COOL DAWN, the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, was out enjoying himself in the West Country sunshine at the yard of his trainer, Robert Alner, yesterday morning, but nearby the day was anything but calm.
At Manor Farm Stables, the home of See More Business, Paul Nicholls was still seething over the manner of his much-fancied horse's removal from Thursday's Blue Riband of steeplechasing.
Britain's great hope was carried out at the seventh fence after the stricken Cyborgo, and his partner Tony McCoy, swerved across him. Racing folk are used to the slings and arrows of their capricious sport, but this relative H-bomb was too much for See More Business's connections to bear.
The stewards concluded that the incident was no more than an accident after hearing that McCoy shouted over his predicament to fellow jockeys. Timmy Murphy, See More Business's jockey, said he heard nothing.
Nicholls himself had to be restrained by his party from expressing his true feelings on Thursday, and yesterday he was restraining himself. "Everyone could see what happened and Paul doesn't want to add anything to that," a stable spokeswoman said. "He's very disappointed and angry."
The full reason for the wrath has yet to emerge, but the Business team are not happy. "All I wish to say is that racing people in general must look at the tape and come to their own conclusions," Paul Barber, the horse's joint-owner, added.
"I wish Robert and Sally Alner, and Dido [Harding, Cool Dawn's owner], who are great Blackmore Vale hunting people, a wonderful Gold Cup. I've known them for years and it's super for them. It's their wonderful day. I don't want to be seen as a bad loser, but it does take a bit of taking."
Cyborgo himself is not in a very good way. Martin Pipe was talking darkly about serious problems with the horse's back after the Gold Cup, and the eight-year-old's exact injury has yet to be specified. "He's still in the yard, but we're not absolutely sure of the diagnosis at present," a Pond House spokesman said yesterday.
Meanwhile, Cool Dawn was probably feeling very proud of himself yesterday at Locketts Farm as immediate plans for his future were being drawn up. A victory bow looks likely to take place in either the Whitbread Gold Cup or the Irish Grand National, in which he finished third two years ago.
"He will probably have another run but we want to let the dust settle and talk to the owner," Alner said. "He is in the Whitbread and looks incredibly well handicapped now. And he has been to Ireland before so that could be an option, but there will be no quick decision."
Cheltenham was also notable for revealing why there is no such beverage as a Maguire Festival cocktail. The two simply do not mix. Adrian Maguire missed the previous three Festivals and may have wished this one had passed him by as well. He left without any form of trophy unless you include the broken collar-bone he sustained in a quite terrifying crash on the final day.
Maguire's fall from Zabadi and consequent high-speed squashing from Sublime Fellow had several pondering if his very life might be taken away. The jockey's injuries are not, however, as bad as first feared, though he may himself not see his crumpled collar-bone, concussion and removal from Grand National consideration as any great consolation.
"Adrian is going to be okay," Robert Parsons, the jockey's agent, said yesterday. "He was a lot happier last night and had something to eat. He should be out of hospital some time this morning.
"He has definitely got 21 days out due to concussion and I would have said he will be out for three to four weeks depending on the collar-bone, so he could be back for the Whitbread."
By then we will still be talking about a Cheltenham Festival which once again surpassed its improbably theatrical billing. Cool Dawn was proof that there is still a place for the unlikely and lowly, while One Man's Queen Mother Champion Chase was perhaps the most emotional moment of the week.
Greatest of all though was the fact that this Festival set up others. The triumphs of Istabraq, French Holly and Florida Pearl probably had the hotel switchboards buzzing away in the Cotswolds yesterday morning as long-term bookings pinged in.
We have them to look forward to as we must anticipate improved traffic arrangements at the course. Getting out of Cheltenham after racing can be like getting out of Alcatraz. It must also be hoped that Edward Gillespie and his boys select their car park staff a little more cleverly in 1999. There were yeomen of the gate last week who would have been more at home holding the keys at Wormwood Scrubs.Reuse content