Rolling and rushing and careering and smiling and pushing and shoving a little. The helter skelter tumble off the top of the stands to greet a winner. To secure that spot beside the Winner’s Enclosure. To raise a hat or doff a cap. To applaud and cheer and work out the winnings in our head. To take it all in. To be part of it all. To be able to say “I was there”.
From tomorrow, five days of utter sporting brilliance will be played out on the manicured turf of Ascot Racecourse. Dreams will be shattered for some. But lives will be changed, and career defining moments savoured by others. There will be plenty more losers than winners, hard luck tales aplenty, and split second decisions that go awry. But for those who are lucky enough to be dealt the finest hand of all by the Racing Gods, this will be a week whose memory will never fade.
Whether we are intimately involved as jockeys, punters or trainers, this will be a rollercoaster week of contrasting emotion. When the big Festivals come along, we all bet a little bigger. Actually, that is a horrible and blatant lie. We all bet a lot bigger. Sometimes it can hurt a lot. Sometimes it is utterly bloody brilliant. The photo finish call going your way can define the punting week. The fine margins. We love the fine margins. That’s why we love sport. Sport, Bloody Hell!
Five days of compelling action. Get into trouble on Day One, and there are still four to go to salvage the situation. Get ahead of the game early, and try and play safe and steady. That never really works, does it? If we are ahead after the last on Tuesday, there are four days to fill that pot even further. Not four days to sit back, and do the placepot “just for a bit of interest”.
A few short years ago, I had that life defining day. Apologies for telling you about me, but let me indulge for just a paragraph or three. I’m not sure that words can ever tell the full tale, or scale the range of emotions that rage through you when everything just drops right. The Royal Hunt Cup. Way before I even had the extremely silly idea of being a racehorse trainer, I loved this race. Trying to work out the plots. Watching the market. Keeping an eye on the very canny, and looking for the rush of money that tells you that this is meant to be the day. Several have plotted, some have scored, others pick up the pieces in the dull place reserved for the “also rans”.
I wish I could tell you that I had plotted and schemed. And been ever so clever. And got into the race off just the right mark. And booked the right man to ride. And walked the course, and decided to stay far side. And availed myself of the 40’s, and gone in again at 33’s. I wish.
What actually happened is that we hoped that the old boy would run a decent race. He had run appallingly in the Spring Mile at Newbury (not the plan, although I could pretend), and our best hope was that the cheekpieces on for the first time might sharpen him up a touch. We had had a decent lunch with the owners, and tea would be more fun if he did not finish out the back.