Too Scoops keeps the party going
The plan last Sunday was to head for Punchestown to cheer on Too Scoops, a horse I share with nine others from Paddy Power, before settling down to watch the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, he picked up an injury at the 11th hour and all of a sudden the lads' big day out was off. The only people happy about that were our wives!
We bought Too Scoops for small money with the intention of winning at Galway. After he first landed a bumper at Fairyhouse, we decided to have the prize money on him to follow up at Ballybrit. A head defeat contrived to foil that master plan.
Fair play, though, Henry de Bromhead has produced him to win twice since. If we look after this prize money better, he'll pay for himself now – and I still haven't given up on him confirming himself the next Arkle at Fairyhouse or Punchestown!
With three Champion Hurdle prospects on duty at Doncaster, Monday looked a real treat. Unfortunately, the race ended tragically for Darlan, prompting us to cut Hurricane Fly from 5/2 to 7/4 to regain his crown. He is banker material now.
To be honest, the ante-post markets represent a tiny fraction of Cheltenham turnover. From a bookmaker's perspective, we prefer to see moves on the back of evidence derived from activity on the track, rather than money following a tipster or whatever.
Leopardstown's Hennessy Gold Cup card will provide clues tomorrow. Like Flemenstar's owner, we are inclined to give him another chance over three miles in the big race, making him clear favourite ahead of Sir Des Champs.
Until they jumped the last in the Lexus, he looked a more realistic contender to be the next Arkle, so we're not ready to give up on that dream yet.
As a rugby fan, I felt it was sensible to switch the Hennessy from its usual Sunday slot to avoid a clash with the Ireland-England game. That means I am Aviva-bound on Sunday, hopefully clutching a live docket for the Flemenstar-Ireland double.
Frequenting events like those is why I spend so much time justifying to my wife that what I do for a living is work.
Having gone a standout 40/1 about the four 'home' nations winning their football matches on Wednesday night, that was our worst result of the week. But you have to be competitive, and anyone backing Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales to win every week would soon be in the poorhouse.
At this time of the year, there are a lot of regular marketing decisions to be made for the various Cheltenham promotions, as well as some of the more wacky stuff.
There is always a raft of crazy ideas floating about, most of which never see the light of day, but our philosophy has always been to make the thing fun. My personality is naturally similar to the company's – unless I have been subtly conditioned without my knowing since I was christened!
My great grandfather Richard began as a track bookie back in 1894, and I learnt the trade as a kid, going to meetings with my dad, whose pitch still bears his grandfather's name. The Paddy Power brand has evolved into what it is today since it was merged with two others in the 1980s to compete with the English firms that were coming into the market as a result of betting tax being cut.
In recent years, the on-course bookies' lot has plummeted, and something drastic needs to be done to address that situation. I don't know the solution – maybe they need to modernise to get people in the gates – but racing without the colour and atmosphere that bookies bring to the track doesn't even bear thinking about.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie