Tindall takes time off England training -- but fails to get inside track from royal connections Kauto in driving seat
Perhaps this wasn't the most advisable time to be approaching Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips.
It was just a few seconds after the first race yesterday and the England centre had just witnessed Richard Johnson, his partner's former beau, winning aboard Copper Bleu -- and beating his horse in the process.
But at Cheltenham, fortune is supposed to favour the brave and Tindall is an approachable chap. And surely with the equine connections of Princess Anne's daughter he would be armed with the inside knowledge to claw his stake back?
"I wish," he said, with a smile. "Sometimes all that knowledge actually makes it more difficult. Most women advise their men to back a horse because of it's name. And they usually win!"
Many in the parade ring were surprised to see Tindall. Not only is he making his return to the England XV tomorrow in Paris, but it was the morning after a trip to the festival with Phillips two years ago when he was arrested and later banned for drink-driving. Did Martin Johnson, the England coach, know he was here?
"Yes, it's our day off today, before we go to France tomorrow," said the World Cup winner.
"Most of the boys have gone home for the day and I suppose I have really. After all, we're so close to our home here."
It may be home, but it is anything, but private. As Tindall chatted, at least 20 photographers trained their lenses on the pair and security men were spotted in the vicinity. Some might feel Tindall could do with an escort in the Stade de France when confronting Mathieu Bastareaud.
Yet Tindall is ready for the collision -- despite only playing three times for Gloucester since being sidelined for four months with a hamstring injury.
"It was a surprise being recalled, but a nice surprise," he said. "We've just got to go there and give it our best shot. All the pressure's on them. We've nothing to lose."
"Nothing to lose" seemed an apt description for Tindall a little while later, as Zara celebrated with the connections of Albertas Run.
A winner for Tinds perhaps?
Nope," he said. "This must be the first time I haven't backed a Trevor Hemmings horse. I'm very, very annoyed at the moment."
Bastareaud had better watch out.
Green and gold puts
Kauto in driving seat
There are many ways to choose between Kauto Star and Denman -- that Ali and Frasier of the track who will today stage their version of the Thriller at Cleeve Hiller. And not all of them involve form or pedigree.
How about the poll taken in the stablemates' village of Ditcheat which saw Denman 'win' with 51pc of the vote? Or the poll on the 'Racing Post's' website (Kauto 66pc, Denman 34pc)?
And if neither of those convince you, what about the sale of scarves in the Cheltenham merchandise stalls? More than 8,000 have been sold, with those knitted in favour of Kauto prevailing winning by 58pc to 42pc.
But then, maybe that has more to do with Kauto's colours. Green and gold scarves? They'll never catch on.
3.20 Denman (nap)
2.40 Quel Esprit (nb)
1.30 Westlin' Winds (Longshot)