Cheltenham Diary: Tindall hopes tackling the French is easier than this

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The Independent Online

Perhaps this wasn't the best time to approach Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips. It was just after the first race and the England rugby centre had just seen Richard Johnson, his partner's former beau, winning on Copper Bleu – beating his horse in the process.

But surely with the equine connections of the Princess Royal's daughter he would be armed with the inside knowledge to claw his stake back? "I wish," he said. "Sometimes all that knowledge makes it more difficult."

Many were surprised to see Tindall here as he makes his return to the England XV tomorrow in Paris. Did Martin Johnson know he was here? "Yes, it's our day off today, we go to France tomorrow," said the World Cup winner. "Most of the boys have gone home and I suppose I have really, we're so close to our home here."

It may be home but it is not private. As Tindall chatted some 20 photographers trained their lenses on the pair and security men were spotted. Some feel Tindall could do with an escort in the Stade de France when confronting Mathieu Bastareaud, yet he says he is ready for the collision despite playing only three times for Gloucester since being sidelined for four months with an injury. "We've got to go there and give it our best shot. We've nothing to lose."

"Nothing to lose" seemed an apt description for Tindall later as Zara celebrated with the connections of Albertas Run. A winner for Tinds? "Nope," he said. "This must be the first time I haven't backed a Trevor Hemmings' horse. I'm very, very annoyed." Bastareaud had better watch out.

Scarves have the big race wrapped up

There are many ways to choose between Kauto Star and Denman and not all of them involve form or pedigree. How about the poll taken in the stablemates' village of Ditcheat which saw Denman win with 51 per cent of the vote? Or the poll on Racing Post's website (Kauto 66 per cent, Denman 34)? If neither of those convince, what about the sale of scarves in the Cheltenham merchandise stalls? More than 8,000 have been sold, with those knitted in honour of Kauto prevailing by 58 per cent to 42. But maybe that has more to do with Kauto's colours. Green and gold scarves? They'll never catch on.

Michelin man with van

Quote of the week – so far – came from Patrick Daly, the vendor of bacon rolls from a van. Daly's sales pitch has made sure he is short of customers or smiles. "Some people have four Michelin stars," he shouted. "We do better; we've got four Michelin tyres."

Whirlwind fails to gel

Things you see at Cheltenham, part one: Jimmy "Whirlwind" White climbing out of a limo in the car park and asking the driver to open the boot so he could get out his hair gel.

Things you see at Cheltenham, part two: Jimmy White leaving the racecourse with his hair in a mess.