Ireland 11, Britain 1
“What’s it like over there in Ireland?” texted an Irish friend to me after the fifth race at Cheltenham today. It did feel a bit like it at the end of the first day of the festival – if you award one point for a trainer and one for a jockey, the Irish were winning 11-1.
Nicky Henderson’s Champion Hurdle win is the only one on board for the Brits (Jonjo O’Neill may train just down the road from Cheltenham, but he is, of course, as Irish as a shamrock). Choc Thornton, Dominic Elsworth and Richard Johnson have made it in to the winner’s enclosure a couple of times, but not yet in the top slot, while Barry Geraghty (twice), AP McCoy, Paul Carberry and his sister Nina and Ruby Walsh are happy jockeys.
What price no British jockey riding a winner at the festival this year? Come on Choc – you’re the H&H racing columnist, you need to do us proud. Let’s hope Voy Por Ustedes comes up trumps in the Ryanair Chase.
I emptied my betting account on to United in the last, trained in Newmarket by the very good Lucy Wadham. She ran a great, game race – for second. Thank God there was only £17.01 in there, but that fur scarf is going to have to wait.
Best dressed woman on day one: Trinny Woodall. No Susannah in sight, but very elegant in grey with touches of fur. Second was Zara Phillips, who does Cheltenham clothing much better than she does Ascot.
Best tans: bloodstock agent Charlie Gordon-Watson (he didn’t get it hunting, so he must have been nipping off to Argentina to play polo) and former trainer Michael Dickinson (I didn’t think it was that hot in Maryland, where he now lives, in the winter).
Biggest cheer: from the 20-strong syndicate that own Arkle Chase winner Forpadydeplasterer. They were still cheering when the winner of the next race was led in.
Best smile: AP McCoy when he won on Wichita Lineman. We love you, AP, and even more when you don’t look miserable.
Should have been me: Mick Fitzgerald looked as though he was missing the game a lot. This is his first Cheltenham Festival after retiring from raceriding, and the chances are that, but for that crashing fall in the Grand National last year, he would have won the Champion Hurdle today on Punjabi.
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