Cheltenham Gold Cup 1969

I watched recordings from my Sky+ box of BBC’s coverage of four of the races from Ascot on the 19th January and it seemed the ground was once again putting a premium on stamina. Twist Magic looked a different horse on the softish ground and if the rains continue might not even run at Cheltenham in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
All this rain, abandoned meetings and heavy ground when racing does go ahead, takes me back to Cheltenham in 1969 when What A Myth ridden by Paul Kelleway outstayed everything else in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The ground was the deciding factor that day and at twelve years old he became the oldest horse to win the race for eighteen years.
I first went to Cheltenham in 1963, the year Mill House won the Gold Cup. There must have been about seven of us who first started the pilgrimage to Cheltenham for the three days as it was then. It was great fun to get away with your mates and talk nothing but racing for the three days. I was able to keep up the pilgrimage through the 1960’s and 1970’s and I saw some great horses win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the greatest of course being Arkle.
In 1969 my dear friend Steve joined us on our pilgrimage to Cheltenham. We had met while working for a Ford Main Dealer which was controlled by an old fashioned guvnor by the name of Dicky May. Steve and I had great respect for him and we have many happy memories of working there. It so happened that there was a Dicky May running in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. We were staying at a hotel on Cleeve Hill and it was full of racing folk which included two older well to do ladies who had tickets for members for the three days. They use to join us in the bar after dinner for a drink or two. We started to spin the story that Dicky May was a good thing for the Gold Cup. By the time we went to bed on the Wednesday evening we were beginning to believe the story ourselves. Come the race on the Thursday a saver had been placed on Dickie May. All was going well until the commentator announced that Dickie May had come down at the eighth fence. The groan from the stands was immense and we could not stop laughing. The ladies had undoubtingly spread the word around members or was the groan for The Laird who was unfortunately brought down by Dickie May. As the Irish would say it was a great craic and brings back more happy memories. With the mud flying What A Myth stormed up the Cheltenham hill for a memorable win. We went back to the same hotel in 1970 hoping to see the ladies again. Unfortunately the owner told us they had tried to get in but by the time they rang he was full. It saved us spinning a story about L’Escargot (the snail) who won at 33/1! Kinloch Brae was an expensive faller for the blogger.

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