DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2013
FEATURING THE WORLD HURDLE
THURSDAY 14 MARCH 2013
Cue Card, ridden by Joe Tizzard, returns triumphant
having won the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase
I set my alarm to sound 15 minutes earlier today … as I’d felt stressed each morning when it went off at 04:27 when I would get out of bed immediately. I have discovered it is better to lie in bed for a few minutes before getting up!
I showered and washed and dried my hair. It was then time for breakfast of two Weetabix and two slices of buttered toast. Having eaten breakfast I applied my make-up.
Thursday outfit was a black thermal vest (not the same one as yesterday!), burgundy thermal long-sleeved vest, black thermal long-sleeved vest, cerise frilled bottom cardigan, new purple fleece, purple frill-edged cardigan, black gillet, M & S horse-print snood, grey 40 denier tights, black treggings, black handkerchief hemmed long skirt, M & S engineer boots, black faux sheepskin coat, Thinsulate gloves, wrist-warmers, cerise Katia Big Snow scarf, and cerise facetted glass and blue Swarovski bicones necklace.
With no ill-effects from yesterday, I decided to wear contact lenses again today. But, to be on the safe side again, I wore glasses whilst driving to Cheltenham, inserting the lenses once I’d arrived.
Despite waking earlier today, I still left home at around the same time as yesterday – just after 06:30. I had decided to watch the weather forecast and log onto my PC before departure. Still a dusting of snow, and covered with hard frost. The best news, however, was that the wind had dropped considerably.
Once again, my route took me up through St Albans city centre before heading to Hemel Hempstead. I joined the A41 bypass which took me past Berkhamsted and Tring, then onwards to Aylesbury.
My journey was going well too, with me taking the necessary extra care due to the prevailing snowy/frosty conditions. However, this was all to change shortly after I’d reached Bicester and turned south-westwards along the stretch of the A41 which leads to Junction 9 of the M40. Initially there’s a new roundabout to negotiate, or at least a fairly new one, and the traffic was clear to here. But on the next stretch I encountered a very long tail-back.
At first I thought nothing of it ... until vehicles began to move towards the curb on their respective side of the dual carriageway; I followed suit. It soon became apparent that there must have been an accident, for everyone was making way for a fire-engine to pass by. I would not have heard it coming, just seen it, as my CD had been playing quite loudly – it helps alleviate the monotony of a long journey! My favourite is a 1970s album, it takes me back to my teenage years when I knew all the words to the songs and can sing along!
Once the emergency vehicle had passed by, a car from the outside lane manoeuvred through my own queue, heading for a nearby slip-road which led to a country lane. I had a brilliant idea ... follow a local! My car was stationary next to the beginning of the slip-road, so I turned left and followed. A short stretch of lane soon led to a T-junction; I turned right as the other vehicle had done. The lane was very winding and soon entered the village of Wendlebury; the main residential area served by a stretch of road protected by speed bumps.
Having exited the far end of the rural community I saw a helicopter attempting to land over to my right; probably on the A34 southbound carriageway; an air ambulance. The lane soon ended in a further T-junction. Turning left would have taken me across to the other side of the A34 and the village of Weston-on-the-Green, so I turned right and re-joined the A34 southbound carriageway. It was almost deserted! Traffic travelling on the northbound carriageway had been stopped in order for the helicopter to land in safety; there was a very long tailback as a result.
With a clear, almost deserted road ahead of me, I soon reached the Peartree Interchange; it was no surprise that the roundabout below the A34 was clear of queuing traffic too. I was thus able to quickly join the back of the queue heading down the short stretch of A44 before turning west onto the A40.
I arrived at racecourse at 09:05 today, having travelled in via Greenway Lane once more. I must have arrived earlier in the general scheme of things, as I was directed to park further down the field slope than on the previous two days.
As in Festival week in previous years, I had decided that I’d take a trip down to the Cheltenham branch of my employer. So, having eaten three of the cheese rolls I’d brought with me, I put on my engineer boots ahead of my walk. Knowing that walking would make me feel hot, I left a number of clothing layers in the car, to be collected before I ventured to the turnstiles on my return.
I decided to walk across the car park to climb the few steps to the pavement on Evesham Road before turning right and crossing the busy Swindon Lane. I continued on my journey down the hill to the town; a pleasant walk, as it was sunny today. Before visiting the branch, I popped across to the local branch of WH Smith to buy a copy of the Racing Post; just in case there was an article about the Alan King-trained Medinas winning yesterday’s Coral Cup. Yes, there was.
I then retraced my steps to visit the branch. The Manager was pleased to see me and we had a chat. She then popped out to the nearby M&S to buy a large box of chocolates for me to take back for my department at Head Office upon my return the following week.
It was soon time to say farewell, and set off back to Prestbury Park. Being horribly fat and unfit at the moment, my walking pace was poor when compared to previous years. Close to the racecourse, there were a couple of Betfair promotional workers standing on the pavement and handing out scarves. “Would you like one?” they asked as I passed by. “Do I look like someone who needs a scarf?” I joked, waving my cerise scarf towards them. “I have hundreds at home. Besides,” I said, “Yellow doesn’t suit me”. I fear I wasn’t exaggerating either, when referring to numbers!!! It’s the peril of being an ‘extreme’ crafter!
I returned to my car to drop off the newspaper and the box of chocolates, leaving them in the boot. I also put on the additional layers of clothing that I’d need during the day to keep warm before heading to the turnstiles. Handbag searched, I entered the confines of the racecourse at 10:55. Today I purchased a race-card before heading to the loo. I then returned to the steps above the Winners’ Enclosure to bask in the warmth of the sun.
It was announced that Paddy Brennan would replace Dominic Elsworth aboard Captain Sunshine in the Pertemps Final and by Andrew Thornton aboard Calgary Bay in the Byrne Group Plate. Dominic having been injured when Somersby fell during yesterday’s Queen Mother Champion Chase.
It had been minus 7 overnight at Cheltenham and there were still concerns for the Cross Country course. An inspection was planned for 14:15 and, if it needs to be, the race would be postponed to Friday and run as the last event on the card.
At 12:15 it was time for today’s Paddock Interviews with presenters Alastair Down and Martin Kelly.
Their first guest interviewee today was actor James Nesbitt, part owner of Riverside Theatre, winner of last year’s Ryanair Chase. He said there was less pressure this year; last year’s race was thrilling as an owner and it was a privilege to have a Cheltenham winner. It was a mystery why the horse performed so badly last time out, until it was later discovered that he had been suffering from ulcers!
He saw First Lieutenant as the main danger today; jockey Davy Russell loves the Michael O’Leary owned horse. James said he must have been the only one to take money off Michael O’Leary last year, owner of Ryanair, when he won the race. James explained that his interest in equine sports began with show-jumping when younger.
He thought the World Hurdle would be an ‘open’ contest; he fancied both Peddlers Cross and Oscar Whisky to run well. Finally, he spoke about his new series – James Nesbitt’s Ireland – I decided to buy the country, he joked!
The second guest of the day was Conor Murphy, former second in command to ‘Corky’ Browne at Nicky Henderson’s yard. Conor placed an anti-post accumulator bet on five of the yard’s horses who he hoped would win at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival. It was a £50 bet, placed on 23 December 2011 – if they were successful, he would win a million pounds.
The horses involved were Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig, Bobs Worth, Finian’s Rainbow and Riverside Theatre. And, of course, they all won.
Conor said it was touch and go, because his bet was for Simonsig to run in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and, for a brief spell, there was a possibility he’d run in the Supreme Novices’ instead. But the late lamented Darlan had saved the day, as he took his chance in the latter race instead, leaving Simonsig to take up the hoped-for engagement.
Conor had almost forgotten the terms of his bet as it had been placed well before the Festival, so when Finian’s Rainbow (who he looked after) won the Queen Mother Champion Chase (the 4th leg of the accumulator) he went out to celebrate in style – it was the best day of his life he said. So when Thursday arrived and it was Riverside Theatre’s opportunity to win him the bet, he was still recovering from Wednesday’s overindulgence so didn’t actually have much recollection of anything, let alone the possibility of winning a million pounds!
He subsequently left his job at Nicky Henderson’s yard to set up as a trainer himself in Louisville, Kentucky, USA. He came back to visit the Cheltenham Festival because he wouldn’t miss the event ‘for the world’. His fancies today were Captain Chris and First Lieutenant.
The third guest today was Peter Spens, who has been appointed as the Cheltenham Festival’s Official Artist for 2013 and 2014; with a London exhibition of his work due to take place in October 2014. Peter also acted as the London 2012 Olympic artist, famed for his scenes of the volleyball arena at Horse Guards.
The last event on today’s card would be the St Patrick’s Derby Charity race in aid of Cancer Research UK. Fundraiser Frances Milner spoke about the 4-year partnership with the Festival which had raised over £650,000 to date. Today’s participants were required to raise at least £5,000 each and she hoped that a total of £260,000 might be forthcoming.
TV sports presenter, Alex Hammond, and James Fenton, a member of Ireland’s national police service were two of the riders, and they were interviewed too. Alex said she had felt nervous in the run-up to today, but was now strangely calm; with the experience feeling surreal. In preparation, she’d ridden out at Neil Mulholland’s, Lawney Hill’s, Paul Nicholls’ and Richard Fahey’s yards. James admitted to being nervous; since arriving over from Ireland he’d ridden out David O’Meara’s yard and would be riding their designated ‘charity horse’ Rosie’s Lady today.
As Ladbrokes sponsored today’s feature race, the World Hurdle, the company’s representative David Williams was on hand to run through the ‘movers and shakers’ in today’s betting.
In the World Hurdle itself, Oscar Whisky was the most popular choice; followed by Reve De Sivola and Smad Place. The Paul Nicholls runner, Wonderful Charm, was weak in the betting. Ladbrokes had been sponsoring the race since 2005, with Inglis Drever winning it on three occasions (2005, 2007 and 2008) and Big Buck’s on four (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012) ... the other, of course, was My Way De Solzen in 2006 ridden by Choc!
David then spoke about the fancied runners for the Ryanair Chase – First Lieutenant was expected to start as the 9-4 favourite; he thought Cue Card at 4-1 was too big a price. He reckoned David Pipe’s best chance of a winner this week was Dynaste in the Jewson Novices’ Chase; a banker. At the moment Jetson was the favourite for the Pertemps Final; also popular with punters were Sam Winner and outsider Mr Moonshine. The Byrne Group Plate fancies were Ballynagour and Hunt Ball.
The penultimate interviewee was Joe Tizzard, who was due to ride Cue Card in the Ryanair Chase. He said it was a big boost to the yard when Golden Chieftain won Tuesday’s JLT Specialty Handicap Chase. Cue Card had provided them with some memorable days at Cheltenham, and this year had performed well when winning at Exeter and Ascot. He said the Ryanair was always their first choice; the horse having been entered for the Queen Mother Champion Chase just in case anything happened to Sprinter Sacre. First Lieutenant would be by far his biggest danger in today’s race.
Joe’s other rides today were Third Intention in the Jewson Novices’ Chase; an improving sort who would have a chance. Theatre Guide in the Byrne Group Plate; it was a novicey error when he fell at Kempton last month, and he thought his ride would have been shorter in today’s betting if it wasn’t for that fall. The horse had been schooled, and the ground today would be better; he had also undergone a wind operation before the Kempton run. Not surprisingly, Joe thought that Cue Card was his best chance of the day.
The final guest today was trainer David Pipe; who Alastair referred to as the ‘World’s Tallest Trainer’. David hadn’t trained a winner yet at this year’s Festival but thought Dynaste was his best chance. He said the horse was very impressive in his earlier runs this season, had rock solid form, and would not be inconvenienced by the ground.
Junior was one of his representatives in the Pertemps Final, but he was high in the weights. Close House was stepping up in trip and David felt he had a good each way chance.
Later in the afternoon David had four runners in the Byrne Group Plate. The first was Ballynagour, who’d gone up 20lbs in the handicap following a success at Warwick; Shoegazer, Zaynar who was fresh, and Matuhi.
Finally David had three representatives in the Kim Muir amateur riders’ race; Swing Bill, Problema Tic and No Secrets; they were not without chance he said.
Once again, I ensured that I arrived at the course-side rails in plenty of time to obtain a space immediately beside them. This meant that I needed to leave the Parade Ring area as soon as the Paddock Interviews had been completed and before any of the runners taking part in the first race had arrived.
Nearly every year, on either the Wednesday or the Thursday of the Festival, I find someone at the course-side rails to talk to ... and today was that day. This year I discovered my ‘pal’ owned a horse of her own and was a self-employed ‘consultant’ of some kind based in the Bristol area – she mentioned that she wouldn’t be earning money today because, instead, she’d decided to come along to the races. She also enjoyed a flutter or two on the horses.
The starting gate for the first race of the day was mid-way along the mid-course chute; two fences being jumped before the far turn. Having exited from the horse walkway, the runners cantered across the home straight and up along the all-weather strip around the top bend to reach the in-field.
Of the 13 runners, three were greys – Molotof, Sire Collonges and the 11-8 favourite Dynaste; five of the horses were trained in Ireland – Aupcharlie, Benefficient, Marito, Texas Jack and Argocat.
Then they were off. Leading the way were Sire Collonges with, upsides to his outside, the hooded Benefficient and Molotof. Behind these were Module, Captain Conan, Dynaste, Aupcharlie, Argocat, Changing Times to the outside, Texas Jack, Third Intention, Desert Cry and Marito; the latter a little untidy at the first.
The field headed over the intersection with the Old Course and towards the second fence, which they all cleared safely. They then continued on their journey towards the far bend, crossing the New Course intersection en route; Benefficient led the way, with Changing Times now at the rear.
Having negotiated the turn, the horses straightened up to approach the third fence; Molotof clouted the obstacle, skewing in the air as a result but survived, and Changing Times made an error too. The horses headed up the home straight, with no noticeable errors at the following three fences.
The horses passed the stands and headed out into the country for the one and only time. Benefficient continued to lead from Molotof, Sire Collonges, Captain Conan, Dynaste, Module, Argocat, Marito, Third Intention, Texas Jack, Aupcharlie, Desert Cry and Changing Times.
The runners jumped the first fence in the back straight, no major errors, although dust rose from the fence indicating that perhaps Third Intention hadn’t been quite as fluent as the others. They then headed over the water-jump, the field still closely grouped. The following fence is an open-ditch; they all cleared this safely although, again, dust could be seen as runners brushed through the top of the fence.
The next fence is a plain one; on the outside of the field Aupcharlie in the well-known Potts colours, dived slightly over this one and pecked on landing. As they entered the dog-leg section of the track, Desert Cry received reminders from his jockey Jason Maguire. There were no problems as the runners cleared the final open-ditch; Aupcharlie soon began to struggle at the rear of the field.
Heading around the far turn, Benefficient continued to lead narrowly, Dynaste and Molotof now almost upsides; just behind these travelled Captain Conan and Module. Molotof wasn’t fluent at the next fence and lost ground on the other two. The field set off down the hill towards three out.
Benefficient and Dynaste continued to lead the way, from Captain Conan, Module, Molotof, Argocat, Marito, Changing Times, Texas Jack, Sire Collonges, Third Intention and Aupcharlie; Desert Cry was tailed off and would be pulled up before this fence.
Dynaste jumped into the lead here, with Captain Conan following him through as they negotiated the final bend. Benefficient was still a close third, with Ruby Walsh aboard Marito in their slipstream poised to make a challenge. They straightened up before jumping the second last, but the latter got too close to the fence and fell.
But Dynaste’s move had not been decisive and Barry Geraghty’s mount loomed up to his outside as they approached the last fence, with Benefficient rallying to the inside too. The three runners jumped it in unison, the latter with more zest and he quickly got into his stride and continued to draw away from his rivals as he headed towards the line to triumph by 3¼ lengths.
Dynaste finished 2nd, with Changing Times staying on up the run-in to claim 3rd, Module also closed to take 4th, with Captain Conan fading into 5th. Both Marito and Ruby Walsh were fine after their mishap two out.
It would prove to be the first of three Festival victories this week for the up and coming young Irish jockey, Bryan Cooper.
I remained beside the course-side rails following this race.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS ROOM:
Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Bryan J. Cooper, the
rider of the winner, BENEFFICIENT (IRE), on the run to the line. Having heard
his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of
Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip in an incorrect place. The
Stewards suspended Cooper for 2 days as follows: Thursday 28 and Saturday 30
The starting gate for this event was at the beginning of the back straight; the horses exiting from the horse-walk to canter across the home straight and head up around the bend upon the all-weather track to reach it. To avoid any problems which might result in a false start with such a large field, and having had their girths checked, the group of runners trotted back along the course almost to the home straight before turning and heading towards the starting gate.
However, as is often the case, the talented but recalcitrant Captain Sunshine, who was initially being led around at the start, reared up and unshipped deputising jockey Paddy Brennan when at the back of the pack. This left him to be legged back up, after which he was cantered back up the hill to join the rear of the main group.
Then they were off, with Captain Sunshine consenting to set off with the others. The field was led away by Junior, from Berties Dream, According to Trev, American Spin, Pateese, Holywell and Ballybough Pat. There are four flights in the back straight; the favourite, Sam Winner, hit the third flight, as did Close House.
Heading around the dog-leg turn to approach the fourth flight, the order was Junior, from Berties Dream, American Spin, According to Trev, Pateese, Holywell, Close House, Ballybough Pat, Ardkilly Witness, First Fandango, Ely Brown, Jetson, Stonemaster, Top Of The Range, Action Master, Shutthefrontdoor, Hada Men, Sam Winner, Catch Me, Captain Sunshine, Fair Along, Bakbenscher, American Trilogy, and Bouggler. Close House made a bad blunder here, losing his hind-legs on landing.
The runners had now reached the top of the hill; they turned the far corner and headed downhill to the fifth flight, which Junior and Berties Dream cleared in unison at the head of affairs. The horses then travelled around the bend to enter the home straight on the first occasion; they were well-packed, with no more than 10 lengths covering the entire field.
They then headed up the hill away from the stands to begin their final circuit; near the rear of the field, Hada Men received a couple of reminders from his jockey Aidan Coleman. Berties Dream was leading narrowly as they set off down the back straight, from Ballybough Pat and Junior; all the runners safely negotiated the next flight.
Having cleared it, Junior began to drift back through the field; near the rear, American Trilogy made an error at the next flight. Hada Men received another two backhanders from his jockey. Berties Dream led over the 9th hurdle, from American Spin, Holywell and Ballybough Pat.
Around the dog-leg turn they headed, there was no change up front; disputing second were Holywell, Ballybough Pat and Ely Brown, after these were American Spin, Close House, Ardkilly Witness, Stonemaster, According To Trev, First Fandango, Jetson, Bakbenscher, Shutthefrontdoor, Sam Winner, Fair Along, Catch Me, Action Master, Captain Sunshine, American Trilogy, Pateese, Top Of The Range, Hada Men, Bouggler and Junior now in rear.
AP McCoy’s mount had improved on the outside of the field and was now in sixth as they turned the far corner and began their descent of the hill for the final time. Berties Dream still held the advantage as they headed towards the penultimate flight, with Holywell cruising to his outside. Captain Sunshine had also swept around the wide outside of the field to begin his challenge; in fourth position, Stonemaster flattened the flight.
They turned into the home straight and began the long run to the final flight; Berties Dream under pressure, with Holywell cruising under Richie McLernon to the nearside. A couple of lengths back were Captain Sunshine, Ely Brown, First Fandango, Shutthefrontdoor, and Stonemaster. Close behind these were the improving Bakbenscher and Action Master.
Berties Dream drifted across slightly to his right under a drive before his jockey Andrew Lynch pulled his whip through to his right hand, but Holywell was barely inconvenienced and soon strode into the lead. He cleared the last with a three length advantage from his now nearest rival, Captain Sunshine. Although the latter closed as they galloped to the line, Holywell won by 1½ lengths. Richie McLernon’s second Festival winner, having ridden his first last year.
Jetson had stayed on and was closing on the runner-up as they reached the line, he claimed 3rd. Shutthefrontdoor completed in 4th; long-time leader Berties Dream finished 5th, Ely Brown 6th and Bakbenscher 7th.
I remained beside the course-side rails following this race.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS ROOM:
Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Paddy Brennan, the rider
of CAPTAIN SUNSHINE, placed second, from the third last flight. Having heard
his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of
Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip
above the permitted level. The Stewards suspended Brennan for 9 days as
follows: Thursday 28, Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 March, and Monday 1, Tuesday
2, Wednesday 3, Thursday 4, Friday 5, Saturday 6 April 2013. Under Rule (B)54 the Stewards also fined the rider £350.
WHY THEY RAN
It was soon time for the next race of the day, the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase.
Bryan Cooper replaced the injured Davy Russell aboard the 2-1 favourite First Lieutenant; the latter having encountered a breathing problem which would later be diagnosed as a punctured lung. The injury had occurred when Davy’s mount Un Beau Matin fell at the final flight in the Coral Cup, the fifth race on yesterday’s card.
Martin Keighley had a representative in this race, Champion Court ridden by Jason Maguire.
Then they were off. Cue Card and Champion Court led the way, clearing the first in unison, from Albertas Run, Riverside Theatre, First Lieutenant, Ghizao, Menorah and For Non Stop. The former held a slight lead as the field cleared the next fence; Menorah was a little slow in rear and was pushed along for a few strides after it.
The runners travelled across the Old Course intersection before jumping the third fence; Cue Card got a little close to this, allowing Champion Card to draw alongside once more. The horses then headed around the far turn before entering the home straight for the first time.
They cleared the fourth fence safely; in rear Menorah once again being pushed along having cleared it. Cue Card and Champion Court continued to dispute the lead as the runners headed up towards the grandstands. They negotiated three more fences; Albertas Run had already begun to lose his place before they travelled up the hill and out into the country for the one and only time.
Heading into the back straight, Cue Card held a very narrow advantage; and he wasn’t as fluent as Champion Court at the first in the line of fences. First Lieutenant pecked on landing over this obstacle. By the time the horses had reached the water-jump, Albertas Run was disputing last place with Menorah.
Riverside Theatre was pushed along having cleared the first open-ditch; For Non Stop was travelling well; Menorah was losing touch with the others and, having jumped the fence, Albertas Run was pulled up. For Non Stop made a slight jumping error at the next, a plain fence.
The horses negotiated the dog-leg turn; Cue Card and Champion Court continued to dispute the lead, from First Lieutenant, For Non Stop, Riverside Theatre, Ghizao and the trailing Menorah. For Non Stop caught a hind-leg on the open-ditch but it didn’t affect his momentum. Richard Johnson pulled up his mount after the fence.
The remaining six runners cleared the next, where Cue Card out-jumped Champion Court to take a clear lead. Jason Maguire administered reminders to his mount, with First Lieutenant soon drawing alongside him. Ghizao, in fifth position, made an error at the fourth last.
The horses galloped down the hill to the third last fence, where First Lieutenant blundered. Heading for the final bend, Cue Card continued to travel well at the head of affairs. Both Champion Court and First Lieutenant were being pushed along and also received reminders; For Non Stop to their inside was travelling the better.
Having entered the home straight, Cue Card still held the lead; Jason Maguire and Bryan Cooper continued to urge their mounts on in an attempt to close the gap. For Non Stop hadn’t found as much as expected but was battling on in a close up fourth. Having jumped two out, Joe Tizzard’s mount then asserted his advantage, cleared the final fence and pulled away up the hill to win by 9 lengths at the line. The jockey saluted with his whip as he passed the line, it meant a lot.
First Lieutenant completed in 2nd, For Non Stop held on to third from a fast finishing Riverside Theatre, with Champion Court fading into 5th; Ghizao was 6th and last.
It was great to see Cue Card win again at the Festival; the Tizzards had chosen the correct race for their charge having decided to avoid Sprinter Sacre over the shorter distance of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Trainer Colin Tizzard is such a character!
I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race.
That’s it for the first half of my Day 3 diary ... click the following link to read the second half.