The house gets cleaned out as binoculars and trilbies are hunted down, the car is packed with the musical equipment for our sing-songs, beer and wine to keep our throats in order and food for a week’s sustained revelry. Into the car will go new additions, laptops to keep on top of the best odds, mobile phones to keep us all in touch and a large wedge of money to keep the bookies fed.
The weekend before Cheltenham is when you wake up to the fact that this isn’t winter any more. No matter how dire the finances (still recovering from Christmas), the prospect of returning with ridiculous amounts of cash (something that is yet to happen) thrills us to the marrow.
This year the supreme focus is on Kauto Star, a gentleman of a horse who has come back in his later years to dominate equine gossip in the weeks and months leading up to the great festival. There really is only one question – will Kauto run? Paul Nicholls is pretty clear he will but if he doesn’t we can be sure that the disappointment will be short lived.
This is the indomitable spirit of the festival. No loss can ever be felt for long. No matter how outrageous your misfortune, your mates are still there and there is always another race till the 26th and final race on the Friday when you return from the course completely exhausted and aware that despite there being 361 days to recover- this is the last time you will put yourself through it.
Many people never go to Cheltenham and many who do don’t get it. I don’t blame you if you read this with incredulity; Arkle, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid, Cottage Rake, Golden Miller, Best Mate..either a nonsense list or a liturgy depending on whether Cheltenham has caught you in its grip.
There is nothing so good to me as the Cheltenham week and when my colleagues hear me talking of Cheltenham, they know that it has a special place in my year that I hope will be marked out not just for 2013 but 2023 and 2033.