Racing: Craic falls flat in Guinness Village

Excitement makes slow start in Prestbury Park's tented bars, reports Jamie Corrigan

Michael in the Arkle Bar hadn't seen him, nor had Joe in the Golden Miller and it was only Tommy in the Cottage Rake who had any news at all. It did happen to be something of an exclusive, however. "He's a fraud, I'm telling you," he barked. "That's no proper priest - I know him. His brother's one, mind. He simply borrows a robe, gets an upgrade on the plane over, muscles his way on to the telly and from then on never puts hand in his pocket or whatever they have on those robes."

That's one Cheltenham myth debunked then - the drunken priest. In fact, on sober investigation the apologues are harder to make a case for than the horses on the track, the tall tales more difficult to stand up than the sozzled in the Guinness Village.

Whoops, there I go, pouring my own black stuff on the legends. No, in truth, even by end of sports, there wasn't anyone that sozzled in the Guinness Village. There was a stag party in fancy dress, though, but they were far too upright and far too sharp to be classed in the inebriated.

"Don't go near him," shouted the wag in a doctor's coat, pointing at his pal decked out as a chicken. "I swore I just heard him cough." They were having the time of their lives, but very few others seemed to be. It was one of those hands-in-the-pockets days, not simply because of the blasts of icy wind, but because there was nothing much to get all sweaty-palmed about.

Sure, there was the favourite winning the Champion Hurdle, the unveiling of the Best Mate statue, a few classic rides from Ruby, but regardless of all this there was something strangely flat about the opening day. The traditional roar to greet the beginning of the first race veered towards the mouse, not the lion, while the betting arena was bustling without ever jumping.

The jockeys called the ground "on the dead side of good". It also served as the perfect description of the atmosphere. Why? Well let us be kind and suggest that the Festival from now on will be a slow-burner. The fourth-day extension was sure to dilute the magic and it must be hoped that come Friday the fuse will burn through to the explosive stuff.

In large part, that will be down to the Irish contingent who were perhaps pacing their thirst - not to mention their tonsils - for St Patrick's Day. There are plenty of myths surrounding the Blarney Army but one thing was for certain. The customs did not stop any of them, as was threatened, to check they were carrying no more than £5,000 in currency and, even if they did, it blessedly never got as far as the Marigolds.

Not that it would have been the first time they had reverted to such underhand tactics. Yesterday, Joe recalled 1986 when Dawn Run brought the house down. "In those days you were only allowed to bring over 500 punts," he recounted. "And they were very strict about it. The custom boys even came to the track to spy on us and d'you know what they did when that grand mare won? They only followed the hats that were thrown in the air and nicked their owners on the spot."

Another old chestnut? Perhaps. But they were for so long the Festival's lifeblood. And Prestbury Park might do well to remember the unsanitised gaiety that once pumped it.

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
News
newsChester Zoo have revealed their newest members
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
The video, titled 'A Message to America', was released a day after Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that has overrun large parts of Iraq, threatened to attack Americans 'in any place'. U.S. officials said they were working to determine the video's authenticity
i100
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Business Analyst

£250 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst, Bristol, Banking, Business Obje...

Internal Communications Advisor - SW London

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Communications Advisor - SW...

Data Insight Manager

£40000 - £43000 Per Annum plus company bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape