Looking back on the Cheltenham Festival last week is a bittersweet affair.
Obviously, the racing is hard to beat anywhere in the world for its colour, competitiveness, and depth of quality. And it’s that heady cocktail of pageantry and punting that makes the Cheltenham Festival a meeting where I really want to have a crack at unraveling some of the toughest betting puzzles in the calendar.
And historically I have at least held my own in the four day skirmish with the bookies. But not this time. This year was a recurring case of so near yet so far, as horse after horse, bet after bet, came second if I’d bet to win or finished fourth or fifth if I’d bet it to place.
It is at times like these when one has to be philosophical about the nature of betting. Fixed odds wagers pay off only when the exact criteria of the bet are matched. If you miss by an inch, you are rewarded no better than if your horse was tailed off last.
I normally satisfy myself in the knowledge that I was at least pretty much right about the outcome, give or take. Of course, it’s that ‘give or take’ involves me giving my stake money up and the bookmaker taking it into his satchel.
My poor run of luck continued into Saturday when I backed the Geegeez-owned race horse, Khajaaly, to win and more significantly to place in a seven furlong handicap at Wolverhampton, a course and distance at which he had performed very well in winning two previous starts. This time, he could manage no better than… you guessed it… fourth.
In fairness, it was a very solid run and, from the perspective of giving the club members something to cheer, it was great. Alas, they, like me, had backed him each way in many cases.
Today sees a drop in class for another horse in which I hold an interest, Night Orbit, as he moves into claiming company having been contesting Class 2 and 3 hurdle races. There are some other significant class droppers in the field so he’s far from sure to make the frame but at 9/1 or thereabouts, I’ll be having a win bet and expecting a second place finish!
Looking forward to the next Festival, Aintree is only just around the corner with the Grand National to be run on April 9th. Before that, however, I have an engagement in Ireland at the Curragh for my first ever race sponsorship deal, the geegeez.co.uk Alleged Stakes, a Listed contest run over a mile and a quarter.
I will be taking some of Mrs Matt’s family (from Cork), some business colleagues, and some lucky prize winners from a competition on my Irish site, horse-racing.ie to a box there for the day, and am very much looking forward to seeing which horses are declared for the race.
Last year, no less than Irish Derby winner Fame And Glory was sent off the 2/5 favourite, but could only finish third. It would be truly fantastic if such a high class animal was to grace the race with its presence this time around. We’ll see when the declarations are made…