Friday, 6 December 2013

In The Spirit Of Advent

Traditionally, Christian Church readings and teachings during Advent help us to prepare for the second coming; the word advent being a derivative of the Latin word adventus, which literally means “coming”.

It is ironic, then, that on the first Saturday of Advent, Sprinter Sacre should turn out to be a non-runner in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown - due to an unsatisfactory pre-race health check. To many in the racing fraternity, Sprinter Sacre is the second coming – the original being Arkle, the Irish steeplechaser who carried huge weights, conquered all-comers during the 1960’s and generally known as "himself". 

There remains the possibility that Nicky Henderson’s handsome two-miler will reappear instead in the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton on 27th December, which on reflection may be a more fitting conclusion to four weeks of intense anticipation. In the Garratt household we take the preparation of Advent very seriously… you could even say that it is a spiritual experience. 

Behind every door on our Advent calendar is a small bottle containing a dram of whisky. The 24 bottles will take us up to the night before Christmas, when it will be down to Nick Devenish, the vicar of Cartmel Priory, to sustain our souls ahead of the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day (which I still think will be won by Captain Chris) and the Desert Orchid Chase the following day.  

In the meantime, just like our Advent calendar, every day during the build-up yields a special surprise or treat. On Saturday, I am hoping that Wishfull Thinking (yes him again) will provide me with a small Christmas shopping fund by winning once again Aintree. He has two options: the Sefton Chase over the Grand National fences or a three mile chase over the more traditional birch obstacles. I have always thought he is a stayer, albeit one with a breathing problem, and I hope that he tackles the longer trip. 

On the assumption that Nicky Henderson is bound to have a winner somewhere, look out for Lieutenant Miller, a previous runner at Cartmel, who looks seriously well handicapped over hurdles after a good campaign on the Flat. He has entries at both Aintree and Sandown. And in the absence of Sprinter Sacre, trainer Colin Tizzard could strike for the third Saturday running in a valuable chase (the last two weeks have yielded wins for Cue Card and for Hey Big Spender) - with Oiseau De Nuit in the Tingle Creek Chase. 

The Henry VIII Novices Chase at Sandown features a strong field including three horses in the ownership of Martin Broughton – of which I hope Taquin De Seuil will be the representative. Perhaps the decision over which horse runs will be down to the going - but either way, lets all prepare for what’s coming.

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