Donn's Articles » Cheltenham from A to Z

Cheltenham from A to Z

I don’t think I’ve ever done up an A to Z of anything before, so here goes. Just 11 days to go now. (After this, London will be a doddle …)

A is for Albert, as in Bartlett, potato merchant (I had to look it up too) and for AP, as in McCoy, seventeentuple champion (I didn’t). A is also for Arkle, obviously, the race or the legend (Himself), decide at 2.15 on Tuesday afternoon, determined by whether you are eight bars richer or 11 bars poorer.

B is for Boston, and for Bob, and for Back for that matter, as in, In Focus, and for Big chances in the staying novice chases.  (See also W below.)  B is also for Barry, as in Geraghty, five winners last year and with a book of rides this year for which you would probably trade a solid gold marble.

C is for Cleeve Hill, overseeing everything, like the wise old oak that presides over all that goes on in the deep dark wood.  C is also for Champagne Fever who, Cudicini-like (another C), lost his place on the Neptune Hurdle team and now can’t get it back because Pont Alexandre (Cech – this one is all about the Cs really) is dynamite.

D is for Dessie, as in Hughes as opposed to Orchid, Monksfield’s rider, Hardy Eustace’s trainer, whose Our Conor has a massive chance in the Triumph Hurdle and whose Lyreen Legend could surprise one or two people.

E is for Europe, as in Sizing, and for Electric at his fences, and for Every chance if he runs in the Ryanair Chase, and for Extremely difficult task if he takes on Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mum.

F is for Fatcatinthehat, and for Fred Winter Hurdle. You think that’s a coincidence?

G is for Gigginstown House, and for Gold Cup, which is appropriate given that War Of Attrition was the last Irish-trained winner of the blue riband and that Sir Des Champs or First Lieutenant could be the next.

H is for Hill, which you should run up at least once, then imagine what it feels like to do it after running your lungs out and jumping your legs off for three and a quarter miles.

I is for Irrigation, the artificial type, about which Simon Claisse was obviously joking when he said that it might be necessary after the wettest 12 months that the world has witnessed since Noah was a lad.

J is for Jezki, and for Jessica, as in Harrington, and for Just remember the turn of foot that he displayed at Leopardstown over Christmas before you go thinking that My Tent Or Yours is certain to be JP’s best in the Supreme.  J is also for Ja remember Captain Cee Bee and Binocular?

K is for Potassium.

L is for Long, as in, way from the third last flight on the New Course to the winning line, and wait since last March, and way from winning a handicap off a mark of 149 to the Champion Hurdle, and Run, still unfashionable (see U below), although it is fashionable now to say that his rider gets a lot of undeserved stick.

M is for Mullins, as in Willie and Tom and Tony Danny and Emmet and Mags and Patrick, but mainly Willie, more dominant in Ireland than the cats of Kilkenny and set to unleash the deepest raiding party that has ever been sent forth from one Irish yard to the Cotswolds.

N is for Noel, as in Meade, for whom you root every single year because of all the near misses before and after Sausalito Bay, because of Hill Society and Native Dara and Harbour Pilot and Harchibald, and whose Monksland is a real player in the World Hurdle this time.

O is for Oh my God we’re almost there (and it’s early).

P is for Pressure, which is really for tyres.  (See also T below.)

Q is for Quevega, and Queen, and Quite flummoxed if she doesn’t win.

R is for Ruby, as in Walsh and Rock On. One of them could dominate the week and one of them could have to relinquish his crown. R is also for Russell, riding easily under his Irish crown, brimming with confidence and optimism.

S is for Sprinter, and for Sacre, and for Simonsig, and for Sertainty.  And for Seven Barrows, incidentally, where there probably won’t be a party if those two don’t collect.

T is for Tent, mine or yours, we’re not really sure, but we’ll know after the curtain-raiser on Tuesday.  T is also for Tyres. (See also P above.)

U is for Unfashionable, which is what Long Run is, which is why, a Gold Cup winner and a dual King George winner, he is only fourth favourite this year.

V is for Vent D’Antan, as in Le, who will bid to tread the path from Liz Doyle’s yard in Wexford to Cheltenham’s winner’s enclosure, just like Al Ferof and Cheltenian have done before him, only he won’t be going via Paul Nicholls or Philip Hobbs.

W is for Willie, and for Wylie, and for Wily, for that matter. It’s all about the staying novice chases for this combo. Until we do the Grand National A to Z next month anyway.

X is for Xtraordinary, which usually describes the week, and for which X apparently always stands in these things if you can’t mould the subject matter in such a way so as you can squeeze X-ray or Xylophone in. X is also for X-Country Chase, which is Excel (Xcel?) spreadsheet speak for Cross-Country Chase. (This one would have been much easier the year that Xenophon won the Coral Cup.)

Y is for Yielding, the ground on the first day, although they will call it good to soft. Y is also for Yacht, the thing that you will buy when your ante post Lucky 15 cops.

Z is for Zarkandar, biggest danger to Hurricane Fly, and for Zs, the sound that will come from your room on Gold Cup night when there are only 361 days to go.

©, 1st March 2013