Splitting Time

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With minutes to go before the 12:50 at Newbury Saturday, there’s a false start in the 12:45 at Towcester. I push away from my lap top, mutter and stammer. Yes, I’m cursing a false start 3,524 miles away. My mother, father and wife look at me, a combination of disdain and wonder.

They have no idea what’s coming. I know what’s coming.

The split screen. The nadir of international racehorse viewing.

Classic Case, Endofdiscussion, Lord Landen and the rest of the handicap chasers from Towcester line up and go again, but the false start has ruined GBI’s fine-tuned schedule. Actually, my fine-tuned schedule. When asked about Thanksgiving plans, I said, “Valdez at 7:50 Saturday…oh yeah, dinner with my parents in Pennsylvania Thursday.”

But, now a false start, this is like the stuffing being ready before the turkey. The big screen goes to the split screen, the 12:50 novice chase at Newbury flashes to life, five horses milling and then breaking. We think, it’s like watching a race through a key hole. They gallop to the first, five blips in the left corner, the smaller of the two small screens and the racecaller narrating the 12:45 at Towcester. I’m hoping it’s a 2-mile chase and not a 3-mile chase, the former will give us a chance, the latter and they’ll finish about the same time.

The Clancys huddle, closer than we’ve been all weekend. Dad recognizes Valdez’s white face. Mom spots Choc Thornton’s red cap, her touch to the dark blue and light blue silks designed so many years ago.

No sound. Surreal.

“He’s in the back, that’s good.”

“Looks like he’s jumping well.”

“Favorite’s gone. I think.”

Turning for home, Valdez is in complete control. We hold our collective breath.

He’s well clear, drifts right at the third-to-last, flies the second-to-last, pops the last. He wins for fun.

Even we can see that.

– Read The Sporting Life’s Road to Cheltenham.

– Photos of Valdez.

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