On Tuesday morning I’d been juggling two sublimely antithetical, perfectly balanced fears: that either I’d back so many winners as to piss off the readers and make them hate me or that I’d back so many losers as to reduce the readers to a state of uncontrollable laughter and make them feel sorry for me. Take a wild guess as to which one it turned out to be...
Cause of Causes’ mishap at the last in Thursday‘s 4.40 has left me precisely where I didn‘t want to be on Friday: chasing my losses. I start off by venturing three euro on Abbyssial in the Triumph for two reasons. He’s won his last three races. Also, and rather more importantly, I’ve known his charming lady owner these many years. All goes swimmingly until the, ahem, second hurdle, which Abbyssial steps into and thereby decants Ruby. It is the end of Ruby’s festival. It is the end of my festival dreams.
Is there any way back? Brian Gleeson materialises on Channel 4 chatting to some bookie of his acquaintance. The bookie mentions Alaivan as good value in the County Hurdle and Apache Jack as good value in the Albert Bartlett, the latter because he was runner-up to Briar Hill lately and is 25/1 as opposed to Briar Hill’s 2/1. I stick them in a three-horse acca with the randomly chosen Tanks for That, who’s trained by Nicky Henderson and running in the last, a race named after Henderson’s father.
Alaivan is mentioned here and there during the commentary but fades and winds up out with the washing. Apache Jack runs well and is just touched off for second place. I‘ll need Tanks for That to be placed to get my money back.
I reach for the bazooka again in the Gold Cup. Twenty quid on Silviniaco Conti. I’m not counting my winnings jumping the last fence but I’m on pretty good terms with myself. I yield the floor to Shane McGowan, the most lyrical Irish poet since James Clarence Mangan, for what happened next. ‘The day being clear, the sky being bright, he came up on the left like a streak of light.’ Lord Windermere, On His Own and The Giant Bolster emerge from nowhere to fight out the finish, leaving Silviniaco for dead. Ouch.
Do I really need to add, by the way, that On the Fringe went close but not close enough in the hunter chase and that Tanks for That never figured in the 5.15! Tanks for nothing.
And then — oh joy! — it‘s over. I feel much like countless millions must have felt at 11.11am on November 11 1918. My apologies to the unknown charity that would have benefited by some never-to-be-determined amount had I known my hind quarters from my elbow. I think it’s safe to hazard that somebody else will be doing this column in 2015.
I stagger in to my local for the usual Friday evening Bombay Sapphire with tonic (slice of lime, plenty of ice). “Any joy this week,” the barman enquires gently, perhaps noticing my body language. I shake my head. ‘You and most people,’ he says soothingly. On the way home I pop into the off-licence, trying not to look at the bottles of Moet and Cristal I will not be drinking tonight while scrabbling in my pocket and discovering I have just about enough coinage for a couple of tinnies of Heineken.
What an inordinately attritional festival. Poor Our Conor. Poor Bryan Cooper. Poor Daryl Jacob. Poor Ruby. And poor me.
That customary signoff about how it’s been yet another wonderful Cheltenham and next year can’t come too soon — shag it! It’s been a rotten Cheltenham and I‘m going to spend the night with the telly off, the Smiths on and my tinnies. You’ve been a wonderful audience and I’ve been an utterly rotten punter. My apologies.