Two South African horses to shout for in the same Cheltenham Festival race

My dream of attending the Cheltenham Festival was dashed but I'm still excited about two South African live-wire competitors.

Most times conducting research for my column is a rewarding exercise.

I find it fascinating when unearthing historical tit-bits about my chosen subject matter but occasionally the discovery can be mortifying.

Take this week for example.

Perhaps somewhat naively, I didn’t expect the etymological findings I was to discover and I certainly didn’t foresee that it would result in me cancelling an order for a bacon and egg toasted sandwich!

Tuesday sees the commencement of the Cheltenham Festival for 2024.

Sadly for me I have failed before I’ve begun. It’s not that I foresee a punting loss over the famous steeplechase fences this week but rather it marks another year in which I have failed to realise one of my dreams.

You see, attending the Cheltenham Festival is on my bucket list and so I must now resign my hopes and dreams into the “maybe next year” bin of non-fulfillment.

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A “bucket list” is a noun defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “a list of things that a person hopes to achieve during his or her lifetime” but on deeper investigation I was surprised as to the usage and origin of the word bucket in the popular phrase.

Historians of language and words agree that the reference to “bucket” is drawn from a kind of wooden harness that would shackle pigs by their heels so that they could be hung upside down and slaughtered.
The practice, particularly prevalent in Norfolk, would frequently result in the unfortunate animal struggling against the wooden bucket during its death-throe spasms. The impression given was that the pig was kicking the bucket.

In 1785 Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue listed and defined the term as “to kick the bucket. To die”.

I apologise if you’ve got pork chops on the menu tonight.

On an altogether more wholesome note the actual term ‘bucket list’ was coined relatively recently.
From all accounts it was created in 1999 by screenwriter Justin Zackman who penned the phrase in a screenplay that eventually became an American blue-collar buddy-comedy motion picture by the same name.

Directed by Rob Reiner (Stand By Me, When Harry Met Sally and A Few Good Men) the 2007 movie The Bucket List starred Hollywood icons Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It revolved around two terminally ill men on a road trip addressing their wishlist of things to do before they kicked the bucket and it grossed nearly $200 million.

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The Cheltenham Festival has proper history. It originated in 1860.

The phenomenon has grown exponentially and in 2006 it took an enormous leap forward when the festival introduced a fourth day. This resulted in the addition of five new events so that each race day would comprise six races and feature a championship race on each day culminating in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the Friday.

Four more races have subsequently joined the party, allowing for seven races a day (in my opinion it’s the best four place accumulators across the calendar year).

This weeks Grade 1’s include the Arkle Challenge Trophy, Champion Bumper, Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, Ryanair Chase, Champion Hurdle, Ballymore Novice’s Hurdle, Stayers’ Hurdle, Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Triumph Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase and of course the Gold Cup itself.

I chose to mention the Arkle Challenge Trophy at the top of the list not because it’s alphabetically belongs there but because there are two live-wire competitors in the race that have connections to South Africa.

The Arkle Challenge Trophy is race 2 on Tuesday’s opening day programme and the current third favourite at 6-1, in what has been billed as one of the more open Arkle’s in recent years, is the Hollywood Syndicate and Barnane Stud owned Il Etait Temps.

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What a thrill and what a honour for all concerned.

I send my absolute best wishes to Owen, Devin and the entire Heffer family. Likewise to the whole Kieswetter family, Wayne, Belinda, Craig and Ross.

The fourth choice in the betting market at 7-1 is Found A Fifty, who is a son of the deceased stallion Solskjaer who stood at Heversham Park Stud and previously at Summerhill Stud.

Not that any excuse is needed not to miss the opening day of Cheltenham 2024 but to have two South African horses to shout for in the same international Grade 1 race is a rare opportunity not to be missed.

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