Saturday, 21 March 2020

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Cheltenham Racecourse

13th March 2020

I am not a huge horse racing fan - in fact, not even a small one, really.  I think it is the apparent lack of structure to the season (is it called a season?) which represents a barrier.  At least to me, it does.  There just appears to be a small number of big, important races, and lots of lots of tiddly little insignificant ones.  

Although I know enough to be aware there is a Jump Season and a Flat Season - i.e. races with, and without hedges and ditches for the horses to negotiate.  And that races are allocated into groups, depending upon the quality of horse competing.  Or something.

But it all just seems too haphazard and messy to get involved in.  Or, to be more accurate, I am just too lazy to put in the time to ascertain how things really work.

Consequently the whole business tends to pass me by for most of the year.  Although, I acknowledge, I do find myself taking a passing interest in events like The Grand National, The Epsom Derby and those Guineas races.  

And, of course, The Cheltenham Gold Cup.

There are various ways to reach Cheltenham Racecourse on a big day.
I chose to fork out for a car park ticket and unless you plan to drink 

or stay until the bitter end, I would suggest it money well spent.

The Main Entrance.  The Jockey Club may well welcome you..
..but you will be frisked for any food and drink before being welcomed in.

Cheltenham Racecourse.

This is the rear of The Princess Royal Stand, where I think most of the corporates and members hung out.

The Parade Ring and Winners Enclosure.

"Be sure and go to The Guinness Village", everyone said.

There was a band playing on a stage in The Guinness Village

I realise the guys (and girl) were performing mainly to semi-inebriated Irishmen, but I was disappointed 
they could not come up with anything more original than The Wild Rover and Seven Drunken Nights.

The Guinness Village was just a crowded space full of people getting drunk, 
and the novelty of being in there sober soon palled.

I do not bet terribly often, but I do find it an integral part of the whole racing experience.
My first bet (£10) was one of those Tote thingies, where I predicted horse 

Number Three would be placed in each of the first six races.
So my hopes sat with this chap A Wave Of The Sea in the first race. 

My cash is on one of those white caps in amongst the bunch.

I watched the First Race from the rickety looking Tattersall's Viewing stand.

I am not quite sure where the horses are in this pic - probably on the horizon somewhere.
But the big screen shows Number Three ain't in the first four at this point.

A Wave Of The Sea toddles in seventh, way behind winner Burning Victory (yellow cap) ridden by Paul Townend....

...but not nearly as far behind as the unfortunate Jamie Moore, who was unseated by 
his mount Goshen after jumping the final hurdle ten lengths clear.  Poor chap. 

Apropo of nothing, here is Donal McInerney on Never Do Nothing, who finished 9th 

Inside The Centaur - a large indoor arena where one could drink, eat, bet and watch the races.
I should not be surprised if some attendees never left the place all afternoon.

I decided to watch the second race from The Guinness Stand, which was sort of part of The Guinness Village.

With my Tote Placepot accumulator gone, I thrust a fiver in the direction of one of 
the "real" bookies on Buildmeupbuttercup to win at an ambitious 14-1

The view from The Guinness Stand across the racecourse towards The Cotwolds  

Across in the cheap seats - Best Mate Enclosure - they looked even more tightly packed in than on this side. 

There were loads of 'em in this race - 24 ran I think.

Saint Roi won this one, with my lad in yellow back in fourth.
Had I done the Each-Way thing, I would have got back £9.50 for my fiver.  Oh well.

Back to the Winners Enclosure to see the presentation.

Saint Roi winner of The Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (and £43,040)

Race Three - and with admirable restraint, I kept my hand in my pocket for this one.

...which was won by Monkfish (not pictured).
That was three wins on the trot for trainer Willie Mullins, I noted.

Davy Russell was attempting to stem a bleeding nose here after the race, 
and I don't think he was much impressed with me pushing my camera into his face.

Jonathan Moore (in the blue stripe) and Mark Walsh.

Jeremiah McGrath

Anyone else look at this pic and think "Genesis, Foxtrot"?

I elbowed my way into the Tattersalls Viewing Stand for the Gold Cup. 

Two bets here - an fiver Each Way flutter on Presenting Percy (as promised to my mate Percy).
And a sort of last ditch hope to break-even-for-the-day tenner to win, on favourite Al Boum Photo.

Whenever the horses disappeared off to the far distant points of the track, everyone's attention turned to 
the big screens.  The temptation (to be resisted) was just to keep watching, and to ignore the live action.

There were a couple of laps of the track - just over three miles.

The final fence - no fallers this time

Al Boum Photo leads from fellow yellow Lostintranslation and Santini 

Al Boum Photo wins the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup by a neck from Santini.
I think my camera angle makes the margin of victory look greater than it actually was. 

Al Boum Photo enters the Winners Enclosure.
I note my stitching software has made the chap on the left's phone disappear.
If only real life was so simple.

Winning jockey Paul Townend and admirer.

Al Boum Photo - winner of 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Al Boum Photo - winner of 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup

Although strictly speaking, no-one had won this race yet, until after the weigh-in.
The horses were all carrying 11st 10lbs, and I know jockeys are allowed a 1lb leeway.
But I did wonder how close these scales were to reading 11 8.5

Princess Anne arrived to hand out the prizes.

Owner Marie Donnelly gets the Gold Cup itself... 

...trainer Willie Mullens receives a little golden goblet type thing... does Paul Townend...

...whilst the groom gets a wee plaque for his wall.

I am not sure if Marie Donnelly has some light sensitivity problems, but this was certainly an unusual look with
 her huge dark glasses and wide hat.  But hey, she has just won The Cheltenham Gold Cup 
for the second year running.  So, Go Girl!

So that was my trip to The Cheltenham Gold Cup.  I did not hang around for any of the remaining three races on the card.  Partly because the car park looked a good place to get out of early, partly because I was driving to Birmingham to see Stewart Lee perform.  But mainly because I had no real interest in watching any further racing, as I was pointedly NOT going to place any more bets.

My tenner on Al Boum Photo had brought me £43:40, leaving me a modest (but nevertheless welcome) £8:40 in profit for my day's gambling activities.  And that was coming home with me.