CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2018
Day 2 – Wednesday 14 March
Picture of the Day
The Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1):
The winner returns – Altior
trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville
I awoke at around 06:00 and decided not to get up until 06:15 today; I’m now quite laidback with regards to the time I arrive at the racecourse – it takes around an hour to get there from my hotel.
I went to the main Hall at 07:20 for breakfast; 3 rashers of bacon, a tomato, 2 large mushrooms, 2 yoghurts (red and yellow ... if you know what I mean!), and a croissant. I did ask for a pot of tea, but the waitress forgot it ... so I had an orange juice instead; you just can’t get the staff!
Having showered and washed and dried my hair pre-breakfast, I applied my make-up when I got back. I was so laidback that I didn’t actually set off for Cheltenham until 09:00!
I was expecting my journey to go smoothly as, surely, the rush-hour would be over by this time, and children would have already reported for school. However, having driven via my usual route into Witney, I got stuck in a lengthy queue upon the Woodstock Road; it took ages to reach the first of two mini-roundabouts. Having negotiated both of these, I then discovered that the road to Minster Lovell was closed due to re-surfacing; I should have known, having driven into town via that road, negotiating raised ironworks, the previous evening!
I had no option but to continue along the main street, with no idea where I was going! A diversion sign directed me to turn right ... I followed it into Welch Way. Traffic was still very slow moving; this was due to a set of traffic lights without a designated lane to turn right ... too many vehicles wanted to take this option, so I wasn’t going anywhere for a few minutes! Without a map, my instinct was to continue straight ahead and I soon arrived at a large roundabout; I followed the signpost indicating the route to Cheltenham.
This took me to a junction mid-way along the A40 Witney bypass; I passed a Premier Inn en route. Having joined the A40, I headed west. It was now 09:25! After the Burford roundabout, I got caught behind a rather slow-moving 4x4 and followed it all the way to Cheltenham.
As I was running later than expected, I was in two minds as to whether to fill up my petrol tank on the way in; I did, and still arrived at 10:25. Once again I was directed to park near the top of the northern car park, close to the railway crossing. One benefit of arriving close to opening time is the fact that, by the time I’ve walked to the entrance, the turnstiles are already open and the queues have disappeared.
The breeze was stiff and very cold today; even worse to the racecourse side of the stands. Having worn my Hotter ankle boots today, I didn’t feel like investigating the condition of the members’ lawn on day two. It had been a nightmare to clean my snow-boots and I’d already chickened out of wearing them today. Bearing all this in mind, I decided to base myself on the upper crescent of the steppings, overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure. It would afford a different perspective for my photographs; besides, I didn’t feel I’d been particularly successful yesterday, with my photography at the rails.
I did actually venture into the centre of the racecourse for the cross-country event, and the members’ lawn wasn’t all that bad after all – I think it must have been rolled overnight, and the wind would have dried it too. In fact it was the only time during this year’s Festival that spectators were permitted to cross the racecourse; the recent snow and rain having put additional wear and tear on the track without human footfall exacerbating this.
The favourite for the first race of the day was the Gordon Elliott-trained Samcro, ridden by Jack Kennedy; price 8-11.
There were no specific runners of interest in this race.
The race was won by the aforementioned Samcro, by 2¾ lengths.
The favourite for the next race was Presenting Percy, trained by Patrick G Kelly and ridden by Davy Russell.
There were no specific runners of interest in this race this year.
Presenting Percy duly obliged, by 7 lengths. Unfortunately the ultra consistent Black Corton was no match for the winner, and finished 5th.
Ruby Walsh’s mount, Al Boum Photo, fell at the second last and his jockey had to be assisted to walk back; it didn’t look good for Rupert ...
The joint-favourites for the Coral Cup were the Nicky Henderson-trained William Henry, ridden by James Bowen, and the Willie Mullins-trained Max Dynamite, ridden by Paul Townend; price 8-1.
I had three runners of interest in this race, River Frost ridden by Barry Geraghty, Bastien ridden by Tom Cannon and Dusky Legend ridden by Wayne Hutchinson; all three are trained by Alan King.
And the winner was Bleu Berry ridden by Mark Walsh; a 20-1 shot. Ruby was supposed to ride the Max Dynamite, with Paul Townend on Bleu Berry; a lucky last minute call-up for the winning jockey.
River Frost finished 15th, Bastien 17th and Dusky Legend fell at the second flight; she wouldn’t have been accustomed to running within such a large field.
The favourite for the feature event, was the Nicky Henderson-trained Altior, ridden by Nico de Boinville; he was the evens favourite.
Douvan had returned to Cheltenham, despite having not raced since he sustained a pelvis injury at last year’s Festival. The decision to run him today was taken when Ruby agreed to ride him ... but in light of events earlier in the afternoon, that plan had gone to pot and Willie’s son Patrick now took the ride instead.
In the event, Altior won. Having been niggled approaching three out, his turbo-charge had kicked in when he was switched to the outside just before two out, and he then went away to win by 7 lengths. It was impressive, especially on ground which connections admitted he hated!
Douvan had been travelling well when he fell 4 out; fortunately the horse and jockey were okay and they live to fight another day.
The favourite for the Cross Country race was the The Last Samuri, trained by Kim Bailey and ridden by David Bass; price 11-4.
Also taking part was last year’s winner, Cause Of Causes; a triple Festival winner already – the NH Chase in 2015 and the Kim Muir in 2016 being his other triumphs. Tiger Roll returned to the Festival too and was seeking his third win – he’d won the 2014 Triumph Hurdle and the 2017 NH Chase.
And it was Tiger Roll who won the race; trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Keith Donoghue. It was the jockey’s first Festival winner.
Cause Of Causes was hampered when Bless The Wings fell and was subsequently pulled up. The latter was last seen galloping up the service road, in the direction of the stables!
The favourite for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle was the Dan Skelton-trained Nube Negra ridden by Harry Skelton; price 15-2.
Alan King had one runner in this race, Lisp ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.
The race was won by Veneer Of Charm, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Jack Kennedy.
Lisp fell at the third flight.
The race favourite for the bumper was Acey Milan, trained by Anthony Honeyball and ridden by Aidan Coleman; price 9-2.
The winner was the Willie Mullins-trained mare Relegate, ridden by Ms Katie Walsh. Willie claimed a 1-2-3 in fact.
My runner of interest, the Jamie Snowden-trained Thebannerkingrebel, was pulled up due to breathing issues.
Having just held the Irish at bay, the previous day, it was almost a white-wash today, with solely Altior saving the GB from this indignity!
Ruby had been taken to hospital following his fall during the second race of the day and initial reports suggested that he might have re-broken his leg; the same injury he’d just recovered from. Regardless, he was sidelined for the remainder of this Festival.
I started my car at 18:20 today and, once again, was stuck in a queue to leave; in contrast to yesterday, I had decided to travel down the right-hand route within the car park. However, having finally exited the first gate, the roadway queue did move more quickly.
Once outside the gate, it was a clear run until Priors Road, near to the Bouncers Lane junction. I headed up Harp Hill and into Greenway Lane as usual but, today, there was a long tail-back from the traffic lights at Six Ways; it was probably the longest queue I’d ever encountered at this location. Too many people appear to have discovered my ‘quick getaway’ route!
Anyway, I eventually escaped Cheltenham at 19:10 and arrived back at my hotel at 19:55. I then settled down to a Pot Noodle, chocolate biscuits and a chocolate bar!
Having spent my time on the steppings today, apart from venturing out into the centre of the racecourse for the cross-country event, my Hotter boots proved far easier to clean than my snow-boots had been the previous evening.