DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2015
DAY FOUR - FEATURING THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
FRIDAY 13 MARCH 2015
Cheltenham Gold Cup winning jockey Nico de Boinville is interviewed by
Derek Thompson following his victory in the feature event.
Click here to read my Day 4 Diary Part I
It was now time for the feature event of the day, and the Festival for that matter, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The race favourite was Silviniaco Conti, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Noel Fehily; price 3-1. There was strength in depth this year, with the 2013 winner Bobs Worth, and 2014 winner Lord Windermere amongst the runners. Also The Giant Bolster, who had finished in the frame in the last 3 renewals. Also Boston Bob, winner of last season’s Melling Chase and the Punchestown Gold Cup. Coneygree, the exciting novice who had won the Grade 1 Kauto Star Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, followed by a Grade 2 Denman Chase at Newbury.
In addition Djakadam, winner of the Thyestes Chase; Cheltenham Festival winning regular Holywell; Hennessy Gold Cup winner Many Clouds; last year’s runner-up On His Own; Road To Riches, winner of the Galway Plate, Down Royal Champion Chase and Leopardstown Lexus Chase; also the Alan King-trained Smad Place, placed in two World Hurdles and runner-up in last season’s RSA Chase too.
I wanted one of two horses to win, either Smad Place or Coneygree; I’d seen the latter win at Kempton Park, when his strong front running style had resulted in just two of his six rivals completing the race! Coneygree is a half-brother to Carruthers and was bred by the late Lord Oaksey and is trained by son-in-law Mark Bradstock.
Being the feature event of the day, there was an on-course pre-race parade. The horses were led out onto the racecourse, the competitors sorting themselves into number order before being paraded in front of the grandstands; they were preceded by a brace of mounted huntsmen.
Once the parade was completed, the horses cantered down the turf to enter the all-weather strip and travel part way down it before exiting onto the course. The Gold Cup starting gate is situated just beyond the second nearest steeplechase fence and is run over two complete circuits plus two fences and the run-in.
The jockeys took their mounts to look at the first fence before cantering back down the racecourse, with not all of them entering the small corral located to the inside of the track; some remained out on the course instead to have their girths checked.
Once those having chosen the corral had rejoined the others, they were sent away from the starting gate, jogging at first, then turning and walking in.
And then they were off, first time; the spectators cheered as they headed away from the gate. The runners were led away by On His Own and Road To Riches; they were followed by Holywell, Coneygree and Many Clouds. Nico de Boinville rousted his mount so that, by the time they jumped the first fence, he was almost upsides Road To Riches who led. At the rear of the field were Boston Bob and Lord Windermere.
Having reached fence number two, Coneygree held a narrow advantage. Thus, as the sixteen runners headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure, the novice chaser led from Road To Riches, On His Own, Holywell, Sam Winner, Silviniaco Conti, Many Clouds, Houblon Des Obeaux, Djakadam, Carlingford Lough, Smad Place, Bobs Worth, The Giant Bolster, Home Farm, Boston Bob and Lord Windermere.
Clearing the first in the back straight, it was noticeable that On His Own had a preference to jump out to his right but, as he was travelling to the outside of the field, this was solely an issue of losing ground rather than hampering any of his rivals. With Coneygree at the head of affairs, the runners negotiated the water-jump, followed by the first of the open-ditches. This was followed by a plain fence, where Carlingford Lough made a slight error.
The horses then headed around the dog-leg turn to approach the second open-ditch. They all jumped the obstacle well, with Lord Windermere already detached in rear. The runners continued their journey up the hill and over fence number eight, with Coneygree, Road To Riches and On His Own a few lengths clear of the main body of the field which was led by Holywell.
There were no problems for these experienced chasers (or Coneygree) when jumping the tricky ninth fence at the top of the hill. The novice continued at the head of affairs as they galloped down the hill to the next fence; Silviniaco Conti, travelling to the inside of Holywell, was tanking along as he descended it. There were no mishaps at the obstacle and they headed around the bend into the home straight, one circuit complete; The Giant Bolster, who was not travelling particular well today, received a reminder. Meanwhile last year’s winner had lost touch totally and was now around 12 lengths behind the others.
Coneygree continued at the head of affairs, with On His Own travelling almost upsides to his outside. Road To Riches was now back in third, followed by Holywell, Silviniaco Conti, Many Clouds, Djakadam, Carlingford Lough, Sam Winner, Smad Place, Bobs Worth, Home Farm, Houblon Des Obeaux, Boston Bob and Lord Windermere.
They headed over fences eleven and twelve without incident, although On His Own continued to give away ground on the leader by jumping out to his right. Coneygree was a couple of lengths clear as they travelled up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure. Turning into the back straight there were a number of runners being pushed along; including Sam Winner, Home Farm, Houblon Des Obeaux and The Giant Bolster. Sam Winner and Bobs Worth made errors at the first fence therein.
Meanwhile, up front, Coneygree continued to apply pressure by travelling well and jumping like a stag. There were no jumping errors at the water-jump, but Home Farm blundered at the next, which was the penultimate open-ditch. Having jumped another plain fence, the runners were becoming well strung out by the time they negotiated the dog-leg turn to approach the final open-ditch. Coneygree continued to cut out the pace over this jump, from On His Own; they were clear of Road To Riches, Silviniaco Conti, Djakadam, Holywell and Many Clouds. A few lengths off of these were Smad Place and Carlingford Lough.
Having jumped the open-ditch, Home Farm and Bobs Worth were pulled up. Nico de Boinville continued to pour on the pressure at the head of affairs as they continued up the hill and over the fifth last fence before sweeping around the corner to approach the tricky obstacle prior to the descent. The leading group of seven runners, headed by Coneygree, cleared the fence without problem; Smad Place and Carlingford Lough remained a number of lengths adrift.
As they galloped down the hill, both Many Clouds and Silviniaco started to struggle and began to lose touch; having jumped three out, Road To Riches had now become Coneygree’s nearest pursuer. On His Own had soon dropped back to fifth position as Djakadam and Holywell overtook him also. Meanwhile the novice continued to gallop on ... and on ... and on! Holywell was the next to cry enough, as the two Irish raiders endeavoured to reel in the leader.
However, Coneygree remained just over a length up as he jumped the penultimate fence and they failed to reduce this margin as he galloped down to the last. Having cleared it, Nico de Boinville drove him up the hill to the line and, despite hanging to his right on the run-in, he held on to win by 1½ lengths from the staying-on Djakadam. The winning rider stood up in his irons to salute the crowd with his whip as he crossed the line. Road To Riches completed a further two lengths away in 3rd, with Holywell finishing in 4th place, 6 lengths further back.
On His Own completed 14 lengths back in 5th, with Many Clouds a further length behind in 6th; Silviniaco Conti was 2½ lengths away in 7th, and he beat Smad Place by a head. Carlingford Lough was a mere ¾ of a length away in 9th, with Boston Bob 14 lengths away in 10th; last but not least was Houblon Des Obeaux, just beaten into that position by a nose.
Lord Windermere had been pulled up before two out, with both Sam Winner and The Giant Bolster pulled up before three out.
The gamble had paid off, for Coneygree could have run in Wednesday’s RSA Chase but, with rain forecast ahead of today’s big race, the trainer had made the call to run him in the blue riband event against the best chasers from the GB and Ireland. He was the first novice to win the race since Captain Christy in 1974.
It was great for a small yard to have such a high profile victory and proves that, occasionally, you don’t have to spend a great deal of money on horses to own a special one. Coneygree is a home-bred half-brother to Carruthers, and also Flintham. Their dam, Plaid Maid, was purchased by the Oaksey family for just £3,000.
This was only his 10th race, and 4th steeplechase. And would he have won an extra £60,000 bonus for winning a race at Plumpton before going on to triumph at the Festival had an on-course vet not prevented him from running in his intended debut race over fences because he was deemed to be unsound that day?
I couldn’t decide whether to stay beside the course-side rails in order to take photographs as the winner passed by or to return to the Winners’ Enclosure ... so I did both on this occasion. Nico de Boinville was thrilled to have won the big race and continued to celebrate as his mount was led back down the walkway in front of the main grandstand; he was preceded by the two mounted huntsmen. It was only the Conditional Jockey’s second ever Cheltenham Festival winner; is first being aboard Whisper in last year’s Coral Cup.
Having arrived late at the Winners’ Enclosure it was a little bit of a crush and the view not the best, but the area has been opened up slightly as a result of the redevelopment ... so the photos taken were enough to get a flavour of the celebrations! And I think it might have been the first time I’ve actually returned to see any Gold Cup winner in the Winners’ Enclosure, despite this being my seventh such opportunity.
Alastair Down later recounted in the Racing Post that not only have the Bradstocks produced a wonderful horse, but it is against much adversity with regards to their health. Sara Bradstock has a tracheotomy and serious lung issues; the only way she can talk is to block the hole in her throat with her finger. Mark, a heavy smoker, has only one functioning kidney. Their daughter Lily, who led up the horse, has undergone a number of operations on her leg because she suffered nerve-damage when kicked by a horse. Fortunately son Alfie, a top class event rider, does not have any health problems.
Race 4 - 3:20pm.
THE BETFRED CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Bryan Cooper, the rider of ROAD TO RICHES
(IRE), placed third, from the third 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 Cooper for 11 days as follows: Wednesday 1, Thursday 2, Saturday 4, Sunday 5, Monday 6, Thursday 9, Friday 10, Saturday 11, Sunday 12, Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 April 2015. Under Rule (B)54 the Stewards also fined the rider £1250.
Barry Geraghty, the rider of BOBS WORTH (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding was
never travelling. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding failed to reveal any abnormalities.
Davy Russell, the rider of LORD WINDERMERE (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding wasnever travelling. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding found that it had lost a left fore shoe.
That was a bit silly of Bryan Cooper because, as a result of his ban, he would miss Aintree’s Grand National Festival.
I confess that, having returned to the Winners’ Enclosure I remained there throughout the course of the next race and race six also!
The favourite for race five was Paint The Clouds, trained by Warren Greatrex and ridden by Mr Sam Waley-Cohen; price 11-4.
With 24 runners in this event, the corral to the inside of the course was too small for purpose, so the horses’ girths were checked whilst the competitors were milling about out on the track.
And then they were off ... or rather they weren’t, as a number of the riders were far too keen to get on with the race and broke into a canter prior to reaching the tape. The ‘ring-leader’ was actually Mr D Queally aboard the ex-Alan King-trained Seventh Sign; the horse remains owned by Masterson Holdings but is now trained in Ireland by Adrian Maguire ... hence the horse’s trademark white bridle.
With a first attempt which can only be described as an ‘unruly rabble’, the runners had to return to the gate and line up for a standing start as per the newly introduced rules. The aforementioned Mr Queally was having problems getting Seventh Sign back into line; first he was facing backwards, then forwards, then backwards again. The 2012/2013 winner Salsify was one of the last to rejoin the others.
Seventh Sign was reined back into position and a number of the other riders were manoeuvring their mounts so that they weren’t too close to the tape, notably Universal Soldier. Jamie Codd was questioning the Starter as to why they weren’t ready to go ... before he sent his horse forward to stand just behind the front rank. Then, with the flag raised, the riders and horses got excited again and Seventh Sign spooked sideways and his jockey had to duck so that he didn’t get tangled up with the tape. And Fort George got his chin caught on the tape.
Anyway, Seventh Sign’s rider took his mount to the outside of the gate mechanism to rejoin the others ... at which point he decided to face in the wrong direction once more! The Starter’s patience was now growing thin ... mine was just watching it ... and he instructed the riders to take a turn; although many just pirouetted on the spot. Beside the inside rails, Aerial was being mulish and got a reminder for his troubles from rider Will Biddick.
But, finally, the Starter let them go; seemingly fed up with everyone’s antics. Junior appeared a little unkeen and initially planted himself before setting off in mid-field; Salsify and Noble Prince brought up the rear. The field was led away Carsonstown Boy from Seventh Sign and Fort George. There were no casualties at the first fence; Aerial and Consigliere were not fluent at the second.
Having cleared the first two fences without incident and with the leader taking them along at a sensible pace, the runners headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure. Fort George travelled at Carsonstown Boy’s girth, with a two length gap to Seventh Sign; he was followed by Alskamatic, Need To Know, No Loose Change and Following Dreams. Behind these was Junior, having gained a little ground following his dislike of the standing start.
The runners entered the back straight and approached fence number three; which they all cleared without problem. Heading towards the water jump, Noble Prince brought up the rear; just ahead of him travelled Salsify, Brackloon High and Consigliere. The field having skipped over this fence, they headed to the first of the open-ditches; again there were no problems at the fence. The next obstacle is a plain one, again no mishaps.
Carsonstown Boy continued to cut out the running as they negotiated the dog-leg turn; his nearest rivals continued to be Fort George, Seventh Sign, Alskamatic, No Loose Change and Need To Know. All twenty-four runners cleared the second open-ditch without problem. The runners continued up the hill to the next, where Cork Citizen was a little slow and had to be ridden away from the fence.
Having reached the far corner, the competitors headed to the tricky ninth obstacle; there were just a few minor errors here, from Need To Know, Junior and Brackloon High. Heading down the hill, Fort George went on, and he continued with a narrow advantage as the runners cleared the next fence and headed into the home straight; one circuit now completed and without any casualties.
No Loose Change made a noticeable error at the next fence, but survived to continue in the race. There were no problems at the following fence and the runners headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure once again; they were led by Fort George, from Seventh Sign, Alskamatic, No Loose Change, Paint The Clouds, Carsonstown Boy and Chosen Milan. Behind these were Need To Know, On The Fringe, Following Dreams and Aiteen Thirtythree.
Having entered the back straight, Fort George made an error at the next fence and lost his place at the head of affairs; this resulted in Carsonstown Boy taking the led once more. Further back in the field, Aiteen Thirtythree also clouted this fence. The competitors then headed to the water-jump, which they all cleared without problem; Universal Soldier had begun to tail off at the rear of the field by this stage and would be pulled up after the next.
Having loomed up alongside the leader heading to the penultimate open-ditch, Paint The Clouds was less than fluent at the fence and lost a little ground; meanwhile with an excellent jump, the sole mare in the field, Chosen Milan, began to press the leader. The favourite was again a little slow at the next; further back in the field Aiteen Thirtythree made a mistake.
The field then negotiated the dog-leg turn, led by Carsonstown Boy and Chosen Milan; Paint The Clouds travelled a couple of lengths behind them, and he was ahead of Alskamatic and On The Fringe. Chosen Milan took the lead as the runners jumped the open-ditch. The lady rider aboard Alskamatic called a cab when her mount made an error at the plain fence at the top of the hill and, now in rear, Fort George barely managed to clamber over it. Salsify was pulled up before the next.
Having turned the far corner, Chosen Milan got a little too close to the difficult fence prior to the descent; this lost her momentum and enabled Carsonstown Boy to go back into a narrow lead once more. Having reached three out, four horses jumped it in unison; namely Carsonstown Boy, Chosen Milan, Paint The Clouds and Shoreaces. The second favourite, On The Fringe, had now loomed up behind the leaders and looked a big danger too.
It was Paint The Clouds and Shoreacres who led the field into the home straight, with Following Dreams and On The Fringe soon sweeping past to their outside; Sam Drinkwater had picked up a spare ride aboard the 50-1 shot Following Dreams as a result of Tom Weston’s injury the previous day. However, having flown the penultimate fence, Nina Carberry’s mount cruised into the lead and had soon put many lengths of daylight between herself and her rivals.
On The Fringe then cleared the last in his stride before galloping up the run-in to win by 17 lengths at the line. This left Following Dreams and Paint The Clouds to battle it out up the hill for the runner-up position, which the former claimed by a neck. Having been overzealous with his whip, Carsonstown Boy’s jockey had driven his horse home in 4th, with Chosen Milan 5th and Shoreacres 6th.
Seventeen of the 24 runners completed the race; six were pulled up and Seventh Sign unseated his rider at the last when hampered.
At this point in time, I’m still standing upon the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure having not returned to the course-side rails since the end of the Gold Cup!
Race 5 - 4:00pm.
THE ST. JAMES'S PLACE FOXHUNTER STEEPLE CHASE CHALLENGE CUP (CLASS 2)
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Mr N. McParlan, the rider of CARSONSTOWN
BOY (IRE), placed fourth, from the third 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 McParlan for 4 days on dates to be notified to him by the
British Horseracing Authority.
The Veterinary Officer reported that TEMPLE GRANDIN (IRE), unplaced, trained by Philip Rowley, had
bled from the nose.
Non-Race Related Incidents
Race 5: The Stewards held an enquiry following a report from the Starter that Miss C.V. Hart, the rider of
ALSKAMATIC, Mr N. McParlan, the rider of CARSONSTOWN BOY (IRE), Mr Joe Hill, the rider of
CONSIGLIERE (FR), Miss Maxine O’Sullivan, the rider of CORK CITIZEN, Miss B. Frost, the rider of
CURRENT EVENT (FR), Mr S. Drinkwater, the rider of FOLLOWING DREAMS (IRE), Miss B. Hampson,
the rider of FORT GEORGE (IRE), Mr R.P. Quinlan, the rider of JUNIOR, Mr Derek O’Connor, the rider of
MUIRHEAD (IRE), Mr Barry O’Neill, the rider of NEED TO KNOW (IRE), Mr James King, the rider of NO
LOOSE CHANGE (IRE), Mr D. Queally, the rider of SEVENTH SIGN, Mr Alex Edwards, the rider of
TEMPLE GRANDIN (IRE), Mr Nick Williams, the rider of UNIVERSAL SOLDIER (IRE), and Mr J.J. Codd,
the rider of VITAL PLOT (USA) had allowed their horses to canter into the start. They interviewed the
riders and the Starters. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the start the Stewards found
Miss Hart, Mr McParlan, Miss O’Sullivan, Miss Frost, Mr Drinkwater, Miss Hampson, Mr Quinlan, Mr
O’Connor, Mr O’Neill, Mr Queally, Mr Edwards, and Mr Williams in breach of Rule (D)44.4. They
suspended them all for 1 day with the exception of Mr Edwards and Mr McParland, who were suspended
for 2 days each, as this was their second offence within the last 12 months. The dates will be notified to
them by the British Horseracing Authority.
They accepted Mr Hill, Mr King and Mr Codd’s explanations that their horses had broken into a canter
without them encouraging them to do so, and therefore found them not to be in breach of Rule (D)44.4.
There was a sad postscript to this race, with Seventh Sign suffering a fatal injury when falling at the final fence during a Hunter Chase at Killarney in May 2015; he was ridden by trainer’s son Finian that day.
The favourite for this, the penultimate race of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival, was the Willie Mullins-trained Roi Des Francs, ridden by David Mullins; price 7-1. Evidently the conditions for the Conditional Jockeys had changed for this race this year, thus discouraging the use of very inexperienced jockeys – ie. there was just a 3-pound allowance for those having ridden fewer than 20 winners, and a 5-pound allowance for fewer than 10 winners – the allowances were more last year. So this affected just three horses – 3lb allowances for Conquisto and Balgarry and a 5-pound allowance for Forthefunofit. There was no ‘own stable’ allowance either.
Barizan was running in this event, having been withdrawn at the start of the Coral Cup earlier in the week; this would be his debut for his new trainer Brendan Powell Senior. There were three non-runners, reducing the field to 21.
The starting gate for this race was in the mid-course chute; upon exiting the horse walkway, the runners cantered across the home straight and headed up the all-weather track around the top bend. They then crossed the racecourse to reach the mid-course chute, with two flights to negotiate before the far turn.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Shelford and Alderbrook Lad; the former pushed along to ensure he took up poll position. The leader jumped out to his left over the first flight, slightly impeding Alderbrook Lad and Party Rock as a result. The runners then headed across the intersection with the old course before reaching flight number two; near the rear of the field Balgarry took a tumbling fall, hampering Vieux Lion Rouge and On Tour.
Meanwhile, Shelford had set up a clear lead as the runners headed down the hill to the far corner; he was followed by Alderbrook Lad, Macnicholson, Jolly’s Cracked It, Party Rock and Barizan. Behind these travelled Full Shift, Sleepy Haven and Forthefunofit. Barizan hit the next flight. The runners continued their journey up the home straight to flight number four, with Shelford continuing to lead the way. Party Rock made an error at this hurdle, with Sleepy Haven appearing to lose his place as he was shuffled back through the field in the backwash.
The runners then headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure; On Tour continued to bring up the rear. Having entered the back straight and travelling two from the back of the field, Vieux Lion Rouge hit the first flight therein; Sleepy Haven was now being pushed along as he travelled beside him. Meanwhile Shelford continued to take the field along, with Jolly’s Cracked It moving through into second position as he jumped the next. Bordoni was now being pushed along.
After one more flight the runners headed around the dog-leg turn; Shelford leading the way from Barizan and Jolly’s Cracked It. Just behind these travelled Alderbrook Lad, Macnicholson, Full Shift, Bordoni, Kauto Grand Mogol, Pearl Swan and Forthefunofit. Heading towards and over the next flight, the John Ferguson runner began to really struggle and he dropped back quickly through the field.
Meanwhile the leaders turned the far corner and began their journey down the hill to the penultimate flight. The runners were now queuing up behind Shelford ahead of making their challenges. Jolly’s Cracked It joined the leader as they jumped it; close on their heels were Kauto Grand Mogol and Full Shift, with the also closing Pearl Swan and Killultagh Vic to the outside and Noble Endeavor to the inside.
Jolly’s Cracked It was the first to capitulate, then Full Shift. This left, from the standside Killultagh Vic, Pearl Swan, Kauto Grand Mogol, Shelford and Noble Endeavor challenging for the lead, with Roi Des Francs closing in behind them. It was in fact Killultagh Vic who held a slight advantage as they jumped the last, from Noble Endeavor, and it appeared that the latter had the greater momentum to carry through to the line. However the Willie Mullins runner fought back all the way up the run-in to win by a head.
Roi Des Francs completed 4½ lengths behind them, with Kauto Grand Mogol in 4th a further 6 lengths back. Amazingly, the first Brit home was the ever-game Shelford in 5th, with Pearl Swan in 6th.
And, with this, trainer Willie Mullins had set a new record for training 8 winners at any one Cheltenham Festival. He’d beaten the previous record set by Nicky Henderson as recently as 2012.
But the question is, with two clean sweeps for the Irish in the two Handicap Hurdles today, was the handicapper being too lenient with the official ratings of those horses from across the Irish Sea?
And I didn’t watch this race live either, for I viewed it on the large screen situated behind the Parade Ring!
Race 6 - 4:40pm.
THE MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS' HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 2)
No Stewards Enquiry.
The Veterinary Officer reported that during routine testing she found that KAUTO GRAND MOGOL (FR),
placed fourth, trained by Miss Elizabeth Doyle, sustained a cut to its left fore leg.
Click here to read my Day 4 Diary Part III