The Winners 2014 Under 15 Runner-up

"Did you have a good day?" Mum bellowed back to me whilst looking into the mirror.

"No, Mum… I had a great day!" I smiled back at her and started to rewind the day in my mind, over and over again. Earlier that morning, I was aware that a very wet and windy Warwick was waiting for me. I got back from the corner shop with my newspaper, and slouched into my Grandma’s favourite armchair with a raggedy old blanket, anticipating the day ahead. I was just so excited - knowing what to expect, as it was to be my second experience visiting there. I immersed myself in the Racing Post and The Morning Line, mesmerised by the vibrant colours of jockeys’ silks, and totally forgot to have my breakfast.

As we approached the course, my spine tingled with excitement. I immediately bought the racecard from a stand near the turnstile and the old man jokingly asked "Any fancies?" He seemed startled when I blurted out all of my selections like the aspiring journalist I was.

The paddock was easily my favourite place. The increasing anticipation of the crowd before a race, the press gingerly approaching famous names in the hope of capturing a prize photo and the horses dawdling around eying-up the opposition, everything about it gave me a buzz. So this was where I stood for most of the first race, before sprinting over to the rail to join in at the final furlong. I rewarded myself with a hot chocolate, which helped me gain back the feeling in my toes.

The second, third and fourth races whizzed by in what seemed like a matter of minutes. I was still without any winners by the end of the fifth race and decided to sit down on one of the paddock steps to try to come to terms with my disappointment. As I did so, the victorious Bob’s Collonges strode into the Winner’s Enclosure. A young man wearing a tweed jacket and matching flat cap asked me to move aside. I looked up at him and instinctively slid along the step. I then stood up and leaned on the rail, now realising that my jeans had become wetter than they already were. I took a glance at the ecstatic jockey, whose name I didn’t know until I checked my damp racecard that was tucked into my back pocket.

Ruby Walsh, an elegant man, carelessly tossed his mud spattered goggles in the rough direction of a young girl standing close to me by the rails. She looked up from her steaming hot chips, bent down cautiously to pick them up, examined them briefly, and then, without thinking, immediately flung them behind her in disgust at how dirty they were. Her chips were of far more interest to her.

The last race of the day was upon us and the jockeys were told to mount their rides, before leaving the paddock ceremoniously. I kept hold of my betting slip, and what little hope I had left of landing a winner. I wasn’t really paying attention for the early part of the race as my horse was in last place. Suddenly I heard his name "Dusk Retreat" being shouted from all those around me. I looked up and there he was, looming up on the outside of the leader. I looked away anxiously as they jumped the final fence together. My heart was beating faster than the horses pounding through the thick Midlands mud. "Go on!" I whispered to myself, gradually getting more excited. My horse crossed the line, a winner!

Running excitedly through the crowds, I tripped and fell at the feet of a man. I looked at his face, obscured by his muddy goggles, as I dusted myself down. He picked up my racecard, which had somehow fallen out of my pocket during the fall and handed it back. Still embarrassed, I gratefully took the racecard and carried on running. As I headed towards the exit with my pockets full to the brim with winnings, I realised that the man had signed my racecard. I held on to it for dear life: in awe that he had actually signed it: AP McCoy. Even a novice like me, in a world of Grade One winners, knew who AP McCoy was.

Suddenly’ I became aware that it was sadly all over. Chip papers and discarded betting slips blowing majestically in the wind were a signal that my special day had come to an abrupt end. I was still clutching my racecard, curious as to how much it could have been worth. Although, there was one thing still on my mind - no matter how much it was worth to someone else… it would always be priceless to me.