race 6 d.jpg


Choc and Balder Succes head to the start

of the Novices’ Chase






It was raining ‘real proper’ as I headed down from the Parade Ring to the course-side rails ahead of the next race, but not enough for me to seek shelter apart from an umbrella. 


The starting gate for the next race was part way down the home straight; the horses cantering up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstand before returning down the turf and re-entering the strip to travel to the start, which was just to the far side of the nearest fence in the home straight.


The Philip Hobbs trained, Richard Johnson ridden, Balthazar King was the favourite for this race.  Also in the line up was one of my favourite ‘non-Alan King’ horses Kian’s Delight, who is trained by Peter Bowen.  He runs on the flat, over hurdles and, today, over jumps – a good all rounder and ... very pretty too!  He’s a dark bay with star and strip, plus three white stockings.   


Race 4

Handicap Chase


3 miles and 110 yards (19 fences)

No. of Runners

16 ran


Then they were off.  The runners were led away by Balthazar King, greys Sire Collonges and Pickamus, these were closely followed by Ace High and Tour Des Champs; one of the Irish raiders, Queiros Bleu brought up the rear.  Having cleared the first fence and headed up the hill and jumped the second, the field was already beginning to string out, Balthazar King now in a clear lead and setting a good pace.  The Henry De Bromhead runner blundered at the third fence, still in rear.


The runners jumped the water and the first open ditch, Kian’s Delight was sharing sixth position, alongside Connectivity and Bradley.  Having negotiated the dogleg turn, they jumped the second of the ditches; Richard Johnson’s mount standing off but clearing it well; the other runners jumped it well too. 


They turned the far corner and headed downhill for the first time.  Balthazar King continued to led, from Tour Des Champs, Sire Collonges, Pickamus, the blinkered Connectivity, Ace High, Kian’s Delight, Tullamore Dew, Bradley, Mister Grez, Vif Argent, Lost Glory, Well Refreshed, Becauseicouldntsee, Life Of A Luso, and Queiros Bleu.  AP McCoy, rider of Lost Glory, manoeuvred his mount to the outside of the field as the decline began to level out.


The field turned into the home straight and cleared the next two obstacles; Becauseicouldntsee receiving a back hander having jumped the first of these.  Heading out in the country again, with one circuit to go, Queiros Bleu had now overtaken a couple of his rivals and was no longer at the back of the field; however, he banked the uphill fence and dropped to the rear again.


The runners turned the top corner and headed down the back straight; having made progress, the white face of Tullamore Dew was soon visible in the front line on the outside of the field.  Having blundered at the 12th fence and lost ground, Connectivity was pulled up before the dogleg turn.  There was no change at the head of affairs over the final ditch, the Philip Hobbs runner still blazing the trail.  Tour Des Champs was in second, from Sire Collonges, dark grey Mister Grez, Ace High, Tullamore Dew, Vif Argent and Kian’s Delight.


Down the hill they travelled, Balthazar King remaining a mere length up as they cleared three out, from Tour Des Champs, Tullamore Dew and Mister Grez; the latter blundered at this fence.  This group of four had clear daylight over the pursuing group, with Queiros Bleu now spearing-heading these.  The first of the leading group to show distress signals was Tour Des Champs and he dropped back to fourth as they rounded the final bend. 


But Balthazar King continued to gallop on relentlessly as they cleared the penultimate fence, Mister Grez now his nearest pursuer but, having cleared the last, the latter began to run out of fuel and Richard Johnson’s mount pulled away to win by 7 lengths.  Tour Des Champs rallied to claim 2nd, with Tullamore Dew in 3rd and Mister Grez having hung to his right on the run-in finished 4th.  Bradley stayed on to claim 5th.







Balthazar King

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs


Tour Des Champs

Sam Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies


Tullamore Dew

Noel Fehily

Nick Gifford


Mister Grez

Harry Skelton

Dan Skelton


I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure hoping to see the placed horses arrive back, and got a very good pitch too.  However, the weather conditions suddenly deteriorated and even I was forced to head for shelter; fortunately there was just room for me under the overhanging canopy of the Hurdlers Hall which is situated just across the way from the Winners’ Enclosure. 


So, when Balthazar King arrived back to what should have been a tumultuous welcome, the steppings were almost deserted.  It was a great shame, as the popular horse had won this race for the third year in succession; he had also been successful in a listed cross country chase in France the previous month.  


The downpour included a clap of thunder; it was a proper storm.  The winning connections sort shelter under the Winner’s Podium, but it was a squeeze!  With the rain heading in from a south-westerly direction, the trophy, which was waiting to be presented to the winning owners, filled with water; Sarah Hobbs, wife of the winning trainer, tipped the water out of it!


A few people, I’m not sure whether they were daft or were already soaked so it didn’t matter, crossed the concourse in front of the Hurdlers Hall.  Whilst waiting for the rain to relent, I did wonder if I’d need assistance to push my car out of the car park if it had turned into a quagmire underfoot!


The horses arrived ahead of Race 5, in which Choc’s mount was the Henry Daly trained grey mare Mickie; an 8-1 shot.  I remained under the canopy until the horses began to leave the Parade Ring; the rain had left off but it had not yet stopped.  Also running in this event was the Martin Keighley trained Court In Session (stable name Judge).  The favourite was one of the other greys, Silver Eagle at 3-1; the third grey was mare Ixora.


If at all possible, I like to stand beside the course-side rails so I headed down there, which meant walking across the now soggy grass in my wedge shoes.  Perhaps I was now the daft one, as the majority of spectators had sort shelter in the main grandstand!  


With the mid-course chute not being used today (or yesterday), the starting gate for this race was over on the far side of the track, with one flight to negotiate before the dogleg turn, the horses cantering immediately across the home straight and up around the top turn upon the all-weather track having left the Parade Ring. 


The David Pipe trained Bygones Sovereign was very late going to the start, the remaining jockeys circling their mounts on the far side of the track, in the rain, for an extended period.  Evidently the connections had forgotten to fit the declared cheek-pieces on Tom Scudamore’s mount, hence the delay! 


Race 5

Handicap Hurdle


2 miles 5 furlongs (10 flights)

No. of Runners

15 ran


Then they were off, although the visibility wasn’t great due to the atrocious weather conditions!


The runners were led away by Bygones Sovereign and Teak; the last quartet being Mister Newby, Dragon’s Den, Church Field and the hard-pulling Phoenix Flight. Having initially travelled a few horses wide, Choc was able to manoeuvre to his preferred inside berth by the time they’d cleared the first two flights and reached the far bend.  Thus, descending the hill, he was able to steer his mount along a less worn part of the track where the inside rail was absent. 


Bygones Sovereign and Court In Session led the field over the third flight, from Red Not Blue, Teak, Silver Eagle and Mickie; still bringing up the rear was Phoenix Flight.  The runners cleared the next and headed into the home straight; a few slightly skew-whiff panels now on show within the hurdle; work for the ground staff team before the runners returned on the final circuit.


Right, time for a name check of the runners; Bygones Sovereign shared the lead with Court In Session as they headed up the straight, from Teak, Red Not Blue, Ixora, Mickie, Silver Eagle, Larks Lad, Princely Player, Get Home Now, Thomas Crapper, Dragon’s Den, Mister Newby, Church Field and Phoenix Flight. 


The horses then headed up the hill and began their journey down the back straight; the leader landed a little awkwardly at the first flight therein.  Of the horses in the front line of runners, Red Not Blue having made an error at the 7th flight was the first to show signs of distress; by the time they’d reached the dogleg turn he’d begun to drop back through the field.  Of the back markers, Larks Lad was struggling and beginning to tail off.


At the top of the hill, in mid-field, Get Home Now hit and flattened one of the hurdles.  Having reached the far corner the runners began the descent.  Those still in contention were long-time leader Bygones Sovereign, Court In Session, Thomas Crapper, Ixora and Silver Eagle; Mickie was still there too, not far behind these, also Church Field and Phoenix Flight. 


Tiring, Court In Session tipped the top of the third last hurdle; Silver Eagle completed the job by knocking it flat.  Phoenix Flight didn’t live up to his name and trampled on the adjacent panel with his hind-legs; the stragglers headed through the gaping hole which had been created.  To the inside, under pressure, Choc’s mount continued to respond and maintained her position in equal fifth as they jumped the second last and approached the final turn.


Thomas Crapper now led, from Silver Eagle and Ixora as they headed for the last; all the runners heading up the stand-side, apart from Mickie who still raced along the inside.  Having reached for the last narrowly fourth, the tired mare stumbled after the flight, launching Choc into the air; it was his first race riding departure since his return from injury. Although making it impossible for her jockey to survive the error, she kept her feet and continued loose to the finish.


Meanwhile, Thomas Crapper having cleared the last 3 lengths clear, gamely held off the challenge of Silver Eagle and Princely Player respectively as the gap continued to diminish on the run to the line.  The winning margins being ¾ of a length and a nose.  Ixora completed in 4th.    


Court In Session, although running on softer ground than he prefers, enjoyed himself for much of the race and completed in 10th place. 







Thomas Crapper

Charlie Poste

Robin Dickin


Silver Eagle

Nick Scholfield

Kim Bailey


Princely Player

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs



Gavin Sheehan

Jamie Snowden


Having hit the deck, I watched as Choc was helped to his feet.  His whip retrieved from the turf, he walked across the course to where a 4x4 was parked.  He was then given a lift back to the Weighing Room; dropped off beside the Owners’ and Trainers’ marquee before walking along the pathway to enter the glass-fronted building via the main door which faces the paddock.  I had relocated to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure whilst Choc was driven back.


The storm had now blown over, a rainbow now visible over in the Woodmancote/Southam direction.  From where I was standing I could see the left-hand end of the rainbow in a field ... but no pot of gold.  


It was now time for Choc’s best chance of the day, aboard Balder Succes who had won very convincingly at Chepstow the previous Saturday.  He’d put in an almost exemplary round of jumping that day, on his first racecourse appearance over the larger obstacles.  He was 7-4 joint favourite with Dark Lover.


The starting gate for the next race was at the far end of the home straight; the horses cantering up the all-weather track in front of the stands before heading down the turf and re-entering the track to journey to the far end of the straight to reach it. 


The sun now shone brightly over Cheltenham racecourse; an amazing transformation in the weather.


Race 6

Novices’ Chase


2 Miles (13 fences)

No. of Runners

6 ran


Then they were off.  Mr Watson sporting first time blinkers, the mount of AP McCoy, was pulling hard and held a narrow advantage as the runners cleared the first fence.  In second position was Dark Lover, Balder Succes on the outside of the field was in third; then came Irish raider Sizing Italy with The Cockney Mackem, the latter in first time visor.  And bringing up the rear was the grey Gud Day.


Mr Watson, who is a bit of a head case, gradually extended his lead over the other runners as they jumped the three remaining fences in the home straight.  He was over 10 lengths clear as he headed out into the country for the one and only time.  All six runners had jumped well up until this point.  However AP’s mount got in close to the next and, with his momentum checked, the other runners soon caught up with him. 


Balder Succes jumped into the lead at the first in the back straight, and continued at the head of affairs as they headed towards the far turn.  Mr Watson soon dropped back into fourth place with slow leaps at every obstacle.  Choc’s mount got a little close to the second of the open-ditches, which checked his momentum briefly, but he was still travelling well within himself.


By the time the runners had reached the far turn, it had developed into two races; Balder Succes, Dark Lover and The Cockey Mackem going easily within the leading group; Mr Watson, Sizing Italy and Gud Day were now having their own private battle for 4th place.  As they headed over three out, it appeared that the second and third might throw down a challenge to Balder Succes, but he cleared the fence with more fluency and the Twiston-Davies runner soon began to drop back; Dark Lover also appeared unable to make inroads into his advantage.


Upon entering the home straight the only danger was the final two fences.  With Choc appearing to have the race in his pocket, I didn’t want to look, just in case he had a mishap; but I did.  And, unfortunately, he did too.  Damn.


Balder Succes, having jumped almost impeccably during last Saturday’s victory and again today, took off too far away from the obstacle, tipped the top and fell, throwing Choc clear.  The Cockey Mackem also fell at the fence; although I’m not sure if this was an independent fall or as a result of a loss of attention due to the loose horse running across his path as he landed. 


Dark Lover cleared the last fence and headed wearily to the line; a very lucky winner today.  Sizing Italy finished 28 lengths back in 2nd, with the erratic Mr Watson 3rd and 50-1 outsider Gud Day in 4th.


The uninjured Balder Succes cantered up the turf alongside the grandstand rails; Travelling Head Lad, Matt Howell, and lad Steve Ayres, waved their arms in an attempt to stop the horse as he passed them by at the walkway entrance, but he evaded capture and continued up past the winning post, fortunately appearing none the worse for his fall.   







Dark Lover

Daryl Jacob

Paul Nicholls


Sizing Italy

Andrew Lynch

Henry de Bromhead


Mr Watson

AP McCoy

Jonjo O’Neill


Gud Day

Paddy Brennan

Fergal O’Brien


Choc, gutted, lay on the turf for a while before getting to his feet.  Unlike Balder Succes, The Cockney Mackem was still down; ground staff erected the green screens around him. 


Once more Choc made the trek across the course to reach the 4x4 vehicle; and again he was driven back to the area beside the Owners’ and Trainers’ marquee where he was dropped off before heading back through the main entrance of the Weighing Room.


Many of the spectators stayed in the area in front of the stands, watching hopefully for the Twiston-Davies horse to rise.  Eventually they were rewarded; The Cockney Mackem was okay.  A few minutes earlier I’d seen his jockey, Sam, walk back across the Parade Ring saddle in hand; father Nigel on hand to offer support. 


Close to the Weighing Room steps, Alan King and his Assistant, Oliver Wardle, chatted to winning jockey Daryl Jacob.  It was later revealed that Daryl had experienced difficulty in seeing the penultimate fence too, due to low sun.  Also AP McCoy had confirmed the same.


At this stage it did cross my mind as to whether I should set off for home.  Despite being sunny now, as we know, darkness would fall well before I reached home.  But I was glad I stayed, because when the jockeys walked down the steps and into the Parade Ring ahead of the final race, it transpired that Choc was riding in this one too!  I’d not noticed that one!  He would be aboard the filly Innocent Girl, trained by Lucinda Russell.


My pick of the paddock was Carningli, trained by Rebecca Curtis and ridden by AP McCoy; a 7-1 shot.  Also in this event was the Martin Keighley trained The Kvilleken.  It was a high class field, with many of the runners having already won a bumper, or won or been placed in a point-to-point.


The starting gate for the next race was at the far end of the home straight; the horses cantering up the all-weather track in front of the stands before heading down the turf and re-entering the track to journey to the far end of the straight to reach it. 


It was still bright sunshine but, as a bumper, no worries about obstacles this time around!


Race 7

Standard Open NH Flat Race


2 miles 110 yards

No. of Runners



Then they were off.   Spear-heading the runners was Carningli; also prominent were Regal Diamond, Radharc Nahabhainn, and Werenearlyoutofit ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.  These were followed by Trick Away, Innocent Girl, Muckle Roe, Vazaro Delafayette, Midnight Thunder, My Wigwam Or Yours, Gentlemen John, The Govaness, Chill Factor, The Kvilleken, Chase The Wind, Ma’ire Rua, Brother Brian and Craiganee.


Turning away from the stands, Muckle Roe had pulled himself into the led, from Trickaway, Regal Diamond and Carningli.  To find unraced upon ground, the runners went wide around the top corner and travelled along the back straight close to the outside fence.  Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount continued to lead, with Craiganee still at the rear of the field, although the latter had passed three or four rivals by the time the field reached the dogleg. 


Continuing to dispute the lead heading for the far turn were Muckle Roe, Regal Diamond and Carningli.  At this stage, Choc’s mount travelled on the outside of runners in around 8th position.  Heading downhill, Muckle Roe rapidly dropped out, leaving AP McCoy’s and Tom O’Brien’s mounts to continue to set the pace.  Midnight Thunder was now at the rear of the field.  Innocent Girl soon lost her place too.


Heading around the home turn, a group of six had pulled away from the remainder; Carningli, Regal Diamond, Vazaro Delafayette, My Wigwam Or Yours, The Govaness, and Chase The Wind.  There was a bit of ‘argy bargy between The Govaness, Chase The Wind and Vazaro Delafayette as they approached the wings of the absent last hurdle.  But just as it appeared that AP’s mount might be swallowed up, he began to put distance between himself and the others, running on the win by 3½ lengths at the line from the staying on Chase The Wind.  Vazao Delafayette finished a close 3rd, with Barry Geraghty’s mount My Wigwam Or Yours in 4th. 


The Kvilleken finished in 11th, the ground not quick enough for him now that the rain had affected it.  Innocent Girl completed in 14th place. 








AP McCoy

Rebecca Curtis


Chase The Wind

Noel Fehily

Warren Greatrex


Vazero Delayfayette

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe


My Wigwam Or Yours

Barry Geraghty

Nicky Henderson


I waited for Choc to ride back down the walkway before beginning my walk back to the Winners’ Enclosure area.  I also took a photograph of that darn second last fence, to see how the sunshine and shadow was affecting the fence 30 or so minutes on from Balder Succes’ mishap. 


I waited for the placed horses to arrive back.  I looked across to the Weighing Room and noticed young Freddie and Harry Keighley ‘riding’ a finish whilst sitting on the wall which surrounds the Weighing Room.  When Barry Geraghty arrived back from riding his mount, he spoke with Belinda Keighley and then joined the boys on the wall to have their picture taken.  An excellent jockey and a nice guy too (he’s my favourite Irish jockey).  Belinda later tweeted the photo to all those following her on twitter.


Being a long journey home – 100 miles taking at least two hours – I popped to the loo before leaving; better safe than sorry.  Having exited the confines of the racecourse, I crossed the Evesham Road and headed up the tarmac entrance to the upper car park before taking a left turn through the large gap in the hedge where the gravel driveway enters the lower field.  I had to wait a few moments while vehicles passed by, before crossing over the aforementioned driveway to reach my car which was located upon the flat middle area.  I was very pleased to see a tractor and driver waiting on the slope above where the cars were parked ... I needn’t have worried after all!


Being a bit soggy, when I reached my vehicle, I carefully laid my damp coat and scarf on the back seat.  And placed my wet shoes, apparently inside and out (or at least the right one was), in a Really Useful box which I put in the passenger foot well.  I hadn’t noticed my foot was wet.  There was a damp patch on my skirt caused by water running off my handbag, so I took that off and put on the pair of grey joggers which I keep in the car for just that purpose.  I noticed that my race-card was damp too, déjà vu Gold Cup Day in March.


Having eaten my two remaining cheese rolls, I set off at 18:00; there had been no traction problem with the tyres!  A couple were walking through the field crossing my driving line as I moved away; I think the man must have been a little drunk, as he was very vocal (in a polite way that is) and waved me through towards the driveway.   


Outside the gate I turned left onto Swindon Lane, soon crossing over the roundabout and into New Barn Lane.  I headed down to the mini-roundabout at the far end, where a very shape right turn took me into the Prestbury Road, followed by a left turn into Priors Lane a short distance later.  After a hold-up at the traffic lights outside the nearby supermarket, I reached the longabout, turning left to head up Harp Hill.  Having driven up the steep incline, where the road bends left, I took a right turn into Greenway Lane. 


There were a couple of dog-walkers, the first of which was walking on the roadway itself, facing the oncoming traffic.  Also, two youngsters riding their ponies, one of which was a piebald; they were difficult to see in the fading light, with additional darkness caused by the overhanging trees. I slowed down to pass them, taking a wide berth; they didn’t thank me – both rude and foolish, riding at dusk when they can barely be seen; and with no warning lights either.


Having arrived at the Six Ways junction, parked vehicles causing an obstruction outside nearby residences, I had to wait for the lights to change before I could turn left along the A40 and head up into the Cotswolds. I retraced my route up past the Dowdeswell Reservoir and along the Andoversford bypass, where I had to wait for the lights to change at the junction with the A436; a vehicle in the outside lane overtook me here.  


The foliage being still damp from the rain, a mist lay across the fields as I drove up towards the next set of traffic lights, they changed to red as I approached.  There were sheep in the field to my left.  There is a short stretch of dual carriageway at this point, permitting slow moving vehicles to be overtaken as they ascend the hill; today that was me!  However, I was able to catch up with the line of cars travelling ahead of me on the journey past the Puesdown Inn before arriving at the roundabout situated at the junction with the Stow/Cirencester road.  It was now dark.


The convoy travelled at a reasonable pace to Burford and soon joined the Witney bypass; I wasn’t pushing my speed today, but still overtook a number of vehicles as I headed east.  It was a full moon, more or less, and it’s not until you see it shining in the night’s sky that you realise the many changes in direction which a seemingly straight road will take. 


Having arrived on the western outskirts of Oxford, I took the ring-road, although I was delayed by a slow moving bus approaching the Headington roundabout; I wasn’t sure whether to overtake it and maybe get stuck in the outside lane when I wished to bear left to continue on the A40 and onwards to the M40. Approaching the latter, there were signs warning of road-works affecting the motorway; something to do with a bridge I believe.  As it transpired, the 50 mph limit in operation on the M40 lasted only a short distance. 


My route took me up through the Chilterns escarpment, past High Wycombe and Beaconsfield to join the M25. Being mid-evening, traffic was following well and I was able to remain in the inside lane until Junction 20, where that one bears off to the A41 junction. These days, very rarely do I leave the motorway at Junction 21A; instead continuing to Junction 22, situated beside the London Colney retail park.  My route then took me up the dual carriageway to the roundabout upon the A414, and continued into London Road. A right turn at the traffic lights and along the ring-road took me home.


I arrived back at 20:20 – I’d missed Strictly Come Dancing, but had recorded it on the Sky hard drive.  Tea was spaghetti on toast and two-thirds of a tub of Alpro plain yoghurt.  My damp clothes were consigned to the airing cupboard, my handbag too after I’d turned the contents out on the dining room table. 

I uploaded my photographs onto the laptop and wrote my blog entry before turning in for the night. It would be another day at the races tomorrow, when I’d undertake a trip to Kempton Park’s first national hunt fixture of the season. 

And, you know what?  I think I’ve remembered far too much about my day at Cheltenham races, as this diary is 9,370 words long!

Click here for photos Races 4, 5 & 6

Click here for photos – Race 7



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