The eager anticipation for the Cheltenham Festival begins as soon as the last race is run on the Friday the year before. As the rousing roar prior to the Supreme Novices’ draws nearer we all tantalise ourselves with previews previews and more previews. I do not think there is ever a sporting event that is more hypothetically talked about but that is how much it draws people. Is it the uncertainty of nature’s control over the ground conditions or the fact that it revolves around equine stars who are meeting each other at the highest level on the greatest of stages after a year of bouts elsewhere? Or perhaps it is the historical resonance that Cheltenham brings to each of us and you are aware that to have a runner is something in itself and winners aren’t stumbled across – they are well and truly earned and very much celebrated by all. Luck also plays a huge part in proceedings but it is the spirit in every single person in attendance that creates the atmosphere as everyone knows winners are hard to come by so it is glory to all; triumphant and vanquished.
Dason Court may have the odd runner this year but it is largely weather dependant. But Cheltenham aside, Midnight Belle and Eaton Rock have been the most recent pleasing performers from limited runners. Midnight Belle has been little short of extraordinary this season. The toughness that she showed at Exeter last week is not something that all horses have as part of their mental furniture. She was never going to fold when it looked a forlorn task and in fact when upsides the gallant Flementine she eye balled her with ears flat back and went on. All this is doubly pleasing as she is not a hurdler but a very exciting chaser for next season. Her sire Midnight Legend has had a particularly good recent run of producing winners and he seems to breed into his stock a never-say-die toughness that is hard to come by in many horses. They also all have a penchant for extremely testing conditions. Eaton Rock ran a very creditable race at Towcester to finish second in a small-field bumper. He showed plenty of inexperience when weaving in and out of the hurdles and fences but importantly got his head down at the end and stayed on under a sympathetic Felix. Eaton Rock is gargantuan but a very good jumper so there is plenty to look forward to for his local owners Kevin and Jen Price. There are plenty of exciting types to look forward to for next season and horses like Eaton Rock are hopefully merely laying down the foundations for what will be an impressive and dynamic edifice which any estate agent would be pleased to sell. . . strange imagery but it kind of works. Bring on Cheltenham.