The Inside Rail

Cheltenham now 1/5 to take place.

That’s better. I don’t remember tracking the odds the last time this was in the air, foot and mouth, 2001, when I was booked for my first trip to Cheltenham. It was cancelled that year, inspired me to dig in deeper and make sure I went the next year. I’ve missed once since. Each year, it seems, it’s more difficult, more complicated to actually go. I guess this happens in life.

This year, Coronavirus has everyone atwitter, watching the odds, reading the headlines, monitoring their coughs and sniffles. Some are staying home, some are waging full speed ahead with mantras of “you only live once.” I guess I’m somewhere in the middle. A calculated risk, I would not be getting on a cruise ship, I can assure of you that.

A few precautionary rules have been bandied about to prevent the spread.

Stay six feet away from others. OK. So…throw your money at the bookies, hell, I’ve been doing that for decades.

Wash your hands like you’ve been pealing jalapenos and are going to changing your contact lenses. Have you seen the loo lines at Cheltenham? And the hand dryers? They don’t work anyway.

Stay home if you’re sick. Hmmm. This is blurry, people have been calling in sick during Cheltenham for years. Now what?

I’m off tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be worried about how much cash I’m bringing back and not how much disease.

In other news…


Kiaran McLaughlin is retiring from training horses and taking Luis Saez’s book. No doubt because of a combination of factors, but, wow, what a development and a sign that racing is in deep, deeper, water. The pressure on horse trainers has been turned up all the way. Immediately following McLaughlin’s announcement came one from Gary Contessa. A New York mainstay, he’s finished, too. The labor laws in New York have created an impossible situation, more will fall and it’s not because the trainers were treating their employees poorly, it’s because the labor laws don’t fit the nebulous nature of working with horses. It’s complicated. And tragic. And only getting worse.

Gerry Dilger died. The affable and shrewd Irishman charted his own course from County Clare to Lexington, Kentucky, consigning some of the best, including Kentucky Derby winners Always Dreaming and Nyquist. He made friends and made a mark. Keeneland, Saratoga, McCarthy’s will never be the same. Rest in peace.