DIARY – CHELTENHAM – THURSDAY 16 APRIL 2009
Having obtained permission to take the day off work to attend Day 2 of the 3-day Cheltenham April meeting, I was in two minds as to whether to go when I woke up on Thursday morning, as it had rained heavily overnight and more heavy (and thundery) showers were expected during the day, both at home in Hertfordshire and in Gloucestershire. However, I decided that regardless of the weather, I’d prefer to go racing!
The first race of the day was scheduled for 14:10, with the gates opening at 11:30. As it takes over 2 hours to reach Cheltenham, I left home at 09:15, heading out via Hemel Hempstead, Aylesbury, Bicester, Oxford and the A40 across the Cotswolds to Cheltenham. The weather was damp and dismal until I turned south along the A34, when there were signs that the sun was trying to appear through the clouds. However, when I reached Cheltenham and took a right turning towards Prestbury Park, the bad sign was that Cleeve Hill was barely visible through the mist! A mid-afternoon picture is shown above – the hill is barely visible! I arrived in the south car park at around 11:35, where the top end of the car park appeared to have been taken over by travellers.
As I hadn’t bought a ticket, I walked around to the Centaur building (where for the first time I noticed that there is a centaur statue outside made from wire) to purchase a ticket for £20. Once through the turnstiles I walked down the concourse to the kiosk to purchase a race-card and then settled myself beside the Parade Ring/Winners’ Enclosure to wait for the first race. The weather wasn’t too bad at this stage as it was dry, and sunken nature of the area offered protection against any cool breezes. I did take a break at one point to explore the Cheltenham Collection tent located on the concourse just above me.
At around 13:45 it started to rain, becoming progressively heavier as the first race approached. The ‘new’ course is being used for this meeting.
As it was raining heavily I didn’t venture near the course-side rails for the first event, but remained in the relatively sheltered area just in front of the stands, where the grandstand roof offered protection.
Being 2 miles and 1 furlong in distance the start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, so the horses cantered up the horse-walk to the front of the stands before turning back on themselves to canter down past the winning post before re-entering the horse-walk for the remainder of the journey to the start. Then they were off.
The field was led off by Tataniano ridden by Ruby Walsh. He was followed by Stage Acclaim, Gold Award, Aachen and Smoke and Mirrors. Choc aboard Enfant de Lune was on the inside in 7th position. As they galloped away from the stands to go out on the final circuit, Postmaster was bringing up the rear. Enfant de Lune began to take closer order and, by the end of the back straight, was up into 3rd position. Postmaster and Nothing’s Easy also made ground on the leader, which remained Tataniano. At this stage, Smoke and Mirrors was labouring and Aussie Bay was pulled up.
The Queen’s runner, Gold Award, flattened the 2nd last flight. As they came around the final bend, Tataniano’s closest pursuer was Enfant de Lune, but Choc’s mount got tired as they came up the final straight and faded to finish 4th. Tataniano won by 21 lengths, having led all the way, Postmaster came through strongly at the end to the take 2nd place, Aachen finished 3rd. Gold Award fell at the final flight when tired, but both horse and jockey were okay.
As Choc had finished 4th aboard Enfant de Lune, he returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to unsaddle. As the horse is owned by the Million in Mind partnership, many of the owners had attended today and they remained in the Parade Ring area, so Choc went across to the rails to speak with a number of them before returning to the Weighing Room.
Shortly afterwards it was announced that there would be a third non-runner in the next race – Choc’s intended mount Tarotino. The other non-runners were Back Among Friends and Fire and Rain.
When the horses started to leave the paddock, I set off to watch the impending action. As the spectator numbers were low in comparison to my previous visits, there was plenty of room for me to stand by the rails near to the winning post to watch the race. Besides, it had stopped raining by this time.
The start of this race was in the mid-course chute, so the horses cantered out of the exit, across the course and up around the top bend to reach it. Then they were off.
Irish Guard led them off, followed by Saphir Des Bois and the white-splashed Pancake (wearing white blinkers today). As they turned the far corner, last were Ordre de Bataille and Mount Benger. Irish Guard was not jumping well, as during the first circuit he hit all 4 fences in the home straight. Richard Lee’s Mister Potter, under Jimmy McCarthy, was steering a wide course. Saphir Des Bois and Pancake led down the back straight, the latter making an error at the water jump.
Richard Johnson sent Pancake into a clear lead at the 12th fence, but he jumped the 13th slowly and made another mistake at the fence at the top of the hill, and having by this stage been re-joined by Saphir Des Bois. Mount Benger was making progress around the outside of the field. After turning into the final straight, Ruby’s mount Hivikos made a mistake at the 2nd last.
As the field cleared the last, Saphir Des Bois under AP McCoy was in the lead but Mount Benger came up strongly on his outside to take the spoils. Golden Child finished 3rd, with the favourite Ordre de Bataille in 4th. Pancake finished in 5th position, with Hivikos last of the 6 finishers. A 33-1 winner for Christian Williams, aboard the equal winning-most horse of the season (sharing this honour with Little Shilling).
I returned to the Parade Ring to see the horses for the next race, in which Choc would be riding Over Sixty. Alan King’s second representative in this race was Santia ridden by Wayne Hutchinson. This was the feature event of the day.
Once the horses were exiting the paddock I went to take up my position by the course-side rails just beyond the winning post. Choc exited the walkway and cantered to the start (in the mid-course chute) alongside Tom Scudamore aboard Gaspara. Then they were off.
The field was led off by Aimigayle, followed closely by Mossville, Caoba and Hora. The Andrew Tinkler trained Markila brought up the rear. Harry Skelton took Mossville wide on the course as they ran up the home straight for the first time. As they headed away from the stands, Choc aboard Over Sixty was taking his customary inside line in 5th. Santia was in 6th, with Lady Pilot and Markila bringing up the rear.
Down the back, Aimigayle was still in the lead, with How’s Business in midfield, with Markila making a mistake at the 6th flight having made up a little ground. By the top of the hill the lead was being disputed by Coaba, Mossville and Aimigayle. Over Sixty was just in behind but soon hit a flat-spot and dropped back. However Santia was running well and was up into 4th position as they rounded the final bend.
How’s Business was sent into the lead, pursued by Caoba and Hora, the former going on to win under Noel Fehily. However, after being referred to the BHA’s Disciplinary Panel, Noel was awarded an 8-day riding ban for whip abuse. Santia finished in 4th. Choc aboard Over Sixty finished in 7th.
I returned to the Parade Ring to see the horses prior to the next race, in which Choc’s mount would be the blinkered Pennek. Alan’s second representative in this race was Georgian King ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.
As the horses started to leave the Parade Ring I set off for the course-side rails to watch the race. The start of the event was at the beginning of the back straight so the horses cantered across the course and up around the top bend to reach it. Then they were off.
The field was led off by Cool Roxy, Copsale Lad and Kayf Aramis. The Package under Timmy Murphy brought up the rear.
Pennek was in mid-field, one off the rail. When they reached the top of the hill, first time, Cool Roxy was still taking the field along, followed by Copsale Lad, Ringaroses, Kayf Aramis and Galient. Wayne Hutchinson was travelling wide of the field aboard Georgian King – presumably to give him a good view of his obstacles as he’d had a couple of falls during the season, in a hurdle and a steeplechase with Choc aboard.
As they came up the straight, Choc was taking closer order in 5th position aboard Pennek, in the centre of the closely packed field. But then disaster struck. I was just preparing to take a photograph of the runners passing the stands and heading out onto the final circuit, when Pennek capsized on landing over the flight in the straight, the 6th obstacle. Having been near the front and in the centre of the runners, Choc was at the mercy of many galloping hooves.
My attention was diverted to the prostrate Choc who, after a delay and much to my relief, got to his feet just as the ground staff were preparing to erect green screens around him. He made his way to the horse-walk entry where he was greeted by Alan King, before he walked back to the Weighing Room.
Having been concerned for Choc’s welfare, I’m not sure how this particular race unfolded, but here is the result:
I gather Georgian King had a good run, finishing in 5th place. Pennek was fine after his fall too. I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses return.
As the weather had deteriorated by this time, and it was raining heavily, I decided to seek the shelter of the stands to watch this event in the dry. The 3 miles 2½ furlongs start is located just before the final fence in the straight and, as such, the competitors galloped up the horse-track in front of the stands before turning and heading to the start. A short while later they were off.
The field was led off by Sam Twiston-Davies aboard Baby Run, followed closely by Royal Auclair and Take the Stand. Merchants Friend took a crashing fall at the first obstacle, the horse was quickly on its feet, but the medics had to attend the jockey. As they headed out onto the first circuit, Thompsons Wood was at the back and already beginning to lose touch.
Although his jumping lacked fluency, Baby Run remained at the head of the field. Amicelli, under Oliver Greenall, made an error at the obstacle at the top of the hill, and didn’t jump the fence at the bottom of the hill particularly well either. Having tailed off, Thompsons Wood was pulled up at this stage. As the fallen jockey was very late to rise, they were preparing to doll the next fence off, a flag bearer already making his way to the corner to warn the competitors. However Will White (the rider of Merchants Friend) got to his feet just in time and a member of the ground staff made swift repairs to the fence before the runners arrived.
The next casualty was Swift Wood, which fell at the 12th, leaving just 4 horses to go out onto the final circuit. As they proceeded down the back straight, Royal Auclair started to struggle and was given reminders, Amicelli taking advantage and moving up into 3rd place. Take the Stand blundering noticeably 4 from home.
Baby Run was still in the lead as they came into the final straight, but Amicelli was chasing him home despite the fact that Oliver Greenall had lost his whip at the top of the hill and could offer encouragement purely of hands, heels and slaps down the neck! By the last fence Baby Run had been almost caught by his pursuer, and despite the long time leader’s best efforts, Amicelli overtook him just before the line. A victory for top weight, under a hands and heels drive. Royal Auclair rallied to take 3rd from the only other finisher, Take the Stand.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses come back in and await the runners for the next race.
Again, once the horses had exited onto the course, I walked through to take shelter in the stands to watch this race. The rain now appeared to have settled in for the day. This event was Division I of the Mares’ Standard NH Flat Race and the start was at the far end of the home straight, with one circuit to complete. The horses cantered up the horse walk past the stands before turning to make their way to it. Then they were off.
The field was led off by Piglet on the inside and Top Flower taking a route out wide. Pull the Wool was misbehaving just after they’d set off, but had given up that game and settled at the back of the field as they turned away from the stands. Top Flower still led down the back, followed by Cloudy Spirit and Girly Whirly. Basford Lady was taking closer order and moved up into 4th place, then up into 3rd at the top of the hill.
The long time leader, Top Flower, was being challenged by Basford Lady as they turned into the final straight, with Cloudy Spirit close behind. Basford Lady galloped on to win, with Cloudy Spirit switching to the stand-side to take 2nd, and long-time leader Top Flower 3rd. Pull the Wool, having made up a great deal of ground since misbehaving early in the race, ran on to take 4th.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses return and await the arrival of the runners for the final race, Division II of the Mares’ Open NH Flat Race, in which Choc’s mount was Anadama.
As for Division I of this event, the horses cantered up the horse walk before turning to proceed to the start at the far end of the home straight. I took shelter in the stands once more. Then they were off, at first the pace was dawdling!
Leading up the straight were Boa, Shayaza, then Moscow Jewel. Elegant Olive, trained by Roger Curtis, was in 4th (I’d seen her at the Lambourn Open Day), and Choc aboard Anadama was in 5th taking a middle line. Last was Flaviola.
By the end of the back straight, Choc was in a group of 5 just behind the current leaders, Shayaza and Boa. Line Freedom was travelling well at the top of the hill, but Elegant Olive started to drop back. Into the final straight, there were two horses disputing the lead, Line Freedom and Present Your Case, Shayaza in 3rd position now. Miss Molly Moses and Silver Phoenix followed these.
Line Freedom, under Barry Geragthy, went on the win very easily, Present Your Case took 2nd, with Shayaza staying on to take 3rd. But Choc hadn’t given up aboard Anadama, and having dropped out as they came down the hill, they rallied at the end to claim 4th.
I walked through under the stands to reach the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc return in 4th position, unsaddle, and speak with connections before returning to the Weighing Room. It was then time to leave. I returned to my car, taking a short break to eat some M & S cheese-straws (my new food addiction) and a Snickers bar, before setting out for home.
There was no queue out of the car park today, which was a great relief, and the roads around the course were clear too. The only minor hold-up was through Charlton Kings, but the remainder of my journey home went well as I retraced my route back. As it had been a wet day, it was gloomy until darkness finally fell. I arrived home at 20:20.