Well it is almost here Cheltenham Festival 2016 the best racing week of the year, here are my moments never to be forgotten. I realize everyone has there own collection, so here goes mine
21 Something Wells won the 2009 Festival Plate at 33/1, myself and a friend had been watching him all winter. We had a decent each way bet both of us on the day. We hoped he would go for this race all winter, Venetia Williams had him laid out for the day. Something Wells was up with the pace all the way , hanging on to beat the fav Ping Pong Sivola by 3 parts of a length. A great day.
20 A bad one next the 2001, The Foot and Mouth Crisis leading to the cancellation of Cheltenham Festival 2001. This almost certainly stole history from Istabraq as he would surely have claimed his fourth Champion hurdle vivctory. Dark Days!!
19 Sprinter Sacre a most wonderful equine specimen in his prime there was nothing like him in full throttle. Can he comeback in 2016? who knows but he was superb in 2012 and 2013. Quevega with her six timer in the mares hurdle a first day ATM for her legions of adoring fans.
18 Moscow Flyer falling on St Patricks Day 2004 was just gutting before the race had a chance to develop against his great rival Azertyuiop. Well Chief's fall in the 2007 Champion Chase was also a disaster. This was Well chief's chance to win the Champion Chase it was a real shame for the horse he never won it.
17 The last day of Festival 1998 I was in a bit of trouble, there was then a blitzkrieg of a treble from Tony McCoy in the last 3 races. Edredon Bleu, Cyfor Malta and Blowing wind turned it into a golden day for me.
16 Istabraq pulling up in the Champion Hurdle in 2002 was a low moment. A very sad moment as a fan as the inevitable changing of the guard was ushered in by father time, as age caught up with the mighty Istabraq.
15 Berties dream and Pigeon Island last day escape at Festival 2010. I had been under the pump for a bit of Festival 2010. I went in to the last needing to turn it on. I had two single each way bets and an each way Double on Berties Dream 50/1 and Pigeon Island 25/1 both won. It was obviously a fantastic financial result also a great lesson to keep going right to the end! A dear friend landed the biggest bet of his life on Berties Dream winning a very substantial amount of money from the magic sign.
14 Lord Windermere , I backed and tipped Lord Windermere at 50/1 for the Gold Cup in 2014 I really fancied him going into having been the RSA winner in 2013. The race was incredibly exciting as a contest, not to mention the Stewards enquiry which seemed to last forever. The amount of messages into my phone was unreal because of his price anyone who knew me seemed to have backed him. It was very good.
13 Best Mate and his three Gold Cups. I never backed him once , but I will never forget the way the crowd including myself lifted him home in 2004. Best Mate was looked after wonderfully by Terry Biddlecombe and Henrietta Knight. I always think of that day as regards the spirit of horse racing fans to cheer for a horse they have not backed when the right result for racing as a sport is at stake wonderful stuff.
12 Jezki winning the Champion Hurdle in 2014. I was adamant all along he could win it. This was a case of being far happier with the vindication of ones strong long held view , while also getting paid. The race was terrific. I really adore Jezki he is the type of horse I love. The race also reminded me never fear going against the tide of hype when you have confidence in your horse nothing else matters. The race was a great race, I can still here the course announcer calling " First Number Four Jezki"
11 Annie Power falling in the mares hurdle 2015. I can safely say if I go racing until I am 100 I will never see anything like this again. I do not believe in accumulators at Cheltenham but plenty did that day. The change in atmosphere was remarkable.
10 Florida Pearl winning the bumper by 5 lengths like a world beater in 1997, then following up in the RSA chase in 1998. Florida Pearl is my favourite racehorse of all time, I followed him through it all. There would be plenty of heartbreak to come at Cheltenham for Florida Pearl and indeed myself in the Gold cup as it eluded the brilliant Florida Pearl. I am always grateful for those two days/wins in 1997 and 1998 at the Festival. I still hold the view Florida Pearl is the best horse never to win a Gold Cup.
9 Hardy Eustace Champion Hurdle win 2004 myself and my wife Siobhan backed Hardy Eustace at 40/1 that morning. The whole racecourse was cheering for red hot fav Rooster Booster (also a festival stalwart). The race itself saw Hardy Eustace win by 5 lengths but the sound of Siobhan, myself the bookmakers and a diminutive Scots man cheering for Hardy Eustace as the the rest of the crowd fell silent is my memory of it. Hardy Eustace gets in again for the 2005 Champion hurdle for the unbelievable race between Brave Inca, Harchibald and himself. That is the greatest race I have witnessed at Cheltenham.
8 Dawn Run 1986 and Desert Orchids 1989 Gold cups. I still get a lump in my throat when I watch these races, they sum up the festival wonderfully. As a young racing fan these two races made we want to go to the Cheltenham Festival. The commentaries of Sir Peter O'Sullevan were also epic and among his best work.
7 Bregawn, everyone always talks about the famous first five for Michael Dickinson in the 1983 Gold Cup rightly so a great achievment. However this race was hugely important to a young mad keen racing fan sitting on the floor of his parents front room in Howth on a St Patricks day. Bregawn was to be my first bet in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. My dad was having a tough Cheltenham. I asked him could I have a go he said " Go for it you can not do any worse son". I picked out 4 for the BBC TV races Dad picked out 4 he threw his in the bin and backed my 4. Three of mine won but Bregawn winning the Gold Cup was the highlight. I can still remember my uncles and Dad congratulating me . I will always remember Bregawn he got me started.
6 Nick Dundee the fall of Nick Dundee in the RSA of 1999 again on St Patrick's Day. This was without doubt my worst financial result on a single race in relative terms. I am convinced he was the best horse I have ever seen over a fence. Nick Dundee came crashing down at the third last with himself and Looks Like trouble 25 Lengths clear of the third horse, Nick Dundee was cantering and looked all over the winner. Looks Like Trouble would go on to win the 2000 Gold cup, worse was to follow after Nick Dundees fall he sustained a very bad injury and was never the same again.This was a great but harsh lesson not to get to financially and emotionally invested in one horse. The 2008 frestival also makes the list my worst ever, I could not do anything right all week. I must admit even having had a dire Festiival the display of Master Minded in the 2008 Champion Chase was one of the best I have ever seen, it goes without saying I was not on Master Minded.
5 The Denman Versus Kauto Star rivalry from 2008 and 2009 was brilliant. Kauto Star was a good winner of the Gold Cup in 2007, Denman was a brilliant winner of the RSA in 2007. The pair clashed for the first time in 2008 in the Gold Cup. Denman produced and epic performance from the front to win. The atmosphere was electric. In 2009 Denman having had a heart problem lined up but it was Kauto Stars day as he became the first horse to regain a Cheltenham Gold Cup having lost it. They were two magnificent horses. I was a Kauto Star man for me he had it all pace , power, stamina versatility and guts. Kauto Star is the best chaser I have seen in my life. Denman was a different type of horse but equally brilliant on his day.
4 Moscow Flyer the best two miler I have ever seen. Moscow was pure brilliant loads of pace and class.Moscow Flyer was no angel he always had you on the age of your seat as he either fell or won. Moscow Flyer won the Arkle in 2002 , The Champion Chase in 2003 Fell in the Champion Chase in 2004. I have to say his win in the 2005 Champion Chase as 11 year old to recapture the Champion crown was incredible. The race was a good one with well Chief and Moscow fighting out the finish there great rival Azertyuiop having made a mistake and got to far back ended up in third. Moscow Flyer won by 2 lengths but the scenes in the parade ring were bedlam as the whole of Ireland seemed to roar Moscow into the winners enclosure.
3 Klairon Davis in 1996 this was my first big punting success, it was again a victory for against the tide thinking. Klairon Davis had won the Arkle in 1995 beating Sound Man. The 1996 Champion Chase came around very little had gone right for Klairon Davis all season. I was convinced he would be a different horse at Cheltenham. I was telling anyone I met in the run up to Cheltenham he was my bet of the week I backed him at 11/1. The race saw Viking Flagship and Sound Man slug it out with Klairon Davis stalking in third. The horses approached the last Klairon Davis pinged the last, with an electric turn of foot sprinted away to win by 4 lengths. Klairon Davis picture still hangs in my kitchen to remind me it can happen no matter what people say.
2 Istabraq, I first saw Istabraq on December 1st in 1996 it was love at first sight for me . I just thought he was the perfect racehorse. Istabraq had speed, class , bravery a super jump Isatabraq had it all. Isatabraq won at 4 consecutive festivals including 3 Champion Hurdles. I do think that the performance Istabraq put up in winning the 1998 Champion hurdle is the best destruction of a field you will ever see . Istabraq pressed on at the top of the hill ,putting the field to the sword Istabraq won by an incredible eased down 12 lengths on St Patricks day breathtaking and exhilarating. The remarkable thing was Istabraq was 3/1 on the day. I had been backing Istabraq for 3 months before the race.
1 Imperial Call 1996 Gold Cup. This was my first time in Cheltenham ever. I can remember it like it was yesterday. I spent a lot of the day looking around me in awe. The Gold Cup came round it was One Man for England at 5/4 Imperial Call for Ireland at 9/2. I backed Imperial Call with the bravery of a debutante.The race itself saw Imperial call take it up at the top of the hill he jumped like a cat all the way. One Man traveled strongly but did not stay , Imperial Call scampered away from the 1996 eventual Grand National winner Rough Quest to win by 4 lengths it was 19 lengths to the third horse Couldn't be better. The Gold cup win for Ireland was the first since Dawn Run in 1986. I will never forget the scenes in the parade ring. It was special to be present with my Dad and brother. I was on a massive high for weeks afterwards.