Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a wonderful feeling, that I’m going to win lots of money. That’s right, it is race day, but not just any old race day. Today is the opening meeting of the jump season at Cheltenham and I will be there. I cannot wait.
The Sun rises on a crisp morning in Gloucester and I look out my window like a 90s pop singer in a music video. The clouds in the sky fill me with an ominous sensation, I am praying the weather holds out for not just myself, but my fellow racegoers.
A hearty breakfast of Weetabix washed down with a cup of tea made by my lovely mother goes down an absolute treat with the Morning Line in the background, I’m already checking out the early fancies, despite putting a few bets on the evening before to get the best odds!
I check my betting account to look at the early market movers and I am shocked by what I see. A £5 double I placed the day before has landed and I’m already £50 up before the day has even started; result!
Off I go to get changed, sporting my brand spanking new tan leather shoes, woollen look blazer and bow tie, I’m looking the part and I begin to make the short walk to the train station as I’m already running a tad late.
Halfway to the station and disaster: I’ve forgotten the tickets! Frantically, I sprint back home (in my new shoes too, which I’ll pay the price for later on) and grab the tickets. Now it’s a race against time to get to the station before Thomas the Tank Engine leaves without me. Thankfully, I make it, but I’m suffering because of it. Pesky blisters.
I rendezvous with my friends at Cheltenham station (in the toilets of all places, it was totally unplanned I assure you!) and all six of us hop on the bus to the racecourse. I can hardly contain my excitement and neither can any of my fellow passengers on the packed bus.
If you’ve ever played football competitively you know what it is like to get that buzz as you walk out of the changing rooms onto the pitch with your teammates, all with one common goal: to win. That’s what it feels like going racing, the bookies are your opponents and your objective is to beat them as comprehensively as possible.
We take a few moments getting to know our surroundings and consume the first pint of the day, before the traditional ‘tourist’ pictures are taken. It isn’t my first time at Cheltenham but it has been so long since I’ve been here I join in, capturing some memories of the day whilst I still can!
The time is approaching 10 minutes past the 14th hour of the day, or 2:10pm in other words, and the paddock is buzzing as the first horses make their way onto the course and up to the starting post. The Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and I’ve got two picks in this one: Penglai Pavillion at 11/4 and one of my favourite horses Laurium at 16s. They’re off!
A really hotly contested race that any horse could have won in truth. Sandymount Duke made most of the running before weakening in the final few furlongs and it became a battle between two, my two: Penglai Pavillion and Laurium. Good news for me as they finished in that order as I backed Penglai to win and Laurium for each way purposes – a cracking start!
Up next we’ve got a three horse race. No, not because there are three main contenders, there genuinely are just three horses entered in the race (not as uncommon as you might think though). Rock the World is the favourite but I have Doremllo Mo in one of my bets online and Qewy has no chance. I back Rock the World and he storms home, making all the running! What a day so far.
The races is where you go to get rich, right? Well you bloody need to be to afford the food there. I paid six of my English pounds for three rashers of bacon in a hard, crusty baguette with no butter/margarine or anything like that. I can’t really complain though, as it was surprisingly good but if bacon doesn’t float your boat, why not go for the pulled pork sandwich? Bear in mind you might need to take out another mortgage to afford that though.
Dip in form?
The next two races arrive and I’m wary that my good run in picking out the winners may not continue, especially with a fairly decent sized field in both races. As the clock strikes 3:20pm, they’re off in the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle and 4/1 Mr Shantu is my pick each way. He does well despite being hampered severely but can only finish second, so I get my stake back. We’ll take it.
The clock rolls around to 3:55pm and it’s time for the Ryman Stationery Cheltenham Business Club Novices’ Hurdle, where some excellent horses were on show for the thousands of spectators. My picks of A Good Skin at 5s and Weather Babe at 25s were both backed each way. Paddy Brennan rode an absolute stinker on the former but it was Connor O’Farrell’s ride on Weather Babe that turned heads, finishing second behind 14/1 shot Shantou Flyer. Not a winner, but decent place money!
The 4:30 race was the toughest for any of us to call, we each had several fancies and all put our money together to back the favourite ‘Newsworthy’, we are journalism students after all! Surprise surprise, Newsworthy came absolutely nowhere but my big tip Mister Miyagi flew home first past the post after a cracking ride from Harry Skelton and I was finally back to winning ways!
Back your instinct
This is where the biggest disappointment of the whole day came for me. Not the massive blisters developing on my heel, or the six quid I spent on food, but rather the fact that I didn’t go with my gut instinct and I was made to pay.
I’ve backed a couple of rank outsiders in Broughton’s Bandit and Owen Glendower who go off at 16s and 33s respectively. I need the latter to land an each way double for over £600 off a fiver, but I quite fancy the look of Regal Flow at 8s (a horse who I’ve won on before a few times).
Against my better judgement, I swerve putting any money where my mouth is. You can already see where this is going can’t you? So I’m not going to build it up I’ll just come straight out with it: Regal Flow won the race. Gutted. What’s worse? Owen Glendower unseated its rider and Broughton’s Bandit finished way off the pace. Choker.
The final race is here and by enlarge it’s been a fantastic day out, where we’ve all won a fair few quid and had some good laughs along the way. Regulation is fancied in the paddock at 9/2 but I take a chance on 8/1 shot Damefirth as my last chance to win big. What a run he put in, pressed the leaders at the last but just got edged out where it mattered and finished back in third place, but hey, I’ve doubled my money for the day near enough so I’m happy.
If you have never experienced what it is like to go racing then I highly recommend you do it. Nothing really compares to that buzz when your horse passes the winning post just a couple of metres away from you.
The roar of the grandstand, the stampede of rampaging horses hooves, the despair in the bookies voices as they hand you your winnings. This is racing, and I bloody love it!
Kelsey De Maria
Next week we have the return of the Sports Puncast! Why not listen to the latest episode though to get your fix?!