Cheltenham Festival Diary: McCain's Maguire bromance


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The Independent Online

You can understand why Donald McCain can't stop singing the praises of Jason Maguire after such a fabulous start to the Festival. A superb first day was augmented by a wonderful second when Son Of Flicka landed the Coral Cup.

"To my mind, Jason is the best jockey in the country right now," said McCain, who then revealed just what a buddy-buddy relationship trainer and jockey have formed.

"I don't need to tell him what to do, I just let him get on with things and it works out fine. I can honestly say that we have only had one cross word ever and we felt so bad about it afterwards we had to give each other a hug!"

A rather dressed-down Ladies Day

Yesterday was Ladies' Day at Cheltenham, although you would have been hard pressed to notice.

There was an area close by the burger bars and doughnut kiosks dedicated to followers of fashion, but it was all very low-key, very Cotswolds, and that's the way Cheltenham like it.

Communications Manager Andy Clifton said: "It's great to see the ladies dress up, but we deliberately don't go overboard about it. It's definitely not like Aintree Ladies' Day, where it's all in your face, so to speak."

To be honest, the most popular fashion accessory until the sun came out was that last word of racing sartorial elegance, the Betfair yellow scarf, handed out in their thousands on the approaches to the racecourse by an army of girls from the betting exchange firm, including to one grateful old lady, who loaded up her trolley with half a dozen and continued on her way to the shops.

The perils of living dangerously

With an estimated 25 or so broadcasters operating, you can hardly move around the paddock at Cheltenham without tripping over a presenter with a microphone.

But they have learnt to be so very careful. Paul Binfield worked for Festival Radio before he became a bookies' rep and recalls one time when he thought he would go all Derek Thompson and drag a passing member of the press he knew in for an opinion on an upcoming race.

"Unfortunately, the press guy thought I was taking the mick and called me some of the worst swear names you could think of before asking, all innocent: 'You're not going out live, are you?' I never tried that again."

Teen joins Buena Vista's social club

One of the last horses Martin Pipe saddled at Cheltenham before he retired in 2006 was Buena Vista – and six years on that horse is very much still around and turning into a Festival legend.

He makes his eighth successive Festival appearance today when bidding to win the Pertemps Hurdle for the third time in a row. More impressive still, he has never finished out of the first six. And though now a veteran, Buena Vista is certainly not running this year in an honorary capacity.

A horse who inevitably comes good in the spring, he has been heavily backed in recent weeks and punters will be encouraged to see that the promising young rider Tom Bellamy, son of former rider and current Towcester clerk of the course Robert Bellamy, is in the saddle.

Bellamy, 17, is not that much older than the horse, but he impressed when winning a good prize at Cheltenham's November meeting, and the real bonus is that he can take advantage of a 10lb claim.