The jumps season will soon be getting properly underway. Fixtures are scheduled all year, but it’s in September that the higher-quality runners restart their training, fans of the jumps pore over lists of horses to follow and trainers get to polish their artful, non-committal, gnomic pronouncements.
As I write in Gold Cup Prattle, a hymn to the language of racing:
We’re very happy with our horse
Makes plenty of appeal
Could play a big part
Fancied to go well
He’s looking in good order
He’s been showing all the right signs at home
I’m expecting a big run
Hopeful, yes, very hopeful.
The difference between the jumps and the flat, according to top jockey Tom Scudamore, ‘is akin to [that between] Rugby Union and Rugby League; they’re completely different sports, different techniques, different ways of training’.
There’s a snobbery, too, towards the jumps from its richer cousin. I went to Newmarket one autumn and tried to go to the National Horse Racing Museum, which was manned but shut. It closes every year, they said, ‘when racing stops’.
I muttered that there was a full jump-racing calendar that very day, but I was talking the wrong code. To their credit, they let me in anyway.
What is it about a crowded jumps meeting that so appeals? I got a whiff of realisation at the Cheltenham Festival in 2009. I’d taken a day away from a vigil at my father’s hospital bed. He died within a week; my mother had died the month before. I don’t pretend that these circumstances are anything out of the ordinary but, on a personal level, I was deep in a misery I hadn’t met before.
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