Jim McGrath on the Cheltenham Festival – Exclusive to VG TIPS

Jim McGrath on the Cheltenham Festival – Exclusive to VG TIPS
Jim McGrath talks to VG TIPS about the Cheltenham festival

Jim McGrath

I consider myself privileged to have Jim McGrath as a friend.

Formerly with Timeform, he is a respected authority on the pedigree of horses, owner of thoroughbreds and a profitable punter himself.

Jim is a classic case of a man proving that the harder you study racing and race form, the more successful you’ll be as a punter.

Having presented TV programmes long before his appearances on Channel 4 Racing and ‘The Morning Line‘, Jim is a wise man who has an analytical mind when it comes to racing.

I could offer you no greater tip than to suggest you listen closely to what Jim has to say about races on TV. Especially the big field handicaps he so relishes taking on.

When it comes to punting I long ago learned to trust my own judgement. But were I to follow the tips of one other person when it comes to racing, it would be Jim.

Though I am well chuffed to discover that I have had a bigger priced winner at the festival than Jimbo (Une Artiste 40-1 last year)

Jim will be an authorative voice when he is part of the Channel 4 racing team for the Cheltenham festival and, as my question and answer session below confirms, Jim is excited by the racing on offer.

After the Q & A you can watch my detailed on camera interview with Jim originally recorded at the end of 2011.

Jim McGrath

[symple_heading type=”h2″ title=”Question Time?” margin_top=”5px;” margin_bottom=”2px” text_align=”left”] VG What is your earliest memory of the festival?

JM Skiving off school with a bogus sick note and running home to watch Arkle win his 3rd Gold Cup – ONLY to find that my mother had arrived home from work early. “Oh if you’re not feeling well, you’d better go straight to bed.” – Aaaargh!

VG Which year did you first go and what do you recall of that meeting?

JM My first Festival visit was scheduled for 1978 on Gold Cup day. I didn’t have a car then and only managed to get there thanks to Timeform’s race card sales team. Alas, literally as we drove in through the gates, the stewards were abandoning, due a freak overnight snow storm, the meeting being postponed for 4 weeks.

VG What is your best ever winning bet at the festival?

JM 33/1 re The Thinker in the 1987 Gold Cup, whom I backed after he’d sluiced up in the Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase at Wetherby on Boxing Day.

VG And is it possible to pick out the most memorable race you have witnessed in the flesh at the festival?

JM Two stand out – Dawn Run’s Gold Cup in 1986 and Danoli’s triumph in the Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle in 1994. Both subsequently drew the most spine tingling receptions you can imagine – talk about raising the roof!

VG Can you put your finger on what makes the festival so very special?

JM Unlike the vast majority of Flat festivals, most attendees attend Cheltenham principally for the sport and a hugely good-natured Anglo/Irish rivalry engenders an incredible atmosphere.

VG Can a seasoned watcher such as yourself still get excited when that roar goes up?

JM Of course – we analyse and anticipate for months before the event!

VG Away from the winners, is there a race, horse, incident that stands out over the years?

JM In 1983, my then Timeform colleague, Geoff Greetham, urged Edward Gillespie to let fifth-placed Ashley House into the winners’ enclosure after the 1983 Gold Cup, so Michael Dickinson’s “famous five” (for anyone who doesn’t know, he trained the first five home that year) could be celebrated as one.

VG Any tips for those making a first visit to the Cheltenham festival?

JM It’s nothing special, but it IS important. The place is essentially a bottle neck and the traffic can be the stuff of nightmares – set off early and then some more!

VG And, this year, is there one horse or one race in particular that you are looking forward to seeing?

JM The clash between Simonsig and Overturn, both hugely exciting and unbeaten novice chasers, is, potentially, a hum-dinger.

VG I consider a handful of winning tips over the week to be a good effort? What say you?

JM I’d settle for that here and now![symple_spacing size=”20px”]

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