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Cheltenham Et Al: The Best of Alastair Down

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I first went to the Festival actually when I was 19 and a friend of dads had a wonderful box which he couldn’t use. uk has been a home to passionate debate and intelligent discussion for horse racing enthusiasts since the year 2000. Down left British Petroleum in 1975 and was appointed chairman of Burmah Oil, which he rescued from the verge of bankruptcy. But of course after the Gold Cup, I was watching it with a friend of mine and he said “Alistair, you don’t want to watch this…” and of course Cyril and Norton’s Coin had won it!

When I first used to go, or watch it on telly even before that, before the drainage systems went in, about 24/25 years ago, the horses would come up that hill in bad ground, as an Irish friend of mine says, “like snipe leaving the bog, weaving from side to side” - but a bit slower than snipe! Cheltenham et Al offers a generous collection of his very best columns, providing the Down angle on the great horses, jockeys and trainers; the famous races which remain indelibly in the sport's collective memory; the controversies; the laughs - in short, the highs and the lows of racing. It was the Queen Mother’s fault; she came into the paddock and everyone started applauding so it went 3 feet up in the air and landed smack on its arse! Everybody just loves it and they block those days off in the calendar – for those few days in the year, where we all join together in something we absolutely love and once you’ve been you will absolutely be bitten! Loved the layout , a short description of a past event or person then the report that followed , half the book had me not wanting to put it down lost in the memories of days past and memories of when I was young and visiting Cheltenham Aintree etc, however always found flat racing a pile of pants so these stories took some chewing.On Frankel's last race: 'There were tears speckling the cheers, because there is something almost inexplicably humbling about being in the presence of greatness of this magnitude. And, most poignantly of all, this is how Down described the cancer-stricken training genius Sir Henry Cecil when the incomparable Frankel won an unforgettable Juddmonte International two summers ago. The Racing Post is the UK's leading horse racing publication, and now we also offer a wide range of merchandise for horse racing fans.

I walked into the paddock with him and Geoff Lester after Collier Bay won the CH and value the video I have of that great moment. I imagine either Willie Mullins or Gordon Elliott which is hardly big news, I mean Gordon is running 60 horses and Willie will probably have 50. He is best known for his tenure from 1975 to 1983 as chairman of Burmah Oil, which he rescued from near-bankruptcy. No missing or damaged pages, no creases or tears, no underlining or highlighting of text, and no writing in the margins. Every day in the 10 days up to the meeting, lots of horses start dropping out due to injury and then all those months of planning and years of planning can easily go up in smoke – it is not a window of opportunity, it’s an arrow slit, and everyone is wanting to all fire through that arrow slit all at once.This collection of articles from the Sporting Life and Racing Post are great memory joggers and add colour to back up pieces on old, famous and some obscure races and horses from Timeform and others. He stood outside the box on the balcony all afternoon, smoking this most enormous double-barrelled joint.

The thing that’s changed, in my lifetime is that if you went to Cheltenham when you were young, little yards won lots of races, so it was great and it gave the meeting added flavour. In 1945 he resumed working for Anglo-Iranian and was based in Iran until 1947, and then in London until 1954. Whether you're looking for a book on the history of racing, a calendar to mark your race days, or a notebook to keep track of your bets, we have something for you.It won at top weight and I remember running into Jim a day later and he grunted at me to say ‘hello’ as he always does; and I said to Jim, “Just to say, I’ve been driving a Ford Fiesta but next week I’ll be driving a Saab Turbo thanks to you! In Double Trigger they meet in a chemistry that the old alchemists sought unavailingly for generations,” wrote Down. When you’re young, you go all day and all night and then have an hour’s kip and then go again, now that I work at the meeting, it is very different but I love the way also that it has transmitted itself to the next generation - it just has this, almost evangelical ability to get the group gospel across, I mean my three children, they couldn’t name another race course, but they never miss a day at the Festival. The ruddy-faced Down, who would use Channel Four’s ad breaks to smoke a cigarette to calm his nerves, does not miss his television role.

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