DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL – DAY 3
– THURSDAY 18 MARCH 2010
The third day of the 2010 Cheltenham Festival dawned overcast in Hertfordshire. I was getting earlier and earlier with my setting-off time, as today I left home at 06:30. My journey then took me via Hemel Hempstead and Aylesbury, and around the latter’s outer ring-road, as the tanker style lorry I was following took the inner one. It’s obviously far quicker to go via the inner one this early in the day, as the same tanker lorry was a distance in front of me as I turned onto the A41 heading for Waddesdon and Bicester! Luckily the lorry wasn’t travelling too slowly, and I reached Bicester in good time, and then turned southwards onto the A34 heading for Oxford. But that was when my first travel problem began ...
The queue from the M40 junction stretched back almost to Bicester! So I took the Wendlebury turning, not knowing quite where I was going ... as I don’t have satnav ... or need it either!!! However, I didn’t turn left at the top of the slip road to follow the majority of the vehicles ahead of me, instead I turned right, and found my way to the B430. I wasn’t too sure whether to turn left or right, but I choose the former which, as it turned out, re-joined the A34, but at least I’d bypassed the long traffic queue! At Wolvercote, the traffic on the road between the A44 roundabout and the A40 junction was moving slower than on Tuesday, but faster than on Wednesday.
The journey along the A40 to Cheltenham again went smoothly, the next hold-up I encountered was ‘school’ related as I’d arrived in Charlton Kings during the morning rush-hour! Having eventually cleared the traffic queues heading for the town centre, I arrived at the racecourse at 09:00, once again parking in the bottom field of the west car park.
As I was very early, I decided to walk into town. Initially to purchase a map of Cheltenham, which I did in WH Smiths, then I popped into Next to find out if they had any sunglasses, which they did. I found a style which suited, but they were manufactured in two different colours – plum and brown – so, you’ve guessed it, I bought both as I couldn’t decide between the two!
I then dropped by the branch of one of the local recruitment agencies ... not to register for a job ... but to say hello, as I work at the Head Office and know a couple of the consultants. It turned out that the Manager, Georgina, is a bit of a racing fan too – her favourite jockey is AP McCoy, and she also likes Kieron Fallon and Frankie Dettori. I’d also held a Cheltenham Festival related conversation with Caroline from our Leeds branch the previous Monday – it’s good to find people who actually know what I’m talking about and who don’t find the conversation boring!!!
I excused myself in time to return to the racecourse by 11:00 and, having found a spot alongside the Parade Ring, I was in time to see Choc arrive back from walking the New Course.
Each day before racing there is a presentation in the Winners’ Enclosure where the leading personalities of the day are interviewed by either Ian Carnaby or Jonathan Powell. Today’s interviewees included Philip Hobbs, Eddie O’Grady, and Katie Walsh (sister of Ruby) who had won the Amateur Riders’ Steeplechase the previous day and had subsquently been voted winner of Wednesday’s Guinness Award. Also interviewed were Rachael Kane and Camilla Henderson (daughter of Nicky) in connection with the Festival Ladies Charity Sweepstake race in aid of Cancer Research UK which would take place at the end of today’s card.
Being Ladies Day, there were prizes for the Best Dressed Lady, the Best Hat and the Best Accessories. Zoey Bird from At The Races interviewed the winners, and Georgie Browne (partner of Paul Nicholls) was interviewed as part of her role as Ladies Day Ambassador.
As I was watching the horses parade for the first race of the day, I noticed Choc’s mum, dad and brother were standing not far from me, viewing the animals in the Parade Ring. When the weather was fine, his mum and dad would watch the races from the Owners and Trainers section of the main grandstand.
Choc didn’t have a ride in the first race. Although Alan King did have a runner, Awesome George, who was ridden by his usual jockey Charlie Huxley.
Prior to this race, and well before the horses had left the Parade Ring, I set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails. The start of this race was in the mid-course chute.
Then they were off. Heading towards the first fence, Fiendish Flame, Othermix and Gansey were prominent. In mid-field the AP McCoy ridden Jered over-jumped at the first and fell. AP was down for a while, having been kicked in the face, and would need stitches in a wound to his chin. Gansey, having gone to the front of the field, dived at the second and pecked on landing.
Gansey and Fiendish Flame were tanking along at the head of affairs, the momentum forcing them wide as they turned into the straight for the first time. Nicanor was soon detached in rear. Tanks For That blundered at the 4th; and Irish raider Lenabane fell at the 5th.
Fiendish Flame took the advantage approaching the 6th, but Gansey had taken up the running again by the 7th. The favourite, Rivaliste, was tracking the leaders, but would not jump well throughout the contest. Awesome George was in rear. Nicanor was pulled up.
Heading for the farthest corner of the course, Fiendish Flame led the way by 3 lengths. The fancied Hey Big Spender, when beginning to look like a major player, blundered and unseated Joe Tizzard at the 13th. Door Boy fell at the 14th, hampering Dave’s Dream who was in rear.
Fiendish Flame still led at the 3rd last, on his outside was China Rock and, on his inner, Othermix. In behind were Rivaliste and Copper Bleu, the latter travelling well. Copper Bleu led over the 2nd last and held off the persistent challenge of Othermix, before being driven clear towards the line. Another Festival winner for Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson, the latter’s 15th Festival victory, equalling Choc’s current tally. Awesome George was pulled up before 2 out.
I remained beside the course-side rails in preparation for the next race, in which Alan King had two runners, Chamirey ridden by Wayne Hutchinson and Trenchant ridden by Choc.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the back straight, with two full circuits to cover. Fredo was behaving mulishly at the start, but did set off with the other runners.
The field was led away by College Daisy, who blundered at the first, and Ballyfitz. Soon Buena Vista had pulled his way to the front. Around the first bend, Chamirey was prominent on the outside of the field, Trenchant to his inside taking a mid-line route.
Into the home straight with one circuit to go, Wayne Hutchinson’s mount had progressed into fourth position, with Choc tracking him.
Buena Vista still held the lead as they headed for the farthest corner of the track, Chamirey having taken 2nd from 4 out. The favourite, Alfie Sherrin, made a mistake 3 out. Trenchant was in 5th and being driven as they headed downhill for the final time.
Buena Vista was still clear when blundering at the last but held on to win by 5 lengths. Irish raider, Prince Erik, having chased the leaders from 2 out, stayed on up the hill to take 2nd by a head from Chamirey, with Cross Kennon in 4th. Trenchant had faded after the 2nd last, and finished in 16th place.
A winner for Hadden Frost, son of Jimmy Frost, who had trained the horse before it was transferred to David Pipe’s yard.
Choc dismounted from Trenchant as they came back down the horse walk, as his mount appeared to be a little ‘distressed’.
Once again I remained beside the course-side rails to await the appearance of the runners for the next event.
The start of this race was in the mid-course chute. This being the case, the horses cantered across the home straight and up around the top of the course to reach it. As I’d not been to the Parade Ring, or read the small print in the race-card, it was as Choc cantered across in front of me that I noticed Voy Por Ustedes was wearing first time blinkers today.
The field was led away by Deep Purple; Scotsirish hit the first, Schindlers Hunt blundering at it too. Choc rode Voy Por Ustedes to the outside of the field. Albertas Run, who had been travelling close up in second, briefly took the lead as they cleared the 5th. Deep Purple regained it at the 6th.
Ruby took Pocquelin up the inside, saving ground; Choc was in mid-division on the outside of the field. Barbers Shop hit the 7th. Scotsirish landed awkwardly at the water-jump (9th), Petit Robin hit both the 10th (open ditch) and the 11th (plain fence).
Schindlers Hunt, having been held up near the rear, dropped to the back of the field, unseating his rider at the 12th, an open-ditch. His jockey, Paddy Flood, was stood down for the remainder of the day. Voy Por Ustedes, still travelling on the outside of the field, was not fluent over the 13th. Planet of Sound, who had made headway from the 8th, hit the 13th and soon dropped out.
Albertas Run took over the lead again 4 out. Poquelin was travelling well in behind the leader, as was J’y Vole. Around the final bend, Deep Purple and Poquelin were disputing second, but J’y Vole was driven between them, resulting in some ‘argy bargy’ occurring between the protagonists. Albertas Run was driven clear before the last and went on to win by 4½ lengths from Poquelin, who battled up the run-in to beat the mare J’y Vole by a nose. Deep Purple finished in 4th, and Voy Por Ustedes was 6 lengths back in 5th.
The stewards took a look at the ‘interference’ which had occurred on the final turn, and deemed that the rider of J’y Vole, Davy Condon, had gone for a gap which was too small. He was awarded a 4-day ban for careless riding.
It was noticeable that AP dismounted very gingerly from Albertas Run when they reached the Winners’ Enclosure, presumably being very sore following his first race fall from Jered.
Alan King had two runners in this race, Katchit with Choc aboard, and the JP McManus owned Karabak ridden by AP McCoy.
As this was the feature race of the day, there was a pre-race parade, the horses being sorted into number order as they arrived on the course. The runners were then led up the course, with No.1 Big Buck’s at the front of the line. Having completed the parade, the horses set off through a gap in the rails, and up around the top bend to reach the start.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the back straight, with 2 full circuits to cover.
Then they were off. The field was led away by former Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, War Of Attrition, followed by Ebadiyan, Fair Along and Time For Rupert. Katchit took a centre line in 5th, with Lie Forrit on his inside. Tidal Bay and Big Buck’s were in mid-division, Sentry Duty brought up the rear.
Downhill for the first time, Sentry Duty was still in rear, Karabak preceding him. War Of Attrition led from Fair Along as they progressed up the home straight with one circuit to go. Sentry Duty made errors at the 7th, 10th and at 2 out, before being pulled up prior to the last.
Down the back straight, Big Buck’s was coasting just behind the leaders, Katchit to his outside, with Tidal Bay soon dropping out. Karabak stalked Big Buck’s.
When they reached the far end of the course Time for Rupert was sent up to dispute the lead with War Of Attrition, with Fair Along and Big Buck’s disputing 3rd.
Turning in, Katchit was in 6th place. With Big Buck’s now upsides Time for Rupert, cheekily Ruby Walsh looked between his legs to see if any of the other runners might be mounting a challenge. They weren’t. So he sent Big Buck’s on and, despite a minor blunder at the last, galloped on to win by 3¼ lengths from Time For Rupert, with Powerstation 11 lengths back in 3rd. Karabak stayed on under pressure to finish 4th.
Choc had eased Katchit towards the end of the race, and finished in 11th.
Sadly, once Katchit had reached the Unsaddling Enclosure, it was discovered that he was lame. Having then been transported away in the horse ambulance, he was found to have fractured a hind pastern. He did not have surgery, but the leg was heavily supported whilst he underwent a period of box rest. After a period to two weeks he was due to have his injury x-rayed.
I had remained beside the course-side rails, so my next view of Choc was as he cantered across the home straight on the way to the start aboard the Alan King trained Tarotino. The start of this race was in the mid-course chute.
Then they were off. The field was led away by The Sawyer and Atouchbetweenacara. Our Vic hit the first when prominent. Festival regular, Mister McGoldrick, tracked the leaders. Choc aboard Tarotino was on the outside of the field.
At the back of the field were Martys Mission, Chapoturgeon, Song of Songs, I’m So Lucky, Gwanako and Mount Oscar.
My Petra hit the 5th. Atouchbetweenacara hit the 8th, and I’m So Lucky blundered in behind. At the far end of the course, The Sawyer and Mister McGoldrick led from Great Endeavour. Having quickly made up ground on the outside of the field, Chapoturgeon was in fifth position jumping the plain fence at the top of the hill.
As they galloped downhill to the third last, a group of 13 had pulled away from the remainder of the field, the favourite Sunnyhillboy travelling in around 10th. Having lost touch with the main group, Choc pulled Tarotino up before 3 out.
The Sawyer began to lose ground as Great Endeavour came to join Mister McGoldrick at the head of affairs, the former travelling the better.
From Dawn To Dusk made a jumping error two out, and Song of Songs fell when in 7th, AP limping away to be attended by the medics. The grey Great Endeavour galloped on to win by 1¼ lengths from the favourite, Sunnyhillboy, who was closing quickly towards the line, having jumped the last obstacle in fourth. Chapoturgeon having looked dangerous 4 out, disappointed by fading into 7th.
Two painful falls for AP today, but also a Grade 1 win aboard Albertas Run in the Ryanair Chase.
It was now time for the sixth race of the day, the Amateur Riders Handicap Chase. The start of this race was a short distance down the home straight, with just over 2 circuits to travel. The weather had also taken a turn for the worse, as it was now raining.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Khachaturian and Oodachee. Khachaturian reached for the open-ditch (the 4th). Fingeronthepulse fell at the 5th, hampering Parsons Legacy, who unseated his rider. Freds Benefit was now in 3rd, with Heathcliff making a mistake at the fence before the downhill section (the 8th).
Khachaturian stood off the fence at the bottom of the hill. The favourite, Galant Nuit, was in mid-field. Heading out into the country again, Khachaturian still headed the field, followed by Freds Benefit, Oodachee, and Lysander. Heathcliff fell at the water-jump, Nostringsattached clouted the next obstacle.
At the top of the hill, 5 out, Khachaturian and Freds Benefit held a clear lead, with Ballabriggs in third leading the chasing group. Freds Benefit made a mistake at the fourth last, and Mr Robert fell at the same obstacle.
Down the hill Khachaturian remained ahead, his stable companion Ballabriggs now in second, the latter taking up the running around the final bend. Isn’t That Lucky, when in third position, took a tired looking tumble at the second last.
Ballabriggs slowed considerably on the run-in, but just held on by half a length from Faasel, then Gallant Nuit, and Ma Yahab. Long time leader, Khachaturian, finished 5th. A second 2010 Festival winner for Donald McCain Junior.
The screens were erected around Isn’t That Lucky, but fortunately the horse was okay and eventually rose to its feet to be led away.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back.
As the weather had turned inclement, I decided to ‘call it a day’ and leave once the riders for Race 7, the charity race, had left the Parade Ring.
Evidently, two riders had gained the advantage over the remainder of the field as they headed up the hill towards the line, Orla Madden aboard Prince Picasso prevailing by the shortest of distances from the Alan King trained Devil to Pay with Kate Doyle aboard.
Today, having returned to my car, I decided to leave immediately. As it was early, it was still light, and this made the journey across the Cotswolds far easier, despite the rain. The following day’s home bound journey was to be far worse, as it was both dark and wet!
Once again my journey took me via Oxford, Bicester and Aylesbury, and I returned via the A41 bypass to the M25 in order to fill up my car with petrol. I arrived home at 20:20, once again logging onto my laptop to upload my photos and update my blog before retiring for the evening.
Just one more day of my ‘Marathon’ week to go ...