Cheltenham: My hopes kicked away by a flailing hoof

Jamie Osborne on how the injury to his hand provides a lasting pain in the frustration of so many plans and dreams
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The Independent Online
IMAGINE THE contrast between sitting, staring inanely at Sesame Street on Channel 4, waiting for the racing coverage to start, and pulling on breeches in a packed weighing-room at Cheltenham in anticipation of five good rides on a glorious afternoon at the Festival.

Sadly, I was doing the former yesterday and not the latter.

My fall from Kadou Nonantais on Tuesday meant that my Festival was terminated after just four races. The fall itself was a soft one, but the feet of Macgeorge unfortunately connected with the back of my head. The only obstruction between the horse's plated hooves and my helmet was my right hand.

This probably saved me from having to buy a new skull cap but didn't do a lot for my chances of riding a Festival winner this week.

Luckily the X-rays have shown that nothing is broken, but my hand resembles a water-filled marigold and my brain is not recalling all the events of yesterday. I will have to sit on the sidelines for a compulsory week but should be able to resume riding after that.

It is hard to describe how I feel today in printable words. All the planning, plotting, anticipation and excitement has come to nothing. Fate has stuck a dirty great big pin in my Festival balloon, so I will have to wait until next year to blow up another one.

Until one has experienced the deep, deep disappointments that racing can throw up, it is hard to fully appreciate how high the Cheltenham highs can feel.

Most Festival-winning jockeys look like rollover Lottery winners simply because they know what a fine line exists between success and failure.

Today the stakes are as high as they get. The Gold Cup is the prize we all want, and today I feel sure that it will belong to Norman Williamson for the second time. His ride, Teeton Mill, has thrived since joining Venetia Williams, and he can put the seal on an unbelievable season for an extraordinary trainer. Do not listen to the doubters who say that he will not stay. This horse is simply a dosser when he hits the front, and now that Norman is armed with that knowledge you can be sure he will not take it up too soon.

The each-way value in the race lies with another grey, Suny Bay. Laid out for this race, he is at his best when fresh and comes here after an 80-day break.

Venetia Williams may have to play second fiddle to Martin Pipe in the Stayers' Hurdle. His Deano's Beeno is an out-and-out stayer and he can draw the speed from Lady Rebecca.

The annual four-year-old cavalry charge, otherwise known as the Triumph Hurdle, has thrown up some strange results over the years, but this year's favourite, Katarino, looks like being a tough nut to crack and should not be opposed. Philip Hobbs's Nuvellino could run into a place at a huge price.

Flying Instructor may get outpaced through the middle of the race in the Grand Annual Chase but will be staying on stoutly up the hill and this consistent nine-year-old is worthy of solid each-way support.

The Cathcart Chase can go to the ultra-consistent Dr Leunt who would deserve a Festival triumph after battling with injury for most of his life. He actually races with a metal plate in his leg.

The final race of the Festival is the County Hurdle at 5.40. The drying ground gives the Tote Gold Trophy winner, Decoupage, an outstanding chance of winning. He side-stepped the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday for this easier option and can reward his connections' caution with a win here, putting the seal on a memorable day for Norman Williamson.

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