DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2013
FEATURING THE QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
WEDNESDAY 13 MARCH 2013
Wayne Hutchinson is thrilled to win the Coral Cup aboard Medinas;
a victory for the Alan King yard
It was now time for the feature event of the day, the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
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. Two mounted members of a local hunt preceded the racehorses; just seven runners, presumably a number having been frightened away by the participation of Sprinter Sacre, last year’s Arkle winner, never beaten over fences and the 1-4 favourite to win his first Queen Mother Champion Chase.
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 any sort.
The parade was led by the ear-plugged Mail de Bievre, trained by Tom George; the French-bred horse had been trained by Alan King during the 2008/2009 season, running at Exeter, Doncaster and Uttoxeter, after which he’d returned to France; and it is recorded that he has won three times when racing in his native country. He’d had just one run for his current trainer, the previous month when finishing 5th to Silviniaco Conti at Newbury.
Once the parade had been completed, the runners cantered down past the grandstands and entered the all-weather strip to continue their journey to the start which was located at the far end of the home straight.
On the outside of the pack, Sanctuaire was led in by Paul Nicholls’ Assistant Trainer Dan Skelton. Then they were off. The field was led away by Mail de Bievre, from Sizing Europe, Somersby, Sprinter Sacre, Tataniano, Wishfull Thinking and Sanctuaire; a slight error was made by Richard Johnson’s mount at the first fence.
The runners continued up the home straight, in chevron formation, Paddy Brennan’s mount at the head of affairs. Having cleared the second fence, they passed through the gap in the rails and entered the main circuit of the track. Somersby got a little bit close to the next but then put in an extra stride before the 4th, hit the top and Dominic Elsworth was thrown over his head as the horse stumbled badly on landing. However, to add insult to injury, the horse was then brought down by his prostrate jockey. Not surprisingly, it took Dominic a while to rise.
The six remaining runners headed out into the country for the one and only time; Mail de Bievre still leading the way, from Sizing Europe, Sprinter Sacre, Tataniano, Wishfull Thinking and Sanctuaire. They cleared the uphill fence and then set off down the back straight, the leader making a slight error at the first fence therein. Having cleared the water-jump, it was now time for Sizing Europe to cruise up on the outside of Mail de Bievre and take a narrow advantage having jumped the first open-ditch.
Sanctuaire, still at the rear of the field, wasn’t particularly fluent at the 9th. Taking the dog-leg turn, Paddy Brennan’s mount began to fade, Sprinter Sacre now cruising along just behind the leader, Sizing Europe; although the favourite put in an extra stride and brushed through the second open-ditch, his first (and last) semblance of a mistake. Mail de Bievre made a bad error here and dropped to the back of the field.
The two leaders had drawn well clear of their pursuers as they began their journey down the hill to the third last fence; Wishfull Thinking, Santuaire and Tataniano initially travelling as a group, Mail de Bievre now tailing off but continuing – for there was prize money of £4,901.18 for 6th place.
Having cleared the obstacle, Sprinter Sacre cruised into the lead, Barry Geraghty not even moving a muscle aboard the chaser. Sizing Europe was already being ridden along, before appearing to stumble as he travelled over the pathway which crosses the course at this point; it didn’t help his cause, as he lost even more ground upon the leader.
Sprinter Sacre headed into the home straight and jumped the penultimate obstacle with a four or five length advantage over the Irish raider, with an even bigger distance back to Sanctuaire and Wishfull Thinking who were fighting it out for third place.
The leader cleared the final fence with ease and galloped up towards the finishing line; his jockey glancing back to check there were no dangers, he was already patting the horse and celebrating yards before the post. The horse hadn’t even come off the bridle once. He won by 19 lengths, easing down. Sizing Europe completed in 2nd, with Wishfull Thinking claiming 3rd, Santuaire 4th, Tataniano 5th and Mail de Bievre a very remote last of the 6 finishers.
Dominic Elsworth cracked his sternum as a result of the fall from Somersby, so would be unable to take up his intended Thursday engagements or any other rides for the next few weeks either.
There were two Alan King runners in the next race, Meister Eckhart the more fancied at 14-1 than Medinas who was considered an outsider at 33-1. Wayne Hutchinson choose the latter, having won this season’s Welsh Champion Hurdle aboard the diminutive horse, who actually reminds me a lot of the late lamented Katchit. Aidan Coleman picked up the spare ride aboard Meister Eckhart, due to the injury absence of Choc. The favourite for this race was the Charlie Longsdon-trained, AP McCoy ridden, Pendra; sporting the colours of JP McManus.
The starting gate for this event 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; with two flights to negotiate before the far turn at the off.
A nightmare number to keep tabs on during this race, the maximum 28! The runners included five greys ... evidently the proliferation these days being a result of many of the horses being French-bred.
Having exited the in-field, the runners swung out wide as they arrived on track and then they were off. The runners were led away by Hollow Tree and Timesawastin; Mr Watson made an error at the first flight.
Heading towards the second flight the order was Loose Chips, from Timesawastin, Hollow Tree, Meister Eckhart, Urbain de Sivola and Master Of The Sea. Travelling on the wide outside of the runners was the grey Any Given Day; Medinas was travelling towards the inside in mid-field; in rear another grey, Saphir River. Having cleared the hurdle, the field set off around the far turn, Loose Chips and Timesawastin still at the head of affairs; three of the greys at the rear of the field, Barbatos, Fiveforthree and Saphir River.
Timesawastin hit the top of the third flight but still held the advantage over Loose Chips, Meister Eckhart, Urbain de Sivola, Hollow Tree who received a backhander from his jockey, and following him was Mr Watson. This group was a few lengths clear of Buck Magic, Any Given Day, Master Of The Sea, Big Easy, Ericht, Orsippus, Bondage, Black Thunder, Saddler’s Risk, Owega Star, Medinas, Rattan, Tour d’Argent, Un Beau Matin, Wyse Hill Teabags, Cash And Go, Pendra, Crack Away Jack, Abbey Lane, Barbatos, Fiveforthree and Saphir River (that everyone’s one and only complete name check - whew!).
Having cleared the fourth flight, the runners headed away from the stands for the only time, Loose Chips now leading the field by two or three lengths. Travelling down the back straight, there were one or two untidy leaps at the next flight, notably Buck Magic who almost flattened one of the panels. Medinas was not as fluent as others here either, jockey Wayne Hutchinson re-organising his ‘knitting’ on the run to the next, where panels of the flight were again damaged by the runners.
The horses then travelled around the dog-leg turn, Meister Eckhart jumping into the lead at the next flight as Loose Chips quickly lost ground. Struggling at the back of the field were Mr Watson and the tailed off Saddler’s Risk.
The field then headed down the hill towards the third last flight, the Alan King first string remained in the lead, from Urbain de Sivola and Ericht; a number of horses had improved noticeably from further back in the field, including Medinas who was now in around 7th position. They cleared the next flight and headed for two out, where Black Thunder fell.
Meister Eckhart led into the final turn, Fiveforthree almost upsides to his outside, close behind were Ericht, Urbain de Sivola and Owega Star. Medinas and Un Beau Matin were leading the next group, two or three lengths off the pace. The runners turned into the home straight and headed for the final flight.
Aidan Coleman’s mount was now challenged on both wings, Fiveforthree to the stand-side and Ericht to the far side. Jumping the last he had rebuffed these; with Un Beau Matin falling at this flight when in 8th place. However, the final threat was to come from his stable companion, Medinas, who was driven up the inside and stayed on strongly to win by 2 lengths at the line. Meister Eckhart gamely fought off the persistent Fiveforthree to claim 2nd by a nose; Ericht finished 4th.
I confess to shouting ‘Go on Wayne’ as Medinas made his challenge!
I decided that I should return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure, rather than remain beside the rails to see the winning horse and jockey return via the walkway in front of the stands. I made it back in plenty of time, as I’m a fast walker ... although I often think I’d like to be smaller, so that I could nip easily around the slowest spectators! I’m built more in the Sprinter Sacre mould than the Medinas mould ... although, these days, I’m feeling more ‘Ugly Bug’ than anything else.
I stood on the steps behind the Winners’ Enclosure taking photographs, and then I saw Choc; he’d decided to make a brief visit to the Festival after all. He was wearing beige trousers and a brown jacket; the empty right arm of which was tucked into the corresponding pocket, his arm being in a sling.
I took a few photographs, to remember Choc by, because it was highly unlikely I’d see him again until he was fully fit and riding again. L
Having seen Choc, I decided I wouldn’t return to the course-side rails but would remain close to the Parade Ring hoping to get a further glimpse of my favourite jockey. I did get another, but only brief.
However, I will describe the action from the final two races of the day ... beginning with the 24-runner Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. The joint-favourites for this race were Saphir Du Rheu and Bordoni at 6-1. Alan King had one runner in this event, McVicar, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.
Being an extended two mile trip, the horses cantered up the all-weather horse walkway in front of the stands before turning back to head down the turf and re-enter the all-weather strip and canter to the start at the far end of the home straight.
The horses galloped out of the in-field enclosure for this one, and then they were off. The runners were led away by the flashy Counsel, with Fatcatinthehat and Habesh taking over as they jumped the first flight, the latter jumping across in front of the Jason Maguire ridden horse. Hilali, sporting the second JP McManus colours, brought up the rear.
The field continued up the home straight towards the grandstands. Fatcatinthehat leading from the hard pulling Habesh, then came Angelot du Berlais, Counsel and the three John Ferguson trained runners, Three Kingdoms, Ruacana and Bordoni.
Having cleared the second flight, the runners headed up the hill and out into the country for the one and only time. Fatcatinthehat led the way by two or three lengths from Angelot du Berlais, Habesh, South South West, Counsel, Three Kingdoms, Ruacana, Pistol, Bordoni, Ptit Zig, Megalypos, Zamdy Man, Totalize, Saphir du Rheu, Flaxen Flare, Blood Cotil, Another Sensation, McVicar, Milord, Caid du Berlais, Knight of Pleasure, Kalmann, Ibsen, and Hilali.
Ruby Walsh’s mount, sporting the colours of the Stewart Family, hit the third flight and lost his hind-legs on landing. Another Paul Nicholls’ trained runner, Ptit Zig, made an error at the following flight; Angelot du Berlais assumed a very narrow advantage at this one. Having jumped the hurdle situated on the dog-leg section of the track, Counsel received a reminder from his jockey as he began to drop back through the field.
Down the hill they headed, Fatcatinthehat was now disputing the lead with Habesh, close up to their outside was Three Kingdoms. Just in behind came South South West and Flaxen Flare. By the time the runners had cleared three out, Saphir du Rheu had lost touch with the back of the main group and Another Sensation would soon suffer the same fate too.
Fatcatinthehat blundered at the second last flight; this permitted Habesh and Flaxen Flare to take the advantage, the latter cruising into the lead as the runners straightened up on the approach to the last flight. His nearest pursuers were Ptit Zig and Caid du Berlais, both representing the Paul Nicholls yard. The Irish raider, sporting red blinkers, was pushed clear on the run-in to win by 4½ lengths. Caid du Berlais claimed 2nd, 1¾ lengths ahead of Ptit Zig. The Kim Bailey trained Milord finished 4th.
McVicar finished 16th; 23 completed, none fell, Pistol was pulled up. And the favourites? Saphir du Rheu finished 20th and Bordoni, having hit 4 out, finished last.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
THEY RAN BADLY
A number of notable jockeys were riding in the bumper ... Grand National winning pilot Graham Lee (Caledonia), who now rides under the flat code; Richard Hughes (Sgt Reckless), Champion Flat Jockey last season; and Joseph O’Brien riding Shield trained by his father, Aidan. I’d seen the O’Brien ‘delegation’ walking the course whilst I was beside the course-side rails waiting for the racing to begin!
There were two joint favourites for this event – Le Vent D’Antan and Regal Encore at odds of 7-1.
Again being over an extended two mile trip, the horses cantered up the all-weather horse walkway in front of the stands before turning back to head down the turf and re-enter the all-weather strip and canter to the start at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off. Doctor Harper initially took the lead, but Timmy Murphy reined him back; taking up the running now were Vieux Lion Rouge, Hellorboston and Kayf Moss. At the rear of the field was Fascino Rustico, sporting the well-known Hales colours.
The horses continued up the home straight, soon passing the grandstands to head out into the country. Still leading the way were Vieux Lion Rouge and Kayf Moss, from Union Dues, Doctor Harper, Sizing Tennessee, Caledonia, Hellorboston, Blackmail, Sgt Reckless, Purple Bay, Le Vent d’Antan, The Liquidator, The Clock Leary, Posiden Sea, Golantilla, Pure Science, I’m Fraam Govan, Shield, Milo Man, Briar Hill and Drumlee; Regal Encore and Fascino Rustico brought up the rear.
They then headed down the back straight; Kayf Moss, Vieux Lion Rouge and Doctor Harper continued to cut out the running as they headed towards the farthest corner of the track. Regal Encore made progress on the outside of the field, tracked through by Ruby Walsh aboard Briar Hill. Hellorboston, having been prominent early, dropped to the back of the field.
Having negotiated the dog-leg stretch of the track, the runners then headed downhill. Vieux Lion Rouge led the way, from Caledonia and Kayf Moss; the latter now under pressure. They were followed by Blackmail, Doctor Harper, The Clock Leary and Union Dues; those moving through the field to make their challenges as they galloped towards the final bend were Le Vent d’Antan, Regal Encore, and Briar Hill.
Union Dues held a narrow advantage as the runners turned into the home straight, Regal Encore poised to make his challenge to his outside, Briar Hill wider still; to the inside Golantilla and Blackmail and, tracking these, Purple Bay.
Sporting the beige and black Wylie colours, Ruby drove his horse into the lead and readily powered clear to win by 7 lengths at the line. Regal Encore under AP McCoy claimed 2nd place 2¼ lengths ahead of Golantilla; the latter holding off The Liquidator by a short-head. Purple Bay was 5th, with Pure Science staying on to be 6th.
A 25-1 winner; Ruby’s 4th victory of this year’s Festival; Willie Mullins’ 5th and his 8th in the history of the Champion bumper.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
The racing now over for the day, I waited for the crowds to disperse before I left the racecourse and returned to my car. I ate the remaining cheese rolls before departure. At one point, following a commotion behind my vehicle where I believe people were trying to push their car up the slope, the driver knocked on my car door. “Please can you move your vehicle”, he asked, “I can’t back out of the space as we have too many passengers”. I begrudgingly started the engine and moved down into a space in the row below. Why couldn’t they just have lightened their load? Doh!
At 18:30 I decided it was time to depart. Fortunately, just as I got to the end of the row and was about to join the queue ... if someone would let me out that is ... the passenger of a transit van parked immediately next to the exit roadway, jumped out of the vehicle to gesture to the cars heading down the hill to stop, in order that his companion could drive out into the resulting space. So, whilst the transit stopped to let the passenger back aboard, I drove out into the queue in front of them!
I was directed to turn right outside the gate then, at the mini-roundabout a short distance along Swindon Lane, I turned left into Tommy Taylor’s Lane. What a difference a later departure time makes. I drove down the lane without once having to stop and, by the time I reached St Paul’s Road at the far end, there wasn’t a single vehicle waiting at the T-junction. Wicked.
As usual, my route took me through Clarence Square and into Clarence Road. I took the left hand lane, before heading up Prestbury Road. A right turn then took me around one side of Pittville Circus and onwards into Pittville Circus Road and then to join Hewlett Road. At the T-junction I turned left to drive to the ‘longabout’ and up Harp Hill. I then drove along Greenway Lane to reach the traffic-lights at the Six Ways junction. It was 18:50 when I began my journey along the A40 towards Oxford.
Having reached Oxford, I continued along the city’s Northern bypass to reach the M40, before continuing in an easterly direction to join the clockwise carriageway of the M25. I left the latter motorway at Junction 20, visiting the nearby petrol station to fill the tank ahead of tomorrow’s return trip to Cheltenham.
Having arrived later than yesterday, many of the pump lanes were cordoned off, allowing the staff to keep a closer eye on the ones which were still open. Unfortunately, one of these pumps was also out of action. Very few to choose from and a number of motorists waiting. I can’t recall using a pump on the right hand side of a lane before, the petrol cap being on the left of my car; but on this occasion I did. Needs must. And as proof that I’d queued less today, the petrol cost £26.33, when compared to yesterday’s £28.49.
Having completed the task I drove home, arriving at 20.55. Having parked on the driveway and got out of the car, I was surprised to see very light covering of snow on the roof of the house. I knew the roads were wet, and salt spreading was being undertaken on the motorways (M40 and M25) but didn’t realise it was quite that cold.
Last year there was fog on my Thursday trip to Cheltenham and at the beginning of my trip to Aintree too. This year, the threat is snow!
Supper tonight was poached eggs on toast. I had time to upload photos and write a brief blog, although briefer than on the previous evening due to tiredness, before turning in at 11:15. Two days completed; two to go.