DIARY Ė CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2015
DAY FOUR - FEATURING THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
FRIDAY 13 MARCH 2015
Next Sensation, winner of the final race of the 2015 Festival
for brothers Michael and Tom Scudamore
Click here to read my Day 4 Diary Part II
It was now time for the final race of the day, and the Festival and also AP McCoyís last ever Cheltenham Festival ride ahead of his retirement at the end of the 2014/2015 season.† With this in mind, the Champís mount in this race, Ned Buntline, became the 4-1 joint favourite along with Blood Cotil for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh.†
But, very tellingly, RUKís Jonathan Neesom told viewers that AP McCoy was nought from four on this horse and that the Champ doesnít particularly like the horse ... and the horse doesnít particularly like him either!!!† The horse is huge ... standing at 17.3 hands, and trainer Noel Meade recounted that his charge had been specially trained for the race, having finished a runner-up last year under Paul Carberry.† This time around, Paul Carberry was riding Eastlake for Jonjo OíNeill.†
Alan King had two representatives in this race, namely Turn Over Sivola ridden by Denis OíRegan and Grumeti ridden by Wayne Hutchinson; their prices 33-1 and 7-1 respectively.†
And GB fingers were firmly crossed that one of the home team would lift this event, which had been named in honour of AP McCoy for this renewal, so that we could beat the Irish and win the GB versus Ireland competition for having the most winners; the tally currently stood at 13-13!
With the rain-softened ground, there were four non-runners, namely Clarek Cloak, Solar Impulse, Karinga Dancer and Tanks For That.
So, ahead of the race I ventured across to the Pre-Parade Ring to see the horses being saddled.† Having been damp earlier today, followed by just plain dull, the light was already beginning to fade and it was difficult to take clear photographs; they had a tendency to be blurred.††
After that I headed straight down to the course-side rails in order to take photographs and I was in time to capture images of AP McCoy aboard Ned Buntline, and also Turn Over Sivola and Grumeti as they cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the stands.† When AP appeared, the gathered spectators clapped, cheered and whistled as he rode by!
Having reached the top of the racecourse, all the runners then headed down the turf to re-enter the all-weather strip in order to continue their journey to the starting gate as the far end of the home straight.†† Having congregated initially within the small corral to the inside of the track, as race time approached the runners were called out onto the racecourse; they jogged away from the gate before heading back towards the tape.†
Tom Scudamore was keen for his mount to get a good start and he lined up on the inside at the front of the group as they jogged in.†
And then they were off, first time and to the cheers of the crowd too.† Next Sensation led over the first, from My Brother Sylvest and Festive Affair; at the rear of the field and a little slow jumping the obstacle, was Eastlake.† The runners headed towards fence number two and were led over it by Next Sensation, My Brother Sylvest, Festive Affair and Croco Bay.† They were followed by Dick Dundee, Brick Red and Astracad; Turn Over Sivola travelled behind these.† Turban made an error here.
My Brother Sylvest pulled himself into the lead as the runners travelled towards the next, where Blood Cotil blundered badly.† Next Sensation ploughed through the next obstacle but retained second position. The runners then headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure and into the back straight.†
There was no change at the head of affairs heading over fence number five, with My Brother Sylvest leading from Next Sensation, Eastlake, Croco Bay, Brick Red, Astracad, Dick Dundee, Dresden, Turn Over Sivola, Chris Pea Green, Bellenos, Ned Buntline, Mount Colah, Blood Cotil, Turban, Firth Of Clyde, Grumeti, Ted Veale, Bold Henry and Eastlake.† The field then cleared the water-jump without problem.
The next fence was the first of the open-ditches; there was a little bit of argy-bargy between Chris Pea Green and Brick Red as they became sandwiched between Dresden and Astracad.† My Brother Sylvest got a little bit close to the next obstacle, a plain fence, which allowed Next Sensation to take a slight advantage.† The runners then headed around the dog-leg turn to approach the final open-ditch; there were no problems at this fence.†
The field continued their journey up the hill to fence number ten, which they all cleared without incident.† After that they entered the left-hand bend at the far corner of the track to approach the most difficult fence on the New Course.†
The leading duo jumped it okay but, just behind them, Dresden fell, as did Chris Pea Green independently.† Turn Over Sivola was lucky to escape the flailing hooves, Ned Buntline too.† Brick Red managed to stay on his feet, but jockey Coleman ended up with both legs over the nearside of the horse and was forced to bail-out.† The already struggling Grumeti bumped into the rising Dresden, which didnít help his cause and he was soon pulled up.† And last but not least, Ruby Walsh just managed to avoid Chris Pea Green as that horse got to its feet; but, as Blood Cotil was even further behind now, he would pull up after jumping the next.†
Meanwhile Next Sensation and My Brother Sylvest continued to dispute the lead as they headed down the hill to three out.† They were pursued by Croco Bay, Dick Dundee and Astracad.† The field having cleared this obstacle without incident, the runners headed around the home turn and into the final straight.† Next Sensation had gained a one length advantage over the David Pipe representative, followed by Dick Dundee, Croco Bay, Turn Over Sivola and Ned Buntline.†
Having jumped the penultimate fence, Next Sensation continued to extend his lead as, firstly, Dick Dundee assumed second position only to fade before the last and be overtaken by Croco Bay, Turn Over Sivola and Ned Buntline.† The Team Scudamore runner took the final fence in his stride and began the journey up the hill to the line three or four lengths ahead of his nearest rivals.† And, despite a strong drive from the Champ, Ned Buntline could not close the gap and was eventually overtaken by Eastlake who stormed up the run-in to claim 2nd place, with Croco Bay rallying to take 3rd.† In the end, AP had to settle for 4th, just ahead of Turn Over Sivola.†
Next Sensation had won by 4 lengths, with Tom Scudamore standing in his irons to salute the spectators with his whip as he crossed the line.† It was Tomís second victory of this yearís Festival and his brotherís first ever Cheltenham Festival winner.
I returned to the Winnersí Enclosure to see the horses arrive back.† It was a little bit unfortunate that AP arriving back overshadowed the celebrations of the Scudamore clan.†
As well as Nicky Henderson being on hand to present the Grand Annual trophy, so was AP McCoy; it was three cheers for him too.†
The Champ also received a special ĎThis is your Lifeí style book presented by Racecourse Chairman Robert Waley-Cohen to mark the end of his Cheltenham career.† AP was then interviewed by Martin Kelly.†
When interviewed by RUKís Lydia Hislop, Tom spoke about how special the victory was for the family.† The Scudamores had lost both their granddad and grandmother last summer and he explained what an integral part of the team Michael senior had been and said it was such a shame that their grandparents had not been there to see this victory.† The owner, Mark Blandford, had been Michael seniorís godson too; Markís father having been his granddadís best friend.†
Tom also explained that AP had been a great mentor to him and very kind; even as a child when he used to visit the Pipe yard.† Tom said he owed the Champ an awful lot and that AP was his hero.
Race 7 - 5:15pm.
THE A.P. McCOY GRAND ANNUAL HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (for The Johnny
Henderson Challenge Cup) (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Paul Carberry, the rider of EASTLAKE (IRE),
placed second, 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 Carberry for 2 days as follows: Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 March 2015.
Ruby Walsh, the rider of BLOOD COTIL (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding jumped
poorly. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding during routine testing
failed to reveal any abnormalities.
It had not been a good Festival for jockey Bryan Cooper, who had picked up a total of 18 days suspension due to whip abuse during the four days; this would rule him out of both the Fairyhouse Irish Grand National meeting and the Aintree Grand National meeting.† The Irish jockeys are far more whip-happy than those based in the UK; Iím sure their rules are far less stringent.† But even so it was better than last year, when Bryan broke his leg due to a fall from Clarcam during the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle!
My boots were the muddiest that I observed all afternoon; I really have no idea why, because I only walked across the car park and the membersí lawn. And, this year, I didnít even venture out into the centre of the racecourse; not even for the cross-country race on Wednesday.† My reason that day was not to get stuck out there just in case Any Currency won.† The staff assigned to clean the floor in the ladiesí loo probably dreaded women arriving wearing boots as muddy as mine!
Having stayed to the end of proceedings, and paid a visit to the little girlsí room, I then headed up the concourse, out through the main gate adjacent to the Centaur, across the wide bridge which spans the horse-walk from the stables to the pre-parade ring, before crossing the driveway.† Having negotiated the short stretch of gravel on the other side, I was able to weave my way through the traffic queuing along the Evesham Road and headed up the driveway into the upper car park.†
Upon reaching the driveway which leads to the Swindon Lane exit, I crossed through between the hedges before walking along the top of the slope within the bottom field and heading through a gap in the far perimeter.† I crossed the road which leads to Hunting Butts Farm and entered the far field where my car was parked. I couldnít risk walking along the main thoroughfare; it was too muddy and slippery, so I weaved my way through the parked vehicles.††
It was so muddy that I couldnít take off my boots to change into my driving moccasins before getting into the car.† Instead I took a large red plastic box from the car-boot and wedged it into the passenger foot-well before sitting in the passenger seat to remove my boots.† I was then able to slide across into the driverís seat without stepping out of the vehicle.† Itís a familiar manoeuvre, as I have to climb across the passenger seat to reach the driverís seat whenever I park my vehicle under the carport at home.† But, on those occasions, I donít have to contend with a large box containing muddy boots in the foot-well or having to remove a large heavy handbag from the driverís seat beforehand!††
Anyway, I got there in the end and consumed the final two cheese rolls while I mulled over whether to depart just yet.† I usually wait until around 19:30 to leave at the end of the final day, hoping that the traffic jams will clear by then.† For a while today, the gravel driveway through the centre of the field was busy with traffic queuing to exit; they were tailing back to the top of the field.† At the bottom of the field, I noticed a vehicle being towed out by a tractor.† The same tractor then headed up the slope to rescue a driver who had got stuck not very far away from me.† Help!††††††
However, by 18:20 the lower area of the field was almost clear of vehicles, and the driveway to exit almost deserted too; perhaps many punters had decided to leave early, fearing they might become stuck once the grass had become very muddy from overuse!†
It was time to set off.† As feared, my car tyres were having problems getting traction in the mud; I didnít get stuck as such, but had to head down the grassy slope in gear without any brakes!† And I know the brakes werenít working in the conditions ... because I tried them.† It was pretty scary and very fortunate there were no vehicles in my path!†
I made it to the gravel track, hoping that Iíd have no call to stop prior to exiting the gate.† Fortunately the traffic policeman beckoned me to exit immediately; I turned right as directed and headed along Swindon Lane.† The roadway was caked in mud; grit and gravel rattled beneath my car as I proceeded in a westerly direction.† I headed down Windy Ridge but, unlike Wednesday, there was no long queue of traffic at the far end today.†
I made my way back eastwards towards the Evesham Road.† However, I encountered a tailback from the traffic lights thereon and had to wait for what seemed like ages before I was able to drive into Clarence Road.† Ambulance staff had been attending to someone; there were also police officers and a small crowd of people gathered on the pavement to the left-hand side of the road.† I presume that a pedestrian had been knocked down and injured.†
However unfortunate, Iím not in the least bit surprised because people walking to the town from the racecourse pay absolutely no attention to traffic heading in their direction.† But having said that, I cannot understand why there is no pedestrian crossing at that point, because there is on the other side of the junction.† Iíve also frequently heard abusive language between pedestrians and drivers at this location; come to think of it, I may have sworn at them myself on previous occasions too!† Idiots ... often drunken idiots.†††
Anyway, I still made it to Sixways by 18:55.† I travelled out of Cheltenham behind a minibus and just couldnít be asked to overtake it; I had no time constraints today, being in no particular hurry to get home.† I followed the vehicle until I reached the Witney bypass before overtaking.† I was seriously considering the Ďscenicí route home, via Bicester and Aylesbury but, as I didnít feel particularly tired, yet again I returned via the M40 and M25.†
I left the M25 at Junction 22, but not before Iíd seen a lunatic speed past me on the motorway, weaving in and out of the traffic.† I sincerely hope the police were able to catch him before he killed someone.†
There was no need to drop in to the petrol station this evening, so I arrived home at 21:00.† I would probably have been too embarrassed to visit the forecourt with such a dirty vehicle ... although it has been worse!††
I had survived the Cheltenham Festival 2015 and Friday the 13th proved to be a very good dayís sport, apart from not seeing Choc today ... so I donít know if he was there or not.††
Supper tonight was spaghetti on toast again.† And I turned in with the prospect of a busy extended weekend ahead; a weekend devoted to commencing work on my Festival blogs and diaries.† With Choc out of action, there was no need to attend Kempton Park on the Saturday, unlike last year.† Although, despite this year booking the Monday as annual leave too, it seemed to me that I was further behind schedule when I returned to work than Iíd been in 2014!
And Iíve come to the conclusion that it may well be worth my while becoming a member at Cheltenham, despite the ridiculously high first year administration fee ... so that I no longer have to park in a very muddy car park!† And, these days, usually a car park I donít wish to park in!
All-in-all the 2015 Cheltenham Festival had been enjoyable although, of course, it would have been even more so had Choc been able to ride.†
Day one was good, because I did see Choc on a number of occasions and spoke to him too.† Day three was memorable for the victories of Uxizandre and Cole Harden.† Day four for the triumph of Coneygree.† The only day I didnít particularly enjoy was Wednesday ... because I had a headache from the time I woke up until mid-afternoon and it was a cold and windy day too.†
As Easter fell in early April this year, there were three weeks between Cheltenham and Aintree; I had my fingers crossed that Choc would pay a visit to Liverpool too ... as heíd done in 2013 when injured.†
Photos Ė Cheltenham Festival Day 4 Ė Race 1
Photos Ė Cheltenham Festival Day 4 Ė Races 2 & 3
Photos Ė Cheltenham Festival Day 4 Ė Cheltenham Gold Cup
Photos Ė Cheltenham Festival Day 4 Ė Races 5 to 7