Country house: A day out at Cheltenham

To Cheltenham, for the Hunter Chase Evening, highlight of the hunt-racing calendar, where the Plantation Farm Syndicate’s star, Alskamatic (‘Alfie’) was running in the 5.45pm.

A bad choice of route resulted in an undignified dash through the car park, a young blade observing unchivalrously: ‘The green-tweed jacket is pulling away from the Liberty-print Barbour…’ However, we made it for the race-six minutes, 46 seconds of heart-pumping thrill. Alfie ran a blinder to finish a neck second to the 6-4 favourite. The trainer was puce with excitement and frustration, his month-old baby daughter slept through it and we all repaired to the bar for much rejoicing.

Racing is wonderfully even-handed in the way it looks after those who own a few tail hairs as well as sheikhs and it’s creditable that the premier National Hunt track provides such an opportunity for its amateur arm.

The meeting aids the Hunt Staff Benefit Society, a 142-year-old charity that looks after retired hunt staff-The Prince of Wales is its governor. The Prince’s father, The Duke of Edinburgh, once wryly noted that horses are great levellers.

Too right. Our second runner hit the deck with a heart-stopping fall (horse and jockey were quickly up). This time, nervous silence descended, but at least we were all in it together.

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