THE eyes of the racing world have been firmly fixed on one location this week – Cheltenham.
This column comes to you live from the festival, where I have been enjoying all the thrills and excitement of one of the biggest meetings of the racing calendar.
There was all of the usual pre-festival build-up, with much of the talk about past Gold Cup winner, Kauto Star.
The horse, trained at Ditcheat stable, was a real doubt for the meeting following a fall while schooling at home but, after a successful session at the start of the week, it appears Kauto Star will be fit to take his place in the starting line-up for today’s Gold Cup, the pinnacle of the Cheltenham meeting.
Kauto’s return is great news for racing and is sure to bring the festival to a thrilling climax – it is also fantastic news for trainer Paul Nicholls, who will be hoping the 12-year-old is strong enough to secure his third Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup victory, having taken the title in 2007 and 2009.
Nicholls has got off to a roaring start at Cheltenham, with Rock On Ruby storming to victory in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.
It follows a nervous few weeks in the run-up to the festival – Nicholls confirmed three weeks prior to the meeting his horses were coughing, worrying news so close to the event.
The champion trainer seems to have pulled things round just in time, and will no doubt be hoping Kauto can prove himself to be the star of the show on the final day of the festival.
Closer to home, we are looking forward to what we are sure will be an exhilarating race meeting tomorrow.
Hot on the heels of Cheltenham is Newcastle Racecourse’s Guinness St Patrick’s Day, a meeting which always attracts big crowds looking to celebrate the Irish festival.
This year will be another busy meeting, with punters hoping the luck of the Irish rubs off on them. The action begins at 2.15pm.
:: James Armstrong is clerk of the course at Gosforth Park.