DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2013
FEATURING THE QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2013
Jockey Sam Twiston-Davies is congratulated by his dad Nigel,
trainer of The New One,
having won the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle
Another morning when the alarm sounded and woke me from a deep slumber. Gone are the days when I would be already awake due to excitement and waiting for the call.
I showered, washed and dried my hair; then ate breakfast of two Weetabix with soya milk, and two slices of white toast with butter on. Then it was time to put on my makeup. I wore a plum shade of eye-shadow today, as opposed to the dark brown of yesterday. By tomorrow I would give up and just wear foundation and mascara!
My right lower eyelid was definitely showing signs of improvement, having been suffering from a stye last week, so I wore glasses to drive to Cheltenham before inserting my contacts once there.
Wednesday’s outfit was a black thermal vest, grey bird-print thermal long-sleeved vest, cream thermal long-sleeved vest, cerise frilled hem cardigan, black frill-edge cardigan, new purple fleece, purple frill-edged cardigan, black gillet, black 40 denier tights, brown leggings, black handkerchief hem long skirt, M & S horse-print snood, M & S engineer boots, Thinsulate gloves, wrist-warmers, black faux sheepskin coat, mauve/grey Katia Big Snow scarf, plus my Magic Branches Chaotic Rainbow pendant.
With everything set to go, I departed around five minutes earlier than yesterday. Instead of driving around the ring-road to reach the Hemel Hempstead road, today I drove via the City Centre. My route then took me to join the A41 bypass, after which I headed to Aylesbury and onwards to Bicester. The queue tailing back from Junction 9 of the M40 was much shorter than yesterday, so it took only two or three changes for me to continue on my journey. The traffic slowed at the beginning of the A34 where the three lanes became two, exacerbated by vehicles joining from a side-road further down the carriageway.
Upon arrival at the Peartree Interchange, I discovered that traffic was queuing solidly at the roundabout where the slip-road meets the A44. Eventually I was able to push my way into the queue; one usually has to wait for someone to demonstrate their intention to move across to the innermost roundabout lane with the purpose of heading to Woodstock. That then enables me to move out too, on their left-hand side. They go, I go! The queue therefore stretched from here, all the way down the dual carriageway to the A40. A number of vehicles were also in the wrong lane, so they pushed into the outside lane too.
After a number of minutes, I was on my way westwards along the A40, heading for Cheltenham. I recall there was a tanker which appeared to be leaking a liquid; it had pulled to the inside and was parked on the grass verge. And, initially, a slow moving queue had formed behind a JCB digger; fortunately he soon pulled into a lay-by to permit those behind him to pass.
Nothing of note happened for the remainder of the journey to Cheltenham, apart from the fact that there weren’t many vehicles on the road! Instead of initially heading towards the centre of Cheltenham before turning right into Hales Road, I decided to pull over to the outside at the Six Ways junction and travel up Greenway Lane once the traffic lights had turned to green. Upon arrival at the T-junction at the far end, I turned left and descended Harp Hill to reach the ‘longabout’. I then turned right, drove through the traffic light junction beside a supermarket, after which I took a right turn into Bouncers Lane.
The junction at the far end can be difficult to negotiate, being two adjacent mini-roundabouts, but soon I was heading along New Barn Lane towards the main entrance to Cheltenham racecourse. At the Evesham Road I continued ahead, turning right into the car park. Once again there was space for me to park my car in the lower field; being earlier than yesterday I wasn’t so high on the hill, and also on the front row of two.
I was feeling laid back today, so remained in my car until 10:20 before heading to the turnstiles. It wasn’t so cold as yesterday either. I was very relieved when the gates opened at 10:30 ... because, having remembered to drink a cup of tea before departing, I was dying to go to the loo! After which I went to the kiosk on the concourse to purchase a race-card, £3. It was sunny today, so it was quite pleasant to stand on the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure.
Evidently the planned course inspection had been called off; the going good to soft, soft in places. Having been covered immediately after Tuesday’s racing had been completed, the operation to lift the covers had commenced at 08:30.
Whilst waiting for the Paddock Interviews to begin at 12:15, it was announced that the Martin Keighley-trained Johnny Og would be a non-runner in the Champion Bumper; self-certified due to lameness.
Eventually it was time for Alastair Down and Martin Kelly to begin today’s interviews. The first item was the presentation of a cheque to the Injured Jockeys Fund by the Cheltenham and Three Counties Racing Club who had raised the money through their annual Festival Preview Evening; Sam Twiston-Davies and Denis O’Regan having participated as two of the preview panel.
The next interviewee was Countryfile’s Adam Henson, who was acting as Ladies Day Ambassador today. He said his role was the present the prizes and kiss the beautiful women! When quizzed as to whether he should remain at the farm during the busy lambing period, he said his assistant was carrying out that role today. They expected around 200 lambs to be born this year, with visitors welcome to see them arrive. A comment was also made about his tweed suit – he said he’d had it specially made because he was supporting the British wool industry. Adam enjoys racing; Simon Claisse, Clerk of the Course, is a good mate of his.
It was then time for three rugby referees to be introduced to those surrounding the Winners’ Enclosure – Wayne Barnes, Craig Joubert and Chris White – I switched off here, as I don’t ‘do’ rugby! I recollect these three have been interviewed before, at a previous Festival.
It was then the turn of trainer Jonjo O’Neill to be interviewed. He reminisced about winning the Gold Cup aboard Dawn Run. He also spoke about Taquin du Seuil, his representative in the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle. He said the horse had a high knee action so should be suited by the soft ground. His runner in the Coral Cup, Mr Watson, was described as a character when at the racecourse, although has lots of ability. He has a tendency to run far too free and wears a hood today. Jonjo said the horse is fine at home. Jonjo described Albertas Run as being in great form and he was happy with him, confident he’d run a good race in tomorrow’s Ryanair Chase.
Next up was Henry De Bromhead, trainer of Sizing Europe. Another charge, Sizing Gold, wouldn’t run today as he was not right, so had been withdrawn from the Nepture. He then went on to speak about Sizing Europe, who he said was an amazing horse and a joy to train. The horse has had many major wins, commencing with the Greatwood Hurdle in 2007 when a 5-year-old. The trainer believes that Sizing Europe now handles any ground – having won the Arkle Chase, Champion Chase and been runner-up in the latter too, he said his charge rises to the challenge.
Next to be interviewed was Nicky Henderson – Henry shook hands with him as one left, the other went to the Winners’ podium.
Nicky began by speaking about Sprinter Sacre – he described training the star as frightening and exciting – as everyone expects superb runs every time. Asked what the race game plan was, Nicky said he’d ask Barry Geraghty what he wished to do, rather than dare suggest a strategy to the experienced jockey!
They then spoke about My Tent Or Yours’ run in yesterday’s Supreme Novices. Nicky said his horse received a good lead from Champagne Fever but unfortunately couldn’t get past him. The trainer said Barry Geraghty recently visited the yard to school the horses; he started with Sprinter Sacre as a treat, and then schooled the novices.
Speaking about his Neptune Novices’ Hurdle representative, Chatterbox, he said the horse has solid form; and is owned by the Bobs Worth team. Nicky admitted to looking for excuses not to run the horse today but, despite his best efforts, he could think of none. So he’s here to run.
Nicky then spoke about his runner in the RSA Chase, Hadrian’s Approach; he said the horse has had jumping issues, but should be on a par with Unioniste.
He then spoke about Captain Conan, who was due to run in tomorrow’s Jewson Novices’ Chase – he was looking forward to the clash with Dynaste; it was a strong race. Nicky said Captain Conan is a power horse, and the ground conditions will help.
Looking forward to the World Hurdle, he said the drying ground will help Oscar Whisky get the distance; he also had Oscara Dara entered for the race.
Finally, Nicky spoke about his hopes for the Gold Cup. He said Long Run never gets the credit he deserves; he said the horse is in good form, better than last year, because he was not finishing off his races season.
Although Bobs Worth doesn’t have the strongest constitution, he described him as a ‘smashing horse’ – professional but not flamboyant. He didn’t run in January as he wasn’t right, but they’ve had a clear run with him approaching Cheltenham, and his work at home has been very good.
The final guest today was Russ Wiseman, representative of Sportingbet.com, sponsors of the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
He began by discussing Sizing Europe, who he said was good value when compared to Sprinter Sacre whose odds were 1-4. The prediction was for the latter to win by over 10 lengths.
Back In Focus was popular for the 4-mile Amateur Riders’ Chase; with punters also getting ‘stuck in’ to Buddy Bolero. Pont Alexandre was very popular for the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle and was now a short price; being Mick Fitzgerald’s pick of the day. Punters were also keen on Rule The World, The New One and Taquin du Seuil.
Boston Bob was not strong in the betting, at 9-2 or 5-1, for the RSA. Not surprisingly, as Ruby Walsh’s choice of ride, Unioniste was favourite for the race; he said there was strength in depth, with Terminal also popular.
It was 8-1 the field for the Handicap Hurdle, the Coral Cup, with punters keen on Abbey Lane and Pendra; also Mr Watson each way. Money was coming in for Kalmann, Bordoni, Saphir de Rheu and Counsel in the Fred Winter Novices’ Hurdle.
Russ’ best bet of the day was Rule The World.
The Paddock Interviews having been completed for another day, I decided to head to the course-side rails to obtain a vantage point next to them. I wasn’t about to miss out, as I had ahead of the first race yesterday.
The favourite for this race was Back In Focus at odds of 9-4. Alan King had a representative in this race, Godsmejudge ridden by Nico de Boinville.
This is the marathon event of the Festival. The starting gate for this race was in the mid-course chute; upon exiting the horse walkway, the runners cantered across the home straight and headed up the all-weather track around the top bend. They then crossed the racecourse to enter the chute; at the off, there were three fences to negotiate before the far turn, after which they travelled along the home straight and then completed another two full circuits!
Then they were off; the spectators roared to signify the start of the first race of the day. The runners were led away by Highland Lodge, from Hawkes Point, the grey Rose Of The Moon, Tofino Bay, Our Island, Present To You, Emperor’s Choice, Buddy Bolero, Godsmejudge, Back In Focus, Heathyards Flyer, Drawn N Drank, Top Smart, Sacred Mountain and Scampi Boy; Rival D’Estruval brought up the rear.
The field cleared the first three fences without mishap, although Back In Focus did jump out to his right over the middle of these, bumping Heathyards Flyer in the process. Having negotiated the far turn, the horses straightened up to approach fence four; Highland Lodge continued to lead to the inside of the track, Tofino Bay almost upsides to his wide outside. Drawn N Drank was fencing very slowly and had soon dropped to the rear of the field and was in danger of becoming detached.
Heading up the home straight, Highland Lodge and Tofino Bay continued to lead, Godsmejudge now disputing third with Rose Of The Moon; Back In Focus close up to their outside. Having cleared fence number seven, the runners set off around the top turn and headed into the back straight for the first occasion. There was no change at the head of affairs as they began their journey towards the far corner; Godsmejudge putting in a fantastic leap at the first in the line of fences.
Rose Of The Moon made a slight error at the fence following the water, the first of the open-ditches. To the rear of mid-field, Heathyards Flyer was soon being driven along by Joshua Newman. Having reached the far turn the horses began the journey downhill. Tofino Bay was lobbing along happily, ears pricked, to the outside of Highland Lodge, Back In Focus in the former’s slipstream; in fourth position, to the inside, was Godsmejudge. Struggling badly at the back of the field was Drawn N Drank.
Heading around the turn and into the home straight once more, the order was Torfino Bay, Highland Lodge, Back In Focus, Godsmejudge, Scampi Bay, Our Island, Rose Of The Moon, Buddy Bolero, Rival D’Estruval, Top Smart, Hawkes Point, Present To You, Heathyards Flyer, Emperor’s Choice, Sacred Mountain and the tailed off Drawn N Drank. All sixteen runners were still standing as they set off into the country for the final time.
The first casualty was Scampi Boy who blundered at the first in the back straight, unseating his rider Jack Sherwood, and hampering Rose Of The Moon in the process. Highland Lodge landed on all fours when negotiating the water-jump. Back In Focus hit the next fence, the penultimate open-ditch. Rose Of The Moon was pulled up before the 21st fence, as was the tailed off Drawn N Drank before the 20th.
Heading around the dog-leg, Highland Lodge continued to dispute the lead with Tofino Bay, Godsmejudge was just behind them in third position, then Back In Focus, Our Island, Buddy Bolero, Rival D’Estruval, Top Smart and Hawkes Point. These had drawn clear of the continuing remainder of the field. Top Smart departed at the final open-ditch.
Heading downhill for the final time only five runners were still travelling okay; Highland Lodge, Tofino Bay, Godsmejudge, Back In Focus and Rival D’Estruval. Having cleared the next, Godsmejudge came under pressure and began to lose his place.
As they approached the final bend, Derek O’Connor drove Rival D’Estruval through the gap between Highland Lodge and Back In Focus, to join Torfino Bay at the head of affairs. However, the former hit the top of two out and crumpled on landing, leaving Nina Carberry’s mount with two or three lengths advantage over his nearest rival. Further back, the tired Highland Lodge lost momentum when forced to side-step the prostrate horse, allowing Godsmejudge to assume third position.
Having cleared the last, Nina drove her horse towards the line but he began to tire under pressure, Back In Focus now gaining with every stride. Patrick Mullins’ mount overtook him just 75 yards from victory, winning by half a length at the line. The Alan King runner, having put in an almost immaculate round of jumping, held on to claim 3rd place by a head from the staying on Buddy Bolero. Our Island completed in 5th place, with the long-time leader Highland Lodge in 6th.
An Irish-trained winner, but an English-owned one – Andrea and Graham Wylie. It was also trainer’s son Patrick Mullins’ first ever steeplechase winner at the Cheltenham Festival.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use
of the whip by Miss Nina Carberry, the rider of
TOFINO BAY (IRE), placed second, from approaching the second last fence.
Having heard her evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found her
in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that she had used her whip above the
permitted level. The Stewards suspended Miss Carberry
for 7 days as follows: Thursday 28, Sunday 31 March and Monday 1, Tuesday 2,
Thursday 4, Friday 5 and Saturday 6 April 2013.
Not being a betting person, it had never occurred to me that horses might run with a speed sensing device ... you learn something new every day!
It was still cold, but at least it was sunny ...
The favourite for the next race was the Willie Mullins trained Pont Alexandre ridden by Ruby Walsh, at odds of 6-4. Alan King had a runner in this race, Two Rockers, the trainer having decided to let the horse take his chance in this event. Although I believe his feeling was that the horse would have been better suited by the three miles of Friday’s Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, but an entry for that particular race had been overlooked.
Evidently eight was the smallest number of horses ever declared for the following event.
The starting gate for this race was in the mid-course chute; upon exiting the horse walkway, the runners cantered across the home straight and headed up the all-weather track around the top bend. They then crossed the racecourse to enter the chute; at the off, two flights would be negotiated before the far turn.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Ubak and Pont Alexandre; they were followed four abreast by Two Rockers, Rule The World, The New One, Taquin du Seuil and bringing up the rear were Chatterbox and Minsk. Having pulled his way up into third place approaching the second flight, Rule The World jumped it slower than the horses to his inside and dropped back to sixth place.
The horses headed around the far turn lead by Pont Alexandre, from Ubak, The New One, Taquin de Seuil, Rule The World, Two Rockers, Chatterbox and Minsk. The field cleared the next flight and began their journey up the home straight; Ruby’s mount, ears pricked, at the head of affairs. Chatterbox was less fluent than his rivals at the fourth flight.
The horses then headed out into the country with one full circuit now to travel. The field was still tightly packed as it began its journey down the back straight; Two Rockers made a small error at the fifth flight. Ruby Walsh stole a peek behind on a couple of occasions to see where his main rivals were. The outsider Ubak took a slight lead as the runners headed over flight six. Pont Alexandre was still close up to his outside, from The New One, Rule The World, Minsk, Taquin du Seuil, Two Rockers and Chatterbox.
The runners negotiated the dog-leg turn and headed over flight seven, after which Two Rockers was briefly ridden along at the back of the tightly packed field. Pont Alexandre led again three out, Ubak, Taquin du Seuil, The New One, Rule The World and Minsk all close on his heels; Chatterbox was just behind these, with Two Rockers just beginning to struggle in rear and receiving a couple of backhanders from his jockey.
With the momentum of the hill, the leading seven sprinted towards the penultimate flight, Ubak the first to capitulate. Pont Alexandre still led from Taquin du Seuil and Rule The World who now disputed second, then Minsk in fourth, Chatterbox together with The New One at the back of this main group.
Coming off the bend, Ruby was riding for all he was worth to remain ahead of his nearest rivals, but Rule The World was now at his off-side girth and Sam Twiston-Davies had launched The New One’s challenge to the stand-side too. The latter was travelling the strongest and took the lead as they approached the final flight and stayed on strongly to win by 4 lengths at the line.
Rule The World, having also got the better of Pont Alexandre before the last, claimed 2nd, with Ruby’s mount a tiring 3rd. Chatterbox completed in 4th, Minsk in 5th, Taquin de Seuil 6th and Ubak 7th. Two Rockers was last of the eight.
The favourite for the next race was Unioniste, at odds of 5-2. Possibly because Ruby Walsh had chosen to ride the grey rather than the Willie Mullins trained Boston Bob.
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 re-entering the all-weather strip for a short distance before exiting onto the racecourse once more to reach the starting gate.
Then they were off. Theatrical Star was around a length up as the field cleared the first fence. Sharing second were Goulanes and Houblon des Obeaux, to their outside was Unioniste, further out on the track Real Milan and Lyreen Legend; Boston Bob to the inside, then Hadrian’s Approach, Vintage Star, Terminal and Lord Windmere.
The horses then headed up the hill and cleared the second fence before beginning their trip along the back straight for the first time. The pace was steady so the field remained closely grouped, none of the horses made any serious jumping mistakes on their journey towards the far corner, just a few minor errors here and there.
Turning downhill, Theatrical Star continued to lead, from Goulanes, Houblon des Obeaux, Real Milan, Vintage Star, Boston Bob, Unioniste, Hadrian’s Approach, Lyreen Legend, Lord Windermere, with Terminal at the rear. The runners cleared the next fence safely and turned into the home straight once more. Over the next, Houblon des Obeaux made a slight error, as did Hadrian’s Approach; the latter received a slap down the neck as a result. One circuit had now been completed.
With a good leap over the next, Goulanes joined Theatrical Star at the head of affairs; then as they headed away from the stands towards the next, he took over the lead. Houblon des Obeaux and Real Milan followed him through as Joe Tizzard’s mount began to drop back through the field. The tiring Theatrical Star subsequently made an error at the first in the back straight; Boston Bob caught in his slipstream was shuffled to the back of the field.
The next obstacle was the water, Ruby Walsh had begun to push Unioniste along in mid-field; after the open-ditch his jockey administered a reminder. Goulanes led over the next, from Houblon des Obeaux, Real Milan, Hadrian’s Approach, Unioniste, Lyreen Legend, Lord Windermere, Terminal, Vintage Star and Boston Bob; Theatrical Star was tailed off, soon to be pulled up.
The runners headed around the dog-leg turn, their next fence the final open-ditch. Houblon des Obeaux put in a short stride and hit this one, losing his place; Terminal made an error here too. Vintage Star had now begun to lose touch.
Downhill they travelled, Goulanes still ahead, from Real Milan, Hadrian’s Approach, Lyreen Legend, Lord Windermere, Houblon des Obeaux, Boston Bob and Unioniste; the latter in danger of losing touch. The runners jumped the third last and headed for the final turn, Tom Scudamore’s mount just half a length ahead of his four nearest rivals. Mounting his challenge on the inside, Lord Windermere found himself a touch short of room on the turn and stumbled slightly; Boston Bob soon sent into the lead as they straightened up.
The leaders jumped the penultimate fence; Goulanes making a slight error, his jockey subsequently steering to avoid the corner of the impending plastic rail. Heading for the final fence, Boston Bob was a couple of lengths clear of Lyreen Legend, from Hadrian’s Approach, the closing Lord Windermere and Goulanes.
But he hit the top of the obstacle and crumpled on landing, thus handing the initiative to Lyreen Legend and Lord Windermere; the latter being driven out to win by 1¾ lengths at the line. Having won with ears pricked, the winner probably still had more to give!
Hadrian’s Approach was 6 lengths back in third, despite an indifferent round of jumping. Unioniste won the battle for 4th place by a length from Terminal 5th, Goulanes a short-head behind in 6th and Houblon des Obeaux half a length back in 7th. The only other finisher was the tailed-off Real Milan.
It was the first Cheltenham Festival training success for ex-jockey, Jim Culloty, well-known for his exploits aboard Best Mate.
That’s it for the first half of the diary, please ...