My Cheltenham Festival - Stephen Murphy, Budd Chairman
When does the build up to the Cheltenham Festival start?
The height of the flat season is the only time that the jump season has a lull, but for the real National Hunt fan, the season is pretty much continuous. We jump year round in Ireland and invariably this throws up some great prospects to get excited about for the Cheltenham Festival and to put on your watch list.
What are the most helpful sources for tips ?
If you are only doing your runners homework on the morning of the meeting, then you might as well just stick a pin in the race card and be prepared to make a sizable donation to the “Bookies” (the universal nemesis of all punters).
My race day usually starts with an early breakfast and the Racing Post. I get this on my iPad now. Timeform is also worth checking out and of course the very good Sporting Life site. The most important bit of information you need is the “Going”. More hope and faith expressed in the Racing Post than anything I have ever read from the Catholic church! I am always amused by the language used by trainers and jockeys to describe the prospects for their various runners. It is a mix of part understated confidence, part superstition at tempting fate and most of all, completely unhelpful in the nicest possible way. However, it should at least help you to narrow down the fields in each race. if you can read the Form you should be able to figure out if your fancied runner will handle the Going.
The ideal source of tips are the yards themselves. My golden rule is never listen to an owner’s tip (with the exception of JP McManus). For these more informed “opinions” you have to be connected to somebody in the racing rumour mill.
The best start to your Cheltenham Day ?
There is a fairly big day ahead, so I like to start it right with a healthy, leisurely breakfast in my Budd PJs (Batiste is my favourite) and a dressing gown.
Best way to travel to Cheltenham?
I have been lucky enough to arrive there by helicopter on a few occasions. This is highly recommended if you are not paying the bill! Invariably, I will drive to the course or more often than not, catch the train, but recommend heading there in 1st class. There is a real Festival atmosphere, which is fun, but carriages do get very busy...and raucous. You might as well spend some of your hard earned cash wisely for at least part of the day and arrive and leave with grace.
Key Festival Recommendations?
I have three Cheltenham Festival recommendations:
1) Ignore whatever website you use for your weather report and bring a decent coat. Wear a good pair of stout shoes or ankle boots. Also bring a scarf, it can get quite nippy. It is easy to carry and will make you that little bit warmer. Besides, if you don’t use it, you could make a fortune selling it late in the day to one of your less prepared friends.
2) Tweed – this is the very best venue for your old tweed suit. I have three old timeless tweed suits from Huntsman that still fit. Go for a heavy cloth, at least 18 oz. This is bullet-proof stuff that will last for years and keep you warm. Do get the trousers lined though. Holes are not a problem, they are a sign of character.
3) Cheltenham might be England, but the Festival is the most Irish racing event that there is. So, drink only Irish Whiskey with a drop of cold water. If you brought the car, then some good and strong builders tea is your best bet.
If you are desperate to make a donation to the Bookies, then the horses below are worth a punt. They are my Festival Yankee picks:
- Benie Des Dieux – Mares Hurdle (Tuesday 12 March, 16.10)
- Tiger Roll – Cross Country Chase (Wednesday 13 March, 16.20)
- Envoi Allen - Champion Bumper (Wednesday 13 March, 17.30)
- Faugheen - Stayers Hurdle (Thursday 14 March, 15.30)