Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The path carpeted with celandines

This is March in England.

The third week of March.

The most important week of the year.

Why?

Because it is Cheltenham Festival time, four days of the best racing in the year, all set in the beautiful Cheltenham racecourse, under Cleeve Hill.

I am afraid I am going to miss it this year, having been probably almost every year for at least ten years and having seen some great horses win there, such as Kauto Star (twice), Denman, Best Mate (three times). Oh, and I missed out one year - 2001, I think - when they cancelled teh meeting because of a very bad outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. What a disaster to miss out!

And, it is always nice to come over and stay with my Mum in Crewkerne and feel the first warmth of spring, and see the primroses and the celandines flower in the brioght sunshine, as here.

Then I wil take her car out and drive west to Taunton and then north up to Cheltenham, wondering what the best exit wil be and how quickly I can park the car in the crowded town. Usually I will find a place on the road, next to Pitville Park, which depending on how mild or cold the winter has been will be flooded in the colour of daffodils (or last year pale crocuses) before walking up the hill to get to the racecourse.

If I am a bit alert, I will have remembered to bring my tiny radio, with which In can tune into Festival radio and hear all the gossips, pundits , commentaries and tips. I wil spend teh whole afternoon (mostly alone) with an earplug in one of my ears taking it all in. In the first years, with Luke Harvey and Alsion Plunkett, they gave me some really good wimnners, like Blowing Wind at 33-1 and I also remember having Young Spartacus at 16-1 in teh same race a year later.

In these years, say from 2000 to 2006, I would win a bunch of money, with these long priced outsiders (and let's not forget Hardy Eustace winning the Champion Hurdle at 401), so much that I would end up the year ahead on my gambling exploits, making up for the period before from say 1979-1999 when I was mostly a net loser. But since I started my new job in June 2007 and after wining at 20-1 on Heron Bay during my first week, I haven't had any luck at all and I have just about stopped betting, just allowing myself a small flutter on the Grand National and Eurovision.

But it is not so much the betting as the wonderful atmosphere and the sense of racing history being made.


To be honest, as I write this, I remember thinking last year that maybe it would be good to give it a miss one year. It can be hard work and one year ends up being a little bit the same as other years and sometimes it is good to have a change. So, now I am happy to be at home writing this and saving my energies for other adventures later in this year - not to mention receovering from the wonderful two weeks I had in Arabia...

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