Racing Reflections: Flying Eiderdown.

And so the stands emptied; the horses went back to their stables; the punters went to spend their winnings and the losers still drank to consider what might have been. In essence the National Hunt festival was over for 2016.

What, as a mere televiewer, were my highlights of the four days?

1  Seeing jockey Ruby Walsh, riding in his pomp. With seven winners in the bag, Ruby rode immaculately. Horses, like people go better when a confident approach is used. No one presents his mounts to fences better than Ruby. He can see a stride and instils  a calm demeanour from his horse.
He only pushes out his horse when he needs to  in a close finish. He is always modest in victory, making a point of praising the trainer and stable staff. In defeat he is gracious towards the victor.

He has now accumulated 50 + winners over the years at the festival. An achievement that may never be matched. Long may he continue.

2  The quality of the Irish trained horses, with thirteen winners. They just outclassed the opposition.
    It was reminiscent of the English football clubs playing in Europe. With only two teams left in the competitions, namely Man. City ( Champ League) and Liverpool ( Europa League ) we cannot compete with the top European clubs.

Returning to the horses, logically one might have expected the irish horses to be less effective on the Festival good ground, having mostly raced on heavy or soft ground in Ireland, but this was clearly not the case as they duly bounced off the Cheltenham turf.

3 Master training by Nicky Henderson, who brought two horses back from injuries to win, in the case of' Sprinter Sacre' ( Champion 'Chase) and' My Tent Or Yours' ,( second in The Champion Hurdle after over 700 days off the course). Remarkable and inspirational horsemanship.

4  Local trainers with winners at the festival. Always great to see the locals on the score sheet. This year Nigel Twiston-Davies ( 2) @ Norton; Jonjo O'Neil ( 1) @ Jackdaw's Castle, Snowshill and Martin Keighley (1) @ Condicote, near Stow on the Wold. Well done to all.
I must reflect, however we need some good horses to come again from the Northern Stables, to avoid another North/ South bias.

What about my Tips?
Well, not completely disastrous, with a 50% strike rate, but piss-poor on the first two days of the meeting.

Tuesday for the Champion Hurdle, I said " Identity Thief. " He finished unplaced. My two outsiders fared no better, but at least "Old Guard " was a non-runner. This is what i said about the favourite, the mare Annie Power.
" Taking a 'swerve ' over the favourite Annie Power. She normally runs over three miles; should get outspeeded in this race."
Well not only did she lead all the way, but in doing so , created a course record! Only fools and horses Eh!

Wednesday I gave "Un De Sceaux " ( one's seal or seals ; vote Brexit avoid these foreign names)                           A highly expected Irish horse for the Champion two mile chase. Jumped well but couldn't mix it with the 'old men', second to the aforementioned Sprinter Sacre. "Signe De Grucy " a past winner was not on a go-day.

Thursday for the World Hurdle my selection " Thistlecrack " won the races and looks set for a good career. hope he stays to staying hurdle races. My each-way choice "At Fishers Cross ," must have lost its way, clearly pining for the Welsh homeland.

Friday,  Cheltenham Gold Cup day, I couldn't make my mind up over the two crack Irish horses " Djackadam and Don Cossack.  
Well Cossack beat Djackadam in the Gold Cup, so I guess I was proven right.
My each-way "Smad Place"  ran his usual brave race, but just ran out of puff from two fences out.

Finally the essence of the Cheltenham festival is contained in the emotional high of winning and the matching desolation of the loss. We all wear  'our hearts on our sleeves'.


Henrietta Knight, the retired trainer, was never given, in my opinion given enough credit for training,Best Mate to win three Gold Cups.

 It took over twenty five years to achieve a double winning horse and thirty six years since the great Arkle won his triumphant third cup.  Remember also, that but for an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, causing the meeting to be cancelled in that March, Best Mate might have won four cups..

 Having said all this a lesser known member of her stable was the exceptionally  game horse Edredon Bleu ( Blue Eiderdown) . He gained the affection of the racing public and  was always running his heart out, normally over distances of two and two and a half mile chases.

At the ripe old age of 11, the Eiderdown  tackled three miles at Kempton and won the Group One King George, in 2003 and in so doing, deputised for stable companion  Best Mate.( injured ). The starting price was 25/ 1. Watch his heart stopping progress to the 'lollipop  ' here.


As the sellotape said to the parcel " that about wraps it up for this week ." The clocks go forward one hour next weekend on Easter Sunday (27 / 03 /'16 ) and hopefully Spring will soon be in the air.
Cheerio for now,


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