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The new grandstand is under construction



This was my first outing to the races since Sandown Park on Saturday 26 April and my first of the 2014/2015 season.  I’d made arrangements to attend this fixture with my friend Lesley ages ago, fully expecting that Choc would be back in action following the neck and back injuries he sustained on the penultimate day of last season, 25 April.   However his return had been delayed, it having been discovered during a check-up at the end of September that his T1 vertebra had not fused completely.  Prior to this he’d been riding out at the Alan King yard but was advised to stop until further notice; it was reported that his next check-up was scheduled for late October. 


Colleague Wayne Hutchinson had also missed most of the summer due to an injury sustained on 18 May, but his recuperation from hip surgery went smoothly and he was able to return to action on 02 October.


Having completed my backlog of diaries by mid-June I had just been ticking over since then waiting for Choc to return.  However, my favourite jockey had wasted no time in finding himself a new girlfriend during the summer months, a petite blue-eyed blonde named Jennie Prust who hails from Birmingham.  He also posted numerous photographs of William on facebook and twitter during his absence; William loves to dress up as a knight in armour and spends much of his time playfully attacking Choc!


By mid-October I was entering my own busy ‘holiday period’, with 12 days annual leave to use before year-end.  With this in mind, I’d booked the preceding Friday and the following Monday as holiday too, fully expecting to go racing to Cheltenham on Saturday and to Kempton Park on Sunday.  But, in light of Choc not having returned yet, my proposed Sunday outing was cancelled.  And, as it transpired, Alan King had no runners at the Sunbury track anyway. 


Friday was spent at home, all day.  I was determined not to go shopping, even though I fancied buying a new handbag.  Why is it that despite owning numerous bags, they are never the right size or the right colour for the immediate requirement?  I ironed four skirts, not knowing which one I’d choose to wear the following day.  During the afternoon I watched Racing UK’s coverage from Cheltenham and Newmarket, amongst others.


I turned in at 23:30; rising at 06:30.  I washed and showered, dried my hair and applied makeup.  Breakfast was two croissants and two slices of brown buttered toast.  I drank just one large cup of tea, as I didn’t wish to be caught short before arriving at Cheltenham! 


The prevailing weather was currently mild for the time of year, but with the prospect of heavy rain showers at any time.  It’s always better to be too warm than too cold, so wearing a raincoat didn’t seem to be an option for Cheltenham.  It was a choice between my mauve BHS jacket and new dark teal-coloured anorak style coat.  I chose the former.  Lesley would later be pleased with my choice too, as I was very easy to spot in the crowd! 


Taking no chances I wore two thermal vests, pink and violet in colour.  A black ribbed frill-edged cardigan; lavender fleece; lavender, white and black skirt; purple tights; my old faithful black mocassin-style wedge shoes, also taking my burgundy boots as reserve; multi-colour River Island scarf, old but a favourite.  Also my Remnants of Rainbows necklace and matching earrings.


I was ready to leave home at 09:10 and took three bottles of water, plus four cheese-filled submarine rolls with me too.  My outward journey took me via Harpenden Common, the Redbourn bypass, under the M1 at Junction 9, past Flamstead and Markyate; at the latter I was stopped by the traffic lights being on red.  I noticed a new housing development to the west of the main road, I’d not seen that before; perhaps it’s been hidden behind trees that are now losing their leaves.


I’ve taken an aversion to driving through the housing estate in Dunstable, over numerous speed bumps at 20 mph or at least not using the route on both the outward and inward legs of my journey; it certainly doesn’t do my car’s suspension any good.  This being the case, I chose to turn left and drive through Kensworth, across Whipsnade Heath and past the Zoo.  A sharp right-hand turn outside the gates thereof is followed by a downhill stretch of road to descend the escarpment of the Chiltern Hills. 


At the following T-junction I turned right onto the B4506, went straight across at the roundabout on the Dunstable Road and headed for Eaton Bray; taking care to avoid any motorists who might stray onto my side of the carriageway as the road wended its way towards the village.  Having driven to the far end thereof, I arrived at Lesley’s House at 09:45; the time we had agreed.


Lesley’s friend Chris was to accompany us to the races today; they had been to the theatre in Aylesbury the evening before to see Rigoletto.  It was their first experience of opera and they found it easy to follow due to subtitles and will willingly go again to another!   Anyway, having picked them up from Lesley’s home we set off upon the outward journey to Cheltenham. 


The route took us via Billington and the Leighton Buzzard bypass to Wing.  Heading out of the town we encountered a long stretch of unmadeup road surface; the top dressing of tarmac had been removed prior to replacement but there was no sign of any highway repair vehicles in the vicinity.  Fortunately the oncoming carriageway was the worst, with all of theirs having been disturbed, but it stretched to only half way across mine.  I wouldn’t be returning via this route, especially after darkness had fallen.


Having reached Aylesbury and taken the ring-road around to join the A41, we set off in the direction of Bicester, via Waddesdon.  I recall Chris having conversations on his mobile phone at various points during the journey; he was in the process of trading in his van to buy a car.  The road conditions were damp at this stage, with someone walking on the grass verge underneath the railway bridge just to the west of Aylesbury.  Lesley said “Mind the puddle”.  Talk about the ‘pot calling the kettle black’ ... I’m always getting splashed by vehicles driving through big road puddles when walking in my home City and vow not to do it to others.  Whoops, I hope I didn’t splash him!


The trip went smoothly from there to Bicester; it was only 10:40 but roadside signs were warning visitors to the Bicester Shopping Village that the car-parks were full already.  I’ve never been there, but Lesley has.  At the far end of the bypass I turned left, heading down the final stretch of the A41; we were held up by a red light at the junction prior to the large roundabout, before heading down the next section of the dual carriageway to the M40 junction.  The road surface has been re-tarmaced since my visits to the Cheltenham Festival in March and the trees and shrubs surrounding the far end, cut back. 


We negotiated the junction without having to stop for a red light and entered the A34 dual carriageway; traffic on the opposite side of the road was slow moving, an ambulance was seen a little further along it.  An accident perhaps?  We left the main road at the Peartree Interchange, driving down the dual carriageway to reach the A40; it makes a change to travel at normal speed down this stretch of the road, it’s one of my major bottlenecks during Festival week ... come to think of it, it’s my only bottleneck!  Mind you, even on this occasion, a park and ride bus caused the traffic lights near the far end of the road to change to red to afford it priority over normal traffic. 


We turned right at the roundabout and headed out across the Cotswolds on the A40, my favourite part of the journey.  There were no delays; I got caught briefly at the first set of traffic lights encountered but our journey along the Witney bypass and to Burford went smoothly, as did the next section to the Cirencester/Stow road.  The next part of the drive took us past the rebranded Puesdown Inn and down the dual carriageway at the beginning of the escarpment.  As always, a number of impatient drivers overtake at this stage; but you have to be careful as the road soon narrows to single file once more and, around a right-hand bend, arrives at a set of traffic lights marking its junction with the Gloucester Road.  The lights were on red.


Once they’d turned to green, we set off along the Andoversford bypass, passing the Murco petrol station on the left just prior to a sharp right-hand turn.  Not long after passing through the next traffic-lit junction, the road turns to the left and descends past the Dowdeswell Reservoir to Charlton Kings.  It was 11:40 when we arrived at the Six Ways junction where I indicated to turn right.  Despite me lining up in the correct lane and within the road markings, it was fairly tight squeeze for a large lorry driving in the opposite direction whilst I waited.  I headed up Greenway Lane at the second change.  Having driven through the two chicanes we reached the T-junction with Harp Hill; the far end of Greenway Lane seriously needed repairs to the road surface, it was awful.  


I drove down Harp Hill and took a right turn at the ‘longabout’; we got caught by the traffic lights outside Tescos but were soon on our way again.  Turning right into Bouncers Lane I noticed a flower-stall situated outside the cemetery gates at the beginning of the thoroughfare; good idea.  Soon we had arrived at the mini-roundabouts at the end of Prestbury’s Deep Street.  After a brief delay caused by a queue of traffic exiting ahead of us, our route then headed along Tatchley Lane and into New Barn Lane.  Craftily, a speed camera vehicle was parked upon the verge of the road, close to the incline where there is a tendency to increase speed; but it was spotted by the road users ahead of me and was not a problem on this occasion.    


Having negotiated the two mini-roundabouts near the far end of New Barn Lane, I reached the large roundabout outside the main entrance to the racecourse.  I drove straight across into Swindon Lane, a number of vehicles heading in the opposite direction turned into the lower field car-park ahead of me.  Soon it was my turn.  I was instructed by a steward to park to the left, as it turned out on the flat part of the field rather than the slope; I pulled up midway along the row of stationary cars. 


I put on my shoes, fleece, scarf and jacket, and we each picked up a bottle of Evian from the rear seat before Lesley, Chris and I set off to the main entrance; we exited the car park via the steps beside the Evesham Road, then walked up the footpath to opposite the gated entrance.  The ticket kiosks had been set up on the gravel area between the main road and the racecourse driveway, instead of upon the bridge as is usually the case at this fixture. 


I joined the queue to buy a ticket and Lesley and Chris joined the ticket collection queue.  I purchased it using a credit card and we were soon ready to cross over the driveway and enter the racecourse precincts via the turnstiles within the Centaur building.  We’d arrived just in time, as a fairly long queue had now formed at the ticket selling kiosks.  Having progressed through the turnstiles we exited onto the concourse via the doors to our right, only to realise that race-cards were being sold from the counter inside the Centaur.  We re-entered the building and Lesley purchased a race-card for each of us.  The main sponsor today, and mentioned on the front cover of the race-card, was Masterson Holdings, owners of Balder Succes amongst others. 


We then exited onto the concourse once more and walked down the slope towards the Parade Ring.  I was disappointed to discover my usual loos were no longer available for use ... the adjacent men’s loos were, but not the ladies.  We went in search of ladies loos within the main grandstand ground floor; we found the men’s, but even one of the stewards on duty mis-directed us in our search for the ladies! 


We eventually found them one door further down and the cubicles were pleasantly large, unlike those in my usual haunt on the other side of the concourse where I always had to struggle to negotiate the door!  More information than you needed ... sorry!  I have used these particular posh loos before, but not since my first Festival and had obviously forgotten where they were!


Anyway, having re-joined Chris we went in search of coffees, a kiosk was located just outside the door, beside the main concourse.  Having purchased these, we continued down the concourse, turning right to head beneath the steelwork which has been constructed to provide the backbones of the new grandstand.  It was a pleasant surprise to find that the new walkway is wider than the previous bottleneck and will hopefully provide a faster passage between the courseside rails and the Winners Enclosure/Parade Ring, even during the Festival. 


Having reached the lawn, we settled upon one of the benches to drink our coffees, after which I returned to the ladies loos to wash my hands because they felt sticky; this time I entered the ground floor of the grandstand from the racecourse side.  I met up with the guys briefly before we split up for a few minutes; I headed down the lawn in front of the cordoned off new grandstand, hoping to view the new horse-walk at close quarters.  It has been realigned as part of the development and sweeps down beneath a new bridge which will provide pedestrian access between the main concourse and the plaza below the Parade Ring when the horse-walk is in use. 


I was soon rejoined by both Lesley and Chris and, having taken photograph mementos of our day, we headed back up the lawn before returning to the area above the Winners’ Enclosure ahead of the TRC (Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Centre) demonstration which began at 13:00.  Five horses were parading, namely Genial Genie, Thisonesforeddy, Koleleria, Abby Express and Heathyards Pride.  A couple of the horses came from the late Reg Hollinshead’s yard, namely 18-year-old Genial Genie who had raced 46 times on the flat, winning £25000, and 14-year-old Heathyards Pride who raced 51 times and won £90000.  Thisonesforeddy raced on the flat 71 times, the 9-year-old won £21000.  Abby Express ran on the flat and over hurdles 13 times but had no form; the 13-year-old mare Koleleria raced 12 times on the flat in Holland and also had no form.


Matt Howells, Alan King’s Travelling Head Lad, arrived at around 13:20 to deliver today’s silks to the Weighing Room.  I also noticed Sam Thomas at some stage early in the afternoon; he’s not completely given up riding, but is now in the process setting up his own yard at Northleach in the Cotswolds.  I spotted Joe Tizzard too, he retired towards the end of last season.   


The TRC horses were getting quite excited by the time they exited the Parade Ring; probably recalling their racing days.  The off time of the first race was 14:00, and the runners soon appeared in the Parade Ring.  To ensure we gained a good vantage point prior to the race, we set off early to find a place beside the course-side rails; we were more or less opposite the ½ furlong post, my usual haunt! 


Races at the Showcase fixture are run on the Old Course, thus when heading up the home straight the runners were close to the standside.  The mid-course chute was not being used for this meeting so a number of the starting points were located in unexpected places, along with the fact that the Old Course is a shorter distance in circuit than the New Course.  New rules have recently been introduced whereby the jockeys are required to line their horses up further away from the start line and travel at no faster than a jog towards the tape too.  This has resulted in race four today being extended in distance by half a furlong and thus includes an additional obstacle too.


AP McCoy was out of action during the Showcase having originally been injured at Worcester on Thursday 09 October.  He had returned to riding the following Wednesday and rode a treble at Huntingdon, followed by a further winner at Wetherby the next day too; but had then resigned himself to the sidelines once more (he returned to action on 25 October).  However, by the Showcase, he had attained his mid-October goal of 150 winners with the aim of riding 300 this season.  As a result of his absence, in the first race Barry Geraghty would ride the JP McManus representative In The Rough.


The starting gate for the first event was located part-way down the home straight so, upon exiting the walkway, the horses cantered up the all-weather gallop in front of the grandstands before turning and heading down the turf and re-entering the strip to finish their journey to the start.  As they were to jump just one hurdle in the home straight before setting out on two full circuits of the track, the runners began the sedate and very organised walk in to the starting gate prior to what is the home turn; they had used the previous flight to demonstrate to their mounts the task ahead.     


The favourite for this race was the Paul Nicholls-trained, Sam Twiston-Davies ridden, Vivaldi Collonges at 5-4.


The larger Thedrinkymeister was taken to the front of the group by his jockey David Bass, briefly jig jogging sideways as they prepared to begin.


Race 1

Novices’ Hurdle


3 miles 1 furlong and 110 yards (13 flights)

No. of Runners

7 ran

In The Rough, Shantou Tiger, Vivaldi Collonges, Man Of Plenty, One More Tune, Bally Beaufort, Thedrinkymeister


Then they were off, with the Kim Bailey runner leading the way; he was followed by, line across the course, Bally Beaufort and Shantou Tiger, with Vivaldi Collonges to the outside.  Behind these was One More Tune to the inside, to his outer In The Rough; Man Of Plenty was at the rear.


The leader, with ears pricked, cleared the first flight with no problem, as did his six rivals.  They then veered off to their left, headed up the hill and into the back straight for the first occasion.  The field was already well strung out, with around ten lengths from first to last.  The runners successfully negotiated flight number two. 


There was a difference of opinion as to where the best ground could be found; Sam Twiston-Davies took his mount Vivaldi Collonges to the outside, as did Barry Geraghty and Paul Moloney on Man Of Plenty.  The leader, Shantou Tiger and Bally Beaufort took the shorter route around the inside; in rear Nick Scholfield aboard One More Tune couldn’t make up his mind one way or the other and steered down the middle initially, until joining those on the outer approaching flight number three! 


Having negotiated the dogleg turn, the runners approached flight number four; Thedrinkymeister held a one length advantage over Vivaldi Collonges at this point and, by the far corner, these two held probably a seven or eight lengths advantage over the third, Shantou Tiger.  One More Tune continued to bring up the rear, some fifteen lengths adrift of the leaders. 


The leader bowled on down the hill to the next flight, still to the inside of the track, with a narrow advantage over the Paul Nicholls runner to the outer.  The field also cleared the sixth without incident and, having completed one circuit, headed into the home straight once more.  The runners jumped flight number seven in their stride, although One More Tune was a little slow at the rear. 


Travelling up the hill to begin the final circuit, the runners had closed up, a group of five leading the way, still headed by the Kim Bailey runner at this stage; the other two just three and five lengths behind respectively.  It became a little bit of an effort for Thedrinkymeister as they turned into the back straight, Vivaldi Collonges now taking the lead; again his jockey steered the latter wide.  They cleared flight number eight, and the long-time leader soon found himself in second to last position; Bally Beaufort was being pushed along too by this stage.


By the time they’d jumped flight number nine, the Kim Bailey runner had been passed by all six of his rivals and would be pulled up before the next.  The horses which had been steered to the outside of the track, namely Vivaldi Collonges, In The Rough and Man Of Plenty, were all travelling better than their rivals.  Although still at the rear of the field, One More Tune was also going better than Bally Beaufort and Shantou Tiger; the former also wider on the course.  The runners negotiated the dogleg turn and jumped flight number ten without problem. 


Vivaldi Collonges was going well within himself as he reached the far turn; he was around four lengths clear of his nearest rival In The Rough, the latter closely followed by the white-faced chestnut Man Of Plenty.  The horses headed down the hill for the final time; Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount still leading the way followed, Indian file (or do I have to call it Native American file now?), by In The Rough, Man Of Plenty and, at a distance, One More Tune.  These four had remained around three metres from the outside rail in their progress down the slope and over the third last flight; the remaining two, who had taken an inside line throughout the race, continued to lose ground, with Shantou Tiger’s jockey calling it a day after the flight.


Heading over two out, In The Rough was just a length behind the leader, Barry Geraghty manoeuvring his mount to the inside to get a clear view of the flight.  Heading around the final bend the race, barring incident, was to be fought out between these two.  Sam steered his mount to the nearside rail, with Barry to his nearside; they galloped to the final flight.  Vivaldi Collonges still held a length’s advantage as they cleared it; they both jumped the flight well.


The jockeys began their drive to the line, with Barry going for his whip first; he’d struck his mount four times before Sam raised his riding aid.  Initially it appeared that the long-time leader had the upper-hand but, by the time they’d reached the ½ furlong marker, In The Rough had drawn upsides him.  They continued to fight to the line, with In The Rough staying on slightly the better and winning by half a length.  The first and the second had drawn well away from the remaining runners, with Man Of Plenty eased up to cross the line 26 lengths behind the second and One More Tune a further 37 lengths back in fourth.  The only other finisher, Bally Beaufort was recorded as a very distant last (is 99 lengths the maximum possible?).    


The jockeys of the first four had obviously done their homework regarding going conditions; they had all taken an outside line where possible and it had paid off despite having to cover more ground. 


The starting price of the winner was 9-4, the second favourite.







In the Rough

Barry Geraghty

Jonjo O’Neill


Vivaldi Collonges

Sam Twiston-Davies

Paul Nicholls


Man Of Plenty

Paul Moloney

Sophie Leech


One More Tune

Nick Scholfield

Paul Henderson


The race over, we headed back to the Parade Ring area to see the placed horses return.  At this stage I didn’t worry about watching from the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure.  And it was definitely far easier to manoeuvre amongst the spectators heading through the passageway between the Arkle Bar and the new stand.  With the horse-walk taking a wider sweep as a result of the re-development, it also affords a slightly longer time to get from the course-side rails to the vicinity of the Parade Ring/Winners’ Enclosure. 


Today I had time to see the winning rider return along the all-weather strip, or at least as far as the position where I was standing at the half furlong point, and walk back to the Parade Ring before they’d even entered it via the horse-walk ... and I wasn’t even route marching it.  Mind you, with the increased numbers attending the Festival, this may not be quite the case in March! 


Chris set off to collect his winnings, he’d selected the winner.  No surprise there then! 


I spotted young Freddie and Harry Keighley ‘riding’ the wall surrounding the Weighing Room.  They were wearing their miniature silks – Freddie was dressed in Champion Court’s colours, and Harry in the green and gold of JP McManus.


Soon it was time for the second race of the day; Martin Keighley had a runner in this one, top-weight Champion Court, today ridden by Tom Scudamore.  The favourite was Johns Spirit at 5-1, last year’s winner. 


We returned to the course-side rails in plenty of time to see the horses exit onto the racecourse.  The starting gate for this event was mid-way down the back straight, with one plain fence and an open-ditch to negotiate before the far turn; this being the case the horses headed across the home straight and cantered up the all-weather strip around the top bend on their journey to it. 


A two mile four furlong race will usually begin in the mid-course chute, but not today; it was unusual to see the horses milling around in the back straight ahead of their race.  There are a number of streams which cross the racecourse, and one brook travels to the outside of the back straight at this point; the tell-tale signs being willow trees and a small wooden bridge to carry the footpath which follows the line of the racecourse!  Yep, I’ve just checked my Cheltenham map.  I love maps! 


Race 2

Handicap Chase


2 miles 4 furlongs (14 fences)

No. of Runners

11 ran

Champion Court, Claret Cloak, Johns Spirit, Bennys Mist, Ericht, Astracad, Ackertac, Persian Snow, Croco Bay, Sew On Target, Workbench


The horses approached the line steadily, angling to the outside of the open-ditch as they approached the gate.  Then they were off, with Champion Court to the inside and Sew On Target leading the way; Claret Cloak brought up the rear.  All eleven runners cleared the first fence without incident; they then headed around the dogleg turn to approach the second fence, the first of the open-ditches. 


Heading for the obstacle, Champion Court and Sew On Target led, from Astracad, Bennys Mist, Ackertac, Workbench, Persian Snow, Ericht, Croco Bay, Johns Spirit and Claret Cloak.  There were no noticeable jumping errors at the fence.  Having reached the top of the hill and turned the far corner, the runners galloped down the slope to the third.  Martin Keighley’s charge cleared the fence ahead of the field; close to the rear Croco Bay made a slight error, tell-tale tufts sticking up from the usually smooth horizontal line of the fence.  Do I still presume that the aprons of the Cheltenham fences are dressed with plastic fronds as they were when I walked the course with Choc in December 2008?  Anyway, I digress.


The horses headed into the dip and up the slight incline to negotiate the bend and enter the home straight on the first of two occasions.  Having been moved into the home straight a number of seasons ago in an effort to reduce the number of casualties at the fence, the next obstacle remains a fairly short distance from the turn; Persian Snow made a slight error here, having got a little too close to it. 


Champion Court continued to hold the advantage, jumping the next big and bold, although out to his right.  Turning away from the stands, Tom Scudamore administered a back-hander to his mount; the field headed towards the uphill fence where, once again, ‘Champ’ jumped to his right.  Still bringing up the rear of the field were Croco Bay, Johns Spirit and Claret Cloak. 


Turning into the back straight, the Martin Keighley runner was urged along to keep ahead of his rivals.  The runners headed over the next fence, all eleven were still standing although Workbench did drag his hind-legs through the obstacle.  The following fence is the water-jump, which they all cleared without four faults.  By this stage of the race, Sew On Target had dropped back through the field noticeably.  There was no change at the head of affairs over the next, an open-ditch; at the rear of the field Claret Cloak made an error. 


Clearing the following fence the order was Champion Court, Ericht, Ackertac, Astracad, Bennys Mist, Persian Snow, Workbench, Johns Spirit, Sew On Target, Croco Bay and Claret Cloak.  The runners headed around the dog-leg turn for the last time and approached the final open-ditch; at the rear of the field Claret Cloak ‘left’ his hind-legs in the ditch, losing momentum.  He definitely needs to brush up his jumping of this type of fence.


The field continued their journey to the top of the hill; Champion Court still holding the advantage over the field by a couple of lengths although Tom was working quite hard aboard his mount.  They turned the far corner and headed downhill to the third last; Ackertac took off almost upsides the leader, the latter jumped out to his right once more.  By this stage Sew On Target was beginning to lose touch at the rear of the field.


The runners headed into the dip for the final time, the long-time leader in danger of being swallowed up as many of his rivals put down their challenges.  They turned the final bend, with Richard Johnson sending his mount Persian Snow into the lead; he was followed through on the wide outside by last year’s victor Johns Spirit.  The Philip Hobbs runner was just a length up as they cleared two out.  They headed towards the last, Johns Spirit held for the moment.  However, Richard’s mount leapt the last big and bold, too big in fact and he lost momentum as a result; Richie McLernon was now on level terms.


The battle was now joined and the race to the line had begun.  Despite his best efforts, Persian Snow could do no more, the Jonjo O’Neill runner gradually extending his margin over his rival to one length at the line.  Ericht completed in third, 6 lengths back; with Astracad a further 1¾ lengths back in fourth.  Champion Court completed in 7th place.  All eleven completed, with Sew On Target trailing in last. 







Johns Spirit

Richie McLernon

Jonjo O’Neill


Persian Snow

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs



Barry Geraghty

Nicky Henderson



Sam Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies


It was another winner for Chris; he set off to collect his winnings whilst Lesley and I returned to the area beside the Parade Ring to see the placed horses arrive back. 


It was soon time for the third race of the day.  This race marked the return after a summer break for last season’s Triumph Hurdle victor, Tiger Roll.  He re-opposed Calipto, who had finished 4th in that particular race, his jockey having suffered a broken stirrup leather.  The Paul Nicholls runner would be ridden by new stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies today and was favoured to reverse the tables having been allotted a 4lbs advantage on ratings; he started at odds of 4-5 on, with Tiger Roll at 15/8. 


The race being run over the extended two miles distance, the runners cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstands before heading back down the turf and re-entering the gallop and heading down to the far end of the home straight.  We had returned to the course-side rails well in advance of the runners cantering by. 


The four-runner field milled around within the holding pen to the inside of the bottom bend until shortly before the off time.  They then walked out onto the course and away from the starting gate briefly; the plastic rail was replaced to cordon off the area once more.    


Having turned to face the right direction, Sam led the runners in, at a sedate walk, he was followed by Tiger Roll and Ballyglasheen; Violet Dancer living up to his name at the rear of the group as he jig-jogged sideways in. 


Race 3



2 miles and 110 yards (8 flights)

No. of Runners

4 ran

Tiger Roll, Ballyglasheen, Calipto, Violet Dancer


The tape was raised by the starter and then they were off ... or rather they weren’t ... with the jockeys reluctant to get the race underway.  As Calipto had been leading the runners in towards the tape, Sam eventually decided it was time to break into a gallop and begin the race; they were off.


They headed to the first flight, the Paul Nicholls runner leading the way from Tiger Roll, followed by the white-faced nose-banded Ballyglasheen, with the quite keen Violet Dancer bringing up the rear.  They cleared this obstacle without incident and continued the journey up the home straight to the second; ears pricked Calipto jumped this in his stride, Tiger Roll rapped the top gently, Ballyglasheen didn’t touch a twig and Violet Dancer hit it in rear.


Heading out into the country for the one and only time it was Indian file, with Sam’s mount leading by four or five lengths from the Irish challenger, Ballyglasheen was three lengths behind him, with Violet Dancer five lengths in rear.  The leader steered a route wide of the rail to ensure the ground was less disturbed; the other three followed suit.  As he’d done during the previous race, Sam took an outside line over the first in the back straight, he mount was slightly less than fluent but it didn’t affect his momentum; Violet Dancer in rear jumped it awkwardly.


Having reached the fourth flight, it was Tiger Roll’s turn to hit it; the chestnut wasn’t too fluent at the flight either.  The runners soon headed around the dogleg turn; Calipto had increased his lead gradually and was probably 10 lengths clear of his nearest rival as he jumped the next flight, although he did make a slight error at it.  By the time the runners had reached the far bend, Violet Dancer had joined Ballyglasheen to dispute third position.


The field headed downhill to the next, with Calipto’s advantage slightly diminished and Violet Dancer now in a clear third position; the latter was a little awkward at the flight.  The runners continued to the second last; the leader appeared to be travelling better than Tiger Roll at this point although, having jumped it, Sam did glance through between his legs to see where his rival was.


Calipto still held an advantage of a number of lengths as they galloped around the final bend and into the home straight.  Jamie Moore aboard Violet Dancer glanced behind at this point to check up the position of the fourth.  Just one more flight to go and the long uphill climb to the line between Calipto and victory.  However, Sam began to push his mount along as they approached the last; the first sign of distress signals.  He was still two or three lengths ahead as they cleared it; both the leader and Tiger Roll weren’t particularly fluent. 


After the last Calipto began to wander slightly, he was tired; perhaps Tiger Roll still had a chance of claiming the prize.  Both jockeys drove their mounts to the line; the Irish challenger is very tenacious, he puts his head down and battles.  And Tiger Roll began to get the upper hand as they approached the line; he won by half a length. 


The first and second had put distance between themselves and their two rivals, 19 lengths in fact; Violet Dancer had tired as he galloped up the hill and he was collared close home by Ballyglasheen. 







Tiger Roll

Bryan Cooper

Gordon Elliott



Sam Twiston-Davies

Paul Nicholls



Paul Moloney

Evan Williams


Violet Dancer

Jamie Moore

Gary Moore


We returned to the area beside the Parade Ring to see the horses arrive back. 


At some point during the mid-afternoon action Lesley spotted the Doughnuts shop located above the Winners’ Enclosure and popped off to buy six ring doughnuts, two each.  They were really nice, and she brought back napkins too, although the sugar did drop everywhere and had to be dusted off clothing. 


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