How many times in the Premier League have you heard phrases like ‘it’s a two-horse race’?
Every time the hunt for the title in England’s top-flight becomes even vaguely entertaining, you can guarantee that the equestrian clichés will swiftly make an appearance and no doubt we’re incredibly guilty of it too.
In fact, not only do the horse hints hit home heavily with Manchester City and Liverpool slugging it out to dominate England, but we also happen to be in the midst of one of sport’s finest events: Cheltenham Festival.
The Premier League: Like a horse race
The madness of the Premier League and four days of horse-racing action in Gloucestershire might feel worlds apart, but you only have to look at all those idioms and sayings to see that they’re closer than you might imagine.
Thomas Tuchel is at the reins of Chelsea, you say? Roy Hodgson got back in the saddle at Watford, did he? Jurgen Klopp is chomping at the bit to win a second Premier League title, am I right?
Ok, even if you think we’re clutching at straws – do horses eat that? – then let’s at least bask in the amusing silliness and shenanigans of imagining that the Premier League season was literally like a horse race.
And no, that’s not just a case of us pointing out that poor Norwich are falling away and that Liverpool are making a charge but rather, we’re immersing ourselves firmly in the world of Cheltenham.
We’re going to be assigning each Premier League club their own horse name – 18-character limit applies – as well as pre-race descriptions based light-heartedly on the stereotypes surrounding each side.
In other words, don’t take what we say too seriously, because as much as the idea of a Tottenham Hotspur stallion literally finishing third in a two-horse race certainly amuses, it’s never actually going to happen.
Every Premier League club if they were a racehorse
So, park your brains at the door and remember that it’s all just fun and games as we imagine what names and characteristics all 20 Premier League clubs would have if they were racehorses at Cheltenham.
Arsenal – Invincible, Once
The future is finally starting to look bright again for a once-unbeatable horse that attracts punters so passionate about their form that they can never seem to decide whether their strapping, younger trainer is the man for the job or not.
Rabbles of angry punters might still gather outside the racecourse after every defeat to film Arsenal Dam TV, but there’s finally hope that an iconic stallion of the field can… place amongst the top four finishers again. Ah well, it’s better than nothing.
Aston Villa – Not In Its Hayday
An elder statesman of the paddock. Grandads will point towards this proud and brooding beast with fondness, before crouching down and whispering in their child’s ear: “I remember when they were good.”
Villa might have lost their finest stablehand with an even better mane than them, but there’s fresh hope of a comeback with a legendary jockey stepping into the trainer’s boots and hoping to put the final-hurdle slips of his riding days behind him.
Brentford – Stable, So Stable
This young buck on the ranch has an uncanny knack for always falling at a crucial fence, only to race on even stronger than before and with an uncommon stability and nous seldom seen in a racehorse with so little top-level experience.
And now that an incredibly-talented Dane is assisting them in achieving their goals, the new age of English horse racing is here to stay, so expect ‘Stable, So Stable’ to stay stably stable with it stablemates in such a stable stable.
Brighton & Hove Albion – Hipster’s Choice
We can picture it now: a spectacled, tweed suit-wearing punter slowly sipping on cappuccino froth, before turning to his ‘number one chap’ and saying in caramel tones: “This Brighton horse, old man, he’s the next best thing.”
However, despite ‘Hipster’s Choice’ being exactly that – continuing to attract wild predictions from fans claiming to be ‘ITK’ – you can bet that they’ll take a fence poorly at some point or another, disappointingly winding up in the middle of the pack.
Burnley – Hoof It
Ah yes, the horse that thinks running through the fences and hoping for the best is the way forward.
With their jockey Sean Dyche screaming: “This. Is. Lancashire.” at the top of his lungs in muddy claret and blue silks, ‘Hoof It’ really is horse racing’s answer to hit and hope where, frankly, you never have a clue where they’re going to finish.
Chelsea – Tu-chel For School
From changing trainers at a moment’s notice to splurging a fortune on changing their entire stable staff, ‘Tu-chel For School’ will do anything and everything to win silverware after decades of obscurity in the middle of the pack.
An even bigger hit on the continent than they are in domestic races, Chelsea might leave punters rolling their eyes with victory after victory, but it gets all the pensioners and geezers in the stands throwing their red wines into the air.
Crystal Palace – London RiVieira
A diehard favourite with the lads rocking up at Cheltenham in three-quarter suit trousers, loafers and a top hat from the local fancy dress store, ‘London RiVieira’ are an old classic given new life by an innovator at the reins.
The once sturdy, reliable and no-nonsense staple of Prestbury Park racing is now turning heads in the stables for a fresh and exciting change of direction that has left more than a few favourites eating their dust.
Everton – Having A Mare
Bless Everton. This once great champion horse has swapped competing for Gold Cup glory year in, year out for becoming the sorry sight of the paddock where punters are starting to suggest that it’s finally time to hang up the saddle.
Appointing a trainer who could well be out of his depth was the final roll of the dice to bring ‘Having A Mare’ back to their glory days of old, but it looks as though a crushing fall in the final furlong means they won’t be competing with the cream of the crop for a some time now.
Leeds United – Pressing Matter
Don’t even try telling ‘Pressing Matter’ that the Gold Cup is contested over three miles because they will just sprint, sprint and sprint with every sinew of their body until they either produce a masterpiece or completely blow up.
They always make for an entertaining watch and you’ve got to respect them for committing to such a mad-hat tactic, but you can’t help wondering whether it’s actually going to get them anywhere in the long run.
Leicester City – Against All Odds
Ah, the darling of the stalls that nobody hates because of the joy they brought for striking Cheltenham glory against 5,000-1 odds, darting from the back of the pack to out-jump the usual suspects in spectacular fashion.
Unceremoniously firing the trainer who made that fairytale a reality lost them a lot of lovers, but they’ve still been trotting above their weight ever since courtesy of an energy-drink-fuelled jockey with ‘Chat horse s***, get banged’ written on their silks.
Liverpool – Mentality Monster
‘Mentality Monster’ doesn’t neigh, it barks. With Jurgen Klopp at the reins, screaming: “What are you made of?” while slowly trotting around the parade ring, anybody going hoof-to-hoof with the heavy-metal horse better be ready for war.
There are even reports that ‘Mentality Monster’ defeated a legendary Catalan colt despite falling at three consecutive hurdles with Klopp himself, as well as stablehand Divock, carrying the great champion over the line.
Manchester City – Big Money Spender
Here comes the money. You know that City have arrived in the paddock when their diamond-encrusted horse box with little UAE flags fluttering at the top is hauled in by eighteen suit-clad bodyguards with watches bigger than dustbin lids.
The old-school blokes in the stalls might tell you that ‘money can’t buy you success,’ but try saying that when ‘Big Money Spender’ crosses the line by 50 lengths with their 24-karat gold saddle twinkling in the sunlight.
Manchester United – Theatre Of Memes
It’s sad to see what’s become of an all-time great racehorse that was just so dominant that punters started taking their wins for granted, but the departure of the trainer behind it all has seen them reduced to the butt of jokes on social media.
Rumour has it that one patron was literally laughed out of the racecourse for proudly declaring to their mates: “Do you know what, lads? I’m backing ‘Theatre of Memes’ today,” with everyone knowing that their local stablemates are the real bankers now.
Newcastle United – Make It Rein
The honest and hustling horse of the stables drinking from the working man’s trough is now tasting that champagne hay with a new money-bags owner ready to make them the banker that they’ve always known they can be.
Who knows whether or not throwing money at the best horse grooms on the market will be enough to bring back the glory days, but you can rest assured that a beer-bellied punter with a horse shoe tattooed on his stomach will love it either way.
Norwich City – Giddy-up, And Down
Bless them. It’s impossible to tell whether or not ‘Giddy-up, And Down’ should be competing at the Gold Cup or spending more time in the Manège because they always crash and burn in the big time despite so much promise.
Wild declarations of ‘Let’s be having you!’ from the owner’s box are simply lost on a sad and wistful creature that – despite its best efforts and intentions – always seems to find the tallest of fences too big of a jump up.
Southampton – To The Nines
Nobody hates ‘To The Nines’, but nobody really loves them either. This polite, unassuming and charming fixture of the Gold Cup is much like doors in your house: you never really think about them, but it would be so weird if they weren’t there.
Well, at least, that’s the case until every season they have one steeplechase where literally everything goes wrong, falling at every single fence, leaving punters in a state of disbelief and making national headlines out of absolutely nowhere.
Tottenham Hotspur – Silverwhere?
‘Silverwhere?’ walked into a bar once and when the bartender inevitably asked: “Why the long face?” they paused for a second, stared at the floor and replied that they’d just finished third in a two-horse race.
Poor old Spurs haven’t put a trophy on their mantelpiece for 15 years now, gaining an embarrassing reputation for always falling at the final hurdle just when it looks as though they’ve finally put a good race together.
Watford – Tiny Prancer
With a bright ginger mane and red-tinted blinkers, the former prized possession of Sir Elton John pops their muzzle in and out of the biggest races whenever their ‘sack the trainer every split-second’ tactic actually strikes it lucky.
Only time will whether appointing a wily 74-year-old who can’t go a week without wanting to breath in the paddock air will be enough to keep them in Cheltenham’s blue-riband event.
West Ham United – Proper Hard
Everyone’s blood pressure doubles when West Ham struts into the starting gates. The sound of their hooves on the grass is enough to make any stallion bury their head in hay and run off for a nervous toilet trip.
With two duelling hammers as their lip tattoo and more muscles than you thought a horse could possibly flex, nobody knows what will happen next, but you can guarantee they’ll fight tooth and nail for each and every furlong.
Wolverhampton Wanderers – Guys and PortuGals
Ah, you can just feel the Iberian vibes. ‘Guys and PortuGals’ shouldn’t be running through the grass, mud and excrement of Gloucestershire fields, but prancing majestically across a European beach to the sound of classical music.
They’re the good-looking cool kid that everybody’s mesmerised by at school, not necessarily performing best in the tests, but leaving everyone feeling jealous by making mid-pack finishes look so easy – and all without knocking their finely-groomed mane out of place.
Who would you back?
Come on, let’s be honest here, you’d all fancy a flutter on that race if it actually happened.
Then again, we’re not too sure that Tottenham and Manchester United would be shouting their name from the rooftops even if Leicester and Liverpool might be enjoying the sound of their own equestrian rebranding.
So, while it’s probably best for everybody’s sanity that we close the book on our ‘Premier League meets Cheltenham’ fever dream, it’s fair to say that the horse races in both events will make for blockbuster viewing.
Whether battling it out for Gold Cup glory or seeing if Liverpool can hunt down City is your cup of tea, the moral of the story is that both sporting festivals are even more enjoyable when you have a horse in the race.
We’ll see ourselves out…
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