THE curtain has fallen on Cheltenham’s opening day, one that will long be remembered by Irish punters and British ones too.
If there was a catchword for the afternoon, then Ruby, RUBYYYYY, RUBYYYYYYY, had a monopoly on fandom/ adulation/celebration. Even JP McManus checked his step in the Winner’s Enclosure to celebrate an opening victory that shuddered the grandstand and shook the Cotswolds from it’s cold embrace.
In Cheltenham, they talk about the opening roar, but the cheer that closed out the final furlong of the Supreme Novice when Champagne Fever and My Tent Or Yours, traded blows, swopped stride patterns, was one that excited in the audacious and celebrated courage.
The front-running Champagne Fever lit the touch paper – kicking fences out of the ground during a lung busting effort – and Hurricane Fly’s victory, while measured was no less spectacular.
No less than Willie Mullins and Ruby deserved if you measure against the doubters.
Then Quevega, so used to having her own way here, had to make her way, inexorably inch by inch, maybe just to prove that greatness don’t come easy. Owned by the Hammer and Trowel Syndicate from Clane in County Kildare.
I met one of the owners on New Year’s Day at a meeting in Punchestown, he spoke about the five-timer, No – he spoke like he expected a five-timer.
And like Ruby said: “Kilkenny couldn’t do, and neither could Kerry.” That was said in mischief, but today was serious business for Walsh and Mullins. Ireland and Irish horses took a back-seat last year, but today they clambered from the back to the front with style.
“You changed a few lives today Ruby,” said a reporter in the ring. “You’re the hero today.”
“Today, maybe,” he smiled. “But I probably won’t be tomorrow.”
But then like another member of the press corps suggested, it might only be when the dust settles that the true measure of today’s victory will be poured over and enjoyed. Actually, sod that, I’m looking down on the parade ring and the party is in full swing. The conversations for tonight will be filled with re-runs of Champagne Fever/Hurricane Fly and Quevega and those doing the recalling won’t need to add an extra fence or a tighter finish for dramatic purpose – the drama, well it was dramatic enough.
My heart raced with the opening victory, Ruby and Mullins kept it above 120 for pretty much the whole afternoon. Now it’s time for a pint and fond reflection with friends who backed the same winners as I did – but I have yet to meet them here.
One day I’m sure I’ll say “I was there” For now I’m here and very happy to be so. Enjoy the rest of the week. The bumps and turns will continue…Go get em Ruby!