Life s tyle
thefacts t ’s t h at t i m e o f t h e ye ar ag ai n .If you’ve never been to the Cheltenham festival, let
me tell you my experience. To begin, I’m not a re-enforcements will arrive in the morning in their
fanatical racing fan (especially when compared to tens of thousands. The bars and restaurants are
some of my friends) but I do like National Hunt quietly buzzing with expectation. Stories of “I know
someone whose cousin works in Mullin’s yard
I racing (that’s the one with fences) and enjoy the and he said...” are whispered and passed on –
occasional flutter (that means I have a bet now and their reliability growing with every telling. Hours
then). I go to meetings in Ireland and always enjoy are spent discussing the ground, the weather
the day out. I try to get close to the action – the forecast and the odds. The next day is day one of
sounds of the thundering hooves and the cries of Cheltenham and as is the case for the following
the jockeys. The brilliance of the colours and the four days, the cute punters already know who
vision of man and beast working in total harmony is they’re backing – they have a plan and they’ll be
something to behold. Cheltenham offers all that but sticking to it.
there is something extra.
On Monday evening, there is a sense of Walking up to the racetrack is an experience like
anticipation that crackles across the town. Already no other in sport. There are no rival fans yet there
here are the early arrivals, the advance party – the is an intense excitement and a competitiveness
that is unique to Cheltenham. This competitiveness
is multi-dimensional; punter versus bookie, my
ITM editor Ciarán Casey
recounts the pleasure and
pain of Cheltenham
4849 IRISH TATLER MAN
« This competiveness
punter versus bookie,
my opinion versus your
opinion, Irish trainers
versus English trainers »
THE KNOWLEDGE... opinion versus your opinion, Irish trainers versus English Above:
What do I want to bet? trainers – and all this is before the racing itself has even
started. And yet there is a camaraderie; a sense that we Ruby Walsh
It’s entirely up to you. How about a single (one bet on one horse), a are all in this together – a shared anticipation for the celebrates after
double (one bet on two horses), a treble (one bet on three horses) collective enjoyment of this most fantastic spectacle. riding Annie Power
or an accumulator to start you off. to win The Stan
The atmosphere is building as the horses leave the James Champion
What’s an accumulator? parade ring and make their way down to the start for Hurdle Challenge
the first race. The crowds heave like a powerful animal trophy on March
A bet that combines usually three or more selections in one stake breathing as each take their positions for the opener. The 15, 2016 in
that gains a return only when all horses win. A way of making large white flag is raised and they’re off. The mighty roar that Cheltenham
sums of money for little money at the expense of increased risk echoes across the ground is a declaration of exhilaration
– one loss means the entire bet is gone. and absolute pleasure, shouting to the world that we’re Facing page:
here, we’re alive, it’s March and this is Cheltenham.
Are there any other fancily named bets? A general view of
Often described as the Olympics of jump racing, runners and riders
You bet (sorry). How about a Yankee (six doubles, four trebles and Cheltenham attracts the best available horses so the in the the JCB
a four-fold accumulator, also known as a quad), based around four racing is of the highest quality– every trainer, jockey Triumph Hurdle
horses for a total of eleven bets. You need at least two winners to and owner wants to have winners over these four days Lexus Chase,
see any sort of return. and every punter wants to be on them. The flow of Cheltenham
information through the regular media sources is equally Festival 2016, day
The doubles are Horse A and B, Horse A and C, Horse A and D, matched by the informal chit chat and tip trading. Irish 4, March 18, 2016
Horse B and C and Horse C and D. The trebles are Horse A, B and accents are everywhere so it’s easy to break into “what
C, Horse A, B and D, Horse B, C and D and Horse A, C and D. county man are you?” conversations. Being Irish we are
Finally, the accumulator is Horse A, B, C and D ALL to win. expected to know our racing and to have a truck load
of tips. As the days go on, the “any tips?” greetings are
If you fancy a more serious flutter, a Super Yankee is a wager on replaced by “any joy?” resulting in countless stories of
five selections with 26 bets: ten doubles, ten trebles, five four-folds near misses, if onlys and some might share a tale of a
and a five-fold accumulator. nice win. At the track and in the town, the vibe is really
friendly and even for those that are not racing fans,
And if you really want to show off, a Heinz bet is a six selection there is a passion for this event that can be contagious.
wager with 15 doubles, 20 trebles, 15 four-folds, six five-folds and
one six-fold accumulator. Why Heinz? Well, it does have 57 bets... When it’s over, there are new memories, new things
to talk about that and new stories – each are added to
Should I bet each way? the rich archive of Cheltenham’s magical moments. ITM
A bet on a horse not only to win but also to be placed, but this
depends on the number of race runners. For example, in a race of
four horses, the bet would be win only, not each way. Some
bookmakers will pay out on first and second, first, second and
third or first to fourth. In races such as The Grand National, some
bookmakers will place up to the first six.
Should I read the form?
You need to be experienced to read the form because, for handicap
races especially, the person who handicaps the horses does so in
the belief the horses will finish in a straight line.
Oh, ok, so what do I do?
Look at the horses’ weights, the jockey, the trainer, the distance or
a combination of all.
I’ve never completed a docket – is it easy?
Super easy. On a race track you tend to give your bet to the
bookmaker and will be given a docket or slip in return. If you’re
betting in a bookmaker’s you just need the horse’s name and your
stake. You don’t have to give the time of race or location, but you
can if you like using those tiny pencils or pens.
Which names should I look out for?
Trainer-wise in Ireland: Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott (interviewee
Jack Kennedy rides for Gordon, see overleaf), Tony Martin, Enda
Bolger, Jessica Harrington and Joseph O’Brien are ones to watch.
Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty, Davy Russell, Nina Carberry and Katie
Walsh are Irish jockeys of note.
The Cheltenham festival takes place March 14–17
Remember JACK KENNEDY’s name. He’s
set to be the next big thing in horseracing
“I can’t really describe it, words can’t first professional ride took place in May 2015 and he notched
describe it,” says Jack Kennedy. up his first win just seven races later. From there he’s seemed
unstoppable – on a run out at the Irish Grand National last
And there’s a pause. He’s talking about his first grade one win year aged just 16 he jokes with me “I didn’t win.” He’s been
on Outlander in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown back on called ‘precocious’, hailed as ‘a natural’ with the words
December 28. “Winning the Lexus, as my first grade one ‘destined for the top’ cropping up more and more as the
winner and it was my 100th winner, that was brilliant.” months passed.
Certainly it was a nail-biting and almost fairytale way to “It’s great that people are thinking that but it wouldn’t
notch up your first memorable win. Sitting in fifth coming up bother me too much, I wouldn’t be thinking about it too
to the second last fence, then a good jump at the last, he much,” he says. In fact, modesty seems to be something of
managed to outrun last year’s winner Don Poli and double his default setting. Try to give Jack a compliment and he’s
Gold Cup winner Djakadam to take the top spot. Punching the having none of it. I ask him when he first knew he was good at
air as he crossed the finish line you got the impression that this what he does, he comes back to me with a deadpan, “I don’t
marked the beginning of his next chapter. know about thinking I was good at it but I always wanted to do
it, for as long as I can remember.”
At just 17 the National Hunt jockey has been drawing praise
since he began racing professionally almost two years ago. His Originally from Dingle, Co Kerry he has his two brothers to
thank for this burgeoning career.
5051 IRISH TATLER MAN
“My brothers were interested in it and I would have been Above: just be the same as any other race.”
young then, I was only three or four. So I suppose for as long While 2016 ended with his triumph on Outlander, it wasn’t
as I can remember I’ve been around horses,” he says, adding Outlander and
that his brothers are in the industry too, “Michael is training Jack Kennedy clear without its trials for Jack.
horses and Paddy is a jockey as well.” the final fence to He suffered a leg fracture at Downpatrick on September 23,
win the Grade 1
Jack completed his Junior Cert and once that was done Lexus Chase, then on his first race back in Thurles in October injured the
knew exactly where he was headed. In his own words it sounds Leopardstown, same leg again, putting him out of action for most of the final
so simple: “I started pony racing when I was nine and I did that December 28, 2016 third of the year.
until I was 16 and then I went to Gordon and I got the license
and started riding professionally.” Below: “I’d plenty of winners but I broke my leg twice so that was
kind of the downside of it. But other than that it was a great.
The Gordon he’s referring to so casually is renowned trainer Kennedy gets a I’d got falls but I never had a broken bone before that, I broke
Gordon Elliott in whose Cullentra House Stables Jack works full hug from owner my toe and it had to be operated on but it wouldn’t really
time and who he with credits with helping to achieve so much Michael O’Leary count that as an injury.”
at such a young age. after his win in
the Grade 1 In Jack’s words, “It’s getting into the height of the season
“Gordon has been very good to me, he’s given me loads of Lexus Chase now,” so I’m curious to see what kind of ambition he has for
the year ahead. There’s a pause while he thinks.
Pat Healy, “I had set a target at the start of last year to ride more
Healy Racing winners than I did in the last season and I’ve done that now.
Photographers, So I’ll have set another goal now but I don’t know what it’ll be.
www.healyracing.ie I’ll have to think about that...” ITM
opportunities. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without him,”
« I don’the says, adding that he’s hoping to be with the trainer, “for as
long as possible.” know
Winning is, undoubtedly, a driver for Jack but there’s about
something down to earth and endearingly honest about the was good
reason he gives for doing what he does. at it but
“I just get a good buzz out of it, I wouldn’t be doing it only wanted
for I love horses. That’s what started it, I just get a great buzz to do it »
out of racing.”
And when it comes to getting the job done he refuses to be
intimidated by the larger races, instead preferring to take each
one as it comes.
“The bigger races wouldn’t bother me too much, it would