My day at Cheltenham Festival: proud owner

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  • Penny Richardson is part of the syndicate that owns Edgardo Sol, who ran in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham yesterday. She shares what it's like to have a runner in the biggest race meeting of the season

    It’s here at last. I’m going back to the Cheltenham Festival as one of the lucky owners of Ed (Edgardo Sol), who is running there for the 3rd consecutive time.

    In 2012 and 2013, Ed ran in the County Hurdle on Gold Cup day. He’s been a true superstar, finishing a close 2nd in 2012 and 6th last year. This time, he’s in the Coral Cup on Champion Chase day. It’s 5 furlongs further and due to physical problems, Ed’s recent performances have been disappointing. This is his first outing for 3 months and I’m amazed that he’s made it, but that’s down to the hard work of trainer Paul Nicholls and his team.

    A nervous morning

    Penny-Richardson-CheltenhamAfter a relatively sleepless night — this always happens when Ed runs — I’m up early. It’s Ladies’ Day and I’m never going to compete on the best-dressed stakes, but that still doesn’t stop me changing my mind several times over what to wear.

    Then at 7.45am, it’s off to the races. Anyone who’s been to the Festival by car knows that getting in and out can take several hours. This time, my guest Pippa Cuckson and I are travelling a different way. Not by helicopter, sadly. We’re taking the steam train. The train goes from Toddington, north of Cheltenham and takes around 40min. This is definitely the way to travel. Fortified by breakfast and a quick glass of champagne, we arrive at a rather foggy course just after midday.

    Pre-race and star spotting

    The sun’s out and we spend time spotting stars. We see the Duchess of Cornwall, looking incredibly smart in a tweed ensemble. The Princess Royal and Zara and Mike Tindall are also in the crowd. New Mum Zara admires the baby grandson of Big Buck’s owner Andy Stewart, who is pushing the pram proudly.

    We’re wearing owners’ and trainers’ badges, which allow us access to most areas. We meet H&H showjumping editor Jennifer Donald on the weighing room steps and watch the first race on the big screen nearby. I’m feeling lucky. The horse I admired coming into the paddock wins easily for Ruby Walsh.

    We meet Emma Lavelle’s husband Barry Fenton, who tips their horse in the RSA Chase, but we don’t have time to see the outcome. It’s Ed’s race next, so it’s off to the pre-parade ring to say hello to him and Kara, who looks after him (pictured top). Ed looks very fit and happy to be back at one of his favourite places.

    The race

    After saying hello to our Axom syndicate manager Dan Downie and my fellow owners, we make our way to the parade ring. On the way in, we’re given extra badges to allow us into the winners’ enclosure. In our dreams!

    Harry Derham, 19, has been booked to ride. Harry, who is Paul Nicholls’ nephew, is possibly Ed’s greatest fan. Harry has already had 2 Festival rides on Ed and partners him in all his work. Although, none of us has any expectations and Ed’s one of the outsiders, Harry tells us he will keep him closer to the front than usual and let him run past the others to victory!

    “Just don’t win by too far Harry,” jokes the trainer. Bringing Ed home safe is the number one priority for everyone.

    There isn’t time to go anywhere else, so we stay in the parade ring and watch on the big screen. We spot Harry and Ed just behind the leaders after the start. The race is run at a furious pace and Ed’s still there approaching the final hurdle. He suddenly looks tired, but keeps on bravely to finish 9th of the 28 runners, less than 10 lengths behind the winner.

    Ed-post-raceWe wait for Harry and Ed in the unsaddling enclosure and give them a round of applause. Ed looks delighted with himself and Harry is grinning.

    “Ed’s back to his old self. He loved it,” says Harry, almost bringing us to tears by adding: “I’m so proud to have ridden him. I shall never, ever forget this horse.”

    So that’s it. The race we’ve been waiting for all year took just 4min 58.7sec to happen. Just 12 months to go before we can come back and do it again…

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