With still no live racing to talk about. I will continue to take a look back on my interest in horse racing grew and developed. I guess the racing day that set me on my way as regards taking an interest was March 17th 1983. There was a family gathering in my parent's house for St Patrick's day. My Uncles, Aunts and Cousins were coming over for a St Patrick's day celebration. The Cheltenham Festival was into its last day. It was Cheltenham Gold Cup day. I was not aware of Cheltenham as a youngster, it was on when I was in school. I was nine years of age just about. I knew it was a big deal, I had an Uncle John who went every year. I also knew a horse called Arkle had dominated Cheltenham in the 1960s and my dad loved him. The first horse race I can remember in full is Aladaniti's Grand National in 1981. This would be my first time to watch the Cheltenham Festival.
Dad was not having a good Cheltenham and had not got a winner during the festival 1983. I asked dad to let me have a go. He said "do you know what son pick four from the TV races that say BBC beside them in the paper. Just mark it with a line and I will do it" "you can't do any worse then your father has this week" Dad said he would do a Yankee for me with my 4 selections (the BBC races). I had no idea what a Yankee was clearly. We were doing a win version of the bet. Dad has never been a big punter so it would have been sensible stakes. I looked for horses with some number ones besides their names. The four horses selected were
Saxon Farm (Triumph Hurdle) 10/1 won
Eliogarty (Foxhunters) 3/1 won
Bregawn (Gold Cup) 10/3 won
Mayotte (Stayers Hurdle ) 7/1 2nd
Dad headed off to the bookies' shop. My extended family arrived before racing. In 1980s Ireland the ladies headed out to the Dinning room tea and sandwiches etc. In the front room, the uncles were in place. Bottles of Harp, Smithwicks and Guinness the drinks of choice. There was lots of football chat. The first race came on Peter O'Sullevan ran through the runners. There were loads of them for the Triumph hurdle. My horse Saxon Farm was getting a good mention. As they settled to jump to the last Saxon Farm had a chance, much to mine and everybody else's surprise Saxon Farm cleared away to win at 10/1. I was pleased as punch lots of head rubs from the uncles. Dad was laughing "no winner all week you give the young fella the paper and he picks the winner mother of Jaysus". Next up was Eliogarty in the Foxhunters. I only learned my jockey was a woman halfway around. No women had ever won at the Cheltenham festival before. Caroline Beasley did not let me down herself and Eliogarty won easily. Commentator Peter O'Sullevan was telling the world " Festival history is made". My uncles gave Elliogarty and Caroline Beasley a great cheer. The Yankee was two for two, there was a bit of chat about how much we could win, I didn't get it. In my mind, I had two winners and my uncles were praising me.
The Gold Cup was up next. There seemed to a long build-up. This was an important race according to everybody. My selection was Bregawn, his trainer Michael Dickinson had lots of horses running in the race five of the eleven runners. Bregawn was 10/3 fav hopes were high in my parents front room and with the TV experts. Bregawn was up the pace from the start, he moved into what I thought was a big lead. Dad and my uncles said it was still early in the race, long way to go. As they headed down the hill on the final circuit Bregawn had a good lead. My uncles started to cheer Bergawn on. A couple of horses closed in between the last two fences, however, Brgawn cleared away to win well. I did not know the significance of what we had just watched. Bregawn passed the post five lengths ahead of Captain John, with a further length and a half back to Wayward Lad in third. There was then a large gap back to the other two Dickinson runners, Silver Buck and Ashley House. What this meant was Bregawns trainer had saddled the first five home in the Gold Cup. Commentator Peter O'Sullevan again informed the viewers " History is made". I was three from three on the day. Dad went to get some paper and a pencil to work out what the winnings were so far and what they could be if Mayotte won the stayers hurdle. There was great anticipation before the race. Mayotte came with a chance however he narrowly lost out in second to a horse called A Kinsman who was a big outsider. Everyone had been roaring Mayotte on it was a great thrill. Mayotte nearly got back up, however it was not to be. I loved seeing how excited everyone was watching the race.
Bregawn winning the Cheltenham Gold cup was a massive moment for me. I can still see Bregawns green and yellow colours now. I naturally thought this racing lark is easy so from that day on I took a real interest in the sport. Every year at the festival they show the old Gold Cups. I always watch Bregawns race. The finish always makes me smile. I always say to myself looking over the parade ring at Cheltenham "Blame It On Bregawn"