DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2014
FEATURING THE CHAMPION HURDLE
TUESDAY 11 MARCH 2014
Very happy scenes in the Winners’ Enclosure.
The Alan King-trained Midnight Prayer, ridden by Joshua Newman,
has won the Terry Biddlecombe National Hunt Chase
for Amateur riders and novice horses.
It was now time for the feature event of the day, the Champion Hurdle.
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. 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 attempting to disrupt proceedings by climbing over the rails and running onto the racecourse.
The favourite for this event was Hurricane Fly, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; the 2011 and 2013 winner was priced at 11-4. Alan King had one runner in this race, a 66-1 outsider Grumeti; on this occasion the horse would be ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.
The parade having finished, the horses cantered down the turf and entered the all-weather strip to reach the starting gate at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off at a blistering speed; there was a cheer from the expectant crowd. The runners had soon reached the first flight where, first to land, was Our Conor; Hurricane Fly to the outside in second was not fluent and flattened a hurdle panel with his hind-legs, Captain Cee Bee landed in third between them. The horses continued to head up the home straight at quite a pace; Our Conor now joined at the head of affairs by Captain Cee Bee. Hurricane Fly pursued the leading duo, from the first-time hooded Jezki, The New One to his inside, and to the wide outside Ptit Zig. At the rear of the main group were Grumeti and the very keen My Tent Or Yours; outpaced in rear was Melodic Rendezvous.
The runners cleared the second flight; Grumeti now began to find the pace a little tough too. Our Conor and Captain Cee Bee led the field up the hill and into the back straight; it was fast and furious, they were certainly not hanging around. The latter took the advantage as they headed to the third flight. But disaster struck here for Our Conor, who clipped the top, skewed in the air and fell. There were tell-tale signs of serious injury; his limbs moving involuntarily for a brief period after he’d crashed to the ground. The New One was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was fortunate that the tangle of legs didn’t bring him down, but he was severely hampered and lost valuable ground; Grumeti narrowly avoided the prostrate jockey, who had fallen into his path.
The race continued, with Captain Cee Bee leading the way; from Hurricane Fly, Jezki, Ptit Zig and My Tent Or Yours in the main group. There was then a break in the field to Grumeti, The New One and Melodic Rendezvous. The Alan King runner wasn’t fluent at the fourth flight. The field headed around the dog-leg turn and faced up to the fifth flight, where My Tent Or Yours hit this one, Jezki wasn’t particularly fluent and Ptit Zig made a bad error. Captain Cee Bee powered on, around the far turn, with a two length advantage over Hurricane Fly; Jezki travelled just behind him to the inside, with AP McCoy’s mount still keen to his outside. The New One had now closed to within two or three lengths of the leading group.
They headed downhill to three out. Captain Cee Bee still held a narrow advantage over Hurricane Fly as the runners cleared the flight. Grumeti, in seventh position, hit the hurdle. The leaders headed to the penultimate flight; where Hurricane Fly loomed up to the outside of the leader, and Jezki to his inner. The New One appeared to be outpaced at this stage.
Hurricane Fly and Jezki were neck and neck as they rounded the home bend; My Tent Or Yours taking advantage of a gap to the inside of Captain Cee Bee to take third position as they did so. Straightening up to approach the last flight, Jezki assumed the lead, with My Tent Or Yours soon his nearest challenger. The former put in a more fluent jump at the last and they continued to battle to the line; AP’s mount closing as they approached it. But it was too late, Jezki held on the win by a neck. The New One’s stamina had kicked in up the hill and he stayed on strongly to finish 3rd, just 2½ lengths back; the vanquished Champion completed in 4th. Grumeti finished last of those which completed.
AP McCoy had chosen to ride the wrong horse; both My Tent Or Yours and Jezki are owned by JP McManus.
The vets were soon in attendance to treat the injured horse. They waited some time to see if Our Conor would get to his feet, but their patience was not rewarded. It transpired that the young potential star had injured his spine when he fell and they were left with no option but to put him to sleep.
I remained beside the course-side rails following the race. In all my visits to the Festival, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the Champion Hurdle winner return to the Winners’ Enclosure, nor the Gold Cup winner either.
It was now time for Choc’s third ride of the day, his mount being L’Unique. Quevega was attempting to win this race for the sixth consecutive year; she was the 8-11 favourite. It was a cosmopolitan race, with two representatives from France and five from Ireland.
The starting gate for this event was within the mid-course chute. This being the case, the horses cantered up around the top bend having left the walkway leading from the Parade Ring. The runners crossed the racecourse and entered the in-field, taking a look at the demonstration flight therein. There wasn’t quite enough room between the wings alongside other horses on the first occasion that Choc wanted to show the hurdle to his mount, so he took a turn and returned once there was.
The main group of mares then cantered along beside the chute until they reached the two mile four furlong starting gate, weaving their way through stationary vehicles to enter the racecourse through a gap in the rails. Choc then had his girth checked before heading onto the hurdles track in preparation for the off.
There were two of the three flights within the chute to be jumped for this distance of event. I have to mention that I’ve discovered an anomaly with the total number of flights, the map within the race-card suggests 9 flights, as does the relevant results page on the Racing Post website. However, commentator Mike Cattermole stated 10 flights, and I counted 10 also! The confusion lies with flight number two, which is very close to the bend at the end of the chute; I think there are normally just two flights in the chute, as pictured on the Old Course track map!
The mares jogged towards the tape, Quevega three from the outside of the group; she didn’t look particularly happy, ears back. One of the other Irish raiders, Jennies Jewel, was broad-side on as the tape rose and then they were off. Leading the way to the first flight was last year’s runner-up Sirene D’Ainay representing France. Close up to her outside was Highland Retreat. Having successfully negotiated the first obstacle, the runners headed across the main racecourse and then over the second flight before entering the far turn. Quevega travelled to the rear of mid-field, accompanied to her inside by L’Unique.
The French runner, who has a low head carriage, led the runners into the home straight and over the next; she got too close and almost flattened the left-hand panel as a result. Highland Retreat continued to be her nearest pursuer, from Little King Robin, Top Totti, Uddy, Jennies Jewel, Cailin Annamh, Epee Celeste sporting red blinkers, Cockney Sparrow, L’Unique, Quevega, Down Ace, Doyly Carte, Glens Melody, Pass The Time and Hidden Identity.
The runners headed up towards grandstands, over the roadway, and merged onto the Old Course before crossing flight number four. Having landed over it, Cailin Annamh was a little bit squeezed for room between Uddy and Epee Celeste. The field travelled up the hill and into the back straight; Highland Retreat now matching strides to the outside of the leader. The runners headed to and jumped the fifth flight without incident.
The leading duo held a three or four lengths advantage over their nearest rival, Little King Robin, as they travelled towards the next flight; close on her heels was Top Totti, then a break of three more lengths to Jennies Jewel. The main body of the field was a couple of lengths behind her, led by Cockney Sparrow and Uddy. Top Totti made a small error at the flight. The runners headed around the dog-leg turn before clearing flight number seven; Little King Robin bunny-hopped this one.
The field had closed up upon the leaders by the time they travelled around the far corner and began the journey downhill; in rear, Doyly Carte and Epee Celeste were now detached from the main body of the field. Glens Melody had made eye-catching progress down the outside of the field to travel just a length of so behind the leader as they jumped three out; she flattened this flight but it didn’t really affect her momentum.
Quevega was in eighth position as they headed to the penultimate flight. Choc was doing his best to keep tabs on the undisputed Mares’ Hurdle Champion, and squeezed up the inside of Jennies Jewel as the latter began to weaken. Sirene D’Ainay was finally let down by her sketchy jumping here; she clipped the top and fell. Cockney Sparrow was hampered by the faller; it was probably fortunate that L’Unique appeared to be slightly outpaced at this point, for Choc found he had a split-second to take evasive action and slipped through a narrow gap between the faller and the rail.
Meanwhile, Little King Robin and Glens Melody led the runners into the home straight, hotly pursued by Quevega. Highland Retreat had dropped back to fourth position; Choc held the rail position to her inside around the bend. The diminutive Cockney Sparrow had lost ground due to being hampered, and Hidden Identity had made progress to tag on to the tail of the leading group of eight. The runners headed up the hill towards the final flight.
Glens Melody, stable-mate to Quevega led narrowly over the last. However, and not surprisingly, Ruby drove his mount to take the lead on the uphill climb to the line; they triumphed by three-quarters’ of a length. L’Unique kept on under pressure to finish a further three-quarters’ of a length back in third. Hidden Identity claimed 4th by a short-head from Cockney Sparrow; the former was 4 lengths behind L’Unique.
A record-breaking sixth Festival win for the Irish-trained 10-year-old; 2009 to 2014, all in this race. That’s my entire Festival attendance covered! This would be her final appearance at the Festival, as she was retired to stud having finished as runner-up in the World Series Hurdle at the Punchestown Festival on 01 May. Will stable-mate Glens Melody take over the mantle next year? Or maybe L’Unique following her very good showing today?
I set off to the Winners’ Enclosure specifically to see Choc and L’Unique return; Quevega played just a bit-part to my favourite jockey and his mount!!! When Choc is around, a giraffe could probably walk by and I’d barely notice!
It was soon time for the penultimate race of the day; the race named in honour of ex-jockey Terry Biddlecombe who passed away in early January, on my birthday in fact. This marathon race is usually run as the first event on the second day of the Festival, but had been moved to Tuesday this year. There was a bit of juggling going on with the races; the cross-country had been rescheduled as race 5 on Wednesday, the Coral Cup moved forward to race 3 on Wednesday, the RSA to race 2, and the Neptune to race 1. And all to accommodate the Mares’ Hurdle as a televised race on terrestrial TV and still keep race sponsors happy!
Alan King had a runner in this race, Midnight Prayer to be ridden by Mr Joshua Newman; the amateur jockey had partnered Oh Crick in a number of races prior to the horse’s recent retirement. The 3-1 favourite was Foxrock, trained by Ted Walsh and ridden by daughter Katie (father and sister of Ruby, respectively). Martin Keighley also had a runner in this race, the sole grey Merlin’s Wish, ridden by Mr Roger Quinlan.
The starting gate for this event was situated in the mid-course chute; thus, having passed the grandstands on the first occasion, there were still two complete circuits to travel.
Then they were off, first time; the jockeys having approached the starting gate in a much civilised manner! The first to take-off at the initial jump was Beeves, followed by Merlin’s Wish; just behind these, According To Trev got a little close to the fence, his jockey shot slightly out of the saddle as a result. At the rear of the field, Suntiep wasn’t quite as fluent as the others either. Also at the rear, Living Next Door hit the second fence; a stray piece of birch was subsequently sticking up from the top of the fence and would require attention before the fence was jumped again at the beginning of the following race.
The runners crossed over the main racecourse before travelling around the far bend and into the home straight on the first occasion; although the jockey aboard the leader seemed to experience slight difficulty in steering his mount without swinging a little wider than necessary. The field faced up to and cleared fence number four without incident. Beeves jumped the fifth a little slowly, permitting According To Trev to draw alongside him; Shutthefrontdoor made a slight error here, and Herdsman to the outside of the field in seventh position received a couple of backhanders from his jockey; although the reason for this wasn’t particularly clear.
The runners headed over the roadway and through the gap in the plastic rails to join the Old Course. Travelling near the rear of the field, Shotgun Paddy made an error at the next fence. Beeves had assumed the lead once more as they jumped fence number seven and galloped up past the main grandstands before heading up the hill. According To Trev travelled in second position, from Firm Order, Merlin’s Wish, Midnight Prayer, Rogue Angel, Herdsman, American Spin, Foxrock, Shutthefrontdoor, Milborough, Shotgun Paddy, Living Next Door, Adrenalin Flight and Suntiep.
There were no noticeable errors at the uphill fence. The runners headed into the back straight and cleared fence number nine, where Foxrock was a little slow. Heading over the water-jump, According To Trev held the advantage. The next fence was the first open-ditch, which all the horses cleared without mishap. However, at the next having drifted back through the field, Merlin’s Wish fell. The remaining 14 headed around the dog-leg turn and towards the next obstacle; another open-ditch. Herdsman now led the way, from Beeves, According To Trev and Rogue Angel. All the runners cleared this one safely.
Having negotiated the far turn, Beeves took the advantage and led the field down the hill to the next fence; in mid-field, Midnight Prayer made a mistake here. Rogue Angel took the lead as the runners headed into the home straight. Just behind the leaders, to the inside of the field, American Spin hit the next fence hard. There were no noticeable errors at the next fence; the runners then headed past the grandstands and up the hill towards fence number seventeen; Beeves and Rogue Angel disputed the lead as they did so and Shutthefrontdoor made a bad error here. According To Trev ran wide on the turn into the back straight and lost ground as a result.
The horses set off down the back straight for the final time. Shutthefrontdoor wasn’t fluent at the next fence, and slightly hampered Milborough in the process. The following obstacle is the water-jump; Rogue Angel and Midnight Prayer led the field over it, with Beeves ridden away from the fence on landing, American Spin not very fluent here. The Gigginstown runner and Alan King runner held a very narrow advantage as they jumped the penultimate open-ditch; Beeves retained third position, from Firm Order, behind these were Foxrock who made an error and Shotgun Paddy, with Herdsman to the outside of the field.
Rogue Angel led the field over fence number twenty one; yet again Shot Gun Paddy was less than fluent here. His jumping also poor as he cleared the final open-ditch. The runners headed around the far turn and travelled downhill to reach the third last fence. Rogue Angel was still narrowly ahead over this one, from Midnight Prayer, Shotgun Paddy, Foxrock, Milborough, Shutthefrontdoor and Living Next Door.
The runners then headed towards the final turn. To the inside Rogue Angel led the way initially, to the outside travelled Shotgun Paddy; the meat in the sandwich was Midnight Prayer. In the first instance, Shotgun Paddy was outpaced as Midnight Prayer went into the lead prior to negotiating the final bend. But his rivals were still snapping at his heels as he approached the penultimate fence, where Shutthefrontdoor made an error. The leaders headed to the final fence and, yet again, Shotgun Paddy was less than fluent; this bought a little more time for the Alan King runner. Back in sixth position, the favourite also made an error here.
The horses began their journey up the hill to the line. Shotgun Paddy continued to gain upon the leader as the winning post approached. It was a very close finish. The result was announced; Midnight Prayer had won by a neck. It was a triumph for an almost blemish-free round of jumping, in sharp contrast to that of the runner-up. A fourteenth Festival triumph for the trainer and the first for the 22-year-old amateur jockey; a late birthday present for the latter whose birthday it was the previous day.
Having made an error two out, Suntiep continued to stay on from the next county; he jumped the last in eighth or ninth position but ran on strongly to claim 3rd place just a length and a quarter behind Shotgun Paddy. Adrenalin Flight who also made an error at the second last, completed in 4th, having drifted severely right-handed on the run-in. The Stewards enquired into the running of this duo.
Merlin’s Wish was fine following his mishap and, having galloped loose up the home straight and past the winning post, was caught and led back.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back.
Alan King was delighted to have won the race, but he did impart the news that the elderly owner of the horse had been taken seriously ill earlier in the afternoon having suffered a heart-attack. However, John Reynolds was conscious and aware of the horse’s win prior to going into surgery.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
WHY THEY RAN BADLY:
There were dual favourites, priced at 13-2, for the final race of the day; Art Of Logistics trained by Dessie Hughes and ridden by Bryan Cooper and Ericht trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty. As mentioned earlier, Baby Mix was a non-runner.
The starting gate for this race was in the mid-course chute. Thus the horses exited the walkway and cantered across the racecourse, up along the all-weather strip to the outside of the uphill section of the track before heading across the racecourse and entering the in-field ahead of the race.
There was a short, last-minute delay when the Clerk of the Course, Simon Claisse, went to check that there was no problem with low sun affecting the final two fences in the home straight. They certainly didn’t want a reoccurrence of the problem which caused Balder Succes to fall at the penultimate fence during a late afternoon chase at the Showcase meeting in October.
The all clear was given and then they were off; first time. Five horses rose in unison over the first fence, from the inside Up To Something, Pendra, Present View, Attaglance and the cheek-pieced Buthelezi; the latter led over the second fence. Travelling at the rear of the field were King Vuvuzela and Dursey Sound. The runners headed across the Old Course and over fence number three, after which they entered the far bend. Buthelezi led from Festive Affair, Up To Something, Attaglance, Grandads Horse, Ohio Gold, Pendra, Present View, Manyriverstocross, Ericht, Ahyaknowyerself, Persian Snow, Close House, Art Of Logistics, Gardefort, Buywise, Tony Star, King Vuvuzela and Dursey Sound.
Having entered the home straight, the runners negotiated the fourth fence without mishap. However, to the inside of the runners in mid-field, Ohio Gold took off too soon at the fifth and landed with a jolt. The horse soon lost ground and by the time the runners passed through the gap in the rails and merged onto the Old Course, Joe Tizzard’s mount was at the back of the field. He continued to lose ground as they cleared the next fence. There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners jumped fence number seven and travelled uphill to the next fence.
Festive Affair joined the leader as they cleared this fence. Near the rear of the field Ericht made a bad blunder having got too close to the fence; he dislodged the strip situated part way up the apron in the process. Jockey Barry Geraghty had to gather up his knitting as they travelled away from the fence; he bumped his mount along in an attempt to keep him up to his task.
The field headed into the back straight and approached the next fence; Close House made a mistake here. Having lost touch with his rivals, Ohio Gold was pulled up before this fence. The following fence is the water-jump which all the runners negotiated without problem. Festive Affair now led; with Buthelezi soon losing his position and dropping back through the field having jumped the open-ditch. Manyriverstocross was a little short of room as they approached the next; a wall of horses ahead and to his outside and the John Ferguson runner rapidly fading to his inside.
Festive Affair, Attaglance and Present View led the field over this plain fence; Manyriverstocross had found himself a niche against the inside rail travelling around the dog-leg turn. The horses jumped the final open-ditch; Gardefort, on the outside of the field, made a bad error here. The field headed downhill, Festive Affair and Present View disputing the lead, from Up To Something, Attaglance and Pendra. The horses cleared three out where, back in the field, Close House made a mistake.
Festive Affair began to struggle as they approached the final bend; Present View was now sent into the lead, with Pendra under AP McCoy soon in hot pursuit. Persian Snow was squeezed out on the final turn as Ahyaknowyerself and Attaglance jostled for the best position. Brendan Powell’s mount jumped the second last ahead of Pendra to his inside and Ahyaknowyerself to his outside; Attaglance was still in with a chance in 4th position at this stage. Buywise blundered badly at this fence.
was Pendra’s turn to blunder at the last; this left
Attaglance to mount the final challenge. Brian Hughes decided to steer his mount
towards the far side rail to do so, but unfortunately Present View drifted
across in that direction under a strong right-hand drive from his jockey. His route barred, Attaglance
was switched to the near side and he began to close with every stride ... but
time ran out. Present View won by half
a length at the line. A Stewards
Enquiry was announced.
Pendra completed in 3rd, with Ahyaknowyerself in 4th. Buywise recovered from his bad blunder at the penultimate fence to finish 5th. Persian Snow was 6th and Manyriverstocross 7th. Gardefort took a nasty looking fall two out but I believe he was okay, having stayed down for a while before getting up.
Having taken a photograph of Present View and Brendan Powell as the partnership passed by on their walk back to the Parade Ring; I then headed to the Winners’ Enclosure for the final time today.
Following the Enquiry, the result remained unchanged. It was trainer Jamie Snowden’s first Cheltenham Festival winner and, when interviewed for the second time and following the verdict, he was tearfully emotional. Jamie admitted to querying the handicap rating rise for the horse to 137, following his charge’s triumph at Kempton Park the previous month. But he had to win that race in order to qualify for a run in today’s event and, having now won by half a length, he said the handicapper had been right.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
The Stewards held an enquiry under Rule (B)11.6 into possible interference on the run in.. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the race they found that the winner, PRESENT VIEW, ridden by Brendan Powell, had interfered with ATTAGLANCE, placed second, ridden by Brian Hughes, and that the interference had not improved PRESENT VIEW’s placing. They ordered the placings to remain unaltered. The Stewards found Powell in breach of Rule (B)54.1 and guilty of careless riding in that he allowed his horse to drift left handed away from the whip. They suspended him for 3 days as follows: Tuesday 25, Wednesday 26 and Thursday 27 March 2014.
WHY THEY RAN BADLY:
Everything done and dusted for the day, with Choc having returned to the Weighing Room after unsaddling his mount in the small paddock reserved for the unplaced horses, it was now time for me to depart.
I visited the loo in preparation for the long journey home and arrived back at my car at 17:40. However I was unable to actually move my vehicle until 18:35 due to the traffic gridlock within the car park! There was a long tailback of queuing cars all the way back from the Swindon Road entrance and up into the top field and thus past my car; presumably this line of vehicles was continually being ‘topped-up’ by people who had parked in the bottom field entering the queue … because it didn’t seem to go anywhere for ages. I couldn’t actually back my car out of its space either, because there was a line of stationary cars immediately behind me too, waiting to join the main queue; also a car still parked in front of me.
Initially I ate the two remaining cheese rolls, plus a number of cheese straws from a newly opened packet purchased from M&S. As time ticked by I became more and more impatient with having to wait …I needed to get home in good time as I had three more days like these ahead of me!!! Eventually the stewards directed cars from the top field to turn right and drive along the track in front of the hedge … heading for who knows where?
Finally I was able to back out of my space and was beckoned into the queue. I, too, was instructed to take this right turn and, as it transpired, it initially led to the entrance of a horse-box park surrounded by a very high hedge! I presume it must be the area where the long-stay horse transporters are kept during the Festival, such as those travelling over from Ireland.
Taking a sharp left turn, followed by a sharp right turn along the horsebox park perimeter, also with another high hedge to my left, then finally through a gap in the hedge, I headed down a white gravel track which had been laid across a field; the area to each side of which was also a car park, but almost empty by this time of the evening.
My queue of traffic had moved fairly quickly via this route and, after two or three stop starts I had reached the road; the gate being slightly to the west of the mini-roundabout at the top of Tommy Taylors Lane. I don’t know what it is about my face, but I always seem to be the first person who is stopped by the traffic police from exiting the car park or a junction following a long batch of cars, leaving me at the front of the next batch to exit when it became by turn again!
The traffic police then permitted cars to travel around the mini-roundabout from the direction of Evesham Road, followed by vehicles travelling up Tommy Taylors Lane, which included a white stretch limo. It was then my turn to go but I was not permitted to turn left, so I headed westwards … which I think had been in my mind anyway in order to avoid any delays at the far end of the Tommy Taylors Lane route; Windyridge Road being my intended destination.
I’d only been along this stretch of the road once before, on Day 2 of the 2012 Festival when the traffic police had managed to ruin my quick escape, it taking me 40 minutes to escape from the Cheltenham area on that occasion, having included what amounted to a circular tour of almost the entire town!
It transpired that the beginning of Windyridge Road is marked by another mini-roundabout, thus making it very easy to spot. At the far end of this was a T-junction where a left turn took me back in a south-easterly direction. I turned left at the next roundabout and left again at the following junction; I was now on St Paul’s Road which runs along far end of the Tommy Taylors Lane route. The only disadvantage of the latter part of this diversion was the number of vehicles heading in the other direction which refused to give way despite vehicles being parked on their side of the road not mine! Although, having said that, further along the boot is on the other foot as the road narrows considerably, making it impossible for two moving cars to pass due to parked obstacles on my side of the road.
Having rejoined my favoured Cheltenham exit route I headed through Clarence Square to the traffic lights at the Evesham Road junction. The problem here is that pedestrians heading back from the racecourse refuse to take notice of the fact that the traffic lights have changed to green and vehicles are now heading straight towards them! This probably arises because Clarence Road is a one-way system at this point so, having not had to take into account traffic travelling from their left, they take little notice of traffic from their right either!
Where the road splits into two a short distance later, I headed to the left in the direction of the Prestbury roundabout, where I turned right without delay, driving around Pittville Circus and entering Pittville Circus Road to reach Hewlett Road where I turned left. This took me back to the ‘longabout’ where I turned left then right, and headed up Harp Hill before turning into Greenway Lane to reach the Six Ways junction.
A left turn took me onto the A4 and I’d soon exited the outskirts of Cheltenham, heading up past the Dowdeswell Reservoir and continued my climb up the Cotswolds escarpment. This year there were roadworks on the Andoversford bypass, but this didn’t seem to affect the normal flow of traffic; presumably any delays would happen whilst workmen were in action during the day.
Following a second set of traffic lights, where the Gloucester road joins the A40, there is a dual carriageway allowing faster vehicles to overtake those which are unable to climb this steep part of the escarpment at speed. In other words, this is where everyone jostles for a position before entering the next section of the A40 where, except for small stretches it is impossible to overtake with safety … although some idiots still do!!!
Today I ended up travelling behind a ‘flincher’, in order words, someone who would touch his brakes at any sign of a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction; this can be a little wearing for the person travelling behind. Not that I ever travel too close to the vehicle in front, because I don’t, but because it’s difficult to differentiate between a true hazard ahead or solely a vehicle minding its own business travelling in the opposite direct.
The driver also regularly switched between dipped and full beam headlights. Fortunately I can see perfectly well without un-dipping my headlights … my problem is glare from vehicles travelling in the other direction, regardless of whether they use dipped headlights or not. It’s a problem which arises for everyone as they age, unfortunately.
Being later than anticipated my journey back to Oxford and then onwards to the M40 passed without delay or incident. As this was the first day’s return journey, there were absolutely no problems encountered with the monotony of motorway driving, either on the M40 or the later M25; which I left at Junction 22.
In previous years I’d visited the nearby Sainsbury petrol station to fill up the tank before continuing the short distance home but, now, my allegiance has transferred to the petrol station adjacent to the Morrisons supermarket. This occurred last year when, wishing to fill up the tank one evening following a journey, myself and a number of other drivers were turned away because their computer system was down, thus making it impossible for Sainburys to process credit card purchases!
This being the case, my trip took me back along the road around the perimeter of a housing estate, where I encountered a fox which appeared to have dragged a dustbin bag of rubbish into the gutter, the contents now spilling out of the ripped bag.
Being after closing time of the store, the petrol station’s forecourt was quiet when I arrived to fill up so took little time out of my journey; petrol cost £25.30. I arrived home at 20:55; not what I had expected on the first day of Cheltenham, when this is usually the earliest day I arrive home during the event!
Supper was poached eggs on toast. I uploaded my photographs onto the laptop for safekeeping, copied a number of website links into my blog in preparation for writing an update the following weekend and turned in at around 10:30; but not before recharging my camera and phone batteries too. I also made a list of the following day’s runners in my notebook whilst logged on.
It’s a pity one cannot just plug oneself into a socket to re-charge with energy too, as my re-chargeable battery is getting a little bit old now!
Having decided that I didn’t wish to park in the top field again, I reset the alarm clock to its original time once more before going to sleep.
Interestingly, I note from the map, that roads leading off Windyridge Road are named after famous racehorses – Arkle, Millhouse, Pendil, Mandarin, Golden Miller, Cottage Rake, Kerstin and Fortina.
Photos - Cheltenham Festival Day 1 – Quevega