DIARY – CHELTENHAM – BETVICTOR GOLD CUP DAY
SATURDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2017
Bryony Frost and Black Corton win the Novices’ Chase
By the end of the 2017/2018 National Hunt season, I was aiming to surpass a total of 200 racecourse visits since my first in April 2008. This number included the infamous Newbury ‘electrocution’ fixture in February 2011 because, although abandoned, there was one race that day, but it didn’t include the abandoned trip to Cheltenham in December 2008 when racing was called-off mid-morning due to water-logging; although I did walk the course with Choc that day J. Ahead of racing today, I was standing on 189 racecourse visits, with plans to also attend Newbury (x1), Kempton Park (x1), the Cheltenham Festival (x4), the Aintree Festival (x3) and Sandown Park (x1).
This particular day had been on my bucket list for a while; I’d attended the Sunday of the November Meeting (previously known as the Open) in 2008, my first ever visit to Cheltenham racecourse in fact. It’s a 3-day fixture and the Friday had been cold, but bright and dry; there was a threat of rain on Saturday, but it was predicted to clear early afternoon having moved further south. I’d been on annual leave on said Friday, and I’d even washed my car in expectation that the weather wouldn’t be too bad.
My outfit, chosen on Friday, consisted of three thermal T-shirts – violet, pink and purple – a magenta-coloured ribbed polo-neck sweater, a mauve BHS cardigan, purple fleece, black fleece gillet, my black faux sheepskin BHS coat … with another black BHS coat as a standby. A recently purchased check skirt from M & S – it has a beige background, with grey, brown and black stripes within the checks. I also planned to wear brown tights and my flint-coloured Hotter ‘Danville’ ankle boots. I took both my black with white horses M & S lightweight snood and my recently knitted ‘Cherry Chip’ Caron Cakes snood too. I also packed a pair of M & S wrist-warmers and water-proof hat. As I was wearing a high neck, there was no need for a necklace, just earrings; I chose the purple/pink/yellow butterfly-wing ones.
I looked up gate opening time; 10:00 evidently. This being the case, I set my alarm clock for 05:00 … approximately. Having woken, I showered, washed and dried my hair, applied make-up and ate a breakfast of two croissants and drank half a cup of tea.
I had intended to leave home at 07:15, but I changed my mind regarding my skirt and boots just ahead of setting off; it had been cold when I drove the car out from underneath the carport. I decided to wear a pair of jeggings beneath my skirt, but my stone-coloured pair didn’t look quite right when worn with my check patterned M & S one. I wore a pair of black jeggings with my grey tweed double-frill M & S skirt instead. I also replaced my flint-coloured ‘Danville’ boots with a pair of black ‘Danville’ boots; I love my ‘Danville’ boots and purchased the black version in a sale.
I now left home at 07:28, according to the clock within my car. My route took me along the ring-road and down to the London Colney roundabout, then onwards to join the M25 at junction 20. I continued around the anti-clockwise carriageway to junction 16, at which point I took the slip-road onto the westbound carriageway of the M40. There were no issues on either of the motorways and I left the latter at junction 8 to head towards Oxford on the A40.
There was a slight issue at the Headington roundabout, with workmen in the process of removing cones as I arrived at the junction. I continued along the Oxford Northern bypass road, through a set of traffic lights and soon arrived at the Cutteslowe roundabout, followed by the Wolvercote roundabout. I then headed out towards the Cotswolds upon the A40; it heads under the A34, then over two bridges before a set of traffic lights. The next junction is the Eynsham roundabout, where a car pulled out of the service station just ahead of me. There’s another set of traffic lights, adjacent to a second service station situated to the north-side of the road; this one was closed however, due to redevelopment. Shortly afterwards I drove past the Evenlode pub/restaurant to the left-hand side of the road; the Witney bypass commences no long after that.
Having reached the far end of the bypass, I continued out along the ridge heading for Burford. At this point, a bird of prey glided across the road seeking to land to my left. It was quite light in colour, and big, so I presume it was a common buzzard. I also saw a number of red kites during my journey; they are very easy to identify because of their forked tail, and are very common in the Chilterns area too. In fact I now see them regularly on my new route to work.
Anyway, after Burford, I was alone in my journey from there to the roundabout upon the Stow to Cirencester road; there were no vehicles ahead of me or visible behind me either. It appears that finally, the unfinished and now derelict houses situated not far beyond the Inn for All Seasons, are being dismantled. I caught up with the tail end of a convoy as I headed towards the Puesdown Inn, and another vehicle appeared in my rear-view mirror at this point also. Not far beyond this location, the road begins to descend towards Andoversford; the car overtook me as we drove down the short section of dual carriageway.
I had to wait at the Gloucester Road junction for the lights to change, after which I continued past a petrol station and around the Andoversford bypass. Following a sharp left-hand bend, the road descends once more, with a recommended speed limit of 40 mph. The Dowdeswell reservoir soon appears to the right-hand side of the road and, further on, the A40 enters Charlton Kings.
As per my regular route, in order to bypass any traffic issues, I headed up Greenway Lane and down Harp Hill, before travelling via Bouncers Lane and turning right at the far end to enter Prestbury. There were a couple of vehicles parked illegally on double-yellow lines within the High Street; this made it a little difficult for through traffic. I continued to the roundabout at the far end, before turning left to continue along the B4632 to Southam.
I followed the signposting, turning left, then left again, to head along Southam Lane to reach the entrance to the racecourse on my left. I continued up the drive, swapping over to the right-hand lane in order to enter the northern car park. En route I did check with a steward, just to make sure I could continue upon the roadway, rather than having to bear off to the right along a muddy track as one of the signs suggested.
Having negotiated a bridge over a brook, I soon entered the car park, turning off to the right in order to check in with the stewards; I had a parking docket, which I waved at them and they let me pass. I headed up the hill, close to the railway line, before turning left and being directed to park in the first row, facing the hedge. It was 09:40.
I ate two of the cheese rolls I’d taken with me, before putting on my coat and heading along the pedestrian walkway which runs through the car parks to the Northern Entrance. It was gate opening time by now, but everyone had to wait an extra 10 to 15 minutes before the doors leading to the turnstiles were actually opened. I purchased a programme whilst I waited in the queue; £4. Bags were checked, but it certainly wasn’t a thorough check, more a cursory glance inside!
Anyway, I headed to the ladies’ loo within the ground floor of the main grandstand, before settling upon a position underneath the upper viewing deck overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure. There had been a few spots of rain as I walked towards the entrance and it was now drizzling heavily. Great.
There was a BetVictor stand behind me and one of the customer service people asked me if I’d like to take part in a competition to guess the winner of the 2015 longer distance handicap chase; the equivalent of race 3 today. Okay ... so I chose Sausalito Sunrise. The race action from 2015 was then replayed prior to the start of today’s racing and my choice duly obliged! It was actually a shot in the dark, or maybe it was an educated guess! Or perhaps some faint memory which I conjured up. The prize was a £10 free bet, added to my BetVictor account ... if I had one. Needless to say, I didn’t claim it.
The rainfall gradually became heavier whilst I continued to wait within my ‘shelter’. I’m sure it wasn’t supposed to be like this today. There was a pre-races presentation, by Martin Kelly; his guests included Richard Johnson, but the steppings remained deserted due to the dampness.
The horses arrived in the Parade Ring ahead of the first race and I duly set off to find a position beside the course-side rails. I’d put on my waterproof hat by this time, thinking that I’d not need an umbrella. One of the stewards checked the validity of my badge electronically as I passed through the tunnel to reach the far side of the grandstands; I obviously looked a little shifty!
Anyway, it transpired that I was almost the only person who’d decided to brave the rain at this point and I very nearly had the entire length of the course-side rails to choose from; so I went to my favourite spot, at around the half furlong point. I had to take care on the grass, as water-logging had made it slippery.
The evens favourite for the first race was Apple’s Shakira, owned by JP McManus, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty. As the name might suggest, she’s a full-sister to the very talented Apple’s Jade. Apple’s Shakira’s former trainer, Emmanuel Clayeux, also had a representative in this race, namely Eh Georges. His current charge had been entered in the Cheltenham sale held the previous evening but hadn’t reached the reserve price and would, presumably, return to France following today’s race; Emmanuel described him as a ‘chaser in the making’. The winner of last year’s event was Defi Du Seuil who went on to win the Triumph Hurdle.
The starting gate for this race, being two miles and 87 yards, was at the far end of the home straight. Today’s races were run on Cheltenham’s Old Course.
And then they were off with, as expected, the sole grey Gumball leading the way; being a 3-year-old, he was a very dark grey. The leader was slightly ungainly at the first flight but continued to lead from Apple’s Shakira, Apparition, Eragon De Chanay, Speedo Boy and, bringing up the rear, Eh Georges. It was a long run to the second flight, which was situated close to the main grandstands area; the order remained unchanged throughout and they all negotiated this obstacle without an issue.
Gumball was eased back as they turned to head up the hill, having been three or four lengths clear of his rivals prior to this; Eh Georges was detached in rear by three or four lengths at this stage. Having negotiated the bend into the back straight, Richard Johnson let his mount stride on once again and he was a number of lengths clear of the field as they all jumped the first flight therein without incident.
The French-trained horse began to lose further ground as the runners continued along the back straight towards the fourth flight. The leader landed on all fours over this one and Apparition wasn’t particularly fluent either. Now heading uphill towards the far turn, Gumball continued in a clear lead, from Apple’s Shakira, Eragon De Chanay, Apparition, Speedo Boy and Eh Georges; the latter was some way behind and appeared to be struggling.
Having reached the far turn, the runners swung left-handed to travel downhill to the third last. Richard Johnson had decided to take the shortest route around the inside, Apple’s Shakira travelled down the middle, with Eragon De Chanay to the wide outside hoping for the better ground; in soggy conditions like today, the outside is always the jockeys’ preference. Anyway, the runners cleared the third last, where the tiring Apparition blundered.
Gumball remained ahead as they cleared the penultimate flight, but only by a length from the filly and he wasn’t particularly fluent here. Thus, as they headed into the final turn, Barry Geraghty’s mount took the lead and was angled out towards the nearside rail; Richard Johnson decided to remain along the inside. There were no dangers in behind, with Eragon De Chanay holding third position, from Speedo Boy and Eh Georges; Apparition continued but was now completely tailed off.
Having popped over the last with three or four lengths advantage over Gumball, Apple’s Shakira was pushed out to extend the margin before being eased down well before the line; the winning distance was 17 lengths! Gumball drifted right on the run-in but held on to the runner-up spot by five lengths from Eragon De Chanay. Eh Georges was less than two lengths behind him in 4th and Speedo Boy completed two lengths further away in 5th. Apparition did complete, in last place, although he was almost pulled up on the run-in.
I didn’t return to the Winners’ Enclosure following the race; I continued to tough it out beside the course-side rails.
There were just three runners in the next; the favourite was the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Ballyoptic, ridden by Richard Johnson and priced at 10-11; son Sam was currently on the injury sidelines. His two rivals were the Colin Tizzard-trained West Approach who is a half-brother to Thistlecrack, plus Black Corton trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by the rising star Bryony Frost. Black Corton had already won five of his six starts over fences and on the last four of those had established a very good partnership with his lady rider. The duo had also won at Cheltenham’s Showcase fixture the previous month.
The starting gate for this race was between the second nearest and nearest fence in the home straight.
And then they were off, with Black Corton narrowly ahead as they approached the first fence; Ballyoptic then jumped into the lead. Being the Old Course, there is a fence on the uphill stretch of the track in front of the Best Mate Enclosure; West Approach was a little slow here whilst travelling in rear. Ballyoptic led the runners around the turn and into the back straight, the Colin Tizzard runner was now close on the heels of the other two having been chivvied along by his jockey Tom Scudamore.
The horses continued down the incline to the third, with Ballyoptic now three or four lengths clear as they jumped it; once again West Approach was a little slow at this one. The next fence was the water-jump and all three cleared this in their stride. The first open-ditch followed and, once again, West Approach was less fluent than his two rivals.
Ballyoptic remained at the head of affairs to the next, a plain fence; they all cleared this well. The runners continued to climb up the hill, negotiating the dogleg turn on their way to another open-ditch. The leader got a little bit close to this one but it didn’t affect his momentum and, yet again, West Approach fenced it slower than his rivals. Having now reached the top of the hill, the horses swung left-handed to head down the hill towards fence number eight; they all cleared this well.
There is quite a run to the next, the fence having been moved into the home straight a number of years ago due to serious injury issues when in its former position; although it can still prove tricky in its current location due to the proximity to the home turn! However on this occasion all three cleared it well and they headed to the next which would be the final fence on the next circuit. Ballyoptic got too close to this obstacle and, as a result, skewed in the air but landed safely despite this.
Richard Johnson’s mount continued with a three lengths advantage as they began their journey up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure; all three horses jumped the uphill fence well before heading around the turn and into the back straight for the final time. There were no jumping errors at the first fence therein and they continued to the water-jump once more. The competitors cleared this well with Black Corton and West Approach now taking closer order as they headed to the open-ditch.
However, Ballyoptic was the quickest over this one, with West Approach the slowest; the runners became a little more strung-out again. All three negotiated the plain fence safely, with Tom Scudamore bumping his mount along having jumped it. The next fence was the final open-ditch where, once again, West Approach cleared it more slowly than the other two.
Ballyoptic continued to lead as they headed into the far turn and began the journey downhill to three out; as the fence approached, Black Corton loomed up to the outside of the leader. It was Bryony’s mount’s turn to make a mistake and he lost a couple of lengths as a result. However, he soon recovered and his jockey had urged him into a three lengths lead as they turned in; Ballyoptic remained five lengths clear of West Approach.
The runners continued to the second last, where Black Corton put in a fine leap to hold off the staying-on Ballyoptic. Richard Johnson continued to galvanise his mount as they headed to the last and was now less than a length behind. However, he got too close to the fence and blundered away his chances, leaving Black Corton to pull away all the way to the line; the official winning distance was 4 lengths … although it looked further than that! West Approach came home in his own time to claim 3rd position, 29 lengths behind them. It was a win for the outsider of three …
Bryony loves ‘Blackie’ and, as always, was keen to give credit to her mount. Black Corton is owned by the Brooks, the Stewart Family and … Jeremy Kyle! The horse is only 16.1, not a typical chasing type and didn’t even particularly like today’s ground; he’d been campaigned over the summer because connections were convinced he wouldn’t like true winter ground.
The French-bred Black Corton had never been placed outside the first 4 in any of his races, including the four races in France for previous connections. Having suffered a narrow defeat at Newbury on his subsequent run, he and Bryony then went on to win the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. I was due to attend the 26 December fixture but cried off because I felt under the weather due to a head cold. L
I continued to ‘style it out’ beside the course-side rails; at some point I did decide to resort to an umbrella, but not before my snood and polo-neck sweater had become pretty soggy.
This race was the marathon event of the day, over 3 miles and 3½ furlongs; the starting gate was at the far end of the home straight, with that and two full circuits to travel.
The favourite was Premier Bond, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville; price 4-1. The top weight was Minella Rocco, runner-up in this year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup and winner of the 2016 Festival’s National Hunt Chase.
And then they were off, with the white-blazed face of Three Faces West leading the runners over the first fence. All having successfully negotiated the first, the horses headed over the next; again they jumped it well. Three Faces West continued with a four lengths advantage over Sizing Codelco as they joined the main circuit on their journey to the third fence. Perfect Candidate travelled in third position, from Shotgun Paddy, Vicente, Minella Rocco, Benbens and Premier Bond.
The favourite wasn’t particularly fluent at the third fence and subsequently received reminders from his jockey, Nico de Boinville. The eight runners continued over the next and were strung out as they headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure on their way to the fifth; both Sizing Codelco and Premier Bond jumped this more slowly than their rivals. Three Faces West hopped over the next as he continued to lead, with the favourite now detached in rear by around five lengths.
There were no issues at the water-jump, although Premier Bond continued to travel with less enthusiasm than the others. The leader jumped the next boldly; it was the first of the open-ditches. The runners continued up the hill, clearing a plain fence before negotiating the dogleg turn. The next fence was also an open-ditch; Minella Rocco reached for this one, unbalancing Barry Geraghty briefly, but the partnership survived.
Three Faces West’s lead had been reduced as they headed around the far bend and began their journey downhill towards fence number eleven. Sizing Codelco continued to travel in second position, from Vicente, Perfect Candidate, Shotgun Paddy, Benbens, Minella Rocco and, still detached, Premier Bond. Eased back slightly before the fence, Vicente made a slight error; Shotgun Paddy was less than fluent too.
The runners headed into the home straight once more, with Perfect Candidate having now assumed second position behind the leader. All eight cleared the two fences therein without incident before they headed back up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure once more. Three Faces West led them over the uphill fence, where Shotgun Paddy made a mistake. Having been fighting a losing battle for most of the race, Nico de Boinville decided to pull up Premier Bond before this fence.
This left seven runners to continue into the back straight for the final time; Three Faces West led from Perfect Candidate, Vicente, Sizing Codelco, Benbens, Shotgun Paddy and Minella Rocco. The horses negotiated the next fence without incident, although Sizing Codelco was soon relegated to sixth position. The next obstacle was the water-jump, after which Perfect Candidate received a reminder from jockey Paddy Brennan.
The following fence was the penultimate open-ditch, with Vicente and Benbens less fluent than their rivals over it. Perfect Candidate was shadowing the long-time leader as they cleared the plain fence; at the rear of the field Minella Rocco blundered at this one and was pulled up shortly afterwards. Meanwhile, the remaining six headed around the dog-leg turn and approached the final open-ditch. Three Faces West was currently disputing the lead with Perfect Candidate, from Vicente, Shotgun Paddy, Benbens and Sizing Codelco. Shotgun Paddy made a mistake at this one and was soon relegated to last position.
Three Faces West held a narrow advantage, to the inside of Perfect Candidate, as they headed around the far turn and downhill towards three out. The Fergal O’Brien runner was more fluent at this obstacle and took the lead. Thus, Perfect Candidate led the field into the final turn, from Vicente and Three Faces West; Benbens was in fourth position, from Sizing Codelco and Shotgun Paddy.
Turning into the home straight, Perfect Candidate led over the second last; Vicente was closing but stumbled slightly on landing over this one. Paddy Brennan’s mount retained the advantage as they approached the last and he was more fluent when clearing it than was the Paul Nicholls runner. However, Vicente rallied after the last and was soon closing upon the leader. Would he get there in time? The winning post was approaching fast and … Perfect Candidate just held on, by a neck at the line.
Three Faces West completed in 3rd, 17 lengths behind them. Benbens was 4th, Shotgun Paddy 5th and Sizing Codelco 6th.
The rain hadn’t yet defeated me and I remained beside the course-side rails, very soggy but unbowed!
The favourite for today’s feature race was Kylemore Lough, trained by Harry Fry and ridden by Noel Fehily; price 4-1. It was the horse’s first outing for this new yard, having left Kerry Lee’s stable.
The starting gate for this race was positioned within the mid-course chute, the horses travelling across the race-course and up along the all-weather track in front of the Best Mate Enclosure to reach it.
And then they were off, with Days Of Heaven late to join the others having trotted in from the hurdles course and thus started off behind the others. Foxtail Hill led the runners away, from Plaisir D’Amour and Splash Of Ginge. Travelling in mid-field and very keen, Theinval got too close to the first fence and crashed out; Guitar Pete was brought to an almost standstill in the incident but survived.
Meanwhile, Foxtail Hill continued to lead, from Kylemore Lough, Starchitect, Plaisir D’Amour, Splash Of Ginge, Bentelimar and Ballyalton as they headed over the second fence. The runners traversed the Old Course before jumping the third; they then continued over the New Course before heading downhill towards the far turn. Following the first fence incident, Guitar Pete trailed the field. Theinval was fine too, as he had galloped after them having regained his feet; good news, as I like Theinval.
Turning into the home straight, the runners soon headed over the fourth fence; Foxtail Hill held the clear advantage over his rivals and Guitar Pete had now tagged on to the back of the field. The horses continued their journey up the home straight, clearing the next in their stride before joining the Old Course circuit.
Foxtail Hill continued to lead, from Kylemore Lough, the blinkered Starchitect, Bentelimar, Splash Of Ginge, Aqua Dude, Double Treasure taking the shortest route along the inside and, to the outside, the hooded Days Of Heaven. Behind these were Ballyalton, Le Prezien, Plaisir D’Amour, Romain De Senam, Viconte De Noyer, Lake Takapuna, Tully East and Guitar Pete. Bentelimar hit the next fence.
The runners cleared the fence in front of the stands without incident and Guitar Pete now had two horses behind him as they swung left to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure. Plaisir D’Amour occupied last position as they jumped the uphill fence and was soon pulled up. Meanwhile, Kylemore Lough had taken over at the head of affairs as they headed into the back straight and led the 15 remaining runners over the first fence therein; Lake Takapuna made an error here.
However, he dropped his hind-legs into the water-jump, making a big splash; this enabled Foxtail Hill to assume the lead once more. Double Treasure was a little slow here; he was currently travelling near the back of the field. Kylemore Lough jumped back into the lead again at the penultimate open-ditch; Guitar Pete was now in last position once more. The runners negotiated the plain fence successfully before heading around the dog-leg turn on the approach to the final open-ditch.
The leading group consisted of Foxtail Hill, Kylemore Lough, Starchitect, Romain De Senam, Bentelimar and Splash Of Ginge. They all cleared the open-ditch, although Aqua Dude was a little slow at it. Having negotiated the top turn, they began their journey down the hill to the third last; both Tully East and Ballyalton had attached themselves to the back of the leading group by this stage.
There were three in a line as they jumped the fence, Splash Of Ginge having crept up the inside of Starchitect and Foxtail Hill, with Kylemore Lough relegated to fourth position; Starchitect pecked on landing over this one. Foxtail Hill was now under pressure, with his stable companion travelling well alongside Starchitect as they headed into the final turn.
Entering the home straight, Splash Of Ginge held a slight advantage over his rival as they cleared two out; Le Prezien, Tully East and Ballyalton now their nearest pursuers. The Twiston-Davies runner continued to lead as they headed towards and over the final fence, where Starchitect nodded slightly on landing. Coming out of the pack to lay down their challenges were the McManus-owned Le Prezien and also Ballyalton.
The leaders now headed up the hill to the line. Initially, Splash Of Ginge retained his advantage but, as the winning post approached, Starchitect began to close the gap. However, it came too soon and Splash Of Ginge held on to win by a neck. Le Prezien completed in 3rd, 2½ lengths further back, with Ballyalton in 4th, 3¾ lengths behind him.
It was the biggest victory of his jockey, Tom Bellamy’s career; the son of former jockey Robert. The horse is also a former winner of Newbury’s very valuable handicap, the Betfair Hurdle; the 2014 renewal. That win was worth over £86,000!
Having seen the winning partnership pass by, along the horse-walk, I decided it was time to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure. By this time I was actually too soggy to care where I stood!
It was a nice touch from connections which saw side-lined jockey and friend, Ryan Hatch, on the winner’s podium and part of today’s celebrations too.
Having finally relocated, I remained beside the Winners’ Enclosure and watched the fifth race on the big screen.
The favourite for this race was Nicky Henderson-trained Thomas Campbell, ridden by James Bowen; price 13-8.
The starting gate for situated in the home straight, with the runners jumping one flight of hurdles before heading out into the country.
And then they were off, with the blinkered Solatentif, sporting the colours of the late Ann and Alan Potts, leading the way to the stand-side. Seven of the competitors were seeking to travel on the better ground to the nearside, whereas Tom Scudamore and Adrian Heskin chose to take the shorter route around the inside aboard Dell’ Arca and KK Lexion respectively.
Thus, having cleared the first flight without incident, Solatentif led the outside ‘string’ up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure from Rolling Maul, Connetable, Thomas Campbell, the French raider Nuits Premier Cru, Anteros and Rocky’s Treasure. The two travelling beside the inside rail travelled in the latter half of the field.
Having entered the back straight, the horses continued without incident over the first flight therein. The runners were already quite strung out by the time they reached the next; Nuits Premier Cru made an error here. Moving on towards the dog-leg turn, Richard Johnson, who closely tracked the leader aboard Rolling Maul, glanced over his left shoulder to check on the opposition.
All nine runners safely negotiated the fourth flight, with Solatentif continuing to lead and Anteros and KK Lexion bringing up the rear. Having reached the top of the hill, the competitors then swung left handed to head down to slope to the next; KK Lexion made a mistake here. Continuing to the sixth, there were no jumping errors here. The Potts runner remained at the head of affairs as they turned into the straight, from Rolling Maul, Thomas Campbell, Nuits Premier Cru, Connetable, Rocky’s Treasure, Dell’ Arca, Anteros and KK Lexion.
Having completed one circuit, the runners headed over the flight in front of the main grandstand once more. Currently, Rolling Maul and Connetable took a centre of track route, the others remaining upon their original line. The field was less strung out as they headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure for the final time; Rolling Maul ranged up alongside Solatentif as they entered the back straight. Anteros almost flattened a panel as he negotiated the next.
Richard Johnson’s mount led narrowly as the runners continued down the back; they were fanned out across the course. Dell’ Arca was disputing third place with Thomas Campbell now. Connetable was pushed along having jumped the ninth flight. Having negotiated the dog-leg turn, Solatentif made a bad error at the subsequent flight; his jockey Bryan Cooper momentarily unbalanced as a result. However, despite this, his mount remained in second position as they headed into the far turn and then he travelled into the lead once more; Bryan removed a set of muddy goggles as he did so.
Solatentif had stretched his advantage to three or four lengths as he flew safely over three out; Thomas Campbell moved into second position at this point. Further back in the field, the tiring Connetable flattened a panel at this flight. Having taken the shorter but more poached route, both KK Lexion and Dell’ Arca was now languishing at the rear; in fact Tom Scudamore pulled up his mount here.
The remaining runners cleared two out without incident, with Solatentif still spearheading the field from Thomas Campbell, Rocky’s Treasure, last year’s winner Anteros and the French invader Nuits Premier Cru. Bryan Cooper’s mount capitulated as they entered the home straight; he was quickly swamped by the aforementioned horses. In fact it was Anteros against the stand-side rail which held a very narrow advantage over his rivals as they jumped the last.
But, despite Paddy Brennan’s urgings, he was unable to hold off the challenge from Thomas Campbell and the latter galloped up the hill to win by 2½ lengths at the line. Rocky’s Treasure came through to talk third place, 5 lengths further back and he finished 4½ lengths in front of fourth-placed Nuits Premier Cru.
The winning jockey James Bowen was able to claim 7lb; he’s the son of Peter and brother of Sean. Today was the final day of his claim.
I headed back to the course-side rails to watch this one; in fact I popped to the loo en route too.
The favourite for this race was Red Indian, trained by Ben Pauling and ridden by Nico de Boinville; price 5-1.
The starting gate for this event was within the mid-course chute.
And then they were off, with Coole Cody setting up a clear advantage as the runners headed towards the first flight. Prominent within the main group were Coup De Pinceau, Perfect Summer and Mischievious Max; bringing up the rear was The Mighty Don. All 16 runners negotiated the first flight safely and the second flight too, before heading down hill on their journey towards the far bend.
Taking a wide swing into the home straight in search of the better ground, Brendan Powell’s mount remained at the head of affairs. The runners cleared the third without incident and continued the long run to the next flight which was situated close to the grandstands area. Coole Cody led from Coup De Pinceau, Perfect Summer, Follow The Bear, Seymour Star, Ahead Of The Curve, Quarenta, Poker Play, Diable De Sivola, Golden Jeffrey, Red Indian, Stamp Your Feet, Mischievious Max, Runyon Rattler, Vivas, and The Mighty Don.
There was a departure at this obstacle, with Runyon Rattler landing on top of the flight; as a result James Bowen was flung over the horse’s left shoulder. The ups and downs of racing, but James soon got to his feet unscathed. Coole Cody retained a clear advantage as the runners headed up the track in front of the Best Mate Enclosure and into the back straight for the one and only time.
The leader left a trailing leg in the fifth hurdle but it didn’t affect his momentum; having rapidly lost his place, Ahead Of The Curve was pulled up after this one. Diable De Sivola was pressing Perfect Summer for second place as they continued their journey down the back straight. The loose horse continued to make progress along the inside of the field and was travelling just behind the leader as they jumped the next; Seymour Star jumped this one more slowly than his rivals, lost his place and was pushed along subsequently.
Coole Cody continued to spearhead the field as they headed around the dog-leg turn. He was pursued by Perfect Summer, Coup De Pinceau, Diable De Sivola, Follow The Bear, Poker Play, Quarenta, Golden Jeffrey, Red Indian, Seymour Star, Vivas, Stamp Your Feet, The Mighty Don and Mischievious Max. And not forgetting the loose horse which travelled just behind the leader.
There were no departures at the next and the runners soon headed around the far turn in order to begin the descent towards the third last. Poker Play had made significant progress and was disputing second position as they jumped it. Seymour Star and Quarenta were detached from the rear of the field as the leaders continued to the penultimate flight, with Golden Jeffrey, Perfect Summer, Stamp Your Feet and The Big Don in danger of joining them.
In contrast, and with all those remaining having cleared two out, Coole Cody was still travelling well and Brendan’s silks remained pristine having never seen another horse! Apart from the loose horse, which travelled to his inside, his sole challengers appeared to be Diable De Sivola, Poker Play, Follow The Bear, Mischievious Max, along with the favourite, Red Indian, on their coat-tails.
Entering the home straight and accompanied by the rider-less Runyon Rattler, Coole Cody continued to lead as he headed towards the final flight; however, bursting out of the pack was Irish-raider Mischievious Max. The long-time leader jumped the obstacle well, his challenger less so and Brendan Powell was able to ride his mount out to win by 3 lengths at the line, separated from the runner-up by the loose horse. Red Indian came home in 3rd, a further 3¾ lengths away. Diable De Sivola was 4th.
Another win for a young jockey, and yet another for the offspring of a former jockey following Bryony Frost’s success and also Tom Bellamy’s victory earlier in the afternoon!
I may have remained close to the Winners’ Enclosure to view the final race, as I don’t have any photos of the runners on the track ... although it wouldn’t have been worth taking any, regardless, due to the wet and gloomy conditions!
The favourite for this race was the Paul Nicholls-trained Posh Trish, ridden by Harry Cobden, price 9-4. Because of the deteriorating conditions, there were three non-runners, leaving 9 competitors. However, Jamie Snowden still had a representative in this one, namely Presenting Pearl ridden by Gavin Sheehan.
The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight.
And then they were off, with Presenting Pearl and Glenmona leading the way; Grageelagh Girl was bringing up the rear. Jockeys again choosing the best ground, the field headed up the racecourse beside the stand-side rail, passing between two sets of empty hurdle wings as they did so. Jamie Snowden’s filly continued to lead, from Glenmona, Dory, Posh Trish, Pineapple Rush, Irish-raider Holding Pattern, Secret Escape, Rose Of Cimarron and, finally, Grageelagh Girl.
Having reached the entry point to the uphill section of the track, the runners swung to the left in order to travel up in front of the Best Mate Enclosure. Once in the back straight, Gavin steered his mount to the outside of the track once more, in order to take advantage of the better ground; the others followed suit.
Everything was going fine until the runners were almost level with the water-jump. At this point, Glenmona suffered a catastrophic injury behind and she crashed to her haunches; jockey Harry Bannister was thrown clear. A number of the runners were hampered, namely Posh Trish, Secret Escape and Grageelagh Girl. However, they recovered quickly and were able to continue with the group.
The field had soon reached the dog-leg turn, with Presenting Pearl continuing to lead from Posh Trish and Dory. Following the incident, Grageelagh Girl had been taking closer order and now matched strides with Rose Of Cimarron.
The mares and fillies continued their run to the top of the hill, before swinging left-handed and heading down the slope on their journey towards the home turn. Presenting Pearl spearheaded the runners from Posh Trish and Dory; behind these travelled Pineapple Rush, Holding Pattern, Secret Escape, Grageelagh Girl and, finally, Rose Of Cimarron.
In fact, only Rose Of Cimarron and Holding Pattern had been ‘dropped’ as the runners headed into the home straight. Harry Cobden bagged the stand-side rail aboard Posh Trish and he’d established a two length lead as they passed between the wings of the final flight. Presenting Pearl continued to hold her own at this point, although Grageelagh Girl was laying down her challenge, also close to the stand-side rail.
Posh Trish proved too strong for her rivals and galloped on to win by 3¼ lengths at the line. The fancied Grageelagh Girl chased her home, with the not unsupported Pineapple Rush completing in 3rd position, two lengths behind her. Unfortunately Presenting Pearl was just run out of the places, with Secret Escape half a length back and claiming 4th; Jamie Snowden’s charge had only lost out by three quarters of a length.
The Harry Whittington-trained Glenmona was put to sleep due to the seriousness of her injury. RIP
Despite riding in the sixth race, aboard Follow The Bear, it transpired that Jeremiah McGrath had sustained a broken arm when Theinval fell during the feature chase. As is a jockey’s preference, he opted to have an operation to mend it and was back in action by Boxing Day!
There was a sad ending to Starchitect’s career; he suffered a fatal injury on the flat, when well clear of his rivals and sure to win, during Cheltenham’s feature handicap chase at their December meeting. RIP.
It had crossed my mind to leave early, as I wasn’t enjoying my day due to getting so wet. However, I put on a brave face and held out until after the horses had returned to the Winners’ Enclosure following the final race of the day. And, having popped to the loo just prior to race 6, I didn’t need to make a return trip before my journey home.
The pedestrian walkway which leads to the car park was full of puddles, but the surrounding area was even worse, with flooding in one place! I didn’t fancy the chances of those returning to their cars at that particular spot. Shoes would be ruined, unless you took them off and paddled! But for me, apart from having to slop through the sand and gravel, I arrived safely back at my car. To me it still looked fairly clean, although that would change during my drive home.
However, I’d not fared so well. My coat sleeves were saturated, the polo-neck of my sweater was soggy, my hat was soggy, the back of my hair was soggy, my gloves were soggy, both of my snoods were soggy, and I’ve discovered that Kipling handbags aren’t waterproof either – my race-card and badge were ruined. I take a plastic wallet for storing my tickets, but today’s race-card was too large for it; damn – I need to find a slightly larger one – it needs to be at least 10 inches long (B5 perhaps). I always keep my driving licence and insurance details, etc, in a plastic wallet too.
Anyway, I stripped off ahead of my journey home. I placed my coat in the boot of the car because it was so wet, I took off my black fleece gillet, my cardigan, my polo-neck sweater, both snoods, and my hat. My skirt and jeggings were okay, as were my thermal T-shirts and purple fleece. I placed my muddy boots in a Really Useful box so as to keep the car foot-well clean. I placed my soggy handbag on the passenger seat; although it had made the latter slightly damp by the time I got home.
Having removed my contact lenses I wore my driving glasses, over my vision glasses, for the drive back; they are anti-glare. I also ate the two remaining cheese rolls before I set off. The time of the last race had been 16:00, and I set off at 16:55. The car park was in a bit of a state, very lumpy and bumpy where the rain had scoured out the surface; it was especially bad as I exited onto the driveway, where I was thrown all over the place! There was absolutely no sign of any queues by this time, and I was able to cross into the right-hand lane easily; I wanted to turn right when pulling out into Southam Lane.
The lane itself was clear, all the way through the village, although I had an issue seeing the roadway in the dark! The temporary traffic lights were on green as I approached the B4632, where I turned right to head back through Prestbury; there were still no hold-ups. It was a clear run through, via Deep Street, Prestbury Road, along Priors Road, up Harp Hill and down Greenway Lane to the traffic lights at Six Ways. I didn’t have to wait long here, I was at the front of the queue and the lights soon changed to green. There was a deep pothole in the roadway however, which I managed to hit, as I turned left onto the A40.
There’s a new speed limit of 30 mph heading out through Charlton Kings; a signpost pointed this out to me. Anyway I headed out into the darkness and my night vision wasn’t too bad today; besides, I was following a car whose driver seemed unsure of the route as he/she drove along at 50 mph. There were many vehicles ahead of us by the time we reached the beginning of the dual carriageway, a convoy; they had joined the A40 at the Gloucester Road junction. It continued to rain, on and off, although not heavy for much of the journey.
The journey to Burford and onwards to the beginning of the Witney bypass passed without note; it’s easy to follow the tail-lights of the car in front. The vehicle which I’d been travelling behind for such a long way suddenly sped off into the distance at this point. I continued at 60-65 mph along the dual carriageway, before arriving at the Wolvercote roundabout on the outskirts of Oxford; in fact I was there before I knew it!
I then headed along the Northern Bypass Road, re-tracing my route to reach the M40. I drove back along the eastbound carriageway to the M25. By this time I was feeling tired, and my concentration was beginning to waiver; dangerous. I joined the clockwise carriageway of the London orbital motorway and continued around to junction 20. I then drove up the London Colney bypass and into St Albans, re-tracing my route home.
I arrived back at 19:18.
The day had to rank alongside Gold Cup Day in 2013 and Grand National Day in 2016 as the soggiest ever! It’s very annoying, regarding the weather, as both Day 1 and Day 3 were lovely; okay, so it’s November ... but I was spoilt last season, with no wet days out of 10! The nearest it got to dampness was after racing on Gold Cup Day.