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I have been to Cheltenham a couple of times and not enjoyed it. As with many English racing sporting institutions, it’s incredibly hard to reach and leave comfortably. I recall being stuck in a scrum for buses for over an hour. Also I do not identify with, let alone participate in, the industrial drinking. If you like opera you would not get tanked up, so why is Cheltenham an excuse for male bonding and quaffing?

I enjoy the jumps and I settled down in my comfy arm chair with a diet coke to watch the afternoon racing . Generally the coverage was good but am I alone in getting irritated by that ‘ national treasure’ Clare Balding? I simply could not bear the way she glad handed around the parade ring chatting to owners. Yes, she had a great Olympics, yes she comes from a  horse racing family and knows the business, but no, I cannot take her head girl bonhomie. The commentator did the two basic of speaking clearly and quickly, but I can never understand why there is not a  subtitle of the leaders to help when he goes through the field. Four  horses were put down and Ruby Walsh  sustained a  horrific arm break and Daryl Jacob in hospital too. It’s a dangerous sport for horse and jockey.

The Gold Cup began chaotically, with two false starts . We were then shown the steward’s inquiry to confirm Lord Windermere’s victory, which was interesting, but you do wonder if the proceedings would be conducted differently if no camera was there. I never recall the inquiry overruling the result, for the obvious reason that the stewards (or anyone) do not know if the other horse whose line was crossed would have won.There was an interesting  feature on Arkle, the greatest of all steeplechasers, and from my distant and misspent youth I can recall the duel between Mill House and Arkle which the latter won. Arkle like Don Bradman was so superior to his peers that a different type of  handicapping was in force whenever he ran.

Horse racing and gambling are intertwined and ready access to on line betting sites must have enhanced this. My system is to lay against favourites but its not that enjoyable watching a race and wanting a horse to lose so I followed Tom Segal aka Pricewise in the Racing Post . He did not find me a winner or even a place and the favourite did not win a  single race. Hey ho.

At 4-30 I had a small glass of Prosecco and, relieved I did not have to contemplate an arduous journey back to London, enjoyed the last of the warm sunshine.

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About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts