One of the hazards of managing a racecourse (risk assessment 101) is that at some point, during the course of any season, someone is going to end up spitting in your face.
Not intentionally of course, but either through the excited celebration of a winner, or due to the careful annunciation of an opinion projected above the ambient volume of the crowd, it’s inevitable that something is eventually going to come flying your way. To be honest, after two years of mask wearing and social distancing, I’d forgotten all about it – but the intervening period has lowered our tolerance to such things and this week, after scoring a full-on spray in the eye, I’ve copped a nasty case of conjunctivitis.
While I hate the whole business of face coverings, there are some people – mainly those with very few teeth – for whom they should become obligatory. There is also something to be said for the Perspex screens that retail workers stand behind, although they’re not very practical if one is moving around – so I’m beginning to think that laboratory-style glasses would be a great idea for crowded spaces. I can imagine them selling well in the car park at Cheltenham next week: “Lucky heather Mister? Cross my palm with silver and I’ll tell your fortune darlin’… and if you make it one of those nice crisp polymer notes, I’ll throw in a pair of goggles…”
Staggering down to the chemist this morning, all I could see through my gammy left eye was a sort of fog. Even so, while standing in the queue, I couldn’t resist reviewing the list of Festival entries and there was one horse that kept catching my other eye (the good one) – his name: Winter Fog…
Trained by Emmet Mullins and carrying the same Paul Byrne colours that were borne to victory by The Shunter last year, Winter Fog is this week’s selection for whichever race he’s eventually declared to run in – most probably the Pertemps Hurdle on Thursday. He’s sure to get Irish eyes smiling.
If he’s victorious I’ll celebrate with some Ibuprofen and one of those little thimbles of Optrex – while keeping one eye (the good one again) on the market for Friday’s Gold Cup. Because, while A Plus Tard will probably beat the rest of the runners out of sight, I’ll find it difficult to resist a small each way investment on Asterion Forlonge – for whom I can see a great opportunity, if I just turn my blind eye to some of his jumping…
I’ll have a slightly larger bet on Aye Right, our local hero, who I believe could be placed at a very large price indeed. If he wins, there’ll be neither a dry eye, nor a dry throat, in the house.