Wow … What a week that was …. In fact, it’s not just a week, what a last 12 months that’s been, because that’s when the Festival starts – As soon as the last one finishes !
Now it has to be said that there has obviously been a lack of entries on the blog over the last week or so, in fact this is the very first one since the action got under way. This is nothing to do with the lack of success (or otherwise) of my punting exploits during the festival, it is solely down to the fact that internet connection, in fact the majority of the time, mobile connection, has not quite made its way to the Cotswalds. The base for our week, in Bourton on The Water, is like the time that land forgot in terms of technology, however I hope it stays that way, as it’s always a delight to have none of the latest technology at your fingertips. Cheltenham is not much better, and try and get a signal at the racecourse during the festival and you’ve backed your first loser !
So let’s start ….. and where better place to begin than with the exploits of the Famous Five … Read On …
The Famous Five
So, how did the trusty five get one …. Well, we know that five became four due to Empiracle breaking a toe nail (or whatever it was) the weekend before the festival, so the fate of the fortunes were in the hands, no sorry, hooves, of the Fabulous Four.
First to appear was my very own personal favorite horse, My Tent or Yours. The ‘Mighty’ Tent as he’s come to be known was the starting point to my riches and I was becoming more and more confident of success. I was boring everyone stupid with my support and horsey love for this soon to be legend of an equine specimen. Come 1.30pm, and I had no doubt that the ‘Mighty Tent’ would be lining up to produce a performance of gee gee glory ! And so it did …… I tell you it definitely did …… I won’t hear anything different, the ‘Mighty Tent’ produced something that was amazing, brilliant, out of this world…just he finished second. Let’s get this right, Tuesday 12th March will go down in history as a day when it was officially ‘F*cking Freezing’, not just cold, oh no … not even chilly, oh no …. It was absolutely BALTIC !!! Had I been asked to perform in such ‘Arctic’ conditions then I would not have been able to come up with any sort of performance (this is sounding slightly rude … I’m talking athletic performance … that still sounds on the fruity side !) The ‘Mighty Tent’ got turned over by a specimen called Champagne Fever who was well ridden out in front all the way by Ruby Walsh. BUGGER !!!! The number one selection, the one to kick it all off had got turned over …. What did this mean ????? This meant no massive big payout, however all was not lost, this is a Snickers, Not a sprint !
Next up, enter the theatre one Fruity O’Rooney. Fruity was looking good, but this was one hell of a hot race. There was money coming in for several of the fancied horses in the race and Fruity was somewhat on the drift in betting market. The result …. Well, Fruity was up there for pretty much the whole race however it was clear from two fences out that he was never going to win. Fruity tried his massive heart out and ran on again towards the end to finish fifth. There’s not much more I can say really, he was up for the fight, but on the day, just not good enough. Fruity will win a race sooner rather than later before he gets to old, he’s too good not to, however on this occasion it was just not his day … but that day will come.
Shortly after Fruity came the big race of the first day and this was the chance for Binocular to show his true from and put all the others to the sword. The Champion Hurdle was a fascinating race, however not for Binocular, who never got into the action …. In fact all Binocular saw for the whole 2 miles was other horses backsides. I have to concede that he was just not good enough, in fact I’m afraid I think he’s well past his best and that there may not be too many places for him to go now in terms of the big races. Of all the runners on day one, I got this one seriously wrong.
So after day one, I’d had three of the Million Pound Punt horses run … I’d managed a 2nd, 5th and a distant 5th … and in effect the Million Pound dream (even the discounted version) was dead and buried !!! …… Oh well, not to worry this is the festival, it’s not all about the winners …. There was a town full of Guinness to get stuck into …. Time to drown the sorrows !!! (more on that later…..)
Empiracle had ducked out of the challenge in the Bumper on Wednesday so it was fast forward to Thursday and time to watch Get Me Out Of Here romp home in the World Hurdle. What a brilliant selection this would turn out to be…without doubt I knew I’d saved the best ‘til last. After a week of worrying, the ground had come right for him, perfect, what could go wrong, this was the time I’d show everybody that I know what I’m on about when it comes to horses…. And so it proved….well in fact it proved one thing, I know f*ck all about horses as Get Me Out Of Here briefly threatened to look like a racehorse for all of about 15 seconds before fading completely out of the race and being pulled up before jumping the last flight. Perfect … who said save the best ‘til last … I managed to save the worst !!!
And that was it …. The Million Pound Punt horses were not quite what I had in mind when I decided they would carry my hard earned cash …. However alls fair in love and gambling, at least someone else would have backed the winners in the races my horses ran in, so I’m sure somewhere in the world some lucky f*cker is sitting in wads of cash….am I bitter, nah not at all …. Lucky b*stards !!!
My Punting Week …. The Famous Five Aside
I’ll keep this brief as to be honest, I don’t want to bore you with all the blood and guts of every race. That said, day one was sh*t …… If it hadn’t been for the decision to back the Festival Standing Dish – Quevega – who has won at the previous four festival (now five !) then it would have been a complete wipeout. Even this amazing animal made us suffer, I glanced around at one of my fellow racing party (who also backed her) three flights from home and pulled that face that says ‘F*ck … We’re in trouble here !’ …. The result however was never in doubt and at least we managed a bit of a return from our first days gambling.
Day two – and I could have packed up and gone home after the first race. I’d backed a horse called Rival D’Estruval in the first, and as this mighty beast from the North pulled clear with a another horse, Tofino B ay, I thought that a return was in the bag …. And then the horse that carried my hard earned pounds decided to fall …. Thanks a million …. In fact not quite a million, but thanks anyway. The one crumb of consolation was that as my horse fell, the group to our right were cheering the demise of Rival D’Estruval as they were on the ‘other’ one, Tofino Bay. As I’d said in a previous post, you don’t cheer a horse when it falls, it’s bad taste, it’s not what the sport is all about, horses can die when they fall so to cheer one that tips over is not big and it’s not clever….and so Karma comes into play. Those who cheered when my horse fell thought they were on a winner, only for Tofino Bay to get ‘chinned’ on the line by the favorite. Unlucky …. But let that be a lesson to you !!! The highlight of the afternoon though was a winner …yes a real winner, that I backed at 4/1. This horse, called The New One, was actually the first horse I’d backed for a race at this years Cheltenham Festival however it just happened to be the wrong race, therefore I had to make do with a little investment on the day which brought a very welcome winner…..and that was about as good as it got on Wednesday.
Thursday – and St Paddy’s day started with me auditioning for a part in the next Ladbrokes commercial …. I just couldn’t resist moving in on the the un-assuming Chris Kamara in the Guinness Village and shouting “Kammy, No …. Football is On” ….. A winning audition if ever there was one ! As the for the days punting …. It started with me declaring the following to one of my racing colleagues “According to Trev & Captain Sunshine in the first, Champion Court in the second, Both of Venetia Williams horses in the Byrne Group Plate, and then Galaxy Rock & No Secrets” … They were my bets for the afternoon …. And the results were as follows – According To Trev (Unplaced), Captain Sunshine (2nd), Champion Court (Unplaced) Both of Venetia Williams Horses in the Byrne Group Plate – Kappa Du Cerisy (Unplaced), Carrickboy (WON AT 50/1), Galaxy Rock (Fell at the 1st), No Secrets (unplaced). Did you see that, eh eh, did you see that, come one look…look what it says …. Carrickboy WON AT 50/1 ! Now it doesn’t take a lot for your fortunes to change in the world of horse racing, and a 50/1 winner usually does the trick…unfortunately, it was probably my smallest bet of the week so didn’t cover all my previous poor investments and also the investments made in the local licensed premises over the previous couple of days, however a 50/1 winner is always welcome and Carrickboy was duly shouted home from my vantage position on top of Pippa Middleton (not literally…she was in a posh peoples box below where I was !) …. And so ended the punting on Thursday.
Friday arrived, and Gold Cup day. As is usual with Cheltenham, the final day is usually the day I’ve done the least amount of ‘studying’ for…in fact I’d done pretty much bugger all for this years races on the final day. All I knew is that in all likelihood I’d have a small bet on Bobs Worth in the Gold Cup and then play the rest by ear …. And as usual when I use the power of guesswork, it paid off. Ted Veale obliged in the second race at 10/1, Bobs Worth did the business in the big race at 11/4 and to round it off, Salubrious won at 16/1 …. That was more like it ….and a quick total up of the funds at the end of the day meant that it would be dinner in the ‘Posh’ eatery in Bourton on the Water on Friday night and not left over curry from the night before !
So over the whole four days, there had been 27 Races and I’d managed to back the winners of 6 of them … that’s a 22.22% strike rate …. I’m amazing …. Or not as the case may be. Most people would be happy with 6 winners, especially with a nice 50/1 shot and also a 16/1 shot in there and had my bets all been to level stakes then I’d have shown a handsome profit for my investments. Of course, my main selections were the Famous Five (or Fabulous Four) who all showed varying degrees of ability which resulted in abject failure when it came to the Million Pound Punt. Take the Million Pound Punt out of the weeks gambling equation and it finished a half decent week. So I’m taking the positives out of the weeks punting …. What started off as I nightmare, actually didn’t finish that bad ….. as I said, at the Festival, it’s a Marathon, not a Sprint !
Of the other bets I put on before the Festival started, I had an amazing number of non-runners….i’d suggested one or two last minute selections of which the majority either didn’t run at all or ran in other races…these were mostly non runner – no bet (means you get your dosh back if they don’t run) so there was no great damage done there either.
So what else happened at the Festival ……..
F … Ff…..Fffff……Fffffffffff*cking Freezing ……. And Ffffffff*cking Yorkshiremen !!!!!
Ask me a simple question ….. Grahame – What is the coldest you have ever been on a racecourse ?
I would answer, without doubt, Tuesday March 12th 2013 …… It was absolutely bloomin’ BALTIC !!! Ask anyone who was there, if they tell you it wasn’t cold in Cheltenham last Tuesday, they are a bloody liar. The spring wardrobe which had been carefully put together over the months to reflect the latest high fashion cuts and tailoring had been cast aside to be replaced by anything I could find to keep me warm. The wind was simply evil, it cut right through you and how none of us died through hypothermia I will never know. We arrived in Cheltenham at 09:30 on Tuesday morning, with the knowledge that there was a danger the days racing may not take place as the course was still frozen in some areas, and with temperatures struggling to break freezing then it was looking a little iffy to say the least. I was warmed by the thought that we may end up stuck in a pub all day sinking many a pint of Guinness, away from the cold wind (this really appealed after I was ‘forced’ to stay up drinking until 03:30am that morning anyway). The news filtered through though that racing was on although a later start time of 2:00pm was announced – this 30 minute delay was the contributing factor in the ‘Mighty Tent’ being defeated. You see it was such a perfect training performance by Nicky Henderson that he was primed to peak in terms of fitness at exactly 1.30pm on Tuesday March 12th … the extra 30 minutes meant he was half an hour past his best …. Well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it !!!
The walk from our early morning drinking hole up to the course was more like the walk of the penguins…in fact penguins and polar bears would have died of frost bite on that walk up the hill to the course …. Seriously, it was Ffffffffffff*cking Frrrrrreeeezzzziiiiing, even with a gallon of Guinness inside from our pre-racing drink. There was a wind blowing in from Iceland or somewhere of a similar cold climate (in fact scrub that …. Cheltenham is way too posh to do Iceland, it would be more like a chill blowing in from the M&S Freezer Section !) The wind cut across every bloody road on that walk up to the course, and on arrival at the course continued to freeze the living sh*t out of everybody who’d come to watch the polar bear, I mean horse racing !
Yep, Tuesday March 12th will for me go down as THE coldest day ever on a racecourse.
Now drinking is very much a festival custom, and it has to be said that one or two of the participants in the Cheltenham Festival Festivities over indulge slightly …. Slightly being a bit of an understatement ! Our ‘racing party’ on the other hand, I like to think, are a little more sensible. I’m pretty sure this must come with age, we used to get a little silly in our younger days … we’re all old enough to know better now, so we do everything in moderation, however my interpretation of moderation may not be the same as that which appears in the dictionary. In brief it went a little like this –
Arrive in Bourton on the Water on Monday night – 4 Pints each, then a couple of nightcaps – Sleep at 03:30am …… Arrive into Cheltenham on Tuesday Morning at 09:30 – 5 or 6 pints before racing, 5 or 6 pints during racing, Champagne in the ‘Swingers Hotel’ on the way back in to Cheltenham, 3 or 4 more pints in Cheltenham, then we headed up to Montpellier (even ‘posher’ area of Cheltenham) for the recovery drink of choice – Vodka & Orange – because vitamin C is good for you, and continued to drink the said recovery drink of choice in such wonderful accommodating venues as All Bar One, The Queens Hotel and some random underground bar who’s name escapes me … the estimate is that around 10 – 15 recovery drinks of choice were consumed. I wonder if we exceed our recommended daily allowance on that first day ???
This was to be repeated over the next couple of days, and I completely agree, it’s not big and it’s not clever to drink so much …. Especially as nearly a week later the hangover is just kicking in !
Now there is one down side to drinking this much alcohol… it can cause you to have momentary loss of your sense of logic, especially the logic behind your betting … and this happened to all of us on the Tuesday night courtesy of a merry band of Ffffffff*cking Yorkshiremen !
It was in the Swingers Hotel where we were happily sipping Champagne to celebrate our first day losses when we engaged in conversation with this band of Yorkshiremen. I find it does help massively if you are slightly under the influence of alcohol when talking to anyone from the North, as it does help you understand their delightfully delicate dialect however this was one occasion when I really wish I hadn’t understood a single word any of these inhabitants of Emmerdale had said. Everybody tends to be every ones friend at the festival and we were happily chatting away to our new friends from ‘tut narth’ when they happened to slip in the fact that they’d been to watch the horses workout that morning up at the course, on closer quizzing of Compo and pals they declared a couple of gems of information that could only result in wealth for anyone who would listen. First of all they told us they’d been speaking to Mouse Morris, an Irish trainer, who told them that a horse called Rule The World was THE best horse he’d ever trained. Now one thing here is that I’d already had a small amount on Rule The World in a couple of my ante post bets, and so had a couple of my racing colleagues, although I had my eye on another horse in the race which was the second race on the card the next day, however this admission of the trainers confidence certainly made us sit up and listen even more. The next comment had us all literally marching out of the Swingers hotel en masse heading toward the nearest bookies…the little gem of info was that Paul Nicholls (top trainer for those who don’t know – Kauto Star etc) wouldn’t hear of defeat for a horse called Saphir Du Rheu, he had personally told our boys from the White Rose County that this was his best chance of a winner all week and simply that defeat was out of the question…you usually have to pay for info like that but these lovely chaps had been given this top notch information for nothing and they were kind enough to share this detail with us….we couldn’t quite believe our luck, we had a winner before it had even run and those bookie chaps wouldn’t know what had hit them when we got stuck into this little superstar. We quickly finished off the shampoo and away we went to invest in this ‘dead cert’ which was due to run in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at 4.40 on Wednesday. We all lined up at the counter, smiling like Cheshire, no Yorkshire Cats (do they exist ?) and snapped up all the 7/1 that the kind lady at William Hills would let us have. That’s it … Simple, we couldn’t wait to pop back the next day to collect our winnings once this good thing had romped home, after all, these boys from Yorkshire had given us some proper genuine information, direct from the trainer, and a good trainer at that.
It took just 4 minutes and 1 second for the race to be over, and oh how we celebrated ……. Yes, we celebrated that fact that this superstar of the Paul Nicholls stable trailed in 20th out of 24. He was only beaten 55 lengths by the winner, a 25/1 shot called Flaxen Flare !!! What made the defeat of this ‘wonder horse’ even harder to swallow was that the trainer had two other horses in the race, potential no hopers called Caid Du Berlais and Ptit Zig who were sent off at odds of 20/1 & 22/1 respectively, and they finished 2nd and 3rd … oh what joy, how funny, we did laugh ….. NOT !
Let’s get this straight, we only have ourselves to blame, we all should know better than to take a drunken tip from f*cking Arthur Scargill and his merry mining men….I have nowt against these chaps, I’m sure they passed on this ‘top notch’ info with the best of intentions, but ‘By Eck’ & ‘Eeh Bah Gum’ next time we’ll all abstain from drinking that much that it means we can actually understand what these northerners are saying, it’s better for the pocket when you haven’t got a friggin’ clue what they’re on about !!!!!
As always, our festival was a laugh a minute … it doesn’t really matter if we win or lose (just as well really) we always have a great time, simply because it’s ‘The Festival’ ….. Sub Zero Temperatures, Slow Horses & Dodgy Tips will never stop us having a good time. There are very few bad things about the Festival (apart from the gut wrenching injury to amateur jockey John Thomas McNamara – get well soon JT…for the record he took a fall from a horse I backed, Galaxy Rock, so I feel partly responsible as my bad form probably rubbed off on him !)…..the other bad thing is we have to wait another year for the next one, however this may not be a bad thing as it might take 12 months for my liver to repair itself and for my betting fund to also look a little healthier.
My quest to pull off a million pound punt isn’t over and I’ll do it one day…..So the blog will continue. If you’ve enjoyed it, pop back from time to time to check out the updates, they may be few and far between, however I’ll share my story on my quest to relieve those nice bookie chaps of a few quid.
For the record, tonight I’ve placed my very first bet for the Cheltenham Festival in 2014 ………. I bet you can’t guess which horse I’ve steamed into to win the Champion Hurdle in 2014 …. A clue, it’s a ‘Mighty Horse ‘ !!!!!!!!
Thanks for reading …. And a word of warning for anyone who ever travels between Cheltenham and Bourton on the Water …. Watch out for vicious cats that masquerade as foxes !!!!!!!!
Twitter – @grahameletts