DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2013
FEATURING THE CHAMPION HURDLE
TUESDAY 12 MARCH 2013
Simonsig returns having won the
Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1)
I’d been racing once in January, to Kempton Park; once in February, also to Kempton Park; and once in March, to Newbury. And I was very much looking forward to spending four days at the Cheltenham Festival, despite the Alan King yard not expecting to have as many runners as in recent years; many of the top notch horses having been sidelined due to injury this season.
Everything was going well until Monday 04 March, when Choc had two rides at Southwell. His first was aboard Awesome Bella who finished 6th in Handicap Hurdle run at 16:15; his second ride was aboard Our Phylli Vera in the two mile Handicap Hurdle run at 16:50. The mare was travelling well, if a little keen, before falling three out in the fixed brush race. Unfortunately, when she departed, she fell into the path of Lilac Belle, bringing her down too; as a result Choc took a crunching fall.
In the immediate aftermath of the incident it appeared that Choc had escaped serious injury for, although very sore, he’d eventually walked to the ambulance and had been taken back to the Weighing Room. Feeling under the weather, colleague Gerard Tumelty had driven him home that evening.
However, the pain had got worse that night and Choc decided to get his injuries checked out ... only to discover that he’d fractured three vertebrae and re-broken his upper right arm; the plate inserted in the limb in December 2011 had kept the bone aligned but it was confirmed as broken. It took a while for the news to filter through, as Choc was initially seeking a second opinion in the vain hope that he’d be fit to ride at the Cheltenham Festival the following week.
Having finally accepted the inevitable, Choc tweeted the news on Wednesday morning and it was published in an online article shortly afterwards. I knew that he’d missed a booked ride on Tuesday, so was continuing to check the racing websites for reassurance that everything was fine, only to discover the devastating news shortly before lunchtime, when I had a very brief look during a break at work.
Choc would miss the Festival for the first time since the beginning of his career, as amateur and professional (although there was no Festival in 2001 due to a foot and mouth outbreak). And I’d be travelling to Cheltenham each day, a 200 mile round trip, without my favourite jockey anywhere to be seen; although I was hoping he might spend some time at the Festival, as a ‘spectator’. It also ruled him out of the Aintree Festival staged 04 to 06 April this year for which, for the first time, I’d bought a ticket for each of the three days ... bad luck for everyone then.
Having paid out over £700 in addition to the annual ‘service scheme’ payment of around £200 for my car in February, my plans for a new laptop, and anything else for that matter, had been put on hold. However, having read the news, I decided it was time to invest in a smart-phone to keep up-to-date with news at all times of the day, rather than continuing to rely solely on an internet connection via a computer. Nothing grand, just a bog-standard android phone, but enough to keep me in touch with twitter 24 hours a day if necessary.
Following my trip to Newbury, I had noticed that the inner corner of my right lower eyelid was sore ... by midweek I had a developed a stye. Very attractive ... NOT. This was the second time within 18 months this had occurred, and I believe the source of the problem is the dry eye syndrome which I’ve developed during the past two or three years. Dry eye doesn’t affect me during the day, when I’m continually blinking; solely when I wake up, either during the night or in the morning. My right eye is badly affected, but not my left.
Fortunately following treatment with one of the GoldenEye products and bathing it with warm water, the stye burst and the swelling reduced. Whether I would wear contact lenses the following week would depend on how the eyelid recovered; but the worst part is that the redness between the lashes and the eye (and inside the eyelid too) takes months to disappear.
And, yes, I know the syndrome is exacerbated by prolonged spells spent staring at a computer screen ... so I haven’t got much hope on that front! Confirmed by the fact that the dryness wasn’t so noticeable whilst I was on leave to attend the Cheltenham Festival.
I’ve bypassed Sandown races on the Saturday before the Festival for a couple of years now, so Choc’s absence didn’t affect my plans. I also book the day before the Festival (Monday) as leave from work too; apart from walking down to the local supermarket to get a few emergency items and a copy of the Racing Post, and a second walk to the local bank to pay a credit card bill and a shop to buy an 18th birthday card for my nephew, I spent the day at home.
It was therefore all systems go by the time I turned in at 21:30; my alarm clock set for 04:30 the following morning. Although, as Choc had confirmed via twitter that he had an appointment the following day with a specialist regarding his injuries so definitely wouldn’t be able to attend Cheltenham, at this stage I could have oh so easily called time on my Tuesday journey! Choc would later tweet to ask if anyone knew of a good pub in Cardiff where he could watch the racing – so presumably his appointment had been in Cardiff.
The alarm sounded as set ... I hate it when it wakes me from slumber rather than already being awake. I showered, washed and dried my hair; then ate a breakfast of Weetabix and two slices of toast and butter. After that I applied my make-up ... still not feeling 100% committed to my trip.
With far laid wardrobe plans already re-written, Tuesday’s outfit was a black thermal vest, grey bird-print thermal long-sleeved vest, cream thermal long-sleeved vest, purple long-sleeved t-shirt, damson coloured v-neck sweater, new purple fleece, purple frill-edged cardigan, black gillet and green heavyweight Cotton Traders fleece. Also grey 40 denier tights, brown leggings and a heather shades M & S skirt. My M & S horse-print snood, berry shade Sirdar Snowball scarf, M & S waterproof Thinsulate boots, Thinsulate gloves, wrist-warmers, dappy hat, and mauve Fired Earth pendant. This was topped off with my black faux sheepskin coat, as opposed to my black faux sheepskin jacket, as the Cotton Traders fleece fits under this one! As Choc was not due to be at Cheltenham today, I wore my glasses rather than contact lenses.
You may think that I was slightly overdoing the layers ... but RUK’s Ollie Bell had reported from Cheltenham the previous day and the temperature including wind-chill factor was minus eleven. I’m sure that one day I’ll experience a warm Spring-like day at the Festival ... but it wouldn’t be this year! It would turn out to be the coldest I’d experienced to date and, without Choc, depressing too.
There didn’t seem much urgency in my demeanour to depart for Cheltenham either; according to the clock in my car it was 06:38. I decided to drive around the ring-road to exit from St Albans, my journey taking me through Hemel Hempstead, where I joined the A41 bypass road and headed to Aylesbury. There were flurries of snow as I drove along this stretch of the road, it being in the Chilterns; I did contemplate turning back.
It was around 07:15 as I arrived at the outskirts of Aylesbury, traffic heading in the opposite direction was already queuing up to leave the town. My route took me around their ring-road before I rejoined the A41 once more and headed through the new housing development on its western outskirts. The road passes through Waddesdon and onwards to Bicester, where a large new housing development is being constructed to the west of the town. A new Premier Inn has been built at the junction where the A41 turns south-westwards to meet the M40.
There is usually a tailback of traffic from the motorway junction and today was no different; after a number of traffic light changes I finally drove around the roundabout and began my journey down the A34 towards Oxford. I encountered further slow moving traffic, this time caused by three lanes merging into two; combined with vehicles entering the flow from a country road to the left. Further doubts crept into my mind ... should I turn back?
Once again I survived this ‘low’ moment and soon exited the A34 at the Peartree Interchange. It has to be said that this always proves to be the biggest bottle-neck in my journey, because it coincides with the beginning of the Oxford rush-hour. Although I hadn’t arrived at the junction quite as early as hoped, there were no vehicles queued around and blocking the roundabout itself, so I was able to enter the short stretch of A44 and almost reach the first set of traffic lights before joining the back of the queue.
It’s then stop start stop start to the roundabout at the far end, where a right turn takes me onto the A40 and a journey across the Cotswolds to Cheltenham. There is a set of traffic lights, then a roundabout and a second set of traffic lights before the dual carriageway of the Witney bypass commences; I got caught by both sets today. The traffic flow heading west was quiet, in fact quieter than I can ever remember at this time of the morning on a weekday!
There were further snow flurries experienced as I drove between Burford and Cheltenham. A small sign had been placed beside the short dual-carriageway section heading down to Andoversford; an arrow pointing to the left, instructing visitors of the way to Kim Bailey’s yard!
As I was running later than usual, the queue of traffic heading into Cheltenham on the A40 stretched all the way back to East End. Upon reaching the Six Ways junction, I had the option to turn right and travel up Greenway Lane but, on this occasion, I continued along the A40 and turned right into Hales Road instead.
As always, my route took me around the ‘longabout’ and past the entrance to a supermarket before I turned right and headed up Bouncers Lane. It can take a while to negotiate the dual mini-roundabouts at the far end, as the traffic heading out of Prestbury (thus from the right) is often incessant! I entered Tatchley Lane, and this soon leads into New Barn Lane.
In the final episode of ‘Planners’ on BBC2, one of the developments seeking planning permission was to build on Starvehall Farm in New Barn Lane, Cheltenham. Sadly, the plans were passed and new homes are to be built on the fields, plus on part of the adjoining playing field. I felt very sorry for the tenant farmer who’d lived there for 40 years; he grazed horses and Dexter cattle on the land. It also provided ‘private’ off-site parking during the Cheltenham Festival.
Having driven around the roundabout outside the racecourse and headed into Swindon Lane, I turned right and entered the car park, showing my parking pass to gain entry; it was 09:20.
I was parked in the bottom field, high up on the hill today; on the back of a double-row, so needed to reverse to leave, if the car in front had not departed by then. Each year the parking arrangements seem to change, last year the hill parking was filled first, with later arrivals parking on the flat area of the field. This year the latter area was reserved for staff parking. As a precaution, I left my car in reverse gear.
I decided to tune into Cheltenham Festival radio; and ate two cheese rolls which I brought with me. After all, I had eaten breakfast four hours ago! Having put on a few more layers of clothing, I set off to join the queue at the turnstiles.
Whilst waiting in the queue towards the Six Ways junction I’d tuned into the local radio station (not Cheltenham Festival radio) and discovered that the inspection had been put back until 10:30 although, of course, this turned out to be okay; an announcement being made shortly before the turnstiles opened. That was a relief, as I didn’t fancy driving 100 miles home without seeing any racing, although, come to think of it, racing was abandoned the day I walked the course with Choc. But, of course, that was more than enough to make my day complete on that occasion!
Today, however, the Cross-country course was not so fortunate, a later inspection would discover that parts of the course were still frozen; an announcement was then made that the organisers hoped to run it as the 7th race on Thursday, with the Charity race being moved back to be the 8th race that day. This being the case, today’s first race was rescheduled to take place at 14:05 instead of 13:30, with the three subsequent races all being pushed back too. This meant the Champion Hurdle would be run at 16:00. The Cross-Country race would have been Race 5; Races 6 and 7 were run at their originally scheduled times.
Here is the official notification regarding the fate of the cross country race on today’s card:
Following concerns by the Racecourse Executive that the frost was still in parts of the track on the cross country course the Stewards inspected the course, together with the jockeys, Paul Carberry, Nina Carberry and James Reveley, a representative of the Racecourse Executive, the Inspector of Courses, the senior Veterinary Officer and the Clerk of the Course. They were all unanimous that the track was unsafe to race on.
At 10:30 the gates opened. The turnstile barcode ‘reader’ wasn’t working properly on the lane I’d chosen and there was a slight delay as one of the stewards manually operated it to permit the customers to enter. My first task was a visit to the loo ... followed by a visit to the kiosk on the concourse where I purchased a race-card for £3.00.
It was still very cold today, especially for standing around. Yet, despite this, I walked over the Winners’ Enclosure area to wait around for something ... anything in fact ... to happen! Whilst I was nearby, I heard the maintenance staff discussing the fact that they had a problem with frozen pipes which might prevent them filling up buckets of water for the horses post race. However, their contingency plan was a blow-torch! It was also announced that Lester Piggott and Sir Peter O’Sullevan would be carrying out signings today, at the Cheltenham Bookshop on the nearby concourse.
As the morning progressed, I decided to relocate to the steppings opposite the Winners’ podium ahead of the ‘Paddocks Interview’ presentation due to begin at 12:15. Whilst waiting here I was party to the annual briefing of photographers; the rules and regulations being clearly outlined to them. Especially important after last year’s ‘Wishfull Thinking incident’ on the second day of the Festival.
It was so cold, I had to finally resort to wearing my pink/black/white dappy hat; although the upside is that it hides my horrible grey hair!
Eventually 12:15 arrived and, with Ian Carnaby and Jonathan Powell having both retired from their presentation roles of previous years, Alastair Down and Martin Kelly did the honours today and for the remainder of the week.
Their first guest today was Irish-based jockey Robbie Power; his rides today being Jezki in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Bostons Angel in the Cross-Country (yet to be postponed until Thursday); he thought his best chance of the week would be Jetson in Thursday’s Pertemps final.
The next guest was Brian Kavanagh, Horse Racing Ireland’s CEO; the Festival has around 10,000 Irish visitors each day. He imparted the fact that twice as many thoroughbreds are bred in Ireland than in the UK. He tipped Hurricane Fly and Quevega as likely winners and was hoping for more than the 5 Irish victories of 2012. Trainer Willie Mullins was expected to field a very strong team, with around 42 runners at this year’s Festival.
Next up was trainer Harry Fry. His Champion Hurdle hope and 2012 winner, Rock On Ruby, would be wearing first-time blinkers today and his trainer didn’t expect him to front run.
The OLBG sponsored horsebox was then driven around the Parade Ring – rather pointless and a nuisance to those in the vicinity – to advertise their sponsorship of the ‘Mare Of The Month’ award; the Harry Fry-trained Violin Davis was the recipient for February.
Trainer Donald McCain was the next to be interviewed; he was concerned that his Champion Hurdle representative Cinders and Ashes wouldn’t have the right ground today. He then spoke about his Arkle runner, Overturn, a crowd favourite. Also Our Mick, who was due to run in the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase having been placed third last year when a novice; Donald said he’s bigger and stronger this year and should have an excellent chance.
Jockey Daryl Jacob was their next guest; he was due to ride Dodging Bullets in the Supreme Novices’ and Zarkandar in the Champion Hurdle today. Although hopeful of good run from the latter, he realised that Hurricane Fly would be very difficult to beat. He would also partner Swincombe Flame in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle; she needed the runners to go a good gallop during the race but was rated 40 pounds behind the Irish star Quevega. However, connections were hoping to ‘nick’ some prize money. Daryl thought the pick of his rides today would be Dodging Bullets.
It was pointed out that Quevega would equal Golden Miller’s Cheltenham Festival record if she won again today.
It was then time for the Retraining Of Racehorses (ROR) Parade of Stars, with ex-jockey Colin Brown presenting. Alastair Down cracked a joke about one of the horses – Carefree Flapper – he said he’d never heard of her but he would definitely like to meet her!
The horses taking part were Denman (Team Chasing), Something Wells (Hunting), Comply Or Die (Hunting), Looks Like Trouble (Hunting), Inishmor (Eventing), the ex-Martin Keighley trained Deep Reflection (Dressage), Inchloss and Carefree Flapper (Horseball). They paraded a number of times around the Paddock and, later on, would canter up the horse-walk in front of the stands, returning down the turf prior to the first race.
Clare Balding and Mick Fitzgerald were presenting for Channel 4 today; their ‘enclosure’ was situated behind the Winners’ podium.
Shortly after seeing the horses arrive in the Parade Ring ahead of the first race, I decided it was time to set off to find a good vantage point beside the course-side rails. My heather shades long skirt can be very annoying … as I have a tendency to tread on the hem when climbing stairs, and also steps like those around the Winners’ Enclosure!
As it turned out, I was a little late in leaving the Parade Ring area, so I missed out on finding a spot at the very front prior to the first race; however I did manage to obtain my chosen position by the time the winning horse returned, as everyone had set off for either the Winners’ Enclosure ... or to purchase food and/or refreshments.
It was freezing cold, the women close by suggested that perhaps everyone should huddle like penguins to keep warm. You will know exactly what they mean if you watched the Emperor penguins who starred in BBC1’s ‘Spy In the Huddle’ series recently.
A section of the turf on the Members’ lawn had been replaced; it was far greener and lush than the area surrounding it. I recall the lawn had been fenced off for one of the earlier fixtures to help the area ‘bed-in’.
With no decisions to make this year regarding where to be to get the best view of Choc(!), I would remain at the freezing cold course-side rails until after the final race of the day.
It was soon time for the first race of the Festival; the horses cantering up the all-weather horse-walk in front of the grandstand before heading back down the turf and re-entering the all-weather strip to continue their journey to the starting gate at the far end of the home straight. There were only 12 runners in this year’s renewal, the smallest field for many years.
Having been circling within the enclosure to the inside of the course, the horses began to walk out onto the track once the Starter was ready for the off. Ruby Walsh led them out at a sedate walk, aboard the grey Champagne Fever, stable companion Pique Sous also a grey, was on his toes to the outside of the runners; AP McCoy aboard the JP McManus owned My Tent Of Yours, together with Un Atout lined up just behind Ruby’s mount.
The favourite for this race was My Tent Or Yours at 15-8.
The runners broke into a gallop, the famous Cheltenham roar surrounded me; the 2013 Festival was underway ...
They were off. Ears pricked, Champagne Fever headed over the first flight, pursued by Un Atout; My Tent Or Yours travelled to the inside of Cheltenian, with Jezki sporting the second colours of JP McManus, followed by River Maigue, Pique Sous, Cause Of Causes, Puffin Billy, Ostentation, Dodging Bullets and Fire King.
Ruby was setting a good pace, ahead of Un Atout by a couple of lengths, with the remaining runners soon strung out behind him; Cheltenian, Jezki and Pique Sous taking a strong hold. Champagne Fever appeared to be enjoying his front running role, as he always does; the horses soon heading up past the stands to set out on one complete circuit.
The pace steadied as the runners headed away from the stands, Un Atout still following on the heels of the leader, the others now bunched up behind them. Cheltenian and My Tent Or Yours disputed third position, from River Maigue, Jezki, Dodging Bullets improving on the outside of the field, Cause Of Causes, Pique Sous, Puffin Billy, Fire King and Ostentation; the latter two out of their depth in this company.
Champagne Fever, still ears pricked, continued to lead as the runners started their journey down the back straight. My Tent Or Yours remained noticeably keen in behind the two leaders. Cheltenian trailed a leg through the next flight, the third, and briefly lost a little ground. Ostentation and Fire King soon lost touch with the main group; the former making an error at the fourth hurdle.
There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners cleared the flight before the top of the hill, Un Atout still close on the leader’s tail, Cheltenian, My Tent Or Yours, Dodging Bullets and Jezki travelling well; River Maigue, Pique Sous, Puffin Billy and Cause Of Causes less so.
Down the hill they galloped, Ruby still cutting out the running aboard Champagne Fever; all bar two still in touch, although Cause Of Causes was being noticeably ridden along. Champagne Fever hit the top of the third last flight, Un Atout flattened the adjacent panel, and a number of the runners in behind hit the already damaged obstacle too.
Heading to the penultimate flight, the protagonists sorted themselves out from the ‘also rans’, with Champagne Fever giving up the lead to no-one, Un Atout still close behind him, the two JP McManus representatives on their coat-tails and Puffin Billy making up ground through beaten runners. But the latter made an error at this flight, soon losing ground on the leading four as a result.
Turning into the home straight, Ruby had become animated aboard his mount, and it looked as though AP McCoy only had to push to button for My Tent Or Yours to overtake him; Un Atout was just beginning to struggle, with Jezki in fourth position also about to make his challenge.
In fact My Tent Or Yours was fractionally ahead as they jumped the final flight, but Champagne Fever still had more to give and rallied under a strong drive from Ruby, going on to win by ½ a length at the line. Jezki finished a close third, 2¼ lengths back, having made an error at the last; Un Atout was a further 15 lengths away in 4th, and Puffin Billy 5th.
Typical ... first blood to Ruby Walsh!
The post-race on-course interviews were carried out by Alice Plunkett for Channel 4 Racing; and on the horse-walkway back by Derek Thompson for Radio 5 Live.
As mentioned earlier, I remained beside the course-side rails following this race ... but it was very cold!
The disappointing run by the Paul Nicholls’ trained Dodging Bullets, who appeared to have every chance three out but faded to finish 9th, is explained by the following report:
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
Simonsig was the 8-15 favourite for this race.
Then they were off. There was no surprise when Overturn set off in the lead; he was followed by Majala, Arvika Ligeonniere sporting the same colours as first race winner Champagne Fever, Tap Night, Baily Green, the grey Simonsig and His Excellency. Simonsig was keen and pulled his way through into second place having cleared the first fence. Majala hit this and lost ground; he wasn’t fluent at the second fence either. Barry Geraghty managed to rein-in Simonsig’s enthusiasm heading towards the next fence, dropping back into third position behind Arvika Ligeonniere.
Heading up past the stands, with one circuit to go, the order was Overturn, Arvika Ligeonniere, Simonsig, Baily Green, Majala, Tap Night and His Excellency. Although in his customary front running role, Jason Maguire’s mount was setting a steady pace, rather than a quick one, the large dark bay Arvika Ligeonniere soon matching strides as the runners headed down the back straight. Majala, in fifth position, continued to jump without fluency.
Simonsig hit the 9th fence, just as his jockey Barry Geraghty looked set to move up to challenge the two leaders. However, the error didn’t appear to stop him, as he soon overtook Ruby’s mount and, with a good jump at the final open-ditch, he was almost on terms with Overturn.
Overturn led the runners down the hill, Simonsig close behind, Baily Green in third and His Excellency in fourth. Ruby’s mount had begun to fade badly and would be pulled up before two out. However, at this stage he still had an advantage over the trailing Majala and Tap Night.
Just as Simonsig was cruising up to join Overturn, the latter blundered at the third last, the grey soon going into the lead as the Donald McCain runner came under pressure. Travelling well in third position was Baily Green. Heading into the final turn, Barry Geraghty glanced under his right arm to see where the main danger lay, if any. The grey held a three length advantage heading over two out, with His Excellency soon taking third place as Overturn faded.
Having cleared the last fence, Baily Green continued to challenge up the run-in, initially closing, but Simonsig was driven out by his jockey to win by 2¼ lengths. His Excellency claimed 3rd, with Overturn 4th.
It later transpired that, despite winning, Simonsig had been under the weather on this particular day; a dirty ‘scope’ proving the point.
There had obviously been a turf repair job carried out on the take-off area of the second last fence, the outside half being light green in colour as opposed to the dark green grass of the remainder of the course. This particular obstacle remains of a temporary nature, having been re-positioned a few seasons ago.
The starting gate for the third race of the day was located between the two fences nearest the stands; meaning that the first fence jumped is also the 10th fence and the final fence too. This being the case, the horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the stands before heading back down the turf and entering the all-weather strip for a short distance before exiting onto the racecourse once more.
Knockara Beau and Tenor Nivernais were kept apart from the other runners whilst they circled at the start. The favourite for this race was Our Mick at 13-2.
The maximum of 24 runners to describe and keep tabs on ... this will be fun!
Then they were off; a number of runners keen to get to the front of the pack. Pete The Feat just got the call over the first, from the grey Our Mick, Fruity O’Rooney, Poole Master and Tenor Nivernais. In mid-field, Merry King made a mistake at this fence. The runners then headed out into the country, jumping the uphill fence before entering the back straight.
Pete The Feat continued at the head of affairs, from Fruity O’Rooney, Our Mick, Poole Master and Planet of Sound; Loch Ba, who was not jumping fluently, brought up the rear. Merry King made another error, this time at the 5th fence, the first open-ditch. As the runners negotiated the dog-leg at the far corner of the track, a number of runners were already not travelling particularly well.
The first casualty was Knockara Beau, who caught his hind-legs on the second open-ditch; jockey Paddy Brennan was fired over the horse’s head as his mount’s momentum was suddenly checked. He curled up tight to avoid the hooves of the proceeding runners as he rolled along ground. Tenor Nivernais also unseated his rider at this fence.
Heading down the hill on the first occasion, Pete The Feat still led, from Fruity O’Rooney, Planet Of Sound, Poole Master, Tour des Champs, Tullamore Dew, Our Mick, White Star Line, Monkerty Tunkerty (love that name!), Golden Chieftain, Midnight Chase, The Package and Nadiya de La Vega. Turning into the home straight, near the rear of the field, Loch Ba hit the first of the two obstacles, giving jockey Dominic Elsworth no chance of remaining in the saddle.
The field galloped on towards the 10th fence, Noel Fehily’s mount still ahead of Fruity O’Rooney, from Planet of Siound, Tour des Champs, Our Mick, Poole Master, Golden Chieftain and Nadiya de La Vega; Quantitativeeasing, Summery Justice and Quartz de Thaix were bringing up the rear. Fruity O’Rooney made an error at the uphill fence, as did Quartz de Thaix; the latter was soon pulled up.
Heading into the back straight, a group of a dozen or so were still travelling okay; the remainder could be discounted or had already pulled up or departed! Pete The Feat still had his head in front jumping the water, Our Mick close to his outside, Poole Master just behind, with Nadiya de La Vega; Golden Chieftain had improved his position and was just behind these.
Cloudy Too made a slight error at the next, an open-ditch, his jockey Wayne Hutchinson reaching down to adjust his nearside iron. The field reached the top of the hill without any mishaps and were soon turning the far corner; Pete The Feat continued to hold a narrow advantage, over Our Mick and Poole Master. The grey took the lead as the runners cleared three out, Golden Chieftain and White Star Line soon his nearest pursuers, with Fruity O’Rooney being driven along to their inside, then the fading Pete The Feat, followed by Tullamore Dew.
Golden Chieftain continued to make progress; turning into the home straight he led narrowly from Our Mick, with White Star Line a clear third, and Tullamore Dew behind him. The Colin Tizzard bottom weight was a length ahead jumping two out; young Brendan Powell Junior’s mount had increased his lead to three lengths at the last and then drew well clear on the run to the line; the winning distance 10 lengths.
Our Mick completed in 2nd, with White Star Line in 3rd and Tullamore Dew 4th. Another good run in this event from Fruity O’Rooney who finished 5th this year, having finished 2nd in this race last year, with the staying on Nuts N Bolts completing in 6th.
Having crossed the line, quick to congratulate the jockey were fellow riders Tom Cannon and William Kennedy.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE: