CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2018
Day 3 – Thursday 15 March
Picture of the Day
The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase:
The winner – Missed Approach
trained by Warren Greatrex and ridden by Mr N McParlan
... preventing an Irish clean-sweep of winners today
I was up at 06:00 today … and treated myself to a mug of peppermint tea before breakfast. The news was reporting concerns with micro-plastic molecules in bottled water – probably time to give up the Evian then!
I showered and washed and dried my hair before heading to the main Hall at 07:10. Breakfast was 3 bacon rashers, 2 hash browns, 1 tomato, scrambled eggs, a sausage, two yoghurts (both yellow), and two cups of coffee. I returned to my room at 07:40, applied my make-up and was ready to depart at 09:05. It seems that the more time I have, the longer it takes for me to get ready!
The traffic queue into Witney was shorter than the previous day; that’s because the Burford Road was open to traffic this morning. I got held up briefly by a skip lorry on my way out of town, but the journey to Cheltenham went smoothly. I did end up following a flat-bed lorry carrying building supplies, upon the Andoversford bypass; it even headed up Greenway Lane ahead of me. It makes me cringe, when I see large vehicles travelling that route. No wonder the road surface is in such a state, although this particular lorry turned right at the top, rather than head down Harp Hill.
I arrived at the racecourse at 10:20 today, parking up in the same area yet again. The turnstiles were open by the time I reached the north entrance. Following a trip to the loo, I went to stand at the top of the lower steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure; it soon started to rain, so I moved to shelter beneath the upper steppings. Whilst there, one of the EPDS members walked by; he (Murray?) stopped for a chat. He spotted his friend too, who also stopped to chat to us.
I subsequently headed up to the upper steppings, where I would remain for the rest of the afternoon. With Ruby Walsh now on the injury sidelines, there were a number of jockey changes today.
The favourite for the first race was the grey Terrefort, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Daryl Jacob; price 3-1. He’s one of my favourite horses.
But the race was won by Shattered Love, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Jack Kennedy. I know she won by 7 lengths, but she did have the mares’ allowance in her favour! All bar Terrefort and Shattered Love carried 11-4. The former carried 11-3 because he was just a 5-year-old and the mare carried 10-11.
The favourite for the Pertemps Handicap Hurdle was the Gordon Elliott-trained Glenloe, ridden by Barry Geraghty; price 9-2.
The race was still won by Gordon Elliott, but with Delta Work ridden by Davy Russell.
I had one runner of specific interest in this race, namely the Alan King-trained Who Dares Wins, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson. He finished a very creditable 5th.
This year, the feature race of Day 3 was the Ryanair Chase. The favourite was Un De Sceaux, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend; price 8-11.
Cue Card was also a runner today, this being his final season before retirement; he was 12 years old.
The race was won by the Henry de Bromhead-trained Balko Des Flos, ridden by Davy Russell; Un De Sceaux just had no answer today, although he did complete as runner-up. It was the first time that Michael ‘Ryanair’ O’Leary had won his own race!
Although having led to the fifth fence, Cue Card was soon struggling and Paddy Brennan sensibly decided to pull him up. Held in high affection, Cue Card received a very warm welcome as he was ridden back up the walkway to be unsaddled.
The favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle was Sam Spinner, trained by Jedd O’Keeffe and ridden by Joe Colliver; price 9-4.
There was a specific runner of interest in this race, namely Yanworth trained by Alan King and ridden by Barry Geraghty.
And the winning horse was last year’s Albert Bartlett victor, the Willie Mullins-trained Penhill; his first run this season. Winning jockey, Paul Townend, claimed his first ‘senior’ graded Cheltenham Festival triumph. He’d ridden Penhill to win the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle last year.
Yanworth finished a disappointing 6th and was described by his trainer as slightly distressed after the race.
The favourite for the Plate was The Storyteller, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell; price 5-1 ... and he duly obliged.
However, the star of the race for me was bottom-weight Splash Of Ginge who certainly gave the winner a run for his money!
The odds-on favourite for the next was the Willie Mullins-trained Laurina, ridden by Paul Townend; price 4-7.
There was a runner of interest in this race, the Martin Keighley-trained Spice Girl, ridden by Richard Johnson.
Laurina duly obliged ... by 18 lengths! Spice Girl finished in a creditable 8th place.
With the Irish team 6-0 up on the day, this would be the final chance for the GB team to prevent a clean-sweep.
The race favourite was Mall Dini, trained by Patrick G Kelly and ridden by Mr Patrick Mullins; price 4-1.
However, the winner was Missed Approach, trained by Warren Greatrex and ridden by Mr N McParlan. Phew, they’d prevented the dreaded whitewash!
The popular Double Ross ran with his usual determination and was rewarded with a 4th place finish.
Despite a final race win for Team GB, the Betbright Cup had been won by Ireland following the sixth race of the day.
The question was, could the home Team salvage some dignity on Day 4?
To avoid the problems of the exit traffic jams of the previous two days, I decided to stay to watch the Tattersalls Ireland Festival Sale; it began at 18:15 in the Winners’ Enclosure and I stayed until Lot 14 arrived in the sales ring. I also felt that I walked to the car park too quickly this evening; bearing in mind my current pelvis issues, although un-diagnosed at the time.
It was approximately 19:00 when I drove out of the car park and, having stayed later than usual, I was able to travel to the exit gate with no delay. Prestbury high street was clear again today; I’m convinced last year’s issues were caused by traffic police giving too much priority to vehicles exiting from Tatchley Lane onto the second mini-roundabout. I’m also pleased to report that my car’s engine fan, which was replaced last month at much expense, functioned well during my queuing delays; it was so noisy last year, it was embarrassing!
And just when I thought my journey back to my hotel was going well, I encountered a road closed sign in Witney; the Woodstock Road was blocked due to an accident. My only option was to take a right at the mini-roundabout in order to head into the great unknown ... but there just had to be a left-hand turn further along which would take me in the direction I wanted. I arrived at a set of traffic lights and, as hoped, there was a signpost indicating Bladon (that’s where Winston Churchill is buried) and Bicester. It was in fact Jubilee Way, just the road I needed.
Further along Jubilee Way, the entrance to the other end of Woodstock Road was closed too, with emergency vehicles parked along it. I got back to my room, in the Lodge, at 20:15. It was Pot Noodle again tonight!