaley, who won an All-Ireland medal with Clare in 1997, a couple of hours before we won the senior title.
Brian had a steady job but he gave it all up a few years back to follow his dream to become a trainer. He did a year with Nicky Henderson, a couple down in Cork before taking over Noel Glynn’s place out in Spancilhill.
Gary O’Brien (the tipster) gave the horse a big nod recently, providing he jumped well.
JJ Codd from the point-to-point field was booked to ride him. I was always going to back Powerbomb but the bet was loaded with emotion for different reasons.
Brian’s brother Diarmuid was one of my main men when I managed Clare. He was always a leader on and off the field.
Unfortunately he got an injury on Sunday still soldering for his beloved with Kilmaley in a challenge match. It’s been a worrying time for his family and I wish D a speedy recovery.
Powersbomb won in Galway in 2015, which was Brian’s first big success. I got a few quid out of him that day.
I was hoping to get a few more out of him again yesterday but context frames everything.
Coming down the hill Codd had him coming into contention and he looked a possible glorious winner.
The jumping came back to haunt him though and he clattered the last when in front and JJ did wonders to get him going again to hold on for the place in 4th.
Anytime I watch the Supreme Novices Hurdle, I think back to the day I was in the Cotswolds when a JP McManus horse called Youlneverwalkalone went off with half the Irish wads on his back only to be touched off and the depression could be felt back in West Clare.
It’s always a big Irish race because they wade into it early while the wallets are still full.
Melon was fancied because Ruby was on its back but I fancied Nicky Henderson’s River Wylde.
The horse was going well until the second last when Labaik came from nowhere, like a grey vision exploding across a wall of colour and notes, and out past Ruby and my fella.
It was a fairytale for young Jack Kennedy from Dingle, who came in between 33 and 40-1. Most fellas were stung but Patsy Fahey from Doora was dancing around like a cat on a hot-tin roof because he had him backed.
At least River Wylde finished third which keeps the each-way part of my lucky 15 up and running. It was the start of a glorious day for Gordon Elliot.
I needed something to cling on to because I put down €20 for a straight win for Limini, who was favourite at 13/8 for the Mares Hurdle. That would have given me back €51 but Apples Jade stayed on up the hill for Elliot to beat the two Mullins’ horses.
Apples Jade had flattered to deceive for a long time but the horse proved what it was made of yesterday, sticking her head out going up the hill. Chelteham is Cheltenham. It’s not Fairyhouse or Puchestown. That hill separates them all.
Cheltenham separates everybody. My straight bet was down but my lucky 15 rolled on and I had more agony in the 2.50 when Singlefarmpayment (has to be Irish owned ) was touched off on the line by last years winner Un temps pour tout who showed enormous guts to give nearly a stone to the gallant runner up.
The champion hurdle is up next and JP McManus’s famous South Liberties colours are carried by no less than three of the big contenders.
He wins it with the Henderson trained Buveur D’air followed home for a famous 1-2 by the veteran My Tent Or Yours (definitely named after the Fleadh down in Ennis ) I go for another Henderson runner Brain Power who jumping three from home looked a cert to be placed but like a lot of pretenders faded badly on the run up the hill.
Still Powersbomb, the McMahons and JJ Codd saved the day in the last to show a profit for day one.
€50 invested and €100.31 now in the bet 365 account. Day one of the battle cautiously negotiated!
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