The day before Cheltenham is always a strange one. A hundred or more jockeys are desperate not to be injured lest they miss out on that dream ride – whether a highly fancied good thing or a first Festival ride on a handicap outsider; many of them not riding.
But there’s one today, AP McCoy, happy to take a ride. He’s following a similar path to last year by having just one ride for Nicky Henderson. Last year he rode Remember Now to victory at Stratford, and there’s a very good chance he’ll do the same on board Ozeta at Taunton.
There’s no rest day for the major stables, but with meetings at Taunton, Stratford and Plumpton it’s immediately clear that the lesser lights have their opportunity to catch the eye. Henderson has runners at Taunton and Plumpton; David Pipe stops off at Taunton with three on the way up to the Festival and sends one to Stratford as well. Venetia Williams is represented at Stratford and Plumpton.
I can’t think why Taunton has six of its seven races named after and sponsored by local pubs. It’s a bit far away for commuting to the Festival, and anyone wanting overnight accommodation must have sorted it out by now. Mind you, I might have to call in at one or two of them next time I’m down in Somerset.
Stratford contents itself with races advertising its own food outlets: the new Gallery Restaurant for Club Enclosure patrons and Alice’s Noodle Bar for people in both Club and Tatts.
Now I’m old enough to remember Alice’s Restaurant……and whilst you may not be able to get anything you want at the Noodle Bar, like its namesake, it is just a half a mile from the railroad track…albeit the one in Warwickshire is long since disused.