I haven’t had a runner over the sticks in several years, since I decided I’d rather concentrate on the flat because frankly, I don’t have the stomach for the risks involved to horse and rider. That said, I do have a lot of respect for the discipline and I love to watch the best jumpers in action, which is something that will happen next week when attention turns to the Cheltenham festival in England. Why am I taking time out from my usual blogging to look at Cheltenham, you might ask? Two reasons.
The first, and most important, is that a friend of mine, Sally Anne Grassick, is one of the riders in the Saint Patrick’s Derby, a race to be run during the festival to raise money for cancer research. Sally Anne is a journalist who spreads her time between Equidia, the French racing channel, and various publications, including the Jour de Galop and its offshoot in English, the French Daily News. I sometimes lend a hand translating the French Daily News, which is how I got to meet Sally. She is also an amateur jockey in France and was one of the 12 chosen to ride in the Cheltenham race next Thursday. Sally is just shy of her goal of raising 15,000 pounds for her cause, so lend her a hand and make a donation. It’s very easily done online, and every bit helps.
Sally Anne will be sporting the famous JP McManus silks, which brings me to the second reason I’m interested in Cheltenham. A friend of mine was instrumental in selling a French horse to McManus called Another Sensation, who is entered in the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle next Wednesday. According to the latest betting on the upcoming Cheltenham festival, he’s a bit of a long shot, but I wouldn’t rule him out. A few of us over here will definitely be rooting for him. (Oh, and just an aside – that link on the odds takes you to our friends at Paddy Power, who also have a nifty next-Pope book going. Ya gotta love it!)
I’ve been to Cheltenham a few times, and it is an amazing few days of racing. The crowds are unbelievable – it once took me three hours just to get out of the parking lot. Turned out I wasn’t as clever as I had thought when I snagged that close-up spot in the owners and trainers lot. Once you get in, you can’t get out! So I’ll be happy to follow it along at home. Watching it, though, will probably inspire me to send my own string out jumping a bit. We do like to train over hurdles occasionally, just to build back muscle and sharpen them up overall. But I think I’ll leave the actual racing to the specialists.