Tips for the big four

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden -

Cham­pion Hur­dle (Tues­day) It isn’t the strong­est re­newal, but the Alan King-trained Yan­worth has done noth­ing wrong in his three out­ings this sea­son, in­clud­ing win­ning the Christ­mas Hur­dle at Kemp­ton, and is a solid prospect Queen Mother Cham­pion Chase (Wed­nes­day) There’s no rea­son to look be­yond Dou­van, un­beaten since he joined Wil­lie Mullins in 2014. He’ll be long odds-on, but jus­ti­fi­ably World Hur­dle (Thurs­day) Unowha­timean­harry (trained by Harry Fry) is nailed on for this stamina test, but Cole Har­den (War­ren Greatrex), win­ner in 2015, is a good bet for a place Gold Cup (Fri­day) The heart is with Cue Card, but the head with his pro­gres­sive sta­ble­mate, the younger Na­tive River

There are few cer­tain­ties on the track, but plenty off it: Mr Hen­der­son will def­i­nitely spill tears of emo­tion at some point; gen­er­ous Ir­ish megaowner J. P. Mc­manus will pull off a glo­ri­ous gam­ble in one of the hand­i­caps and claim not to have had a penny on it; Cotswolds trainer Jonjo O’neill’s 1986 Gold Cup vic­tory on Dawn Run (and Peter O’sull­e­van’s voice, chok­ing with emo­tion, say­ing ‘the mare’s be­gin­ning to get up…’) will be re­played on the big screen and ev­ery­one will have to search for their hand­ker­chiefs.

His­tory is an im­por­tant part of why peo­ple are so de­voted to the Fes­ti­val and block it out in their di­aries year af­ter year. They re­mem­ber where they were stand­ing when Desert Orchid ground out that gru­elling Gold Cup tri­umph in 1989. They re­mem­ber that, the following year, Welsh farmer Sir­rell Grif­fiths milked his cows be­fore driv­ing Nor­ton’s Coin, one of only two horses he trained, to Chel­tenham in a trailer, win­ning the Gold Cup at 100–1 and driv­ing home to milk them again. They re­mem­ber Hen­ri­etta Knight run­ning into the arms of her hus­band, Terry Bid­dle­combe, when Best Mate won his third Gold Cup in 2004.

They re­mem­ber the scin­til­lat­ing sharp­ness of Kauto Star, pit­ted against his sta­ble­mate, the re­lent­less gal­lop­ing ma­chine Den­man. They re­mem­ber A. P. Mccoy’s white, set face sud­denly crack­ing with a smile as he rode back into the win­ner’s en­clo­sure at his fi­nal Fes­ti­val af­ter tak­ing the Ryanair Chase on Ux­izan­dre for his boss Mr Mc­manus. Some of them still re­mem­ber Michael Dick­in­son’s ex­tra­or­di­nary feat in train­ing the first five horses home in the 1983 Gold Cup. And even fewer re­mem­ber ‘Him­self’ (Arkle).

Colin Tiz­zard is the ‘happy story’ of this Na­tional Hunt sea­son. The like­able Som­er­set dairy farmer, who en­joys his hunting, has grad­u­ally evolved from a small-time per­mit holder who trained a few point­ers around milk­ing the cows to one of the most suc­cess­ful

train­ers in the coun­try.

Trea­sured me­mories: Hen­ri­etta Knight and Terry Bid­dle­combe

Above: Colin Tiz­zard with sta­ble stars Thistle­crack and Cue Card. Be­low:

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