DIARY – CHELTENHAM

SATURDAY 20 OCTOBER 2012

 

 

race 4 e.jpg

 

Choc returns to the Winners’ Enclosure

 having finished 3rd in the 3 miles and half a furlong Handicap Chase

 

 

This was my first visit to the Cheltenham Showcase meeting.  Despite the Gloucestershire track being my most visited racecourse, it can be a lonely journey to the venue; and a long one too, a 200-mile round trip.  However, on this occasion, my friend Lesley had asked if I was planning to go racing in the near future; I suggested maybe Cheltenham on 20 October and, probably, Kempton Park on 21 October.  She rather liked the idea of the former, and promised to keep this date free in her diary just in case.

As always, there are very few fixtures I can firmly plan to attend in advance.  I love National Hunt horseracing, but Choc in attendance makes it special; plans were therefore in limbo until his riding engagements were confirmed at lunchtime the previous day.  Two rides might not have been quite enough to make the journey, but in this case it was three; so it was all systems go.

The majority of my annual leave from work is spent doing racing-related activities, whether it’s attending a fixture or watching a meeting on TV.  Having taken leave earlier in the year to attend the Cheltenham and Aintree Festivals, plus using 6 days to cover part of the recuperation period following my sinus operation in April, and a couple of days during the summer (and one of those was to book my Aintree 2013 tickets) I had 10.5 days leave remaining.  Having worked for my employer for over 15 years, my entitlement is 27 days plus statutory. 

So, to make the most of these 10.5 days, I’d booked many Fridays, a couple of Mondays, and one Thursday, in the period running up to Christmas; Friday 19 October was the first of these days. 

I confess that leave from work is very expensive.  I drove down to the petrol station to fill up my car’s tank ahead of my planned car journeys this weekend and, of course, I just had to visit the nearby Marks and Spencer superstore.  They had the scarf I’d set my heart upon (a wine coloured one) ... yes, I also buy them as well as knit them ... plus two per una ‘swan print’ scarves I happened upon when heading to the fitting room to try on a long length skirt ... yes, I bought that item too, as trying on items nearly always results in a purchase.  The skirt looked and felt much nicer than would be expected from the picture on the M & S website. 

I liked an emerald green skirt too, but didn’t buy it ... however I bought a different pencil skirt instead, which also looked much nicer ‘in the flesh’ than on the website.  My reservation about the emerald one is that I believe green is unlucky, but I may not be able to resist it forever, as it did look and feel nice when handled!!!  I then trotted over to Next and bought a purse which I’d had my eye upon via their website.  I was now penniless, almost L. 

Having spent all my money ... or rather my credit card provider’s money ... I arrived home in time to watch the matinee fixture from Fakenham on TV.  Choc was riding at this meeting, as opposed to Day One of the Cheltenham Showcase.  He was out of luck, with a second and an unplaced from his two rides.  Once he’d completed his day’s engagements, I switched channels from ATR to Racing UK to watch the action from Cheltenham.  And I telephoned my friend Denise late afternoon, to have a long chat.

It took me ages to decide what to wear ... the weather was quite mild for the time of year, and my first thought was to wear a raincoat.  However, better safe than sorry, so I eventually settled upon my cerise jacket; it is one size too big, and I can wear a number of layers underneath it.  Experience has taught me that it’s almost impossible to wear too many clothes when attending the races during the autumn or winter!

Which scarf to wear?  The blue ‘swan print’ one was perfect.  Shoes, my pinky-mauve t-bar ones with purple tights. A grey Dorothy Perkins skirt, burgundy cardigan, purple fleece, cerise ribbed frill-edged cardigan and two thermal vests.  Jewellery?  At 21:30 I was re-constructing a necklace and earrings, adding Caribbean Opal coloured Swarovski crystals and cerise glass beads to the existing fuchsia coloured crystals.

I had arranged to collect Lesley from her home near Dunstable at around 09:45.  I awoke before 07:00, showered, washed and dried my hair, and ate a breakfast of croissants and toast.  I watched the Morning Line, their special guest was jockey Mattie Batchelor.  At the present time he is Champion Jump Jockey in ... Norway!  And, during the quiet summer months, he often works as a gardener. 

Having applied my make-up and got dressed, I left home at 09:20; I was running late, as it takes me 45 minutes to drive to Lesley’s house.  I apologised, but we did have plenty of time as the gates opened at noon.  Our trip took us via the Leighton Buzzard bypass, Aylesbury, Bicester and the outskirts of Oxford, before we headed along the A40 to Cheltenham.  We reached the town around midday; I should have taken the Greenways Lane route as, having not taken this route, we were delayed by the lunchtime traffic. 

Upon reaching the racecourse’s main entrance, we drove across into Swindon Lane and turned into the car park on our right.  There was plenty of room in the bottom field, which is where I also park during the Festival.  I had to wait for a number of race-goers to cross the roadway (I even stalled my car at this point ... it was on a slope), before I could park on the second row, vehicles sideways on to the roadway.           

Having put our coats on, we set off to cross the Evesham Road and entered the racecourse precincts.  We used our credit cards to purchase tickets from the kiosk situated on the bridge before entering the Centaur building to gain entry through the turnstiles.  Once inside, we purchased a race-card each, these were being sold by a young lad in the foyer area.  “There you go, my lovely,” he said, as he handed me the booklet.  That made my day!!!

We were also given a flyer containing details about the Showcase ‘experience’.  After visiting the loo, we located the cash-point machine within the Centaur building, as Lesley wished to withdraw some money.  Having descended the stairs, we exited onto the walkway to the back of the grandstand before going down the steps to reach the Parade Ring.  Lesley went to purchase drinks too; I asked for a hot chocolate (or should that be a hot Choc!) and she ensured that it was topped with cream too!

Both the race-card and the flyer informed us that, if we waited by the Arkle Statue at 13:00, we would be taken to look at the final fence in the company of a top jockey.  Always keen to participate in race day activities, we decided to do just this.  It would have been possible to enter the Parade Ring and visit the Weighing Room before 13:00 too, had we not been running a little late. Never mind, not only have we been to the Weighing Room, but also into the changing room during our visit to walk the course with Choc in December 2008!  Choc was in no hurry that day, as racing was abandoned!

During the Showcase fixture it would also have been possible to have our photograph taken holding the Cheltenham Gold Cup had we wished (or read about it at the time).

A large group of people had gathered by the statue ahead of the visit to the final fence.  One of the officials collected us and led us down across the concourse, through the passageway beside the Lawn Bar, across the lawn and through the exit gate onto the racecourse.  The underfoot conditions were okay, despite me wearing a pair of heeled shoes; not stilettos I hasten to add.  The group gathered around the fence, and it was announced that Hennessy Gold Cup winning jockey, Mattie Batchelor, would be with us shortly.  It was bound to be an amusing interlude in the company of the joker of the Weighing Room!

Mattie soon arrived and, during the course of his conversion, someone asked him what it was like to ride over the Cheltenham fences.  “I don’t know”, he joked, “I always close my eyes”.  His tips for the day were Frankel, who was having his final career outing in the Champion Stakes at Ascot and Mad Moose in race 2, a Handicap Chase.  Evidently, following his appearance on The Morning Line, he’d picked up a number of gardening jobs.

Once completed, we returned to the Parade Ring.  My shoes had fared okay, dampness does noticeably mark them but they always dry very quickly.  I do receive lots of compliments about this particular pair of shoes; I suppose it is because they are very ‘girly’!

Choc was due to ride in the second, fourth and fifth races today.  Soon the horses arrived ahead of the first race and we waited until they had left the Paddock before we headed underneath the grandstand and out onto the lawn to find a good vantage point at the ½ furlong marker.  Lesley and I walked through the passageway beside the Lawn Bar, having got a little disoriented on this occasion because we were chatting!  Normally I’d head through the passageway to the right of the Tote office. 

It was very noticeable that the course-side rails were covered with thousands of tiny money spiders.  But it was autumn I suppose.  We didn’t lean against the rails, but the arachnids still got everywhere; many in Lesley’s blonde hair!  

Anyway, the starting gate for the first race was halfway down the home straight, with that and two full circuits to travel.  It seemed an unusual starting point, but I guess that is because no long distance hurdle races are run on the Old Course during the first two days of the Festival!  The horses had cantered up the walkway in front of the stands before heading down the course and re-entering the gallop for a short distance to reach the start. 

 Race 1

Novices’ Hurdle

Distance

3 miles and 110 yards (13 flights)

No. of Runners

8

 

Then they were off; the white faced Brass Tax leading the way.  He was followed by According To Trev, Rendl Beach, Talkonthestreet, Minella For Value, Our Vinnie, Benefit Of Youth, with Roving Lad bringing up the rear.  The runners travelled at a steady pace, almost Indian file. 

 

Benefit of Youth flattened the fourth hurdle, the last in the back straight, then stumbled and fell after clearing the next flight.  Both the horse and his jockey, Aidan Coleman, were fine.

 

Turning into the home straight with one circuit to go, Brass Tax still held the advantage from Rendl Beach, According To Trev, Talkonthestreet, Minella For Value, Our Vinnie and Roving Lad.  Rendl Beach, the mount of AP McCoy, took a narrow advantage at the 9th flight; still in touch at the rear of the field, Roving Lad fell at the 10th.

 

There was no change at the head of affairs over 3 out but, following an error two out, Rendl Beach relinguished his advantage to the ridden along According To Trev; a close third, Our Vinnie also blundered here.  Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount led around the final bend and set off up the hill to the line.

 

Irish raider, Our Vinnie, was challenging strongly for the lead as they approached the final obstacle, but he lost valuable ground following at error at this flight.  It seemed that According To Trev now had the race sewn up but Our Vinnie rallied, closing with every stride.  The winning post came just in time, the winning distance was a head.       

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

According to Trev

Sam Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies

2nd

Our Vinnie

Davy Russell

Charles Byrnes

3rd

Rendl Beach

AP McCoy

Rebecca Curtis

4th

Talkonthestreet

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs

 

We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back.

 

This race had been named in honour of Edward Gillespie, Cheltenham’s Managing Director, who was due to relinquish his role shortly.  Edward had spent 32 years in the job, his first Festival being 1981 when Little Owl won the Gold Cup.  To mark his departure, a presentation was made to him, a number of jockeys heading out of the Weighing Room to pay their respects; Choc being one of these.  It was three cheers and applause all round; but I felt I was unable to take a photo of my favourite jockey, as he was hidden from view within the crowd for much of the time.  

 

As Choc’s mount in the next race, Divers, is trained by Ferdy Murphy as opposed to Alan King, he was legged up on our side of the Parade Ring.  This enabled me to take a couple of close up photos before he set off down the horse-walk.  Choc was sporting the well-known colours of the Let’s Live Racing syndicate. 

 

Lesley, having ‘met’ the Martin Keighley trained Havingotascoobydo during last year’s Open Day at the yard, decided to put an each-way bet on the horse.

 

The start of the next event was in the mid-course chute; upon exiting the walkway leading from the Parade Ring, the horses cantered across the course and along the all-weather strip around the top bend to reach it.

 

Race 2

Handicap Chase

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs (15 fences)

No. of Runners

20

 

Then they were off.  Or at least all but one; Mad Moose refusing to set off with the field.  Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount had looked a little mulish when circling at the start, so it had been a possibility that he’d dig in his heels at the point of departure.

 

The field was led away from Finger Onthe Pulse.  Prominent were Easter Meteor, Nadiya de La Vega, Tartak and Triangular.  Irish representative, Campbonnais, who had been tracking the leaders made a bad blunder at the second fence and lost his position.  Choc was in second from last position around the far bend; his mount hitting the first in the home straight and almost launching his rider into space.  Choc ended up briefly on the horse’s neck but he was soon back in the plate.

 

Easter Meteor led the way as the runners headed up the home straight on the first occasion, closely pursued by Finger Onthe Pulse and Nadiya de La Vega; these two sporting the green and gold colours of owner JP McManus.   As is his preference, Choc kept to the inside line, around the top bend gaining ground on those outside him; however he was not particularly fluent at the first fence in the back straight.

 

Having blundered twice previously, Bobowen made a further error 4 out and was pulled up by jockey Barry Geraghty.  Camponnais had been pulled up two fences earlier.  Choc was still persevering with his mount but was well behind and tailing off.

 

Finger Onthe Pulse, Easter Meteor and Nadiya de La Vega were still at the head of affairs as the runners headed down the hill towards the final bend.  Havingotascoobydo loomed up on the outside of the field 3 out but, having been off the racecourse since last January, his challenge was short-lived on this occasion. 

 

Having turned into the home straight, Easter Meteor, Finger Onthe Pulse and Nadiya de La Vega jumped the penultimate fence upsides.  Finger Onthe Pulse was the first beaten, the other two going on and clearing the last in unison.  The mare drifted towards her rival under pressure but galloped clear to win by 2½ lengths at the line.

 

A win for the only mare in the field.  Now 6, she’s grown into her frame; she was very gangly as a 4-year old.  Choc and Divers completed, finishing last of the remaining runners, in 17th. 

 

Despite fading after 3 out, it had been an excellent comeback run from Havingotascoobydo, the horse having broken its back in three places the previous January. 

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Nadiya de La Vega

AP McCoy

Nicky Henderson

2nd

Easter Meteor

Dominic Elsworth

Emma Lavelle

3rd

Finger Onthe Pulse

Maurice Linehan

Tom Taffe

4th

Jamsie Hall

Paul Carberry

Gordon Elliott

 

We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back.

 

Having weighed in and removed his silks and helmet, Choc exited the Weighing Room, standing on the terrace area for a few moments before crossing the horse-walk which leads from the pre-parade ring to join colleague Richard Johnson who was chatting to his wife Fiona.  She was with their two young children and was accompanied by Choc’s ex-wife, Meally, and son William.  After a few minutes, Choc put William upon his shoulders and carried him into the Weighing Room before returning him to his mum a short while later.

 

The horses had already left the Parade Ring ahead of the next race and, once Choc had returned to the Weighing Room, I managed to tear myself away and we walked beneath the stands to view the event from the tarmac area above the lawn.

 

The horses had already reached the starting gate, which was located at the far end of the home straight. 

 

Race 3

Hurdle

Distance

2 miles and 110 yards (8 flights)

No. of Runners

5

 

Then they were off.  The field was led away by Hi Note, from Baby Mix, Captain Sharpe, Dodging Bullets and Thegondolier; Captain Sharpe and Dodging Bullets both keen.

 

Hi Note and Baby Mix had set up a clear lead over the remaining runners as they passed the stands.  Heading down the back straight, both the lead-disputing Baby Mix, Dodging Bullets and Thegondolier were taken wide of the other two runners. 

 

Ruby Walsh pushed his mount along to close on his rivals as they headed down the hill; Baby Mix far from fluent over 3 out.  Hi Note led around the final bend as Baby Mix faded. 

 

Dodging Bullets made his challenge as they approached the last, jumping the flight slightly ahead of the mare and pulling away up the hill to win by 8 lengths.  

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Dodging Bullets

Ruby Walsh

Paul Nicholls

2nd

Hi Note

Mark Goldstein

Sheena West

3rd

Baby Mix

Paddy Brennan

Tom George

4th

Thegondolier

B Hayes

JJ Hanlon

 

 We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back.

 

Choc’s ride in the next event was Hold On Julio.  Once he had been legged up on the far side of the Parade Ring, we set off to find a good vantage point beside the ‘spidery’ course-side rails.

 

The start of this race was in the home straight, the horses heading up the horse-walk in front of the stands before cantering down the turf and re-entering the lower section of the all-weather gallop and exiting close to the first fence.  The distance of this race meant that each fence was jumped twice, with the final fence being negotiated on three occasions. 

 

Race 4

Handicap Chase

Distance

3 miles and 110 yards (19 fences)

No. of Runners

19 ran

 

Then they were off.  But Carruthers had been left at the start.  It appeared that Mattie Batchelor had not been ready; he held up his hands in exasperation.  It wasn’t deemed to be a false start, so the race was on ...

 

Festival Cross Country winner Balthazar King led the way, from Prince Tom, Fredo, Galaxy Rock, Inside Dealer, Qianshan Leader and Billie Magern.  Choc aboard Hold On Julio travelled on the inside, in mid-field.  

 

Wellforth was jumping noticeably poorly and was pulled up before the 8th.  The Kim Bailey trained Darna fell at this fence.  Blues And Twos took a heavy fall at the 9th.  The horse got up okay and walked slowly away, perhaps a little dazed.

 

Balthazar King continued to lead from Fredo, Galaxy Rock, Prince Tom and Exmoor Ranger.  Hold on Julio received encouragement upon landing over the uphill fence.  As the horses headed down the back straight for the final time the backmarkers began to lose touch.

 

Galaxy Rock flew over the 16th fence and, as a result,  took the lead, remaining ahead as the field travelled downhill, Balthazar King now in second.  Hold On Julio cleared 3 out a little slowly when in third position; but he responded willingly to pressure to close upon the two leaders as they headed around the final bend.

 

AP McCoy’s mount still held a narrow advantage when making a slight mistake 2 out, permitting Balthazar King to lead once more.  The latter gamely held off the challenges of both Galaxy Rock and Hold On Julio to triumph; the distances one length and a head.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Balthazar King

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs

2nd

Galaxy Rock

AP McCoy

Jonjo O’Neill

3rd

Hold On Julio

Choc Thornton

Alan King

4th

Bradley

Paddy Brennan

Fergal O’Brien

 

We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back.  He unsaddled his mount, spoke with connections and returned to the Weighing Room.

 

The Qipco Champion Stakes took place at Ascot today, superstar Frankel having his fourteenth and final career outing before retiring to stud.  Cheltenham broadcast the race at various points around the racecourse, including upon the big screen situated near the winning post, opposite the main grandstand.  We had headed down to the course-side rails early, in order to watch the race.  Frankel won the race, and ended his career undefeated; spontaneous applause breaking out from the National Hunt crowd as Frankel crossed the line. 

 

Lesley placed her second, and final, bet of the day upon Opening Batsman in the next race.  This was in honour of her late son, Steve, who was a keen cricketer. 

 

The start of the next event was in the mid-course chute; upon exiting the walkway leading from the Parade Ring, the horses cantered across the course and up along the all-weather strip around the top bend to reach it.  Ambrose Princess, who evidently can be a little temperamental, was led around at the start away from the remainder of the runners.

 

Race 5

Handicap Hurdle

Distance

2 miles 5 furlongs (10 flights)

No. of Runners

23 ran

 

Then they were off.  The field was led away by the aforementioned Ambrose Princess; she held a clear advantage over Fruity O’Rooney, What An Oscar, Hi George, Cucumber Run and Medinas.  The latter travelling in Choc’s favoured inside berth.  Now This Is It was at the back of the field.

 

Heading up the home straight on the first occasion the order was Ambrose Princess, Fruity O’Rooney, What An Oscar, Hi George, Medinas, Cucumber Run, Handy Andy, What A Steel, Sangfroid, Barlow, Captain Sunshine, Bondage, Mister Dillon, Defence Of Duress, Opening Batsman, Rolling Aces, Big Easy, Battlecat, Valento, Queiros Bleu, Scotswell, Hidden Identity and Now This Is It.  

 

Travelling up the hill away from the stands there was no change at the front or the rear of the field; Ambrose Princess retaining the advantage and Now This Is It still ‘wagging the tail’.  Mister Dillon was not fluent at the 6th flight; Cucumber Run was taken wide, Medinas tracked the leader and was travelling well.  Mister Dillon soon received a reminder; three runners, including the grey Sangfroid under Wayne Hutchinson, were now struggling in rear.

 

The leader hit the flight located after the elbow, the 7th; Opening Batsman flattened it.  Having cleared 3 out, Choc encouraged his mount to challenge Ambrose Princess and took the lead over 2 out, where Now This Is It blundered when going well in 6th place and did not recover. 

 

Medinas drifted away slightly from the rails as he turned in, AP McCoy aboard Irish raider Bondage taking advantage of this to nip up his inside and take a slight lead.  However, the latter hit the last flight, presenting Choc’s mount with a slight chance.  But AP drove Bondage out to the line to win by 2¾ lengths.

 

Medinas’ over-girth had become unbuckled or had broken during the race, for it flapped underneath him as he galloped up towards the finish.  On the replay, it became clear that the over-girth had become loose early in the race, visible as he galloped up the home straight on the first occasion.  But Choc said it did not affect the result.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Bondage

AP McCoy

Gordon Elliott

2nd

Medinas

Choc Thornton

Alan King

3rd

Queiros Bleu

BJ Cooper

Henry De Bromhead

4th

Rolling Aces

Ruby Walsh

Paul Nicholls

 

We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see Choc arrive back.  He unsaddled his mount, spoke with connections and returned to the Weighing Room.

 

The starting gate for the next event was at the far end of the home straight; the horses cantering up the horse-walk in front of the stands, before turning and cantering down the turf and re-entering the gallop to proceed to the start.

 

Race 6

Novices’ Chase

Distance

2 Miles (13 fences)

No. of Runners

8 ran

 

Then they were off.  The field was led away by the keen Cavita Beta, sporting the well-known colours of Ann and Alan Potts.  Tornade D’Estruval to the inside, a length or two down; in last place, Rajnagan was jumping slowly.

 

Heading away from the stands, there was no change at the head of affairs.  AP’s mount, Peckhamecho, hit the first fence in the back straight, the leader making an error at the next, which was the water jump.

 

Peckhamecho took over the lead at the 9th fence; Rajnagan, not jumping with fluency, hit the final open-ditch.  AP’s mount continued to lead as the runners headed downhill; His Excellency now making headway.

 

Around the final bend, Peckhamecho still held the advantage, from Third Intention and His Excellency.  The Tizzard’s Third Intention took up the running and led over the final two obstacles and he appeared to have victory in his grasp.  However, Tom Scudamore drove his tail swishing mount up the far side rail, staying on well to win by 1¼ lengths.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

His Excellency

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe

2nd

Third Intention

Joe Tizzard

Colin Tizzard

3rd

Peckhamecho

AP McCoy

Rebecca Curtis

4th

Cavite Beta

BJ Cooper

JTR Dreaper

 

We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back. 

 

Whilst the jockeys were being legged up ahead of the next race, Choc made another appearance.  He chatted to a couple of female acquaintances over by the horse walkway leading from the pre-parade ring, before returning via the terrace and steps to the Parade Ring.  He spoke for a few moments with a guy he knew, before heading across the main concourse. 

 

We set off to watch the next event.  The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight; the horses cantering up the horse-walk in front of the stands, before turning and cantering down the turf and re-entering the gallop to proceed to the far end.  Martin Keighley had a runner in this race, the recent Fontwell bumper winner, Creepy.  I guess he got his name because his dam was called Prowler!

Race 7

Standard Open NH Flat Race

Distance

2 miles 110 yards

No. of Runners

17

 

Then they were off.  The field were initially led by Creepy; Charlie Ruffles travelling to the stand-side of the field soon took over in front, jockey Danny Hiskett easing back the Martin Keighley trained runner as the horses progressed up the straight.

 

Fiddlers Bid, Charlie Ruffles, Jazz Man and Creepy disputed the lead as the runners headed down the back straight.  By the top of the hill the role call was Fiddlers Bid, Jazz Man, Charlie Ruffles, Monkey Kingdom, Creepy, Ballyvogue, Tinelyra, favourite Southfield Theatre, Sizing Jo’burg, Luso’s Way, Key To The West, Signed Request, Bowie, Separate Shadows, Minella Fiveo, and Minella For Party; Craiganee brought up the rear.

 

Having tracked the leaders, AP’s mount, Monkey Kingdom, took over at the head of affairs three furlongs out; Southfield Theatre, ridden by Ruby Walsh, soon in second position.  Ruby rode him to take the lead over one furlong out and he ran on up the hill to score by 5 lengths from Money Kingdom.  Creepy rallied in the latter stages, staying on to claim 4th.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Southfield Theatre

Ruby Walsh

Paul Nicholls

2nd

Monkey Kingdom

AP McCoy

Rebecca Curtis

3rd

Fiddlers Bid

Paddy Brennan

Fergal O’Brien

4th

Creepy

Danny Hiskett

Martin Keighley

 

We returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back. 

 

Whilst we were standing on the steps above the aforementioned enclosure, I noticed Choc was ‘out and about’ again; he’d met up with Meally and William once more.  His son was very active, soon running off into the empty unsaddling enclosure, his dad keeping close tabs on him as he scurried about!

 

The final race of the day was the Greatwood Charity Sweepstake for amateur jockeys in aid of the racehorse welfare charity.  It also helps special needs children interact with the animals to build upon their life skills.

 

The runners entered the Parade Ring early, as the event took place just 20 minutes after the Bumper.  Once they had set off to the start ... and Choc was no longer in view, Lesley and I walked through beneath the stands, to view the race from tarmac area above the lawn.  The race was one mile 5 furlongs in distance, and started by flag.  Thus the runners were milling about in the area where the main circuit joined the home straight. 

 

There were 11 participants, the one of particular interest being the Martin Keighley trained mare, Sky Calling.  She was ridden by Mark Caswell, former National Hunt jockey, who had retired on this equivalent day, 25 years ago; his last ride at the track a winner.  He’d been riding out for Martin all year. 

 

Then they were off.  He’d been well briefed and hadn’t lost his skills over the years, challenging as the horses galloped up the hill towards the line to beat Paul Nicholls’ wife, Georgie, by a narrow margin.  It was good to see Sky win too, as on her last outing at Stratford she’d fallen at the final fence, handing the victory that day to Choc aboard Henry San. Sky had taken a while to recover, and this confidence boosting race was just what she needed.  And, having been run outside the rules of racing, the win did not affect her handicap mark.

 

I think that if a horse falls during a handicap, it should not affect their rating, even if they had been running an excellent race up to that point.  But I suppose that’s the view of those associated with the horse and would not be shared by the betting fraternity, because it would give the animal a second chance on identical terms and thus affect expectations.

 

With many supporters, Sky Calling and her pilot returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to much applause.  I noticed that Choc was in the Parade Ring as Mark was led by, chatting with Nigel Bunter, owner of the Barbury Castle Estate, and landlord of Alan King.  Shortly afterwards he set off across the concourse with one of his colleagues.  It was my last sighting of him today.

 

Martin and Belinda Keighley were over the moon with the win and owner, Mark Allen, fulfilled a life-time ambition of leading his own horse into the Winners’ Enclosure at Cheltenham.  Having unsaddled, posed for photographs and weighed-in, it was time for the winning owner, trainer and jockey to receive their mementos.  Each of the amateur jockeys took their turn to climb the podium to accept a keepsake too. 

 

Once the Winners’ Enclosure celebrations had drawn to a close, it was time for us to leave.  We popped to the loo, always sensible before a long road journey.  Having taken a few minutes waiting to cross the busy Evesham Road, we arrived back at my car; it was standing all alone in that particular area of the car park.  We took a few minutes to each consume a couple of cheese rolls and a number of M & S chocolate covered biscuits.  Lesley has lost a stone in weight; I wish I could do the same!

 

We began our journey at 18:40.  Unlike during the Festival, when route options are limited by the traffic police, we turned left at the gate and crossed the Evesham Road, heading into New Barn Lane; a sharp right took us into Prestbury Road, and a left into Priors Road.  Traffic would probably have been okay along Hales Road, but I decided to head up Harp Hill and into Greenways Lane; this bypassed any possible queue-related problems.

 

We then headed back along the A40 over the Cotwolds.  As I was to drop Lesley off at her home in Bedfordshire, upon reaching the outskirts of Oxford we drove northwards along the A34, across the M40 interchange, and onwards to Bicester.  We then took the A41 to Aylesbury, before turning in the direction of Leighton Buzzard. 

 

Unfortunately, at this point, we got stuck behind a car being driven very erratically!  Travelling at 30 mph in town is compulsory, but between 30 and 40 in a 60 mph limit is very frustrating.  The road winds between Aylesbury and Wing, but driving at such a slow speed was ridiculous.  I don’t think the driver could see very well in the darkness, and was definitely suffering from glare, as they braked every time a vehicle approached from the opposite direction.  Then, as we passed through Wing, the driver drove on the other side of the road to avoid parked vehicles, despite them barely causing any obstruction whatsoever.  I was relieved when the car turned left upon reaching the Leighton Buzzard bypass.  Shouldn’t have been out in the dark, me thinks.

   

Lesley told me she is now the proud owner of a year-old golden Labrador called Max.  She has kept dogs in the past, and still has two cats, Scramble (male) and Twiglet (female).  She took them into her care when a work colleague moved to Germany a number of years ago; this is Max’s third home, the second owner having recently moved to smaller accommodation with insufficient space to keep a dog.   

 

At 20:30 I dropped Lesley off in her home village of Eaton Bray; it took me a further 45 minutes to reach my own home.  The roads looked wet in Bedfordshire and, after reaching Hertfordshire, it began to rain as I drove around the Redbourn bypass; it was difficult to see at first, as the wipers smeared grim across my windscreen.  

 

I usually put my car away under the carport but, with the prospect of going to Kempton Park the following day, I left the car on the drive; unloading my possessions in the rain.  Having not eaten much all day, I wasn’t very hungry, so I just ate a buttered bread-crust and a drink of warm milk before logging on to update my diary blog and upload the photographs I’d taken that day.

 

I turned in at around 11:30.  Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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