IT’S beginning to look a lot like Cheltenham.
I can picture the scene in households up and down the country now.
Punters crossing another day off the calendar, laying out their tweed and badges, polishing their brogues and buffing the hip flask.
For us racing fans, this is 100 times more exciting than Christmas.
You can stick your turkey dinner where the sun don’t shine, give me a £14 burger and a warm pint of Guinness any day of the week.
I know you’re all hankering for tips at the moment, but if you thought today I might point you in the direction of a few winners I’m going to have to disappoint you.
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I’ll leave that up to the experts like Steve Mullen, aka Templegate, as I couldn’t tip s*** off a shovel.
Instead, I’m going to share with you what I hope happens at the Fez – if Carlsberg did Cheltenham, if you will.
I really, really want Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls to have a big week – we are pretty much relying on them to prevent an Irish walkover.
Nicholls in particular has been in tremendous form this winter, and I don’t just mean with his racehorses.
He has been at his spiky best, having digs and firing off potshots at anyone and everyone who gets under his skin.
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I can’t help but imagine him in some Kevin Keegan style get-up, saying how we would love it, LOVE IT, if we beat the Irish. Good luck this week, Paul.
If Davy Russell doesn’t ride a winner it will be the biggest anti-climax since the final episode of Lost.
He is a Festival legend and he didn’t manage to hit the target last year, so it would be great for the game if he wins a big one before re-entering retirement.
I don’t want too many of the green army winning this week, but I’d love it if £850 horse Hewick added the Gold Cup to his haul.
He has been incredible for his larger-than-life trainer Shark Hanlon, and the scenes in the winners’ enclosure afterwards would be worth the price of admission alone.
I also want every single man, woman and child in the weighing room to be as sensible as humanly possible with the whip.
If anyone goes doolally and gets disqualified it will be a PR disaster which racing can’t really afford. Please, guys and gals, keep your cool.
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This is also a call for the chiefs at the Jockey Club to bury their 'Roar Remix' song so deep that it doesn't see the light of day at the Festival.
They released their three-minute techno tune this week, in collaboration with DJ Cuddles, but it's so far off the cringe scale that it would make Alan Partridge uneasy.
I hope that my digs at the De Vere Water Park near Cirencester (please don’t turn up asking for autographs, thank you) are an improvement on last year’s hotel.
12 months ago my room overlooked the A40 and a building/bomb site, and I just-so happened to be sharing the hotel with a huge delegation of high-ranking NATO officers.
It might sound interesting, but to be sharing a breakfast table with the Commander of the Danish Fleet in the Arctic Circle was an unnerving experience, let me tell you.
And last but not least, I hope you all back an absolute barrow-load of winners.
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It’s not easy being a punter these days, what with all the hoops you have to jump through to get a decent bet on.
So go on, make hay while you can and give the auld enemy a good spanking!
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