Gosh that was a splendid moment.
Nicky Henderson I salute you.
A rapid sprint to Cheltenham’s new high vantage point of the parade ring after the race and beneath me strolled the comeback kid.
Perhaps it was the large sum of money I had won, perhaps it was the performance, perhaps it was sentiment, or perhaps it was the cool winds in the raised view – a tear rolled down my ruddy cheek.
A moment to savour.
His triumphant return especially resonates with me because I have been there for his highs and lows; the epic triumph in the 2013 Queen Mother Champion Chase that was followed by a life-threatening illness and now the glorious renaissance.
If the day in Kempton when his heart problems first became clear, as he ran as a shadow of his former greatness, was a shocking reminder of how brittle these majestic beasts are, then yesterday was a day to rejoice that sometimes power and glory can be regained.
And there is no more appropriate place to see this redemption than Cheltenham’s Prestbury Park, where time seems to stand still and the ghosts of great horses past watch on – it is as close to heaven as one can imagine.
Three fences from home the nose of the big black aeroplane (as Sprinter Sacre is known) clipped, or maybe he kissed, the grass and the favourite Un de Sceaux began to turn the screw. There was an audible groan from a worried crowd as the old warrior began to slip five lengths behind the talented Irish raider.
Suddenly, the groans were caught in the throat as the race changed in half dozen strides as the Sprinter pulled in the leaders at the entrance to the straight as easily as a man sucking in smoke.
There was a moment of silence as the mood changed and then the roar started, growing ever louder as victory became ever more certain.
How wrong were us heathens to ever doubt him?
The grandstand shook with a primeval roar such as even Cheltenham has rarely heard.
God and Arkle, himself, willed the old warrior home. He attacked the last fence and grown men wept. I stood in the crowd with my arms aloft screaming in exultation. My binoculars swung and my hat went askew, I turned to my left to embrace a husky tweeded chap
Copies of the racing post, where hats once flew, were hurled into the air in deference.
The other races were, as usual wonderful, but talking about them would take the gloss of the greatest and most sensitive training performance by Henderson and, in my eyes, the finest Two miler of this generation.
Cheltenham was buzzing.
Not only has he come back from illness to win, which is rare in any sport. But look at the quality of the horses he has beaten easily in his career.
He has beaten two incumbent champions and one recent champion. He has now beaten one horse who has won it before him and two who won it after him. He has made them all look like selling platers at Cheltenham. He has also comprehensively beaten a horse who until yesterday had, when he stood up, made every horse he had taken on look ordinary.
This has not been a bad generation of two mile chasers – but when he has been fit, he has been a long way better than all of them.
1.30 L’Ami Serge
2.10 Missed Approach
2.50 Joses Hill
4.10 Johns Spirit
5.30 The Giant Bolster