I went on my first trip to the Cheltenham Festival in 1996, aged 16, as a spectator. Ireland had four winners the first year I was there and it was freezing cold!
I didn’t realise until I went back this year just how big a centrepiece the Gold Cup is. I remember as a 16-year-old, as big a crowd as there was at Cheltenham, there seemed to be a bigger crowd when the Gold Cup came on, and that was the same again this year.
People just seemed to appear out of nowhere. I remember clearly that I watched all the races in my first year but when the Gold Cup came on I wasn’t able to find a place in the stand to watch Imperial Call win.
I had to climb up on the back of a temporary stand to actually watch the race.
We were back the following year. I went on the horse plane on the Monday with Commanche Court, Istabraq, Theatreworld and Finnegan’s Hollow.
Commanche was in the Triumph Hurdle – I was 17 and my dad was training him. Istabraq won his race, Finnegan’s Hollow fell, Theatreworld was second in the Champion Hurdle and Commanche won.
A 50 per cent strike rate on the aeroplane down to my companionship, whispering in their ears!
And Commanche Court obviously went on to finish runner-up behind Best Mate in the 2002 Gold Cup.
That win in 1997 was a brilliant experience and a brilliant result for a small yard.
It was an old-fashioned Triumph then – 30 horses in a huge field, you needed a lot of luck but Commanche was a wonderful little horse and it was a great occasion.
FROM PADDY POWER’S RACING ICONS DOCUMENTARY WITH RUBY…
- I took Annie Power home for the summer… and horse joined our family BBQs!
- My biggest Cheltenham regret and one race I’d love to have a second chance at
- Ruby’s hilarious story about dad Ted’s terrible medical advice after nasty leg break