The word Cliché originated in France, where the sound of the printing press (clique, clique, clique) became synonymous with the insertion of oft repeated phrases. In order to save time, such phrases were kept at the ready, while lesser used words (like bunkum) were compiled one letter at a time before being set into the printing frame.
The tapes will go up on the Olympics of horseracing next Tuesday, accompanied
by the Cheltenham roar, in a natural amphitheatre nestled in the shadow of
Cleeve Hill. Form analysts will speculate as to whether the Irish banker will
come down the hill, while questioning whether doubtful stayers will get up the
hill. Broadcasters will commiserate with last fence fallers, while punters
declare sagely that “jumping is the name of the game”. Everyone will agree that
the experience is an emotional rollercoaster.
that’s the nub of it. The reason why we’re so passionate about the Cheltenham
Festival - the reason why we have so many stock phrases to describe what goes
on there - is that it taps into our emotions.
We develop irrational feelings of
ownership for horses that we want to succeed, even though we have no intention
of ever paying their training fees. We form strong opinions about the relevance
of preparatory races and (especially if we’ve spouted forth to our friends) we
need our opinions to be proved correct. There are many more than two teams on
the field, the dynamics are complex and (in the friendliest of ways) deeply
example, I love Wishfull Thinking. He can be backed for the Ryanair Chase at
25/1 and the miserable statisticians will say that, at the age of twelve, he
can not possibly win. However, he is likely to be the highest rated horse in
the race, he is a gem and I am on his side. I’ll follow Cartmel winners too:
Vosne Romanee claimed the same juvenile hurdle at Cartmel that Countrywide
Flame won prior to his Cheltenham heroics. Vosne Romanee is not even listed on
the first page of the betting for the Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle, but if he
sneaks into the weights, you can be sure I’ll be shouting him on.
the Champion Hurdle there’ll be plenty of support for Tony McCoy aboard Jezki –
because it’d be uplifting to see McCoy win any of the Championship races again
before he retires. But I have a feeling that when we see Faugheen, it may be
difficult not to come to the conclusion that he is one of the most beautiful
creatures on Earth. Willie Mullins (Faugheen’s trainer) recently complained
about the level of prize money on offer at Cheltenham, which at £400,000 for
the Champion Hurdle is not inconsiderable. If Mullins had been targeting a
£3,000 handicap hurdle, I might have had some sympathy; instead he has flicked
a negative switch in my Cheltenham befuddled mind – I’d rather see Nigel
Twiston-Davies, who was gracious in defeat last year, reap recompense with The
the regular pearls of wisdom dispensed to punters ahead of the Festival is
“Don’t raise your stakes: a 4/1 winner at Plumpton is worth the same as a 4/1
winner at Cheltenham”. To which I say balderdash, bunkum and piffle. Double
your stakes for all races at Cheltenham, especially the Gold Cup, because there
is no feeling on Earth like owning the best steeplechaser in the British Isles
– even if you don’t have to pay the training fees.