We know that Sprinter Sacre is as good as we thought he probably was, and that Hurricane Fly was good enough to win back the Champion Hurdle, but that Long Run (good though he is) was not good enough to win back the Gold Cup. Set against the inexorable rise of CO2 in the atmosphere and the loss of biodiversity from this beautiful planet these things, that we now know, are pretty insignificant. Indeed, every single thing that we now know from four days of racing in the Cotswolds is pretty insignificant but the glorious irrelevance of which horse can run around in circles faster than the others is a four-day escape that for me, and thousands of others, recharges the batteries for the year ahead.
I have won money on two days and lost it on two days, and overall am down on the Festival, but the pain to the pocket is trivial, too, in the big scheme of things. Betting is the purest form of decision-making known to man, and woman. In the long run, you know whether you are good at it or bad at it by the bottom line. I am good at it. There is no such thing, in the long run, as good luck or bad luck in betting, only generally good decisions and generally bad ones – as measured by the bottom line. Whereas most of the decisions we make through the year are difficult to evaluate, those we make by wagering our money have a very easy means of evaluation in profit and loss. I don’t bet for fun, I bet to make money, and in the long run I certainly do. Not enough money to make betting my only income but then again what a pointless existence it would be if one made betting one’s living and main activity.
And we’ve seen some great racing. Yes, one horse died, and several jockeys were seriously injured, and that should give us pause to ponder whether this sport has too high a cost, but we’ve seen some great racing. So most of us will return next year, with the odd moral qualm, to see whether Sprinter Sacre is even better than we now think he is at running around in circles faster and more gloriously than other horses.
We will, God willing, reassemble for next year’s Cheltenham Festival to renew ourselves through spending time with friends, relatives and acquaintances where it matters not what job you do, or what are your politics, but it matters more whether you have a view on whether Oscar Whisky will stay three miles and whether the Irish novices are a better bunch this year than the English. It’s not important, but it’s fun.
I will exchange a few conversations with the man who stands near where I stand in front of the main grandstand even though I know nothing about him except that he is there for the racing every Festival just like me. I will catch up with people’s news for the previous year in car park conversations which are sometimes interrupted by noticing the complete impracticality of a passing lady’s footwear or clothing.
When we reassemble next year we will re-live this year’s and previous years’ races in our thoughts and in our conversations. We will eat great pies and cakes, empty bottles of wine remarkably quickly and seek out the Guinness bar whilst the Coral Cup is run. Some of us will remark on the number of buzzards and red kites seen on the journey to the racecourse and seek to see short-eared owl on the home-bound journeys. Next year we will undoubtedly remember how cold it was this year on Tuesday and Wednesday, and how wet on Friday, but how warm and sunny on Thursday – this is, after all, an English spring, and we are, after all, most of us, English. And we’ll note whether spring has come early or late to the Cotswolds by noticing the relative preponderance of snowdrops and primroses (spring is very late this year by this measure).
Thank you for the indulgence of those who have tolerated this break from commentary on the natural world and the politics and organisations which influence its fate, and thank you to those who have said that they enjoyed the change of subject for this brief period. Normal service will resume on this blog tomorrow (when there will be 359 days until the start of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival).
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