Cheltenham Et Al: The Best of Alastair Down

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Cheltenham Et Al: The Best of Alastair Down

Cheltenham Et Al: The Best of Alastair Down

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I don’t really have major fancies for the big races, I tend to play in the handicaps, and every runner remember, has been planning to win these races for eight or nine months. The cover may have some limited signs of wear but the pages are clean, intact and the spine remains undamaged.

Wherever this broadcast was coming from, I don't know, but I watched the whole meeting daring not to touch the remote control! At the top of the hill all the dreams are still alive, the triumphs and tragedies of the long swoop down and hard haul up the hill to victory yet to unfold before the rapt ranks in the stands.

After the Gold Cup I had about three people ring me up and tell me they had had the best day’s betting of their lives so they didn’t know it was meant to run in the other race! I walked into the paddock with him and Geoff Lester after Collier Bay won the CH and value the video I have of that great moment.

I’ve sat and discussed over the years with my great chum Ruby Walsh, the complexity and detail of riding at Cheltenham; all of the things you need to be aware of whilst riding in the races - everyone thinks these jockeys go out there and rides just their race on their horse. Most notably for me was the loss of Kauto Star, and his eulogy of my favourite ever racehorse encapsulated all I felt on the day I heard he had died.

The loyalty and effort of our members make the Racing Forum the friendliest and most informative horse racing community. On his favourite racehorse: ‘I’ll still thump anyone who doesn’t appreciate that Rondetto was the greatest chaser of all time. On Frankel's last race: 'There were tears speckling the cheers, because there is something almost inexplicably humbling about being in the presence of greatness of this magnitude. His son Peter was a champion jockey – and now runs a successful stable in Scotland with his partner Lucida Russell. I have a great memory of Jim Old at Cheltenham and I still can't believe how the day panned out on the Friday of the 1999 Festival.

I’ve also seen the rise of Willie Mullins, who I have known for donkey’s years and when I met him first, he was just an amateur with the idea that he might train a bit and look where he is now! To be honest, we are talking five or six days ahead of the meeting, and I have learnt down the years that you get a flood of information from lots of people and you have to learn with people to separate the dreamers from the realists. My dad, who was a meek, mild and delightful man, was a five Shilling punter on a Saturday who worked in the City of London. We’re lucky to be dealing with decent people,” adds Down, who does not hesitate to cite Dawn Run’s emotional 1986 Gold Cup win as his favourite race of all time. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average.It was right on the winning line in a stand that no longer exists and I was offered it; it was a box for 12 with the dining room out of the back - I think we got about 42 people into the box!

His scholarly teachers at the exclusive Tonbridge School were, however, less enthusiastic – The Sporting Life was not available in the library and Down made arrangements to collect a copy from a nearby newsagent each morning. On recovering after an over-indulgent day at Longchamp: 'I just wish to be left alone with my thoughts and sincere hopes that my liver, which I mailed home by separate refrigerated container, will arrive soon. A collection of hte author's best horseracing columns signed by Alastair Down to half title page: All the Best , Alastair Down.

One particular piece on being snowed in and the need for essentials of life ("gaspers") made me cry with laughter when first written in the old weekender and I was delighted to see it. No missing or damaged pages, no creases or tears, no underlining or highlighting of text, and no writing in the margins. I first went to the Festival actually when I was 19 and a friend of dads had a wonderful box which he couldn’t use. The ruddy-faced Down, who would use Channel Four’s ad breaks to smoke a cigarette to calm his nerves, does not miss his television role.

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