PART II

DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2014

DAY THREE

FEATURING THE WORLD HURDLE

THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2014

 

 

 

race 4 h.jpg

 

The ‘new kid on the block’.

Winner of the 2014 World Hurdle, More Of That,

trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by Barry Geraghty

 

Click here to read Day 3 Diary Part I

 

It was now time for the feature race of the day, the Ladbrokes World 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.  The race marked Big Buck’s’ second run since his return from injury; he’d finished 3rd in the Cleeve Hurdle in January; Sam Twiston-Davies now with the responsibility of riding the 2009 to 2012 winner of this event.  The most anticipated runner was the Willie Mullins-trained, Ruby Walsh ridden, Annie Power; the mare was unbeaten in 10 career starts but trying 3 miles for the first time today.    

 

Also taking part was the JP McManus owned At Fishers Cross, winner of last season’s Albert Bartlett but very disappointing early season until runner-up in the Cleeve Hurdle and the choice of AP McCoy today.  In the same ownership was More Of That, trained by Jonjo O’Neill; also unbeaten but stepping up in trip.  Barry Geraghty was booked to ride this AP ‘cast off’!  RUK’s Lydia Hislop described More Of That as the ‘unexposed’ horse in the race. 

 

Other hurdling stalwarts taking part included Celestial Halo, Reve De Sivola and Zarkandar.  Medinas represented the Alan King stable, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson. 

 

The favourite was Annie Power at odds of 11-8; second favourite Big Buck’s priced 7-2. 

 

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 run onto the track.

 

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 runners milled around at the start, and were then sent well back from the tape before jogging in. 

 

Race 4

Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1)

Distance

3 miles (12 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

10

At Fishers Cross, Big Buck’s, Celestial Halo, Medinas, More Of That, Reve De Sivola, Rule The World, Salubrious, Zarkandar, Annie Power

 

And then they were off, to a cheer from the spectators.  The field was led away by Reve De Sivola, from Celestial Halo, Rule The World, Big Buck’s upsides At Fishers Cross, Medinas, Salubrious, Annie Power, More Of That and Zarkandar.  The horses streamed over the first flight and galloped on towards the second; Annie Power was travelling keenly near the rear of the field, as was More Of That. 

 

The horses cleared this without incident, and headed to the third; Reve De Sivola was a number of lengths clear of his rivals as he jumped it.  Having negotiated the dog-leg turn, Celestial Halo closed the gap between himself and the leader; Daryl Jacob was riding this Paul Nicholls runner today, with Noel Fehily aboard Zarkandar and Nick Schofield riding Salubrious.  There were four or five lengths between the leading duo and their pursuers as they jumped the fourth flight; Zarkandar made an error here.

 

Having reached the far turn, the runners then headed down the hill to the next flight.  Salubrious appeared keen in rear during the descent, and Reve De Sivola landed a little awkwardly having jumped the flight.  Turning into the home straight on the first occasion, the Nick Williams-trained runner continued to lead, from Celestial Halo, Big Buck’s upsides Rule The World, At Fishers Cross, Medinas, More Of That alongside Annie Power, Zarkandar and Salubrious. 

 

The pace steadied as they headed to flight number six, the field bunching up as a result.  All the horses jumped this one well; More Of That appeared to be a little short of room between Annie Power and At Fishers Cross as they turned the corner to head up the hill and out into the country for the final time.  Reve De Sivola continued to lead, with Salubrious bringing up the rear. 

 

As they headed into the back straight, Celestial Halo drew almost alongside the leader; the latter made an error at the next flight.  Reve De Sivola also made a mistake at the next too, the eighth flight.  Big Buck’s had to reach for this flight, as it was now leaning at a jaunty angle!  Having made these two errors, Richard Johnson was now pushing his mount along but he remained ahead of his rivals as he jumped the following hurdle and headed around the dog-leg turn.  Celestial Halo was a little bit slow when clearing the flight at the top of the hill.

 

Having reached the far corner, Richard Johnson gave his mount a backhander, hoping to keep his mount ahead of his pursuers for a while longer, which he did.  Ruby Walsh, having been tracking Medinas, crept up the inside of the Alan King runner once the rail to the inside of the hurdle track terminated; he briefly tracked Big Buck’s as a result.  However, towards the bottom of the hill and approaching two out, he was able to switch Annie Power towards the centre of the track as Medinas drifted out to his right permitting this manoeuvre.   

 

Reve De Sivola took off slightly ahead over the penultimate flight, from Rule The World to his outside and At Fishers Cross wider still.   Celestial Halo had dropped back to fourth position, More Of That and Big Buck’s to his inside.  Annie Power cleared the flight in seventh place, followed by Medinas, Zarkandar and Salubrious.  Time was finally up for Reve De Sivola heading around the final turn, as both Rule The World and At Fishers Cross laid down their challenges; the latter assuming the lead.

 

However, close of this duo’s heels were More Of That and Annie Power.  As Rule The World dropped back, and AP’s mount drifted over to the stand-side rails, the two 6-year-olds mounted their challenge to his far-side; neck and neck to the final flight, they went into the lead.  At Fishers Cross could offer little in response.  They cleared it in unison and began the battle up the hill to the line; Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty urging their mounts on. 

 

And, slowly by surely, More Of That began to assume the advantage, triumphing by 1½ lengths at the line.  It was only the horse’s fifth ever start and he’d won The World Hurdle.  More Of That has that ‘terrier-like’ style of racing, head down, neck outstretched, just like Bobs Worth, only he’s a much bigger stamp of a horse.  And Annie Power lost nothing in defeat either.   

 

At Fishers Cross finished five lengths back in third, with Zarkandar staying on to complete in 4th, two lengths further back.  Big Buck’s was 5th and Medinas finished 7th.

    

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

More Of That

Barry Geraghty

Jonjo O’Neill

2nd

Annie Power

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins

3rd

At Fishers Cross

AP McCoy

Rebecca Curtis

4th

Zarkandar

Noel Fehily

Paul Nicholls

 

I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race. 

 

Following the race, Paul Nicholls announced officially that this had been Big Buck’s last race; he would now be retired.  Owner Andy Stewart said the horse would return to the Paul Barber satellite yard to live alongside his 2002 Tingle Creek winner Cenkos, now 22-years-old.  He said the horse is far more popular than he is; Andy mentioning that he received 22 Christmas cards whilst in Barbados, whereas Big Bucks received 174!

 

Having been unsaddled in the paddock reserved for the unplaced horses, Big Buck’s had gone back to the stables almost unnoticed.  However, it was arranged for the superstar to return in order to undertake one final lap of honour around the Parade Ring in front of his adoring fans in order to give the former-Champion the type of send-off that he deserved.  Although I missed today’s lap of honour, I saw Big Buck’s parade on season finale day at Sandown Park.

 

It was then time for the fifth race of the day.  The favourite for this event was the Philip Hobbs trained Colour Squadron, ridden by AP McCoy.  Martin Keighley had a runner in this event, namely the top-weight Champion Court ridden by Ryan Hatch claiming 7lbs.  Alan King was represented by Bless The Wings, piloted by Wayne Hutchinson as usual; the horse sporting first-time blinkers.   

 

The starting gate for this event is part-way down the mid-course chute, with two fences to be jumped before the far turn.  Having exited from the horse walkway, the runners cantered across the home straight and up along the all-weather strip around the top bend to reach the in-field. 

 

Race 5

Byrne Group Plate (Handicap Chase)(Grade 3)

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs (16 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

23

Champion Court, Johns Spirit, Colour Squadron, Tap Night, Third Intention, Ballynagour, Tatenen, Bless The Wings, Bennys Mist, Sraid Padraig, Kind Edmund, Wetak, Nadiya De La Vega, Firth Of The Clyde, Shangani, Mr Cracker, Giorgio Quercus, Act Of Kalanisi, Sew On Target, Gallox Bridge, Tartak, Highway Code, Christopher Wren

 

And then they were off ... or rather they weren’t; it was a false start, as both Bennys Mist and Act Of Kalanisi made no attempt to jump off having bumped into the plastic rail due to insufficient room at the back of the group as they tried to enter the chase track.  And, as the run-up was so close to the first fence, and there was such limited room available to bypass it, seven of the runners actually jumped it before pulling up; namely Colour Squadron, Sraid Padraig, Mr Cracker, Third Intention, Sew On Target, Giorgio Quercus and Champion Court.  For the record, the racecourse was currently bathed in bright sunshine, making the camera shots very hazy; I therefore hope I’ve identified the correct seven!

 

There was conjecture from the RUK commentators as to whether these seven horses would be permitted to take part in the race having already jumped a fence due to the false start.  It turned out not to be a problem and the 23-strong field returned to the gate to try again.

 

The runners were off at the second attempt, this time from a standing start.  They were led away by Champion Court towards the inside; prominent were Act Of Kalanisi to the wide outside, Third Intention towards the inside and Colour Squadron against the rail. Fighting for his head just behind these was Sew On Target; Bless The Wings was nearer last than first.  In rear at the first fence, Gallox Bridge made the first mistake of many during the race.    

 

The runners headed across the Old Course to negotiate fence number two, then across the New Course and on down the hill to the far bend; Champion Court continuing to lead the way from Act Of Kalanisi.  Christopher Wren brought up the rear; he was one of four JP McManus owned runners in the race.   

   

The field turned into the home straight; just behind the leaders, Sew On Target continued to fight for his head.  To the inside, near the rear of the field, Gallox Bridge made an error at the third fence.  Act Of Kalanisi landed with a slight lead over the Martin Keighley runner at the next, but Champion Court regained the advantage once more as they headed onto the New Course and towards the fifth fence.  Tap Night hit this one, as did Christopher Wren at the rear of the field.  Having cleared the next, which King Edmund hit, the runners began their journey up the hill towards the back straight.

 

Champion Court continued at the head of affairs, from Tatenen, Act Of Kalanisi, Third Intention, Shangani and Bennys Mist.  On the outside of the field, sixth or seventh from the rear, Nadiya De La Vega was being pushed along.  The runners entered the back straight and cleared fence number seven without incident; travelling at the rear of the field were Wetak and Christopher Wren.  The following fence was the water-jump, where Champion Court led to the inside of the track, Act Of Kalanisi close up on the wide outside.  Bless The Wings also travelled wide, and had improved his position, now almost upsides Bennys Mist.  

 

Fence number nine is the first open-ditch, where near the rear of the field Sraid Padraig blundered.  There were no mishaps at the following fence, although Tap Night was being pushed along and dropped to the rear here.  The horses then headed around the dog-leg turn and towards the final open-ditch, where again there were no incidents, although Tap Night jumped it slowly in rear. 

 

The field was becoming strung out as it reached the top of the hill and jumped fence number twelve.  Three of the runners struggling in rear were pulled up after this fence, namely Mr Cracker, Christopher Wren and Tap Night.  The runners turned the far corner, Champion Court still led from Tatenen, Act Of Kalanisi, Third Intention, Giorgio Quercus, Colour Squadron, Sew On Target, Bennys Mist and Bless The Wings. 

 

The tricky fourth-last fence caused a problem as is often the case; Giorgio Quercus hit it, Bless The Wings stumbled on landing and, finally, Gallox Bridge failed to get his landing gear out in time and capsized; both horse and jockey, Ian Popham, were okay following the mishap.  Nadiya De La Vega was pulled up after jumping this fence.

 

The remaining runners continued down the hill to the third last; Tatenen to the outside and Third Intention to the inside held a narrow lead over Champion Court as they jumped it.  Giorgio Quercus was in fourth position, closely followed by Ballynagour, Colour Squadron to the inside and Act Of Kalanisi to the outside.  As the latter came under pressure heading towards the final bend, dropping back as a result, Johns Spirit latched himself onto the back of leading group of seven.

 

They entered the home straight and headed towards the penultimate fence; Third Intention and Tatenen disputing the lead, with Colour Squadron in their slipstream.  Champion Court was a close-up fourth, but Ballynagour was tracking them and travelling well.  The leaders were almost four in a line jumping the second last, namely Third Intention, Tatenen, Colour Squadron and Ballynagour.  But, heading to the last, there was just one horse which was not under pressure, and that was Ballynagour. 

 

Having jumped the last he then powered clear of his rivals, jockey Tom Scudamore giving him a couple of backhanders just to make sure and he galloped up the hill to the line to win by 8 lengths.  Tom stood up in his irons and saluted the crowd with his whip as he passed the winning post.  In fact Ballynagour was last year’s beaten favourite in this race.  It was Tom’s third winner at this year’s Festival.

 

Colour Squadron, having hung out to his left on the run-in as is his habit, completed in 2nd, with Tatenen 6 lengths back in 3rd, Johns Spirit 1½ lengths behind in 4th.  Third Intention completed in 5th, Giorgio Quercus 6th and Champion Court 7th.  Bless The Wings faded to finish 15th.  Having made an error two out, Act Of Kalanisi was pulled up.          

    

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Ballynagour

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe

2nd

Colour Squadron

AP McCoy

Philip Hobbs

3rd

Tatenen

Andrew Thornton

Richard Rowe

4th

Johns Spirit

Richie McLernon

Jonjo O’Neill

 

Having been disappointing in the main this season, Bless The Wings would be sent to the DBS Spring sales; he was purchased by Tom Malone for £16,000.

 

NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:


The Stewards considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, BALLYNAGOUR, ridden by Tom Scudamore, and trained by David Pipe, compared with its previous run at Cheltenham on 16 November 2013, where the gelding was pulled up. They noted the trainer’s explanation that BALLYNAGOUR appeared suited by the first time tongue strap and had been working well at home. They ordered the gelding to be routine tested.

WHY THEY RAN BADLY:

Barry Geraghty, the rider of TAP NIGHT (USA), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding was never travelling. The Stewards ordered TAP NIGHT (USA) to be routine tested.

Andrew Tinkler, the rider of NADIYA DE LA VEGA (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the mare was never travelling.

 

Looking for a change of scene, I headed across the racecourse to view the next race from the inside of the track. 

 

The favourite for this amateur riders’ event was Indian Castle, trained by Donald McCain and ridden by Mr Derek O’Connor.  There were three greys in the race, Our Father, Pickamus and the ever-popular Swing Bill. 

 

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. 

 

Last one out was Spring Heeled, partnered by Robbie McNamara; the horse a little reluctant to return down the turf having cantered up the all-weather track to reach the top end of the racecourse.

 

Race 6

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur Riders)

Distance

3 miles 1 furlong 110 yards

(21 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

23

Roberto Goldback, Tranquil Sea, Twirling Magnet, Our Father, Buddy Bolero, Same Difference, Indian Castle, Cause Of Causes, Lost Glory, Swing Bill, Spring Heeled, Balnaslow, Saint Are, Mumbles Head, Fine Parchment, Pickamus, There’s No Panic, Night Alliance, Tabhachtach, Gas Line Boy, Quinz, Hunting Party, Problema Tic

 

Then they were off.  It was a ragged start, with a number of horses trailing behind the main group of runners; Swing Bill was the most inconvenienced, Fine Parchment also very slowly away.  Even the commentator seemed in two minds as to whether it was a valid start.  Tabhachtach set off at the front, his jockey glancing over his shoulder; whether it was because he didn’t wish to be in front or just wanted to check if the others were setting off too I don’t know!   Basically it was an almost identical problem as with the previous race; too many horses trying to enter onto the track from the hurdles course through too small a space!  I guess the starter let the runners continue because, unlike the Byrne Group Plate, none of the horses collided with the plastic rails. 

 

Having jumped the first, both Buddy Bolero and Spring Heeled moved through on the inside of Tabhachtach to take the lead as they headed up the hill.  These three were followed by Balnaslow, last year’s winner Same Difference, Twirling Magnet, Problema Tic and Pickamus.  The runners entered the back straight.  Buddy Bolero reached for the second fence, on the outside in mid-field Our Father made a mistake, and Tabhachtach also made an error here.  The third fence was the water-jump; There’s No Panic, Mumbles Head, Hunting Party and Lost Glory were at the rear of the field, Swing Bill having made up the ground he’d lost at the start.

 

Fence number four is the first open-ditch and all the runners cleared this without incident.  They jumped the fifth and headed around the dog-leg turn to reach the second open-ditch.  Spring Heeled now held the advantage over Buddy Bolero; this duo was a few lengths clear of the grey Pickamus, from Tabhachtach and Balnaslow.  The horses continued to climb the hill, negotiating fence number seven in the process; Quinz made a mistake at this fence.

 

Having reached the far turn, Spring Heeled now held a three length advantage over Buddy Bolero, with a further four lengths to Pickamus and Tabhachtach.  Fence number eight was the tricky one near the top of the downhill section.  It nearly caught out a number of the runners, Buddy Bolero stumbled and pecked having landed, Same Difference did the same although worse and lost his place, Saint Are made an error as did Lost Glory; but none of the competitors departed. 

 

The runners continued their journey down the hill to the next, where in mid-field Gas Line Boy made an error; bringing up the rear at this point were Saint Are and Lost Glory.  Spring Heeled, ears pricked, led the field into the home straight, followed by Buddy Bolero, Tabhachtach and Pickamus.  The pace steadied as they headed over fences ten and eleven; all the horses cleared these without incident before travelling up the hill and out in the country for the final time. 

 

Just behind the leaders, the Gigginstown runner Balnaslow made an error at the first fence in the back straight.  Spring Heeled continued to bowl along as the head of affairs as they jumped the water, Tabhachtach now in second position.  However, the latter stepped through the following open-ditch, his jockey unseated out the offside side door; he received a kicking too.  Ouch!  The next fence was a plain one and Same Difference wasn’t fluent here.

 

The runners then headed around the dog-leg turn and towards the final open-ditch.  There were further untidy leaps here, with Roberto Goldback making an error, as did Same Difference and Quinz.  Mumbles Head was pulled up before the fence, as was Lost Glory.  The field had soon reached the far turn, the long-time leader was being pressed to his outside by Balnaslow and Pickamus; just in behind these were Twirling Magnet, Buddy Bolero and Our Father. 

 

It was now time to jump the tricky fence once more. Spring Heeled pecked here, but it caught out Buddy Bolero, who pecked at the same fence on the previous circuit; Katie Walsh riding.  It was a horrible fall, and typical of its type at the jump; the horse unable to get its undercarriage out in time.  Fortunately he got up and galloped after the others, appearing none the worse.  Because the runners were stretched out at this stage, the only one appearing to be marginally hampered was Hunting Party, his rider called it a day before the next.  Also pulling up before the next were Fine Parchment and There’s No Panic. 

 

Pickamus was almost upsides the leader as they jumped the third last, but he blundered here.  This enabled Spring Heeled to gain a two lengths advantage heading in the final turn.  He was pursued by Indian Castle to the inside rail, Balnaslow and Pickamus; behind these Our Father and Cause Of Causes.  This group was clear of Gas Line Boy who, in turn, was a couple of lengths ahead of Roberto Goldback and Twirling Magnet.  Both Night Alliance and Saint Are pulled up before the next fence. 

 

The leading group entered the home straight and headed towards the penultimate fence.  Spring Heeled retained the lead but Cause Of Causes was gaining upon him and jumped the obstacle in runner-up position.  Disputing fifth place at the time, the first-time blinkered Our Father clouted the fence and almost unseated his rider; it was a great recovery!  

 

Meanwhile Spring Heeled had come under pressure and endeavoured to hold off the challenge of the JP McManus first-string runner as they galloped to the final fence.  But a bad blunder by the latter knocked the stuffing out of him and it was left to Spring Heeled to stretch away from his rival and win by 1¾ lengths, the latter rallying towards the line but unable to recover the lost ground.  

 

Roberto Goldback stayed on to claim 3rd prize, although 17 lengths behind the second, and Balnaslow 4th.   Same Difference was 5th, Pickamus 6th, the favourite Indian Castle had faded into 7th having survived a very bad blunder at the last.  Gas Line Boy completed in 8th, Our Father 9th, Problema Tic 10th, Swing Bill 11th and last was Quinz.  Twirling Magnet stumbled and unseated his rider jumping 2 out and Tranquil Sea was pulled up before the last. 

 

It was a fitting result, as Robbie is JT McNamara’s cousin; JT having suffered life changing injuries as a result of a fall during this race last year.  Festival winners are like buses, none for ages and then two come along at once, the jockey having won the Champion bumper yesterday. 

 

Another winner for owner Dr Lambe too, having also owned yesterday’s bumper winner Silver Concorde. 

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Spring Heeled

Mr Robbie McNamara

Jim Culloty

2nd

Cause Of Causes

Ms Nina Carberry

Gordon Elliott

3rd

Roberto Goldback

Mr Sam Waley-Cohen

Nicky Henderson

4th

Balnaslow

Mr Patrick Mullins

Willie Mullins

 

As always, it took ages to return across the track, spectators within the centre of the racecourse having to wait until all horses, ridden or loose, had returned or been caught.  Having finally reached the main enclosures, I set off to the Parade Ring to see the horses and riders assemble ahead of the final event of the day, the St Patrick’s Day Derby, a charity race.

 

NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:

 

The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Mr Robbie McNamara , the rider of the winner, SPRING HEELED (IRE), from the second last fence. 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 McNamara for 2 days as follows: Thursday 27 and Friday 28 March 2014.

They further held an enquiry following a report from the Clerk of the Scales that Mr Robbie McNamara,had weighed in at 11 st 8 lbs having weighed out at 11 st 6 lbs, They interviewed the rider, J. Culloty, the trainer and the Clerk of the Scales. Having heard their evidence the Stewards found the rider in breach of Rule (B)67.4.3 and suspended him for 3 days as follows: Sunday 30 March and Tuesday 1 and Wednesday 2 April 2014.

They held a further enquiry following a report from the Clerk of the Scales that Mr J. King, the rider of HUNTING PARTY (IRE) had changed his boots after weighing out. They interviewed the rider and the Clerk of the Scales. Having heard their evidence the Stewards found the rider in breach of Rule (D)43.1 and fined him £290.

The also considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, SPRING HEELED, ridden by Robbie McNamara and trained by Mr J Culloty, compared with its previous run at Leopardstown on 27 December 2013, where the gelding finished tenth of 28, beaten 25 lengths. They noted the trainer’s explanation that his stable was out of form at the end of last year, but his horses were now running better. They ordered the gelding to be routine tested.

 

The undoubted ‘star turn’ competing in the Charity race was Channel 4 and RUK presenter, Rishi Persad; he would be riding the Brian Ellison-trained Twelve Strings.  Channel 4’s The Morning Line had covered his progress to fitness in the months leading up to the race.   I sponsored Lucy Bridgwater, wife of trainer David Bridgwater.   

 

Having exited onto the racecourse, the participants circled around in the area where the home straight joins the uphill part of the track just in front of the grandstands. 

 

Race 7

St Patrick’s Day Derby

(Charity race in aid of Cancer Research UK)

Distance

1 mile 5 furlongs

No. of Runners

12

Almadan (Alexia Buckwell), Bally Longford (Sheikh Samir Mirdad), Church Field (Tom O’Neill), Ebazan (Douglas Taylor), Engai (Lucy Bridgwater), Gifted Leader (Vicky Laing), Gud Day (Heather Kemp), High Net Worth (Bernadette Murphy), Mr Big (George Constantin Prince Von Sachsen Weimar Eisenach), The Bear Trap (Nigel Roddis), Twelve Strings (Rishi Persad), Vagrant Emperor (Kieran Ryan)

 

Then they were off.  The runners were led away by Bally Longford, sporting the green and yellow silks of Ann and Alan ‘Sizing’ Potts.  He was followed by Tom O’Neill, nephew of Jonjo, sporting the JP McManus colours aboard Church Field.  At little detached at the rear were Ebazan, Twelve Strings and Engai. 

 

Shortly after entering the back straight, Gifted Leader made up ground on the outside of the field; jockey Vicky Laing allowing her mount to stride on into the lead as the runners passed between the wings of the first flight therein.  

 

By the time the field had reached the dog-leg turn, Gifted Leader had established a substantial lead over Mr Big, The Bear Trap, Bally Longford, Church Field, Almadan, High Net Worth, Vagrant Emperor, Twelve Strings, Gud Day, Engai and Ebazan. 

 

The Ian Williams-runner continued to extend his lead over his pursuers as they climbed the hill to reach the far corner, before beginning the journey down the hill.  Vicky must have been around 20 lengths clear by this stage of the race, a wide angle camera shot necessary to keep both Gifted Leader and the leaders of main group in the picture!

 

Vicky’s mount remained clear having soon reached the home turn; Mr Big had lost ground and was now tailed off at the back of the field.  The runners then began their journey up the hill to the line; the group pursuing the leader now headed by Bally Longford, Church Field and the grey Gud Day.

 

However, despite closing upon Gifted Leader, he still had three lengths in hand as he passed the line.  Church Field claimed 2nd, Bally Longford 3rd, Vagrant Emperor 4th and Gud Day 5th.  Gifted Leader was definitely the prettiest horse in the race, a bright bay with blaze and three white socks or perhaps stockings.  Vicky Laing is an International Showjumper. 

 

Rishi Persad had steered a wide course along the nearside rail upon entering the home straight; however his saddle had begun to slip as he negotiated the dog-leg turn, so by the time he’d reached the furlong post he was riding without stirrups because it had gone beyond recall!  But, regardless, he didn’t fall off and finished a commendable 7th!!!  He pulled up safely at the top of the track and dismounted, incredulous at the course of events.   

 

I couldn’t resist calling out ‘Well sat Rishi to him as he walked back down the horse-walk sans horse.  Spectators close by laughed! 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Gifted Leader

Vicky Laing

Ian Williams

2nd

Church Field

Tom O’Neill

Jonjo O’Neill

3rd

Bally Longford

Sheikh Samir Mirdad

Willie Mullins

4th

Vagrant Emperor

Kieran Ryan

Emma Lavelle

 

I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back, and stayed until all the mementos had been presented.  Before I left the grounds I popped to the loo, always sensible with the prospect of a two and a half hour journey home! 

 

On the way out of the entrance situated by the main Centaur building, I purchased a copy of the following day’s runners for 60p; or rather the local paper cost 60p, with the next day’s runners included!

 

Having arrived back at my car and eaten the two remaining cheese rolls, I was soon ready to set off.  I checked out the following day’s runners whilst eating – two for Choc – Montbazon and Raya Star.  The car park was already sparser than on the previous two days, this is because many of the punters leave earlier, missing the charity race to enable them to get a head start on the traffic chaos in Cheltenham.

 

I glanced at my watch as I left; it was 18:00 today; 10 minutes later than yesterday, but far earlier than on Tuesday!  As traffic was flowing fairly easily along Swindon Lane, today I was permitted to turn left.  The idea in my mind had been to head into New Barn Lane but, in the event, that was found to be choc-a-bloc with vehicles; I therefore turned right and headed down the Evesham Road towards the town.

 

Having walked this route on a number of occasions when visiting the town centre ahead of racing, I realised that I’d soon arrive at the Clarence Square/Clarence Road junction and be able to join my usual exit route, at one of the sets of traffic lights.  However, observing road signs directing traffic to Pittville and Cheltenham Hospital prior to Clarence Road, I decided to take this option instead; it transpired that Wellington Road leads directly to the Prestbury Road roundabout which was on my intended route anyway and this had provided me with a short-cut.  I had a very strong vibe that this was where I’d end up!

 

I took the route straight across, drove around Pittville Circus and into Pittville Circus Road.  A left turn at the far end took me along Hewlett Road to join the longabout.  I took a left and right and headed up Harp Hill, turning right into Greenway Lane, negotiate the two chicanes and arrived at the Six Ways junction without delay.  When the traffic lights changed to green at this multi-phased junction, I turned left onto the A40 and headed for the hills.  It had taken me a mere 20 minutes today to negotiate the race-day traffic in Cheltenham.

 

I headed through Charlton Kings, past the Dowdeswell Reservoir and up the Cotswolds escarpment to reach the Andoversford bypass; the speed limit thereon was currently 40mph due to road-works.  Having negotiated two sets of traffic lights, I headed up the short section of dual carriageway, past the Puesdown Inn, and straight across at the roundabout upon the Stow-On-The-Wold to Cirencester road.

The next sign of civilisation is Burford where, shortly afterwards, the Witney bypass begins.  At the end of that, having driven through a staggered traffic light junction, negotiated a roundabout, and a further set of staggered traffic lights, and headed over two bridges en-route too, I passed beneath the A34 to reach the Wolvercote roundabout.  A long queue of traffic had built up ahead of me leading to this roundabout.

Traffic was very busy in Oxford on this particular evening, perhaps because I was earlier, or perhaps people were working later due to having been delayed by the fog this morning.  Vehicles were queued in both directions on the small section of road which runs through a residential area at the outset of the Oxford bypass, and there was also a very long queue of traffic on the opposite carriageway on the next long section of bypass.

Being no further delays for me, I was soon driving down the dual carriageway to join the M40 motorway.  The ‘atmosphere’ was a little eerie along this part of the route, with patches of ‘ectoplasm’ fog in places.  Having joined the M40 I headed eastwards towards London; here too, before the motorway reached the Chilterns escarpment, there were patches of fog.

Having reached the lit section of the motorway, there were no further ‘atmospheric’ problems, nor on the M25 later on.  I left the latter motorway at Junction 22 and headed towards the residential area of St Albans.  Again I dropped into the Morrisons’ petrol station; the cost of filling my car’s tank was £24.76, before I drove the final leg of my journey.  I reached home at 20:30, the earliest time so far this week.

Having eaten a supper of maybe spaghetti-on-toast or a baked potato, uploaded my day’s photographs and copied a number of useful links into my blog ready to write an overview the following weekend, it was time for bed.

Again I turned in at around 22:30, with just one day to go of my annual marathon adventure ...

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I was later reliably informed by my mother that it had been fog-free and sunny in St Albans since 08:00 in the morning.  Typical.

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 Race 1

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – Races 2 & 3

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – World Hurdle

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – Races 5 & 6

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – St Patrick’s Derby Charity Race

 

 

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