All over for another year… Cheltenham


All over for another year… Cheltenham

So it’s over for another year. The Irish did a veni vidi vici on us poor (I don’t bet but my fellow country folk all cry with one accord as they yes after betting disaster after betting disaster) Brits and then to add insult one senior Irish Jockey texted me on Saturday night ‘Delays leaving the Aviva. Gardai are dealing with a broken down Chariot. It’s lost at least one wheel.’

That’s what I love about Cheltenham- it is just about the only  sporting event on earth where you can lose a fortune and still emerge smiling and deep in conversation with the bloke next door who you might not have met until that bus queue back to town.

Even the great Chief Executive of Horse Racing Ireland took time out from unmercifully taking the mickey out of his (former) British friends to tweet the picture of the week- of the first winner of the week, Labait, who has spent more time in the Naughty Corner than my producers have had hot dinners for refusing to start, tailed off in the distance after one of his umpteen shows of ‘down toolserie’ at, of all places the beach course at Laytown!

So many memories- Ruby Walsh’s quite brilliant four timer when the chips were down after two X certificate days for Team Mullins on Thursday, and for me, the sheer delight in watching two of the most decent people in racing, Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power hit the jackpot with Sizing John in the Gold Cup.

One personal sadness is that there was no sign of someone who has become a good friend from County Wexford who told me a year ago he always travelled and threw a compassionate leave claim for the funeral of his grandmother. Unfortunately last year his boss was there as a guest of one of the sponsors and they…er… met. He pointed out this was the fourth grandmother he had buried in five years…all in the same week.

May be he’ll be at Aintree. I will. I cannot wait. It’s less than 3 weeks and then the magic of the Punchestown Festival at the end of April to round it off. Oh lucky boy.

Anyone got a certain winner to pay for it?

By Mike Vince

The Cheltenham Lead Up Continues… – Blog

So we are a week into the pre-Cheltenham Festival visits and this is where it gets difficult- its Ireland, the land of One Hundred Thousand Welcomes and if you are not careful One Hundred Thousand tips.

They’ll be over in their thousands for the Festival in a fortnight- amazing how many Grandmothers are taken with sudden illness that week and they are already working out which horses are primed for National Service, to give the British a bloody nose in their back yard.

They’ve stars missing- Faugheen, Annie Power, Min, to name but three but they will welcome us this week and send us back primed with as much information as they can. Vroom Vroom Mag, for instance from Willie Mullins yard has 5 entries- so trying to work out where she might turn up has been left in the safe hands of the Editor of Clairvoyants Monthly!

Good first week- hugely hospitable Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Colin Tizzard and their teams- but one big problem- all the ones they think will win are meeting each other!

Stay tuned- at this rate a week form now the ‘good thing’ list could top 50- not bad for a meeting with only 28 races.

 

By Mike Vince

The Approach to Cheltenham – Blog

BLOGThe Approach to Cheltenham

So its that time of the year again- you know the’ How many Good Things can you secure before you actually get to Cheltenham’ competition.

It’s the one that alludes the great Mr and Mrs Public year on year. It seems business as usual- the sons and daughters of the bookmaking are privately educated at schools where their endowment funds are never short of the umpteenth million for the new Science Block- all funded of course by the world’s great ‘puntathon’ (surely loseathon to most of us) that is for ever part of the Gloucestershire folklore each March.

And remember the final two results last year? 14-1 and 28-1 – still hurts doesn’t it.

I don’t bet- sorting out which horse is which is a big enough challenge but about 5 years ago I reached a week before Cheltenham with a big smile and six near certainties. I even backed a few.

Then came the rain, lameness, travel sickness and the one I fancied biggest of all carried out by a loose horse who had got no further than the first.

But this game is for the perseverance culture. The greatest thrill of my life came at Easter last year days after the latest Cheltenham financial carnage had to be reconciled as I sat listening (and if you ever get the chance I plead you to go) in the National Cathedral in Washington DC to the incredible talent of Benjamin Straley illustrating why he is the best young Organist on Earth (I cried my eyes out just listening). He modulated a wonderful piece just a semitone in one simple triumphant move and I felt in another world.

So that’s the approach to the Cheltenham journey this year- modulate it just a semitone which in music speak is- ignore half what people tell you and let the music (ie you) make up your own mind.

This week it’s Nicholls, Henderson and Tizzard before the first of two trips to Ireland at the weekend. Which of Tizzard’s four for the Gold Cup? I shall report back.

And that indescribably uplifting and beautiful music is coming with me. My Cue Cards says there’s No Altior to that.

More follows.

 

By Mike Vince

4 Days, 738 Miles, 18 Hours of Driving… LBP Job Done

4 Days, 738 Miles, 18 Hours of Driving… LBP Job Done 

Since starting my role with LBP in May, I have been given a number of opportunities to develop professionally. From my first experience at Badminton Horse Trials to supporting the coordination of the Rio 2016 Homecoming, I have really enjoyed getting stuck into every job that has come my way. However if there is one job that stands out more than any other, it would have to be travelling around Wales filming for the Disability Sport Wales (DSW) Awards.

The awards celebrate the huge success of DSW in 2016; congratulating outstanding athletes both current and emerging, acknowledging the incredible work of coaches and volunteers, and of course surprising one inspirational individual with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Our job was to film every finalist which meant meeting every finalist, which meant travelling to every finalist not based in Cardiff – cue mammoth journey around Wales for myself, Laura and cameramen Phil and Tobi. Day 1 of filming (with Phil) – we began our journey in Cardiff – a nice start as it is our base so little travelling required. A morning of filming in Cardiff was followed by a trip to Swansea for just one stop off at the International Pool. Kit unloaded, makeshift studio set up, interview conducted, makeshift studio set down, kit loaded and an hour later we were back on our travels – next stop Aberystwyth.

An afternoon of travelling through the country side to the West Wales, we arrived at Aberystwyth. Aberystwyth Leisure Centre is a hub for lively activity; especially on a Friday night, so a quiet space was very hard to come by. We found ourselves setting up in a children’s play area, surrounded by ball pits, slides and soft play toys. I think if we were not so drained from our journey Laura, Phil and I may have taken advantage of our space and let out our inner-children… good job we had work to do!

2 hours later filming was complete, it was home time! After a long journey back south, the three of us each went to our humble abodes ready for another day of filming the next day. Day 2 – just a whole day of filming in Cardiff; from St Mellons to Cardiff Bay to Llanishen. Although we had little time between each location I think we all agreed this was our easiest day, the real treck was yet to come…

After a Sunday rest day, we were back on the road on Monday – let Day 3 commence. With a switch of cameraman from Phil to Tobi, once again we began our journey in Cardiff before heading to Bridgend. It was a miracle that after an 8.30am start in Cardiff for our first film, we made it to Bridgend for our next film at 10am. I must note at this point the torrential weather that had meant roads were closed all over Wales, in particular Anglesey where they received the backend of a hurricane. Next stop for us… Anglesey.

Tobi took it upon himself to be designated driver for our journey through Wales. Laura and I learned a lot about Wales on our journey, I’ve never known a man so knowledgeable about our country! When we arrived in Anglesey the weather was as expected… extremely wet, extremely windy and extremely cold! As we arrived at our location we noticed police cars surrounding the entrance of the school, we drew closer and it wasn’t long before we saw the huge tree that had collapsed blocking off our point of entry. Complete chaos.

We eventually found the alternative route into the school, got our job done and headed towards Caernarfon for our next location. The three of us had taken a hit from the weather, clothes soaked through, but we had work to do… smiles on faces and we were ready for our next film. Another late finish, but this time we stayed local as we had another day of filming up North tomorrow.

After Caernarfon we headed to a cosy hotel in Abergele which was near to our first filming session the following morning. Our 4th and final day probably brought to us the most unusual locations. First was our hotel itself where we had to squeeze our makeshift studio into our room ready for our first interviewee. But next it was to Bodelwyddan where our location was a… farm. We thought filming in our hotel was strange enough, but then the farm brought us a whole other level of challenge. Perched between two rows of stables, which held 13 horses, it wasn’t exactly a smooth interview to say the least. Having to pause between neighs or a kick against the wooden fence from some grumpy horses, we managed to capture some useful footage – good luck to our editor!

After leaving the horses in their soggy hay-ridden stables, we were back on the road towards Bangor University. A somewhat more pleasurable location for our filming, then to Treborth for an outdoor film on a flooded athletics track and then our final stop up North to Plas Menai. We were glad to be leaving North Wales and heading home to Cardiff… not before a stop off in Brecon first. By the end of the trip we had completely mastered building the make-shift studio and so it was less than an hour later when we had packed up for the final time and on our final leg – home!

4 days, 738 miles, 18 hours of driving and a total of 17 stops later we had completed our journey, captured all footage and were ready to sleep for the next week. I enjoyed every minute of the experience; it was my first time interviewing so the pressure was on, but I loved it. When it comes to talking to people and learning about their experiences, I could chat for Wales and so although very tiresome, this project was my favourite to date… roll on next year!

By Lucy Thomas

Another Fun Year at Olympia – Blog

Another Fun Year at Olympia

Once again Lloyd Bell Productions had the privilege of working at The London International Horse Show at Olympia, providing content for local and national TV and radio stations. Both myself and our editor arrived at Olympia ready for a week of intense work getting interviews with riders and producing content for radio and TV stations to use for their own use, as well as producing films for YouTube.

This year was particularly special as it saw the retirement of one of Dressage’s greatest horses Valegro, which attracted an incredible amount of interest with spectators coming from all over the world. Three-time Olympic Champions Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro entered the Olympia Grand Hall for a final time, and nailed their performance of their London 2012 Gold medal winning freestyle test. It was a touching retirement performance from a horse so highly regarded amongst fans across the globe; but what made it extra special was the fact that he bowed out in style on home soil.

As well as Valegro’s retirement, the Olympia stage also celebrated British successes of 2016. The Friday night saw our Olympic and Paralympic champions parade around the Olympia arena in a blaze of glory! Nick Skelton Rio 2016 Gold Medallist and of course London 2012 Triple gold medallist, Charlotte Dujardin OBE lead the way, joined by the Dressage silver medal team at Rio, Carl Hester, Fiona Bigwood and Spencer Wilton. This just added to the real ‘feel-good’ factor of this year’s Olympia – smiles on faces were to be seen throughout!

Aside from the horses, it was also nice to see golfer Lee Westwood. Lee is actually a racing enthusiast, but sharing the same agent as Scott Brash – Chubby Chandler – he popped into Olympia to show his support. We treated Lee to a backstage tour which he thoroughly enjoyed, hopefully we will see him next year!

As far as Olympia goes, this year was as good as it gets. The retirement of Valegro combined with Olympic celebrations meant a real circus fled into London. The 2am finishes were definitely worth it for a show that continues to make me smile.

By Rupert Bell