Cheltenham Festival: a trainer’s wife’s view

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  • Lucy Bridgwater, wife of David who trains The Giant Bolster, shares the emotion that comes with preparing a runner for the Cheltenham Gold Cup at the Festival

    The days running up to the Cheltenham Festival are like no other. The tension in the yard is obvious — you can sense the excitement and anticipation every morning when you walk onto the yard.

    On the gallop the usual banter among the lads can be a little muted and is combined with a bit of fighting talk about other horses’ chances in races.

    The Giant Bolster (Sammy) did his last piece of work before the Festival on Saturday and felt amazing travelling upsides his work partner prior to being sent on clear up the hill.

    I’m lucky enough to ride Sammy every day — it is an honour and a privilege. He has a huge personality and gives you a feel like no other horse I have ridden.

    He had his last schooling session at Angie Thompson’s show jumping yard on Wednesday. This is something he loves and it has improved his confidence in his jumping immensely. He particularly enjoying being untacked for a roll in the sand before leaving.

    The big day

    The day of the big race arrives and it is all down to Sammy and his jockey Tom Scudamore. The lorry leaves early for the track due to fog and traffic, then Bridgie [Lucy’s husband David, who trains The Giant Bolster] and I leave later in the car having ridden out first.

    The rest of the day passes in a blur, a whirlwind of nerves and preparation.

    Sammy arrives in the pre-parade ring looking absolutely stunning yet relaxed — his coat is gleaming and his eyes are bright. As Bridgie saddles him, I can sense the horse’s wellbeing coming from him like an electric charge.

    Down at the start the horses circle ready for the off, but there is a false start and then a second. Bridgie and I are concerned because Sammy is easily upset.

    At the third time of asking, the horses are allowed to race. The pace is good and Sammy is jumping well, running a little on and off the bridle as he does.

    Standing watching the action I am shaking and at one point, going to the second last, I realise I have forgotten to breath!

    Sammy jumps the last, then powers up the hill fighting to the finish with 2 others. I feel so proud of our little warrior.

    Returning to the winner’s enclosure in 3rd, Sammy receives an almighty roar from the crowd — being trained locally he has lots of followers.

    After the race the horses return to the stable yard to be washed down and we go off the the bar to celebrate with the owners and re-live the race.

    Sammy has been placed in the last 3 runnings of the Gold Cup and we all believe and dream he can win next year — he is a star.

    Lucy Bridgwater

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