Gold Cup Day at the Woolpack

It’s gold Cup day at Cheltenham racecourse in the largest and most prestigious jumps race meeting in the UK and Ireland. It’s a busy and buzzy week in Gloucestershire and the lilt of Irish discourse is everywhere along with shouts of winning delight and woeful cries of disappointment. The Woolpack has a tradition of celebrating this event with televised races from Gold Cup day and punters make sure they have laid their bets for all the televised races and they enjoy a drink and some camaraderie with the regulars. The main bar is fairly full as is the snug where a small TV is seated 8ft high on a small shelf. A previous cellar manager, Elizabeth, who now works for one of the owner’s businesses, is amongst a number of regular punters are present including the owner, a local brewer, the landlord of another Stroud pub who likes his beer, and some of the regulars who frequent the main bar in the evenings.

The other two bars are quieter but have served a few lunches to walkers and visitors to the area. The pub owner sits next to Elizabeth and charts the bets that have been made and so everyone becomes aware fairly quickly who is successful and who has been disappointed but who generally shrug it off as they enjoy the ‘crack’. Regular pub goers from across the valleys have gathered for this annual event and they all seem to know one another. Outsiders would be unaware of this event as it is not advertised widely. Someone broadcasts some Irish music from a lap top and the ‘Crack’ progresses happily. A latecomer greets a regular ‘Hello Babe’ and gives her a kiss. She says ‘good to see you. How’s things’ and he says ‘fine’. They discuss her bar jobs and talk about local pubs closing. She greets the fellow’s partner with a hug and tells a friend in an Irish brogue a story about her Irish mother and betting.

A member of a group of middle aged men not seen regularly in the pub tries to turn down the volume and loses the race meeting on the TV to much laughter and ribaldry. Wendy is called and he says he has fixed it and then the TV crashes down just missing a punter sat below. Beer is spilt over his jacket and Wendy apologies for it. They move from their seats and Wendy stands on the seat and replaces the TV and finds the channel and everyone cheers and claps her. She suggests that they do not touch it again with a wry smile. The snug empties a little as punters leave for a smoke or to visit the facilities, most of which are, unfortunately, out of action but Dyna Rod is apparently on the way. Everyone takes it all in their stride.

Punters like being amongst the throng. ‘I’ve put on £4 to win’ is heard from one of the regulars and a part time member of staff. A dog looks anxiously as she eyes the comings and goings. She cheers up as her owner looks to move but she is ‘only ‘getting one in’. As the time for the Gold Cup arrives the main bar begins to empty and the TV snug fills up. At the same time Dyna Rod arrives. It’s all go here.

In the TV race bar a smart couple with a tie and cufflinks and an expensive coat sit under the TV unaware of the earlier incident. The race begins and there a shout of ‘GOOOOO on’ is raised. The bar staff try to peek through two large punters to follow the race. Half the bar chatters and the other half follows the race. We can hardly here the commentary so punters are following the colours of their choice. Six to jump and a call of ‘looking good is heard’. Many are on the same horse, ‘Cue Card. ‘He’s going well’ but falls at the next fence and a groan of despair resonates through the pub. There is a shout of delight as one punter who backed the favourite celebrates. Wendy arrives to ask which horse won. It’s a bit of a damper really but punters quickly recover to continue their afternoon at the Woolpack Gold Cup.

Wendy has a break outside on the common table with a couple of regulars having secured a speedy Dyna Rod arrival, fixed the TV and backed the winner in the Gold cup unlike most of her punters. She’s everywhere and she fixes everything.

As the afternoon’s TV coverage ends punters begin to disappear a hard core remain and are supplemented by those regulars who had to work joining them. Wendy and William are beaming as they had three winners in the last race and they celebrate by passing round scotch eggs to those remaining, ending another regular’s event at the cherished Woolpack Inn.

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