Only one other jumps meeting has since survived the freeze, and Cheltenham came so close to succumbing on New Year's Day that another inspection was staged after the first race. But the stewards decided to persevere, and that enabled Hold Em to take his chance in the big steeplechase.
Keith Goldsworthy emphasises that conditions in no way contributed to the freak accident that claimed the life of his most accomplished horse. Hold Em was brought down four out, breaking his knee, but characteristically renewed his pursuit and could only be caught two fences later. That was the type of inveterate competitor he was.
He is a grievous loss to a trainer with just a dozen horses. But Goldsworthy remembers what happened last year to Mr Dow Jones, the retired point-to-pointer who first put him on the map. "He was out in a field, got a kick, and broke his leg," he said yesterday. "And in a funny sort of way, that has helped. Because it shows there's only so much you can do. Thoroughbreds are very dependent. But there's no denying there were tears here."
Many letters of condolence have reached his remote address, in South Pembrokeshire, including one from David and Martin Pipe. "Very nicely worded it was, too," Goldsworthy said. "They lock horns with us on a regular basis, in big races, and they know ours is a small yard."
That gesture of respect acknowledges that Goldsworthy's horses, though ambitiously campaigned, are seldom out of their depth. His greatest consolation is the young talent eligible to succeed Hold Em – he nominates William Hogarth and Kennel Hill – not to mention the imminent return of Hills Of Aran, himself lucky to survive an accident at Stratford last summer.
"If I can't win with a horse, I don't want it here," Goldsworthy explained. "If you turn them over, that gives the youngsters a chance to come through. Equally, we tend to have horses people have given up on. And it's always easier to start with a clean slate. If you have to do a refurb, it takes a bit longer."
One such is William Hogarth. "He's bred for the Derby, and he's got an engine, but many that aren't top-class at Ballydoyle end up as lead horses and that can mess with their heads," Goldsworthy said. "It takes a while to get them going the right way again, and we haven't scratched the surface with this one."
The dullest animal could not mistake this for Ballydoyle. The Goldsworthys don't have gallops managers or box drivers. They do everything themselves. None the less, they are quietly contributing to the boom among Welsh trainers. "We all came from the same background, in point-to-points, and we're all very supportive of each other," Goldsworthy said. "Timmy Vaughan used to be one of my riders! People ask why the Welsh have done so well and I'm not sure there's a clinical answer. But I suppose if you're outside the hub, you've got to be pretty good or you're not going to survive."
One of seven children, raised on a small farm a mile down the road, Goldsworthy for a long time resisted a sport that engrossed his family. Instead he went into the building trade, and then waste management, before trying his hand with point-to-pointers and finally taking out a licence in 2003. And for all that he has excelled with horses discarded by others, there is no mistaking which of his two previous careers most resembles his third.
* Yesterday's meetings at Kempton and Lingfield were called off because of the unavailability of ambulances.
Turf account: Chris McGrath
Dance The Star (2.30 Lingfield) Hard to believe this one failed to win in 2009, so frequently did he shape well, and while he was beaten fair and square last time the first three pulled miles clear of the pack – and he now returns to a track that plays ideally to his strengths.
Divine Force (1.0 Lingfield) Has steadily found his feet since joining Michael Wigham and proved suited by dropping to this trip here last time, winning decisively after briefly meeting traffic.
One to watch
The emphatic success of Russian Music (Ian Williams) at Southwell the other day confirms him much improved for his new trainer.
Where thye money's going
News that Sizing Europe will also be entered for the Champion Chase saw Captain Cee Bee cut to 5-1 from 6-1 by Paddy Power for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.Reuse content