The critical difference between watching a Shakespeare play and a momentous sporting event is the unpredictably of sport.
When we watch Macbeth, we are awaiting the entry of Banquo’s ghost from the beginning; but a live match is full of unknown expectations. The horse racing world had anticipated the final act of a Ruby Walsh quadruple on day 1 for many months – however what may have been written in the stars doesn’t always come to fruition.
As the 4.00 race came under starter’s orders, many punters – having already taken on the bookmakers successfully – were confident that they had in the mare Annie Power the final element of a four race accumulator. It was a strong favourite to follow Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen into the winner’s enclosure.
Everything seemed to be going to plan and some were already counting their winnings as the mare came to the last fence in the race. There is always a temptation to anthropomorphise horses, but we must remember that they are not machines or actors benefiting from someone else’s directions – they are just equine deities.
Annie Power was well in front of the field and relishing the hill, when she came a cropper and sadly disposed of the usually lucky Ruby Walsh – perhaps this was the kismet all along?
If returning to the stands on Shanks’s Pony rather than Annie Power was a disappointment for Ruby Walsh, that horse’s fall was barely a setback for the trainer Willie Mullins as his second string won the race. Nor was it a disappointment for this blogger who had made a minor investment on the winner Glen’s Melody at 6-1.
It is normally the jockeys who take the plaudits at Cheltenham, but today undoubtedly belonged to Mullins – most trainers are happy to have one winner at the festival but Mullins won an unprecedented four out of the first seven.
If there is to be any dispute about the name of the pre-eminent jump trainer this year, someone will have to do something very special in the next three days.
Today began with three startlingly brilliant front running performances from the three young Irish horses.This made it a day of great horses but, perhaps not, great races – though the handicaps all ended with tight finishes. In Douvan we have the new sliced bread, Un de Seaux may win next year’s Queen Mother, and Faugheen might very well be the next Istabraq.
Bold words indeed; but there was a bulletproof aura about this triumvirate and with Mr Mullins’s expertise and Ruby’s soft hands leading the way, there is little doubt the future looks rosy. Faugheen has the chance, if his career arc continues, to be the next superstar to transcend racing.
On a personal note – the sun was shining and I was also on Un de Seaux, which gave me two winners on the first day. Bring on tomorrow!
1.30 Vyta Du Roc
2.05 Kings Palace (NAP)
3.20 Spintre Sacre
4.00 Duke of Lucca
4.40 Arabian Revolution