With the Cheltenham Festival the sport of horseracing is in the grip of a year-round obsession. When one Festival ends, betting is already underway for the next, and with almost any good horse that emerges in the 12 months in between the question always seems to be whether it is good enough to run at Cheltenham.
To win there represents the pinnacle of achievement, not only in British jumps racing but also for the sport in Ireland. To be there every year,is the goal of a multitude of racegoers from two nations.
Racing Post and former Timeform journalist Richard Austen relives racing history being made in a series of Festival races from 1981 to 1991. Starting with his own boyhood connection to the top-class hurdler Birds Nest, he reveals the epic and moving stories behind some of the most celebrated horses in Festival history and others, equine and human, who beat the odds to play leading roles on one of the greatest stages in sport.
Among the lesser-known subjects is Derring Rose, ‘the horse who preferred to go backwards’; in 1981, in the build-up to his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer, Prince Charles made an ill-starred Festival appearance as a jockey; 1982 saw an astonishing race between two Corinthians, the one a city gent who was later admonished in the High Court as ‘a cad’, while the other went on to be Milkman Of The Year and an MBE.
At The Festival is inspired by the thrill of the race and wonder at the racehorse. It describes what it takes to achieve Festival success and what it means to those who have done it, in the face of danger and sometimes of tragedy.
Cheltenham’s success is founded on the knowledge that the stories played out there can become racing legends. Stories such as these.