Good Evening from the Major who writes from the dark depths of a blustery Worcestershire, barely 25 miles north of the course, ahead of the festivities, sport and spectacle.
You are lucky that you have me. I am entertaining to Cheltenham this year, a good friend from Yorkshire. Bearded, smart, worldly; the sort of chap you do not mind having along. Most of all he is fun, good with the bottle.
Good gracious, the weather rolling in off the Atlantic looks full of spite. Tomorrow, the course will be full of forlorn racegoers, the folks coming in for a fine time of drinking in early spring weather might find it not to their liking. Us purists though, we shall revel in the cold wind, knowing the pure heart of our sport dances on those winds. The bars will be busy but there is standing room at the parade ring if you want to read the mood of the two leading mares for the champion hurdle.
Time ago, I would drink my way through four days, an oblivion of betting and debauchery, typing late at night, still drunken, as you might correctly assume I am now. These days, I am content to dress comfortably for the weather and slurp good brandy from an illicit flask.
We should not complain about the weather. For a start it could be a lot worse. Just 10,000 years ago, we were covered in ice, I assume the festival was cancelled that year.
In such conditions, heroes are born.
Think of Ernest, Ernest Shackleton (there is a current search for the Endurance in the Weddell Sea).
Never give in.
When chances are bleak, the hero never contemplates that all are doomed. After all, you have to live through hope, that is what a hero does. If you hit a problem, you find a solution. Shackleton hit ice and the Endurance was crushed, they hauled the boats and what remained over the pack ice, no rest.
They had no food so they ate the wildlife. Desolate conditions and a mood to match. Imagine not being able to see land for months and months. If you had to face the truth, you would never countenance your survival.
29 men were stranded and Shackleton got them all back. He gave everything and risked everything to rescue them. When one impossible feat was overcome, he was face with another.
It culminated in him sailing with a small crew, a tiny boat 800 miles across the coldest, roughest ocean Earth.
The hero is not the man who reaches the South Pole, it is the man who places trust in his comrades and has that trust returned in almighty doses. Getting every man home to their families. All of this conducted in the shadow of the Great War. What a timely story. Maybe it was the story Britain needed.
As you turn your collar to the wind and rain tomorrow. As a complaint, rumbles into life in your throat, kill it. Charge a glass of something warm (I recommend a Whisky Mac) and think of those boys, lost in the dark, deep in the Antarctic winter. Aye, our pleasures are hard-earned.
To the racing friends.
Cheltenham Tuesday: Champion Hurdle Day Tips
First of all, it is likely to be quite heavy going at Cheltenham. The ground itself
Do you remember the days in the Supreme when Willie Mullins would turn up with the winner? Maybe he will with Klassical Dream, a horse that was not a certainty for the race until late. Maybe the horse has been stepped back because the track has got sloppy. I like it, not least because I have tickets at fancy prices.
Yet, at tomorrows prices, would I be on? Al Dancer looks increasingly backable at 9/2, having won twice in softer ground and his handicap form is tasty and gives hope that further improvement might be to come.
I cannot do with the Triumph defect Fakir. I have a certain nervousness in making this assumption, after all, the connections are smarter than me. Yet, this is a big step and there is a lot to find. Not for me, even though I watched Our Conor and he would have won any Supreme and I do suspect that the ground will suit Fakir.
Angels Breath got credit in defeat but I am reluctant to show any favour myself. I will be on the losing side, if it proves me wrong.
I do like Elixir de Nutz – This one looked a fighter in the Tolworth and has worthy form. I would have a saver on Fakir if it drifts and Klassical but that is me admitting my strength of belief is weak. Elixir has at least done plenty of good work here.
Tip for the Arkle – Glen Forza Looks a solid prospect
The Ultima – Singlefarmpayment
The Champion Hurdle
The main deal of the day is a race that like a good recipe has every ingredient.
Buveur D’Air has been drifting slightly, maybe because folk think other challengers might fancy the better ground.
Apples Jade is fancied to race in front. There is so much pace that I reckon her jockey will be sensible and sit in.
I’m so tired.
It’s Apples Jade.
4.10 Benie des Dieux
5.30 Gun Digger
Forgive me I am tired.
Courage, roll the dice