There’s a magic to the Cheltenham Festival. There’s something unarguable about it. A kind of sporting gravity, if you will. It is, it seems, more like a fate to which one might with great pleasure resign oneself than a mere vulgar sporting excursion. Paul Haywood, the Telegraph’s Chief Sports Writer, has said it as well as anyone:
‘…the drill is this: you eat a ‘full English breakfast’ you know you should not have, place bets that you know deep down are probably doomed, say yes to libations that are best left unpoured, and end up thinking the surrender to Cheltenham’s temptations is up there with the very best fun you could have in a sporting year: an addiction with no known cure.’
Perhaps it’s the setting. Perhaps it’s the feeling that, once Cheltenham comes around, spring must be hard on its heels. More than anything, though, it must be the rich history of the occasion. And nothing represents that extraordinary history better than Golden Miller.
Back in 1931 when men were men and winter was winter, the Gold Cup was called off due to frost. But this pause, this brief respite from the thunder of hooves was merely the calm before an extraordinary storm. The following year, Golden Miller burst onto the scene. He won the Gold Cup that year, the year after (when he won the Grand National for good measure), then again the year after that, the year after that and, yes - the year after that, too. The following year the Gold Cup was again called off.
Cheltenham – nor any other course - has never seen his like again. At least, not yet.