Cheltenham? What’s that?

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When I reach Bernard Camp to talk about L’Homme Presse who runs in the Grade 1 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, he does a double take. Apparently, I am not the first person to contact him about this 7-year-old son of Diamond Boy and Romance Turgot and he doesn’t quite understand why he suddenly has become everyone’s centre of attention. “Well, it’s Cheltenham,” I say and he chuckles. “It’s a big thing then over there, is it?” he asks, and I don’t quite know what to say. Yes, having a horse running at Cheltenham is already an achievement and having a horse that is second favourite for one of the big races, is even rarer. “You really must speak to my friend Mickael Bauduin, who bred him with me,” explains Camp, who after a career that has spanned over five decades, has recently retired from breeding horses. “But I can tell you that no one wanted L’Homme Presse when we took him to the sales at Deauville. He wasn’t pretty and he wasn’t any good and there was no one who was willing to pay the 25 000 Euros we wanted. So we bought him back and brought him back home. And then he was bought privately by someone in France before being sold on to England.” He pauses and then explains: “Unfortunately Romance Turgot, the dam of L’Homme Presse, died of a heart attack last year. It was a real shame because the people who bought L’Homme Presse were keen on buying her, but that obviously didn’t happen.” Bernard Camp smiles when he hears that 70 000 spectators are expected at Cheltenham on Wednesday and he concludes: “This is the first time that one of our horses will run at Cheltenham and I think I will have to find a way to watch it on TV.” Yes, I tell him, I really think you should.