DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2013
FEATURING THE WORLD HURDLE
THURSDAY 14 MARCH 2013
In the absence of Big Buck’s, Irish raider Solwhit wins the World Hurdle
It was now time for the feature race of the day, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle. With Big Buck’s on the sidelines due to injury, it afforded the opportunity for a new winner for the first time in five years.
As with each of the feature events, there was a pre-race parade; the horses exited onto the course and formed into number order before the parade began. The favourite for this race was the Nicky Henderson trained, Barry Geraghty ridden, Oscar Whisky at odds of 9-4. The Alan King representative was the grey Smad Place, who had finished 3rd in this event last year. Bryan Cooper took the ride aboard Bog Warrior, substituting for the injured Davy Russell.
Members of the police force and a number of stewards had already lined up along the edge of the racecourse, upon the all-weather strip, to deter anyone from escaping the confines of the enclosures to run out onto the track; in protest or just to cause a scene of some sort.
Once the parade had been completed, the horses headed to the starting gate which, for this event, was at the beginning of the back straight.
The horses dawdled towards the tape and then they were off, very slowly at first. The runners were led away by Reve de Sivola, with the low head-carriage hard-pulling Bog Warrior in second position, from Cross Kennon, Oscara Dara, Smad Place, Celestial Halo, Oscar Whisky, Wonderful Charm, Solwhit, Peddlers Cross, So Young, Get Me Out Of Here and Zaidpour.
As soon as it became apparent that Bog Warrior intended to cut out the running, Richard Johnson restrained his mount after the first flight and settled into second spot. Having cleared the first three flights, the runners headed around the dog-leg turn; the pace was now increasing as they reached the far corner and headed down the hill on the first occasion.
Bog Warrior held a three-length advantage over Reve De Sivola, he in turn was clear of Cross Kennon, Oscara Dara was another four lengths away in fourth; the main pack was headed by Smad Place and Celestial Halo. Get Me Out Of Here and Zaidpour continued to bring up the rear.
Having cleared the fifth flight, the runners headed around the bend and into the home straight for the first time. Bog Warrior continued to hold a three length-advantage over Richard Johnson’s mount, with Oscara Dara and Cross Kennon now five or six lengths behind these. The runners cleared the single flight before heading out into the country for the final time.
The 100-1 outsider of the party, Cross Kennon, was being pushed along as the horses climbed the hill; he also received a reminder from his jockey Sean Quinlan. Bog Warrior continued to lead as the runners journeyed down the back straight; Reve De Sivola was still his nearest pursuer, from Cross Kennon, Oscara Dara, Celestial Halo, Smad Place, Oscar Whisky, Solwhit, Wonderful Charm, Get Me Out Of Here, Peddlers Cross, Zaidpour and So Young.
Reve de Sivola was being pushed along by the time they reached the dog-leg turn. Bog Warrior held a five length lead over the main body of the field as they turned the far corner and headed downhill towards the second last flight. Celestial Halo had made progress to join Reve de Sivola in pursuing the leader; Smad Place was now in fourth position. Peddlers Cross, having run a lifeless race, was pulled up before the penultimate obstacle.
Having cleared this, Bog Warrior still led the field, from Celestial Halo, Reve de Sivola, Smad Place, Solwhit, Oscara Dara, Get Me Out Of Here, Cross Kennon and the struggling Oscar Whisky. The runners rounded the home bend and headed for the final flight; Celestial Halo loomed up to the outside of the tiring Bog Warrior, with Solwhit now to the latter’s inside.
The former held a slight advantage as they cleared the last, but he blundered; this handed the initiative to Solwhit who drew clear to win by 2½ lengths from the gallant Celestial Halo. A brave effort by the Stewart Family’s second string in the absence of Big Buck’s.
Smad Place stayed on to claim 3rd again this year, from Reve de Sivola, with the long-time leader Bog Warrior completing in 5th. Oscar Whisky was pulled up before the last, as was Get Me Out Of Here and Zaidpour.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
Oscar Whisky was found to be slightly lame the following morning.
The 7-2 favourite for the next race was the David Pipe trained, Tom Scudamore ridden, Ballynagour. Alan King had two runners in this event, the grey Walkon (a favourite of mine) who today would be ridden by Paddy Brennan; and Bless The Wings ridden, as always, by Wayne Hutchinson who gets on particularly well with the horse.
There was a problem with AP McCoy’s mount, Cantlow, prior to the race; the first-string JP McManus runner was second favourite in the betting. The horse had been brought into the Parade Ring but was discovered to be bleeding from a nostril and was led back to the saddling boxes; a broken blood vessel being suspected. However, it was subsequently decided that Cantlow would be ridden to the start, where one of the vets would then examine the horse and decide whether it would be permitted to take its chance in the race.
Evidently the runner had suffered a similar problem before; further investigation on that occasion had revealed the issue was a minor nose-related one, rather than being a more serious problem. Once at the starting gate, the vet examined Cantlow and the horse was withdrawn; AP McCoy dismounted and the saddle was removed before the horse was led back. Twenty-two runners remained to contest the event; three of which were greys.
The starting gate for this event was in the mid-course chute; the horses having cantered across the home straight and up the hill upon the all-weather strip to reach the in-field area ahead of the race.
Then they were off ... or rather they weren’t; it was a false start. Mad Moose was up to his antics again and had failed to exit from the holding area. One of the Starter’s assistants tried to lead in Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount on the second occasion; the other assistant grabbed hold of Finger Onthe Pulse’s bridle, because he appeared a little reluctant too.
Then they were off again ... the remaining JP McManus runner set off behind the others; but Mad Moose was having none of it despite the attention of both of the Starter’s assistants, the second one having run across to help once Finger Onthe Pulse had consented to set off. So then there were twenty-one! In the frontline heading for the first were Zaynar, Casey Top, Walkon, Hector’s Choice and Carrickboy.
The runners cleared the first two fences safely and travelled towards the third fence. Having settled into their preferred positions, leading the way were Zaynar, Casey Top and Carrickboy. These were followed by Matuhi, Hector’s Choice, Tartak, Hunt Ball who had already received a reminder, Kapga de Cerisy, Walkon, Mister Hyde, Bless The Wings, Ballynagour, Poquelin, Giorgio Quercus, Divers, Vino Griego, Calgary Bay, Shoegazer, Sweet My Lord, Theatre Guide, and Finger Onthe Pulse. The Colin Tizzard runner, Theatre Guide, made a bad blunder at this fence.
Carrickboy led the field as they travelled around the far turn and into the home straight on the first occasion. Calgary Bay made an error at the fourth fence. Zaynar jumped the sixth fence a little awkwardly and received a reminder for his trouble; Theatre Guide was fencing less than fluently at the rear of the field. Kapga de Cerisy landed awkwardly having cleared the seventh.
The runners headed past the grandstands and out into the country for the one and only time. Carrickboy and Tartak were disputing the lead, from Matuhi and Casey Top; behind these were Hector’s Choice, Kapga de Cerisy, Ballynagour, Hunt Ball and Zaynar. The latter was drifting rapidly back through the field.
There was no change at the head of affairs as the horses began the journey down the back straight; the horses all jumped the next fence well. The runners stepped over the water-jump and travelled towards the next, an open-ditch, where there were a few less than tidy leaps towards the rear of the field. Shoegazer hit the next pretty hard. Kapga de Cerisy wasn’t particularly fluent at the final open-ditch and lost ground on the leading pack.
The horses cleared the fence prior to the far turn, Carrickboy leading the way from Matuhi and Ballynagour; Tartak was now in fourth position, and behind these were Hunt Ball, Vino Griego and Hector’s Choice. Clinging on to their coat-tails was Walkon, with Finger Onthe Pulse the only horse to be making ground from the rear of the field. The horses cleared the next safely before heading downhill towards the third last, at which Hunt Ball was less than fluent.
Carrick Boy led around the final turn, from Matuhi, Ballynagour and Vino Griego; the former putting distance between himself and his nearest pursuers. Having been travelling well up until this point, Ballynagour came under pressure and began to struggle; Vino Griego now looked like the main danger to the long-time leader. They cleared the second last and headed towards the final fence.
Carrickboy held a two lengths advantage over Vino Griego as they jumped it; Matuhi, who was still a close-up third, put in an extra stride and fell. The jockeys aboard the two leaders drove their horses out to the line, with Liam Treadwell’s mount always holding the challenge of the Gary Moore runner. The winning distance was 1½ lengths. Tartak stayed on to complete in 3rd, with Hunt Ball 4th and Walkon 5th.
The green screens had been erected around the prostrate Matuhi; the veterinary staff quickly on hand to give the horse every opportunity to recover following his final fence fall.
My companion at the course-side rails set off to collect her afternoon’s winnings following this race.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, CARRICKBOY (IRE),
ridden by Liam Treadwell, and trained by Venetia Williams, compared with its
previous run at Wincanton on 31 January 2012 where the gelding was pulled up
before the fourteenth. They noted the trainer’s explanation that CARRICKBOY
(IRE) benefited from having an uncontested lead. They ordered the gelding to
be routine tested.
The starting gate for the next event was situated part way down the home straight, the horses cantering up past the stands upon the all-weather track before returning down the turf and re-entering the track to travel a short distance before re-exiting onto the racecourse.
The fence where Matuhi had fallen should have been the first fence during this amateur rider race. However, as the injured horse was still being treated on the landing side of this fence, the first obstacle in the back straight would now be fence number one. This meant that fence one, fence eleven and fence twenty-one would be omitted; due to weight of numbers, the runners actually lined up and began the race upon the hurdles track to make the bypassing of the first fence easier.
And then they were off. The runners were led away by the habitual front-runner Super Duty, together with Becauseicouldntsee. Having passed the grandstands the horses headed up the hill and out into the country for the first time. Galaxy Rock fell at the first.
Super Duty, No Secrets and Becauseicouldntsee led the way as they travelled down the back straight, from Harry The Viking, Deal Done, Saint Are and Frisco Depot.
Heading around the dog-leg turn, there was no change at the head of affairs, leading was Super Duty, from Becauseicouldntsee, Harry The Viking, No Secrets, Frisco Depot, Done Deal, Sunny Legend, Saint Are, Prince of Pirates, Relax, Same Difference, Chartreux, Swing Bill, Alfie Sherrin, Problema Tic, Richard’s Sundance, Liberty Counsel, Bahrain Storm, Vesper Bell, Romanesco, On Trend, Court By Surprise and Loose Preformer; the latter blundered at the fence prior to the far turn.
Frisco Depot got a little bit close to the fence at the top of the hill; On Trend made an error here too. The runners headed down the hill, cleared the next fence safely before rounding the bend and entering the home straight; Super Duty and Becauseicouldntsee continued to cut out the running. The almost white Swing Bill was prominent on the wide outside of the field.
The horses cleared the sole fence to be negotiated in the home straight and bypassed the next; the island running rail had been removed since the beginning of the race to enable the large field of runners to safely negotiate the cordoned off fence, and a steward was vigorously waving a warning flag to ensure none of the competitors, ridden or otherwise, attempted to jump it.
Heading up the hill, the Donald McCain runner still led, with Becauseicouldntsee to his outside; disputing third were Harry The Viking, Frisco Depot, Done Deal and Swing Bill. Having turned the corner into the back straight, a second warning flag was being waved, instructing the competitors to bypass the first in the line of fences; a medical team were treating JT McNamara on the landing side of the fence.
The runners headed towards and cleared the water-jump; Swing Bill and Becauseicouldntsee disputing the lead, with Super Duty still close up in third. A number of the backmarkers were a little untidy at the next, the penultimate open-ditch. By the time the field had reached the dog-leg turn, Super Duty had re-joined Becauseicouldntsee at the head of affairs. The competitors then jumped the final open-ditch, at which Frisco Depot fell; he hampered Chartreux as a result.
The runners cleared one more fence before taking the far turn, Super Duty still marginally ahead of Becauseicouldntsee, from Same Difference, Harry The Viking, Richard’s Sundance, Done Deal and Sunny Legend; clinging onto the back of this leading group were the two JP McManus runners, Prince of Pirates and Alfie Sherrin. Having safely negotiated the tricky fence at the top of the hill, the horses headed down towards what was now the penultimate fence; the field was becoming well strung out.
Super Duty and Becauseicouldntsee remained at the head of affairs clearing the obstacle and headed into the home straight. Their nearest pursuer was the Ryan Hatch ridden Same Difference under a very strong drive. The Donald McCain runner asserted on the run to the last, with Same Difference staying on behind him; Romanesco had emerged from the main pack and was now in pursuit of the leading three.
The jockeys steered their mounts around the omitted fence and then set sail up the hill towards the winning post. It was nip and tuck all the way to the line; Same Difference prevailing by a head from the very gallant Super Duty. Romanesco, who had jumped slightly awkwardly at the last, completed in 3rd, with Alfie Sherrin staying on into 4th place; Becauseicouldntsee finished 5th.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Mr Ryan Hatch, the rider of the winner, SAME DIFFERENCE (IRE), from the top of the hill. 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 Mr Hatch for 9 days as follows: Thursday 28, Sunday 31 March and Monday 1, Tuesday 2, Thursday 4, Friday 5, Saturday 6, Sunday 7 and Monday 8 April 2013. Under Rule (B)54 the Stewards also fined the rider £400.
Matuhi became the first and last (although one is obviously too many) equine casualty of the Festival. It was reported that the cause was an untreatable spinal injury. (Unfortunately it was clear on the TV replay that the horse had suffered nerve damage during the fall from which he would not be able to recover.)
I decided to walk across to the centre of the racecourse ahead of the Cross Country race. The horse’s body was being transferred to the horsebox as I walked past on the roadway used by the ambulance, doctor and vet. I refused to look at the operation, as these beautiful animals deserve dignity in death; morbid curiosity, however, did get the better of others.
Having found a good spot for taking a photograph or two, close to the water-jump, it then became apparent that there would be a delay to the start of this race, and the subsequent Charity race too. Although there were loud-speakers out on the cross-country course, no information was forthcoming as to the cause of these delays.
I regularly glanced across toward the horse-walkway, which leads down from the Parade Ring to the racecourse, in the hope of seeing the runners on their way to the start. But there were none to be seen. However, from observation, the hold-up appeared to be something to do with a lack of ambulances on course and the fact that the air ambulance had landed on the helipad located beyond the far end of the home straight.
From the TV coverage it was apparent that a number of the jockeys had got onboard their horses before the length of the delay had become known; subsequently they had dismounted and their mounts were rugged-up again. RUK’s Stewart Machin, who was in the Parade Ring discussing the runners ahead of the race, had no idea regarding the reason for the delay. However, shortly afterwards, Lydia Hislop did announce that the pause in proceedings was related to an injury incurred by amateur rider JT McNamara during the previous race. The jockeys engaged in the cross-country event then returned to the Weighing Room for a brief period.
The 9-4 favourite for the cross country race was Arabella Boy. Martin Keighley had a runner in this event, Any Currency ridden by Ian Popham. There was also a French-trained runner, Sacree Tiepy, ridden by English jockey James Reveley. The ground conditions for this event were soft.
The cross-country race was originally due off at 17:15; the revised off-time was 17:40. Whilst the horses were circling at the start, it was announced that there would be a further 5-minute delay whilst the ambulance and medical staff returned to their designated areas. Daylight was fading fast.
Then they were off ... or rather they were not, as a number of runners charged forward and broke the tape; much to the annoyance of the vocal crowd. The competitors didn’t travel far, so they returned to the starting area quickly and lined up again.
Then they were off; successfully this time. The crowd cheered as the race finally got underway. The first fence is a bank with hedge; where A New Story wasn’t particularly fluent. The horses took a left-hand bend and headed towards the second obstacle, a ditch with railed hedge; two of the English representatives, Passato and Wedger Pardy leading the way, a few lengths clear of their rivals. Shakervilz made a slight error at this fence; Uncle Junior was travelling at the rear of the field.
The third fence was the birch island fence; all the runners jumping the left-hand option. At the next, the Aintree fence, Leac An Scail unseated his rider. Wedger Pardy and Passato continued at the head of affairs over the next, a bank with hedge; they were setting a strong pace for this long-distance race. Double Dizzy was in third position at this stage, with Any Currency travelling in fourth.
The sixth fence is a double bank with hedges; the following obstacle a hedge with log. The route then crosses the downhill section of the Old Course before the runners jumped a double bank with hedge and negotiated a right-hand turn to approach timber rails. Wedger Pardy was leading, from Passato, Double Dizzy and Any Currency; the main body of the field was headed by Outlaw Pete, sporting the first colours of JP McManus.
Having jumped this fence, the runners travelled across the mid-course chute to reach a railed hedge, after which they galloped back across the Old Course to jump a ditch with railed hedge. Outlaw Pete made an error at the next fence, the twelfth, the pole and railed hedge. The runners returned across the mid-course chute to approach the next, the raised bank with preceding ditch and hedged drop to the far side.
Wedger Pardy and Passato still led as they headed towards the water jump, which is situated in the river gulley. Having exited the dip, the runners headed around a left-hand turn and towards the two cheese wedges, where the latter jumped out to his right and lost a little ground on the leader. Uncle Junior was tailed off by this stage.
The first five horses continued in the same order, with Wedger Pardy leading from Passato, Double Dizzy, Any Currency and Outlaw Pete. The next fence, now the seventeenth, was a ditch with railed hedge, the obstacle having already been jumped as fence number two. The runners then took a left-hand turn in order to jump the ditch with raised bank and hedged drop at a ninety degrees angle to the first occasion. Wedger Pardy was now being closely followed by the loose horse.
The horses then headed back across the Old Course to reach the double bank with hedge once more. Having cleared the fence, they turned right to jump a ditch with railed hedge; Double Dizzy made an error here. The field then crossed back over the downhill section of the Old Course to face a ditch with boarded hedge; Any Currency was beginning to drift back through the field.
By the time they took the right-hand turn and headed back towards the water-jump, the main body of the field was only two or three lengths behind the long-time leader. After clearing this jump, the runners travelled around a left-hand bend to approach a double spread hedge. Disputing second at this point were Double Dizzy and Outlaw Pete; they were followed by A New Story, Bostons Angel, Arabella Boy, Passato, Any Currency, Freneys Well, Sizing Australia, Big Shu, Sacree Tiepy, and Shakervilz. Saddlers Storm was a few lengths behind the main group and Uncle Junior was continuing but completely tailed off.
The field were a little bunched as they cleared the following fence, a bank with hedge; a number of the runners were a little slow here as they began to tire. The track turned sharp left and the runners headed towards the ditch with railed hedge; the only fence which is jumped three times during the course of the race. Double Dizzy began to struggle as the horses headed over the next, the birch island fence; Outlaw Pete was disputing second position now with Big Shu and Arabella Boy. Patrick Mullins finally gave up the unequal struggle and pulled up Uncle Junior after this fence.
Wedger Pardy was being ridden along in an attempt to cling on to his narrow lead but, as they approached the next, the Aintree fence, Outlaw Pete and Big Shu took over; notwithstanding that they just avoided being carried out by the loose horse as it ran across in front of this obstacle! Big Shu then coasted into the lead having cleared the twenty-eighth fence, the bank with hedge; and he was gradually extending his lead as he crossed the next, a double bank hedge.
The leader had established an advantage of four or five lengths by the time he cleared the hedge with log prior to joining the Old Course. In second position was Outlaw Pete, followed by Arabella Boy, Bostons Angel, Wedger Pardy, Shakervilz and the French mare Sacree Tiepy.
Upon reaching the main racecourse, Big Shu turned left and headed over the first of two stuffed hurdles; he remained four to five lengths clear of his nearest rivals. Having turned into the home straight, his jockey steered him across to the stand-side rails on the approach to the final obstacle, Shakervilz soon his nearest pursuer.
They cleared the last and, although Shakervilz drew clear of the remaining runners, Big Shu remained beyond reach and won by 4 lengths at the line. Outlaw Pete finished 10 lengths back in 3rd, with Bostons Angel 4th, Sizing Australia 5th and Sacree Tiepy 6th. Any Currency completed in 9th; the first of the home team to finish.
Of those who had been prominent for much of the race, Double Dizzy finished in 10th and long-time leader Wedger Pardy finished 11th of the 12 who completed. Passato had been pulled up before the 25th.
The Charity race followed almost immediately, but not before the spectators had been permitted to cross back to the stands-side of the racecourse.
I can’t describe this race in detail as, due to today’s delays, my Sky box recording cut out before the event took place so I have no record to refer to. However, I do recall that Newmill, winner of the 2006 Queen Mother Champion Chase and now a sprightly 15 year old(!), ‘took off’ at the start, soon setting up a big lead. He still held the advantage heading into the home straight but the field was closing and he was collared on the run-in by Age of Glory, ridden by Brian Bunyan, despite rallying at the end.
Choc later confirmed in his Horse and Hound column that he’d been at the Festival again today (having attended yesterday too), but I didn’t see him on this occasion; probably because I didn’t venture back to the Parade Ring area at any point between the races. L
Choc was also due to have a scan on his back today; I wonder how he got on? I guess he’d decided to pay another visit, as presumably he’d been to Cheltenham General Hospital for the scan so was in the area anyway.
With the races running late, it was impossible to gain an early departure. I returned to my car and, having removed my contact lenses and eaten the remaining cheese roll (only one left today), I set off to join the queue heading out of the car park. It was 18:50.
Having exited onto Swindon Lane in a westerly direction, I turned left at the mini-roundabout to travel down Tommy Taylor’s Lane. Deja vu, it was just like Tuesday; the queue stretched the entire length of the road. As always, when I eventually reached St Paul’s Road, I turned left to reach Clarence Square and subsequently Clarence Road. A further left turn took me along the Prestbury Road, where I turned right to drive around Pittville Circus and enter Pittville Circus Road. Upon reaching Hewlett Road I turned left and drove to the ‘longabout’.
My journey took me back to Oxford and onwards to the M40, before joining the M25 clockwise carriageway. I needed to fill up with petrol once again, ready for tomorrow, the final day of the Festival. Being quite late into the evening, many of the pump lanes at the fuel station were closed – those ones which could not easily be seen and monitored during the evening darkness; I had to queue. It’s a busy petrol station, very close to Junction 20 of the M25. The fuel cost £27.29 today.
I arrived home at 21:25. So much for my hopes that I’d get home earlier and earlier as the week progressed, apart from Gold Cup day of course when it didn’t really matter! Thus Tuesday would be the earliest, at 20:40.
Supper tonight was Penne Mozzarella again. I did log onto my laptop and began writing a blog entry but it soon became apparent that I was too tired to concentrate; I called it a day and went to bed. Just one more day to go ...
* * * * * * *
It later transpired that JT McNamara had been very seriously injured as a result of his first fence fall during the Kim Muir. As a result he was airlifted to the Frenchay Hospital in Bristol having sustained a life-changing neck injury.
In addition to the loss of Matuhi; there would also be three further sad equine postscripts relating to well-known horses which had run today during the following few weeks. The Alan King-trained Bakbenscher suffered a fatal injury at Cheltenham’s April fixture when slipping up on the flat; the Philip Hobbs stable-stalwart Fair Along lost his life as a result of a bout of colic; and in early April, Zaynar sustained an injury when running at Taunton and, despite David Pipe’s veterinary staff’s best efforts, he could not be saved.