DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2014
FEATURING THE QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2014
My star of Day 2, Part 1, is Smad Place
the brave runner-up in the Grade 1 RSA Chase
The alarm sounded at 04:10 and I gave myself 10 minutes to recover from a pounding heart before getting up.
Following a shower, which included washing my hair, I blow dried it, ate a breakfast of Weetabix with raisins, drank a cup of tea, applied make-up and dressed for the day ahead.
Today’s outfit was a cream M&S thermal vest, black long-sleeved NHS thermal vest, snakeskin print M&S long-sleeved thermal t-shirt, black and cream horizontal striped peplum cardigan, bright purple fleece, black gillet, purple tights, grey and black M&S panel skirt (a recent purchase), multicoloured (mainly mauves and blues) material scarf, burgundy ankle biker boots (in preparation for venturing to the centre of the racecourse for the cross country event), black and white horse design socks (as my right heel was a little bit sore from yesterday), plus my grey and black block design BHS coat. I love my new coat, and managed to purchase it in my size in their online sale (20% off), having seen it advertised in a fashion article in my local newspaper! Well that’s my excuse anyway!!! I believe today’s pendant necklace was ‘Remnants of Rainbows’ from Chaotic Rainbow.
Having procrastinated slightly less than yesterday, I departed at 06:18. It was slightly misty today; my route took me up through the city centre and down to reach the roundabout at the termination of the ring-road. I turned left and headed up Bluehouse Hill, the road having been recently resurfaced. Arriving at the next roundabout I was startled by a pheasant running across the road just in front of me ... fortunately both of us survived to tell the tale!
My journey took me to Hemel Hempstead and I joined the A41 bypass to head to Aylesbury. There was a slight delay due to temporary traffic lights upon the road into the town; a large hole having been dug to the side of the westbound carriageway. Further on, the staggered mini-roundabout junction has been replaced by traffic lights during the past few months; again causing extra delay. On the approach to the ring-road, further mini-roundabouts have been removed, and traffic light controls installed; less good for me turning right onto the ring-road, but better for traffic leaving the town.
I journeyed around the ring-road, mindful to keep within the 30mph speed limit as cameras are installed in a couple of locations along this route. At the far end, upon reaching the A41 once more, I turned right and headed out of town. My journey then took me through Waddesdon and Kingswood before reaching Bicester.
After yesterday’s fairly lengthy delays, when it had taken me around 45 minutes to travel from Bicester to the Wolvercote roundabout, I decided to take the short-cut through Wendlebury thus bypassing any tailbacks at the busy M40 junction. Being a busy cut-through for the locals, speed bumps have been installed to slow traffic down; today an additional hazard was a dustcart whose driver had decided to reverse into a narrow turning just as I arrived in the village. Typical. Once clear, of the dustcart and the village, the drivers of the cars ahead of me sped off at a rate of knots, and soon left me in their wake. The perils of not knowing the road so well as the locals I guess.
After a number of sharp twists and turns in the lane, I eventually arrived at a T-junction; after waiting for a vehicle from the left which turned into the Wendlebury lane, I took a right turn and joined the A34 dual carriageway almost immediately. Thus, today, I’d be one of those annoying vehicles which caused the traffic on the main road to slow down due to the weight of numbers merging from the left!
I continued my journey as far as the Peartree interchange, where I left via the slip-road to reach the roundabout upon the A44. Once again traffic was crawling around the traffic island; the only route of escape from the slip-road being if a vehicle wanted to turn right, the traffic would give way to let them through and it was possible to enter the middle lane if you drove forward in their shadow! Once in this lane I could travel down the outside lane of the short section of dual carriageway leading between the Peartree and Wolvercote roundabouts, although very slowly in the queue!
Having turned right, I headed across the Cotswolds via the A40. Despite having made this trip on numerous occasions, I never get bored of this section of my journey through this beautiful countryside. Today I gained time between Bicester and Oxford but lost a few minutes upon reaching Cheltenham because it was still rush-hour.
As always the case these days, I travelled up Greenway Lane to avoid traffic queuing to enter the town centre; my journey then taking me down Harp Hill, along Priors Road and into Bouncers Lane, across the double mini-roundabouts at the end of Prestbury’s Deep Street and into Tatchley Lane. Having reached the far end of New Barn Lane, negotiating the roundabout outside the main entrance to the racecourse, I entered Swindon Lane and took a right turn to enter the lower field of the car park.
It was 08:50 and today I was parked where the slope of the field was quite shallow. With tentative plans in place for the following day, this was my opportunity to walk to town to visit the local branch of my employer. They have become accustomed to my visits over the years, and were offended when, one year, I didn’t bother to walk to town!
I had no intention of wearing my boots for the trek, instead I chose to wear my driving mocassins. The route is downhill for the first section, passing the Pittville Pump Room, the road then heading through Pittville Park. By this time, and having had a cup of tea before leaving home, I was desperate to go to the loo. However, I thought it rude to burst into the branch demanding to use their facilities without a by-your-leave ... so I popped into M&S instead.
And, you know me, I couldn’t resist having a quick look around too ... and I found two thermal t-shirts in colours which I didn’t own – turquoise and dark pink. Purchases made, I then visited the branch just two doors away. There was just time for half a cup of coffee and a quick chat, as the Manager, Samantha, had a client visit at 10:00. Oh well, and as she had parked her car in the car park adjacent to my route back, I accompanied her along the road for a short distance.
Having paid my annual visit to the branch, I then set off back up the hill to the racecourse. I returned to my car in order to put on further layers of clothing and change into my burgundy biker boots too. I then set off to the entrance; it was 10:30 by this time, the gates possibly having opened slightly early as all the queues were gone. However, with the first flux of punters having been ‘processed’, bag searches for latecomers were now in operation. This was the one and only time this year that my handbag was searched prior to entry.
Having purchased a race-card from the kiosk situated opposite the turnstiles, I walked down the concourse with no requirement to visit the on-course loos this morning; instead I headed straight to the Parade Ring. I was shortly rewarded with my first glimpse of Choc, he was wandering around outside the Weighing Room, having a cigarette break. Choc’s mum was there too. Today he was wearing a long camel-coloured coat, with similar coloured trousers; the ones which are a little too long for him, because they wrinkle around his ankles! Bless his cotton socks!
I relocated to the steps above the Winners’ Enclosure once Choc had disappeared into the confines of the Weighing Room. I felt a little colder today, perhaps I’d got hot and slightly sweaty ... sorry glowing ... following my walk to and from town.
At 12:15 it was time for the Day’s Preview with Martin Kelly ... it had been a long wait for anything to happen and, I must say, I find this current preview format rather boring. Anyway, today’s guests were Tom Scudamore, Paul Carberry, Charlie McCann of BetVictor, Cheltenham Ambassador Rachel Wyse (evidently also a Sky presenter), Irish journalist Niall Cronin, and three rugby referees who had been involved in the Six Nations tournament.
Whilst standing upon the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure, I also noticed the Duchess of Cornwall cross the Parade Ring, accompanied by members of the police and her security escort.
After the misty start to the day, sunshine appeared at 12:45, although hazy. As I’d done the previous day, I set off to reserve my preferred vantage point beside the course-side rails before the steppings became too crowded for me to make my escape. There was plenty of space, just above the half furlong post as usual.
The first race today was the Grade 1 Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. There was no ride in this event for Choc, as Alan King had no representatives in this race. However, Martin Keighley did have a runner, Creepy ridden by stable jockey Ian Popham. The favourite for this race was Faugheen, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, price 6-4.
Having spent time being led around the Parade Ring, Faugheen was taken back to the Pre-Parade Ring in order to sort out a bridle problem. Shanahan’s Turn did the same; the problem unspecified.
The starting gate for this race was in the mid-course chute. This being the case, the horses cantered across the course having exited the horsewalk, then up around the top bend upon the all weather strip. At the end of this they cross the track and head to the in-field in order to have their girths checked prior to the race.
Then they were off, first time. The field was led away by the confirmed front-runner Cole Harden, from first-time hooded Creepy; the former veering across to his left as he cleared the first flight. The leading duo was followed by Shanahan’s Turn, Faugheen, Lieutenant Colonel, and to the inside Fennell Bay. Bringing up the rear were Midnight Thunder and Twelve Roses. The runners cleared the second flight without incident, crossed the Old Course and headed towards the far bend. There was no flight situated just prior to the bend as there had been yesterday.
Heading downhill around the far turn, Cole Harden held a clear advantage over Creepy, who in turn travelled three lengths ahead of Shanahan’s Turn and Faugheen. These were followed by Fennel Bay, Lieutenant Colonel, Cocktails At Dawn, Rathvinden to the wide outside, Cup Final, Red Sherlock, Ballyalton, Knock House, Killala Quay, Twelve Roses and Midnight Thunder.
Entering the home straight, the runners crossed flight three; Knock House had now dropped back to share last place with Twelve Roses and Midnight Thunder. The horses galloped up towards the grandstands and joined the Old Course before reaching flight number four; Creepy travelling to the wide outside of the field as they did so. They cleared this hurdle without problem and set off up the hill; there was no change at the head of affairs as they did so.
The leading duo held a clear advantage over the field as they turned into the back straight and headed towards flight number five; Creepy wasn’t fluent at this flight and Shanahan’s Turn continued to race keenly whilst matching strides with Faugheen. The competitors continued to the next, the runners beginning to bunch up as they did so. Having cleared this flight, AP McCoy’s mount Cup Final was last but one and Midnight Thunder had now lost touch with the others.
The horses negotiated the dog-leg turn and galloped towards the next obstacle. Cole Harden hit this one, as did Faugheen who was now travelling in second position; in the latter’s wake, Ballyalton flattened the flight. By the time they’d reached the far turn, Creepy had dropped back to twelfth position. The Warren Greatrex runner led them down the hill; Faugheen now a close second, with Red Sherlock third.
Faugheen jumped into the lead at the third last flight, although it was an untidy leap having flattened a panel and initially this allowed both Cole Harden to his inside and Red Sherlock to his outside to draw alongside once more. But Ruby gave his mount his head and he cruised into a narrow lead once more. The runners jumped two out; where there was another untidy leap from Faugheen. Red Sherlock was upsides the leader until just before the home turn when he came under pressure; in behind were Ballyalton, Lieutenant Colonel, Cole Harden and Rathvinden.
Faugheen led the field into the home straight, pursued by Ballyalton, Rathvinden and Lieutenant Colonel. Rathvinden’s jockey Paul Townend wanted to mount a challenge to the outside of Ballyalton, but the horse drifted across in front of him. This resulted in a barging match with Lieutenant Colonel, thus the fading Red Sherlock soon became the meat in the sandwich; Paul switched to the inside instead.
Meanwhile Faugheen was putting serious daylight between himself and the others as they approached the last. He cleared it and Ruby drove him out to the line; the horse must have wandered a little as he galloped up the hill, because Ruby switched his whip from left to right hand, glancing under his right arm to check for any danger as he did so. He won by 4˝ lengths and Ruby was able to celebrate as he passed the winning post; he stood up in his stirrups and waved his whip too.
Ballyalton and Rathvinden had a close fought battle all the way to the line for second place, with the former prevailing by half a length. Killala Quay claimed 4th position. Twelve Roses finished 5th, never nearer. Creepy was placed 14th.
As the runners pulled up, Will Kennedy rider of Ballyalton greeted Ruby with a ‘low five’; and he was also congratulated by Tom Scudamore and Andrew Lynch; Tom patted the winning horse too.
I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the second race of the day.
When interviewed, Willie Mullins thought the horse would probably go chasing next season in the hope it would make him travel less keenly and also pay more respect to the obstacles. Also, when asked to compare yesterday’s Supreme Novices’ winner Vautour with Faugheen, Willie thought the former was a different level. I’m not so sure ... but what do I know! We shall no doubt find out in time.
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
It was now time for Choc’s first ride of the day, aboard the Alan King-trained grey Smad Place; he shared favouritism at the off with another of the greys, the Willie Mullins-trained Ballycasey ridden by Ruby Walsh. Their price was 13-2. There were four greys in the race, the other two being Corrin Wood and Gevrey Chambertin. Martin Keighley also had a runner in the race, the winner of the Boxing Day Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park, namely Annacotty.
The starting gate for the second 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 and heading to the first fence. Corrin Wood and Annacotty rose in unison over this, with Sam Winner to their inside just half a length behind. To the inside at the rear of the field, AP’s mount Carlingford Lough was less than fluent at this fence. The runners headed up the hill towards fence number two; Corrin Wood and Annacotty forcing the pace at the head of affairs and Sam Winner leading the chasing group six lengths off this leading duo.
There were no mishaps at the second fence and the runners travelled around the bend and entered the back straight on the first occasion. All the runners cleared the next fence without problem and headed towards the water-jump; at the rear of the field was Samingarry. Corrin Wood, with Richard Johnson aboard replacing the injured Jason Maguire, wasn’t particularly fluent at this the smallest obstacle on the course, but he continued to lead the way from Annacotty. Le Bec disputed third position with Sam Winner, then Black Thunder and Ballycasey behind these; close behind, mid-pack was Smad Place. Carlingford Loch made an error at the first open-ditch.
The horses headed to fence number six, where there were no problems in the jumping department. Having negotiated the dog-leg turn, the horses arrived at the second open-ditch; Corrin Wood was enjoying himself lobbing along at the head of affairs, ears pricked. Don Cossack jumped this ditch a little awkwardly, having taken off slightly too soon and reached for the fence. The runners turned the corner and headed downhill.
Corrin Wood was clear of the field at this point; Annacotty now headed the main group, with Sam Winner close up to his inside. Le Bec followed these, from Black Thunder, Morning Assembly, Ballycasey, Smad Place, O’Faolains Boy, Don Cossack, Many Clouds, Carlingford Lough, Just A Par, Gevrey Chambertin and Samingarry. The latter was already struggling at the rear of the field and made a mistake at the next obstacle.
The main body of the field had closed upon the leader as they headed into the home straight. On the outside of mid-field, Don Cossack nodded on landing over the next. Carlingford Lough still hadn’t warmed to his task, and was less than fluent over the following fence. The horses headed up past the grandstands and up the hill once more, Corrin Wood still led the field from Annacotty; Samingarry was now tailed off.
At the rear of the main group, Gevrey Chambertin was a little slow when jumping the uphill fence. The horses headed into the back straight; Black Thunder was the first casualty when he fell at the first therein. Fortunately he was travelling to the inside close to the back of the field, Many Clouds only slightly hampered by the departure, as was Tom Scudamore’s mount too. Samingarry had been pulled up before the fence. So then there were thirteen.
Corrin Wood continued to lead, although there was a splash at the water-jump as he put his off-fore in the water as he landed. There was a further departure at the next, an open-ditch, when Don Cossack fell; he was travelling behind Smad Place at the time, he slightly hampered Carlingford Lough but brought down Many Clouds. Corrin Wood, with his rivals close on his heels, clouted the next fence but survived. Annacotty, who was beginning to struggle at this point, also hit the fence and quickly dropped back through the field. Another to make an error here was Gevrey Chambertin; he had already lost touch with the others by this stage.
The remaining eleven negotiated the dog-leg turn and headed towards the next fence, the final open-ditch. Le Bec, who had been travelling in fifth position, got too close to the fence and fell; Annacotty was hampered whilst retreating. Corrin Wood had been joined by Sam Winner to his inside and Ballycasey to his outside as they reached the far turn; Smad Place was going well just behind these leaders.
As they headed downhill, Corrin Wood surrendered his lead, with Sam Winner and Ballycasey going on, closely pursued by Smad Place. The other horses still in contention and not far behind as they reached three out were Just A Par, O’Faolains Boy, Morning Assembly and Carlingford Lough; Corrin Wood soon in rear of these. Ballycasey and Smad Place jumped the fence in unison and disputed the lead as they headed towards the final turn. The horse which came out of the pack to challenge them was O’Faolains Boy with Barry Geraghty aboard.
They entered the home straight, with Smad Place just half a length up as they jumped the penultimate fence; Ballycasey now in third and under pressure from Ruby Walsh. Meanwhile, O’Faolains Boy had drawn alongside Smad Place as they headed to the last; Barry Geraghty giving his mount a couple of backhanders, whilst Choc was not being quite so vigorous at this stage; possibly because the duo were very close together and he had his whip in his right hand, his rival being on his right-hand side too.
There was nothing between them as they jumped the last. They diverged slightly before converging again, both jockeys going for everything on the run to the line. But, as it approached, Barry’s mount just got the upper-hand over the grey and he won by a neck. Morning Assembly completed in 3rd, with Ballycasey 4th and Annacotty 8th.
Choc shook hands with Barry as they pulled up at the top of the racecourse, although he was gutted to have lost ... and I was gutted that he had lost too.
After the race it was discovered that the winner had lost a hind-shoe and also twisted a front-shoe during the race. All the horses and jockeys were fine following their mishaps.
With Choc having finished 2nd in the race, I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see my very disappointed jockey arrive back. L
WHY THEY RAN BADLY:
Popham, the rider of ANNACOTTY (IRE), unplaced,
reported that the gelding was hampered by a faller.
Alan King had two runners in the next race, last year’s runner-up Meister Eckhart to be ridden by Choc today, and the grey Vendor ridden by Jack Doyle. The former was a 16-1 chance today, the latter an 11-1 joint-second favourite. The favourite was the David Pipe-trained, Tom Scudamore ridden, Dell’ Arca.
I had returned to the course-side rails prior to the horses arriving in the Parade Ring for, despite Choc having a ride and his arrival in the paddock imminent, with so many runners it would be impossible to get a clear view of him amongst all their connections.
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.
Then they were off; first time. The runners were led away by Son Of Flicka to the inside, Cotton Mill to the outside and Clondaw Kaempfer between them; extremely wide on the course was Foxcub, and Vendor brought up the rear. Meister Eckhart travelled in the centre of the pack in mid-field; Calculated Risk made an error at the second flight, as did Oscars Well.
The horses then headed over the New Course junction and downhill around the far bend before heading into the home straight on the first occasion. Son Of Flicka continued at the head of affairs, from Clondaw Kaempfer, Yesyoucan ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, Cotton Mill, Whisper and Foxcub; the latter jumped out violently to his right at the third flight, interfering with both Far West and Magnifique Etoile as he did so.
The field continued its run up the home straight towards flight number four, where Meister Eckhart wasn’t particularly fluent. Having passed in front of the grandstands the runners headed out into the country with Son Of Flicka continuing to lead from Clondaw Kaempfer to his outside. Vendor was no longer at the back of the field, Party Rock now held that honour and was already beginning to lose touch; he would be pulled up after the next flight, which all of the runners had safely cleared.
The horses then headed to, and over the sixth flight, one of its panels flattened on the ground in the wake of the field; Saddlers Risk was now last. Having negotiated the dog-leg turn, the runners faced up to flight number seven; Son Of Flicka still led as they jumped it, from Clondaw Kaempfer and Cotton Mill. The horses then travelled around the far corner and descended the hill to reach the third last. The long-time leader was being pushed along by this stage but remained ahead; just.
Fox Cub was just beginning to lose his place on the outside of the field when he made a bad error at the flight; to his outside an even worse one was made by the improving Kaylif Aramis, who fell as a result. The former dropped out quickly as he was hampered too. Meanwhile, up front, Clondaw Kaempfer now led narrowly, from Cotton Mill and Son Of Flicka; Dell’ Arca travelled just behind these, as did Whisper. Also in close contention were Sametegal to the inside, Edgardo Sol and Meister Eckhart, with Magnifique Etoile to the outside; plus the first time cheek-pieced Get Me Out Here ridden by AP McCoy.
Meister Eckhart began to lose ground on the leaders on the run to two out. Clondaw Kaempfer wasn’t fluent here, which enabled Whisper and Dell’ Arca to his outside to take a narrow advantage. In fact there appeared to be many still in with a chance as the runners rounded the final bend and entered the home straight. The leaders straightened up and headed for the final flight; Whisper held the advantage.
But snapping at his heels were Dell’ Arca, Get Me Out Of Here, Smashing, Clondaw Kaempfer, Son Of Flicka, Sametegal and Bayan, line across the track from outside to inner. And behind these Edgardo Sol, Noble Prince and Timesremembered. Nico de Boinville’s mount jumped the last in the lead, Dell’ Arca still in second until AP galvanised his mount to close upon Whisper as they headed to the line. It was neck and neck. Photograph.
The result was announced, Whisper had won by a short-head. Recompense for the jockey following yesterday’s runner-up position aboard Ma Filleule. The 5-pound claim had done the trick. In fact Nicky Henderson had stopped Nico from riding the previous week in order to preserve his claim for the Festival.
Finishing 3rd was Bayan and 4th was the grey Smashing; the latter sired by Smadoun, as is Smad Place. Vendor completed in 10th, with Meister Eckhart 13th.
There was no need for me to return to the Winners’ Enclosure, so I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the feature race of the day.
Having jumped badly, Dunguib had been pulled up before 3 out due to lameness; his career dogged by injury, the horse’s retirement would soon be announced. Kaylif Aramis was fine following his fall; as was jockey Sam Twiston-Davies. Sadly the horse would suffer a fatal injury before the end of April as a result of a freak accident during training. Cotton Mill passed away whilst competing in the Scottish Champion Hurdle in April.
Well, that was a bit of a nightmare describing the race ... 28 runners, in bright sunshine, on the Old Course and therefore furthest away from the camera vehicle and with the New Course obstacles to sometimes obscure the view too!
NEWS FROM THE STEWARDS’ ROOM FOLLOWING THE RACE:
Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Shane Shortall, the rider of OSCARS WELL (IRE), unplaced, from
the second last flight. 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 when out of contention. The Stewards
suspended Shortall for 5 days as follows: Wednesday
26, Thursday 27, Friday 28, Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 March 2014.
WHY THEY RAN BADLY:
That’s it for the first half of the diary, please ...