Charlie Brooks: ‘The happiest moment of my year is about three hours before the first race at Cheltenham ...’
This week Daily Telegraph columnist Charlie Brooks penned a piece about why he loves Cheltenham. But this morning he and his wife Rebekah were arrested in a dawn raid by police investigating phone hacking allegations. This is what he wrote:
THE happiest moment of my year is about three hours before the first race at Cheltenham on Tuesday; queuing behind Alan Brazil for my, but not his, first pint of Guinness of the meeting.
'Not feeling too good mate,’ he observes every year. And I have never had any reason to doubt him. 'I’m in so much trouble,’ he will add. And I will nod, in the full knowledge that by the end of the meeting I’ll be in about as much trouble as he is at the beginning of it.
At that moment, I think to myself every year; I’m here, I’m alive and I’ve got a full pint in my hand. And Brazil is still alive, too.
'What do you know,’ he’ll then ask me before reeling off twenty horses he’s heard about. I shall raise the subject of Ferguson with him. But not the football manager. One of the amazing features of this season has been the emergence of Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum’s racing manager John Ferguson as a genuinely talented trainer. It’s one thing to have the firepower, but quite another to know what to do with it.
Ferguson has played a blinder this season, bringing his select team of aristocrats to the boil perfectly prepped for the Festival.
New Year’s Eve, a son of Motivator out of a mare that was placed in Classics, is definitely the horse to be on in the bumper on Wednesday, where he has Jessie Harrington’s Jezki to beat.
Ferguson may well be off the mark before then if Cape Dutch gets into the Coral Cup off a handy 10st?5lbs, piloted by his good young jockey Jack Quinlan. Quinlan will be able to claim five pounds in this handicap, which he couldn’t have done should Cape Dutch have contested one of the novice hurdles. A wise choice of race, which shows acumen with the programme book as well as in the feed room. He’ll have to see off Toner D’Oudairies, trained by Gordon Elliot, who knows the time of day, which also looks to have been 'trained for the race’.
There are probably days during the year when Nicky Henderson doesn’t think about the Cheltenham Festival – although I’ve never met him on one of them. And if things go as I believe they might this week, he’ll be thinking about this one for some time.
Binocular looked in stunning form at Wincanton last time out and will be value to give Hurricane Fly one hell of a battle in the Champion Hurdle tomorrow. And the master of Seven Barrows can land the JLT Speciality chase with Quantitativeeasing [my wife is to blame for that name], who will surely be a much better horse over a longer trip now that he’s a bit older. His top class full sister Asian Maze won over three miles.
I am also confident that Henderson will win the Gold Cup with Burton Port, who ran a stunning trial at Newbury behind stablemate Long Run. After such a long layoff, he didn’t need a hard race there – and he didn’t have one. Barry Geraghty will, I am sure, be confident that the horse will strip sharper this week.
But that’s enough of the horsey stuff. Cheltenham is primarily a four-day battle of attrition with one’s constitution, bank manager and anyone in particular who expects you home. To help with the first of these, a pit stop at Daylesford Farm shop on the way to the races is essential. They have things to drink there which are actually good for you.
But the journey home is a different matter. This year I shall be going for the five-stop strategy that brings in the Horse and Groom in Lower Oddington, the King’s Head at Bledington, the Plough in Kingham and the Chequers at Churchill. Preceded by a quick detour to the Hollow Bottom in Twiston Davies. I’m bound to run into Brazil somewhere.