race 5 v.jpg


Connections listen intently to jockey Denis O’Regan

as he debriefs them following The Pirate Queen’s

4th placed effort in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle


Click here to read my Day 1 Diary Part I


It was now time for the feature event of the day, the Champion Hurdle.  This being the case, there was a pre-race parade with the horses exiting the horse-walk and congregating upon the racecourse before being led up the home straight in front of the main grandstands.  Parade over, they then cantered down the turf to enter the all-weather strip and continue their journey to the starting gate which was situated at the far end of the home straight.  


The favourite for this race was the Willie Mullins-trained Faugheen, ridden by Ruby Walsh, odds-on at 4-5!  The second favourite was the popular The New One, priced at 10-3 today.  Last year’s winner Jezki was third in the market at 6-1 and veteran Hurricane Fly, winner of this race in 2011 and 2013, and also having clocked up 22 Grade 1 victories, was 8-1 today.  Arctic Fire was the next best in the betting at 20-1.


Having been circling within the enclosure to the inside of the bend, the jockeys were asked to exit onto the track, initially heading away the starting gate in order to stay within the new guidelines of nothing faster than a rising trot; Faugheen led the way out, Ruby’s intentions were clear. 


Race 4

Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)


2 miles 110 yards (8 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners


Arctic Fire, Bertimont, Faugheen, Hurricane Fly, Jezki, Kitten Rock, The New One, Vaniteux


In the event they actually walked towards the tape, the starter released it and then they were off ... with Faugheen at the head of affairs.  Behind him raced the hooded Jezki and The New One, from Vaniteux, Hurricane Fly and Kitten Rock line across the course; in rear the also hooded Arctic Fire and 100-1 outsider Bertimont. (I like races like this, when I know all the runners’ silks without referring to the race-card!)


The horses headed over the first; Hurricane Fly possibly not quite as fluent as the others.  Faugheen continued to lead the way, with no change to the order within the vanguard; Jezki, under AP McCoy had taken a keen hold.  The New One just flicked through the top of the second flight.  The field then headed away from the main grandstands, up the hill and out into the country for the one and only time; Faugheen, like his rivals, changed legs to lead with his near-fore around the left-hand bends. 


They set off down the back straight, Ruby dictating the pace, with Faugheen changing back to his off-fore as the slope levelled out; not all his rivals did.  The New One, travelling to the outside of the field, jumped out to his right as is his habit; this was particularly noticeable at Haydock Park earlier in the season. The runners cleared flight number four, with Arctic Fire’s jumping taking him forward to join Vaniteux, Hurricane Fly and Kitten Rock.  Danny Mullins took a pull and eased back again prior to the dog-leg turn.


Ruby continued to dictate the pace in front, and it was a sensible one as none of his rivals had been dropped.  All eight cleared the flight near the top of the hill without incident.  The horses swung left-handed and headed down the hill; Faugheen still ahead but his advantage diminished by the time they reached three out. Jezki was now at the leader’s girth, with The New One to his outside; Hurricane Fly and Arctic Fire were close on their heels, with Kitten Rock, Vaniteux and Bertimont outpaced in rear.


Jumping the second last, Faugheen held the smallest of leads, although he was less than fluent at the flight.  But, with the advantage of the rail position, Ruby was always able to maintain this as the leaders entered the home straight.  Hurricane Fly was able to slip up the inside too as Jezki, the New One and Arctic Fire were forced to go wider on the bend. 


Ruby had set his mount alight and he charged up the home straight to the final flight; Hurricane Fly and Jezki were initially his nearest pursuers, with Arctic Fire heading through a gap between them as they approached the last.  Jezki was the least fluent of the four at the last hurdle, which enabled the three Willie Mullins representatives to fight it out for the major honours. 


Arctic Fire stayed on the best, but was unable to catch Faugheen; the latter won by 1½ lengths.  Ruby standing in his irons and saluting with his whip as he crossed the line.  Hurricane Fly completed in 3rd, 5 lengths away; age and the ground against him today.  Jezki claimed 4th, with The New One a disappointing 5th.      








Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins


Arctic Fire

D E Mullins

Willie Mullins


Hurricane Fly

Paul Townend

Willie Mullins



AP McCoy

Jessica Harrington


Thus we were treated to yet another chant of Rubeeeeeeeey, Rubeeeeeeeeey, Rubeeeeeeeey as he headed back along the horse-walk having completed his interview with a member of the Channel 4 racing team.  My own personal chant would be Borrrrrrrring, Borrrrrrrring, Borrrrrrrrring!


Having finished a disappointing 5th, it was later revealed that The New One would not run again this season whilst he rested to recover from a back problem; it was revealed that he suffers from a kissing spine.


Race 4 - 3:20pm.


No Stewards Enquiry.

Sam Twiston-Davies, the rider of THE NEW ONE (IRE), placed fifth, reported that the gelding hung left in

the home straight when under pressure. The Stewards ordered THE NEW ONE (IRE) to be routine tested.


Having remained beside the course-side rails until after the winner had passed by, I then set off to return through the tunnel to reach the main concourse.  However, unlike the majority of people in my vicinity, I had no intention whatsoever of trying to find a space above the Winners’ Enclosure in order to see Faugheen arrive therein.  Instead I skirted the area and headed to the Pre-Parade Ring!


I was thus rewarded with another sighting of Choc, who was standing amongst the owners as both L’Unique and The Pirate’s Queen were saddled.  Once he’d set off to join the throngs within the Parade Ring, I walked back across to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure.  Connections view the races upon the large screen to the far side of the Parade Ring; this being the case, Choc remained therein whilst the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle was in progress. 


Having found Choc again, I wasn’t about to desert my position, so I stayed on the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to view the race.   


There was no surprise that Annie Power was the odds-on favourite, priced 1-2.  The race having been won by the now retired Quevega for the past six years, it was time for a new name on the scroll of honour; but, again, little chance of it being wrestled away from the Willie Mullins yard; the first and second favourite, Glens Melody, representing the yard.  Annie Power was taking the seemingly easier route of a race against her own sex, having suffered a set-back earlier in the season which meant she’d not run for 311 days.  Glens Melody was last year’s runner-up; her retirement to stud having been postponed for one more season with the hope of winning this race.  


As mentioned earlier, Alan King had two representatives in this race, L’Unique and The Pirate’s Queen.  And, also in the race, was one of my personal favourites, Bitofapuzzle, representing the Harry Fry yard.  RUK’s Stewart Machin described Bitofapuzzle as plain, although he did say she has scope ... I think she’s lovely; she’s very game, I love a flashy bay, so I beg to differ!   All three of my personal runners of interest were outsiders, L’Unique 16-1, Bitofapuzzle also 16-1 and The Pirate’s Queen 25-1.


Having left the Parade Ring and headed along the horse-walk, the runners exited straight onto the course, heading across the turf to canter up around the top bend upon the all-weather strip to reach the mid-course chute.


Because the race distance was two and a half miles, this meant it didn’t commence at the beginning of the chute, but slightly further along.  This being the case, the mares circled out on the track.  In the pack amongst the others, it was noticeable that The Pirate’s Queen was one of the ‘tiddlers! 


Race 5

OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 2)


2 miles 4 furlongs (10 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners


Annie Power, Bitofapuzzle, Carole’s Spirit, Centasia, Dark Spirit, Emily Gray, Glens Melody, Hidden Identity, L’Unique, Mischievous Milly, Pass The Time, Polly Peachum, Sureness, Swing Bowler, The Pirate’s Queen


Then they were off.  There was no surprise when Bitofapuzzle led them away, with the first-time blinkered (blue ones) Carole’s Spirit to her outside.  The leader wrapped the top of the flight.  The two Alan King representatives travelled close to the rear of the field, The Pirate’s Queen to the inside of L’Unique; the backmarkers were Hidden Identity and Sureness.      


The field crossed over the Old Course before jumping the second flight; Carole’s Spirit jumping out to her right over this one.  The horses headed downhill to the far bend before turning into the home straight and jumping flight number three.  They then began the long journey towards the next; Bitofapuzzle led from Carole’s Spirit, Centasia, Emily Gray, Annie Power, Polly Peacham, Glens Melody, The Pirate’s Queen, Pass The Time, Mischievous Milly, L’Unique, Swing Bowler, Hidden Identity, Dark Spirit and Sureness.


Again, having reached flight number four, Carole’s Spirit jumped out to her right.  The field then headed away from the main grandstands, up the hill and into the back straight; Sureness was now beginning to lose touch at the rear of the field.  At flight number five, travelling to the outside of the field, Carole’s Spirit took a narrow advantage; in mid-field Pass The Time made a slight error here.


The runners headed towards the next; once more the leader gave away a little ground as she jumped out to her right.  They then negotiated the dog-leg turn and galloped to flight number seven; Ruby Walsh continued to bide his time, travelling in fifth position aboard the favourite.  Having jumped the hurdle, they headed to the far turn before beginning their journey down the hill; Carole’s Spirit currently held a length and a half’s advantage over the field.


They jumped three out without incident; Carole’s Spirit and Emily Gray ahead of Annie Power, Bitofapuzzle and Glens Melody; the two Willie Mullins runners travelling the best of all.  The Pirate’s Queen and L’Unique were on the inside, in around 8th and 9th places at this point.  Ruby sent his mount on, into the lead, just prior to the penultimate flight, Glen’s Melody followed him through; although the latter did clip the hurdle with her hind feet.  Carole’s Spirit, Emily Gray and Bitofapuzzle were under pressure to keep their places, whilst Polly Peacham and The Pirate’s Queen improved behind them.


Annie Power cruised into the home straight, closely pursued by Glens Melody.  Denis O’Regan got a good run up the inside around the bend and was now almost on terms with the third, Bitofapuzzle; Polly Peacham and L’Unique were also keeping on behind these.  I think the punters were already counting their winnings, especially those who’d bet on Willie and Ruby winning the Supreme, the Arkle, the Champion Hurdle and this race too, and the bookies were holding their breath as Annie Power charged down to the final flight; just that between them and victory. 


I know that colleagues joke that I have an invisible ‘voodoo doll’ to hand and, on this occasion, I was willing the four-timer not to materialise for the Irish team but, even so, the unimaginable happened.  Annie Power took off too early at the final flight, caught her forelegs on the hurdle and crumpled to the ground; game over.  This left stable-mate Glens Melody in the lead.  Ruby’s mount wasn’t the sole faller at the flight, for L’Unique also fell independently. 


The Pirate Queen’s safely negotiated the prostrate Annie Power and joined battle with Polly Peachum and the rallying Bitofapuzzle as they headed towards the line.  Both of the latter mares began to close on Glens Melody as they approached the winning post; Alan King’s runner, now with no more to give, had to settle for 4th.  On first viewing, I was convinced that Polly Peacham had just got up to win under Barry Geraghty.  But then the result was announced, Glens Melody had won by a head; it must have been on the nod; the very game Bitofapuzzle was only a neck away in 3rd.  Damn, a Willie Mullins runner had won the race anyway.     


Fortunately Annie Power had quickly risen to her feet and, rider-less, pursued her rivals to the line.  She had been unlucky but also lucky; because she could so easily have broken her neck due to the nature of the fall, having almost ploughed a furrow with her head due to her momentum.  Later there was speculation that she’d misjudged the take-off point due to the shadow cast in front of the hurdle by the bright afternoon sunshine.  But we shall never know the answer to that.  







Glens Melody

Paul Townend

Willie Mullins


Polly Peachum

Barry Geraghty

Nicky Henderson



Noel Fehily

Harry Fry


The Pirate’s Queen

Denis O’Regan

Alan King


Not only were the bookies pleased with Annie Power’s departure at the final hurdle, so was I, as it meant that The Pirate’s Queen made it into the Winners’ Enclosure having filled 4th place.  And, of course, Choc would thus be heading into the Winners’ Enclosure, imminently.  It was time for me to reposition myself on the steppings, so I headed around to the area to stand close to the 3rd and 4th place markers. 


Having fallen at the last, L’Unique was down for a few minutes but, to much applause, she eventually rose and was led back in; no harm done. 


Race 5 - 4:00pm.

THE OLBG MARES' HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Registered as The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle Race) (Grade 1)

No Stewards Enquiry.


Having waited until Choc and Jennie had disappeared from sight through the walkway exit at the far end of the Parade Ring, I remained until the horses had begun to exit onto the racecourse ahead of race 6. I then headed back to my favoured position close to the half furlong post. 


This is the longest race at the Festival, over a distance of 4 miles. Alan King had a representative in the race, namely Sego Success ridden by Mr Sam Waley-Cohen; the trainer had won last year’s event with Midnight Prayer, the latter now on the sidelines having run just once in the Hennessy Gold Cup this season.  


Today’s race favourite was Very Wood, trained by Noel Meade and ridden by Ms Nina Carberry; price 7-2. Sego Success was the second favourite at 9-2. 


This year’s race was named in honour of retired trainer Toby Balding, uncle of Clare Balding, who had passed away the previous September aged 78.  I didn’t know that his real name was Gerald Barnard Balding.  


The starting gate for this event was in the mid-course chute; this being the case the horses cantered across the home straight when they exited the horse-walk, before heading up around the all-weather strip to reach it.


Race 6

Toby Balding National Hunt Chase

(Listed Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase)


4 miles (23 fences to negotiate – 2 having been omitted)

No. of Runners


Ballyculla, Broadway Buffalo, Cause Of Causes, Cogry, Doing Fine, I Need Gold, Perfect Candidate, Perfect Gentleman, Return Spring, Royal Palladium, Sego Success, The Job Is Right, Thunder And Roses, Very Wood, Vivaldi Collonges, Theatre Queen, Top Totti


The hood-wearing Theatre Queen was led around at the start, trotting away from the other horses; she had shown a bit of temperament before her races, and had refused to run at Taunton in December. 


Then they were off.  However, despite the team’s best efforts, she was very slowly away; losing many lengths as she initially refused to set off behind the others.  Meanwhile, the other sixteen horses headed to the first; The Job Is Right, blinkered, was the first to land over it.  There were no casualties here or at the second obstacle; The Job Is Right leading the way, along with Vivaldi Collonges, Return Spring and Perfect Candidate.  Having cleared the third fence, I Need Gold took up the running and led them into the home straight on the first occasion.  Sego Success travelled mid-pack.


The runners cleared fences four and five without incident, and continued their journey up the home straight to join the Old Course prior to fence number six; Theatre Queen was still in the contest and she was much closer to the main pack now.  I Need Gold led over the next, from Return Spring, Perfect Gentleman and The Job Is Right.  Then, just when it appeared the reluctant mare had finally caught up with her rivals, she took a crashing fall at the fence in front of the stands.  


Return Spring and I Need Gold disputed the lead as the remaining runners galloped up the hill and over fence number eight; the former taking the clear advantage turning into the back straight.  Near the back of the field, Top Totti jumped the next obstacle slowly; the runners then headed over the water-jump, where none made an error. 


Meanwhile concern was rising for Theatre Queen who had failed to rise following her fall; green screens had been erected around her and arrow markers placed along the top of the fence to instruct the jockeys not to jump it the next time around. 


The race continued along the back straight; the runners now heading over the first open-ditch, with Return Spring, Perfect Candidate and Perfect Gentleman at the head of affairs.  Top Totti was again a little slow at the back of the field.  The horses cleared a plain fence before negotiating the dog-leg turn and heading to another open-ditch near the top of the hill; Royal Palladium made an error here. 


Perfect Candidate held the narrow advantage as they turned the far corner and began their journey down the hill; Return Spring and Perfect Gentleman took up the running having cleared the next fence.  The field entered the home straight, jumped the first fence therein without incident and were waived around the following obstacle where the prostrate Theatre Queen still lay on the landing side of the fence. 


The runners then headed up the hill for the final time, just one circuit to go; there was little change at the head of affairs as they jumped the uphill fence, with Perfect Gentleman, Return Spring and Perfect Candidate still disputing the lead.  Having entered the back straight, the horses headed over what was now fence number seventeen; Perfect Gentleman had a clear lead jumping the water. 


The horses then jumped the penultimate open-ditch, where Top Totti was very slow at the back of the field; she and Royal Palladium were beginning to lose touch with the main body of the field as they jumped the next plain fence.  The runners negotiated the dog-leg turn before clearing the final open-ditch; near the back of the field, Broadway Buffalo made an error here. 


Having reached the far turn, there were now just two fences to jump, as the final fence remained out of action.  Heading down the hill, Doing Fine joined Perfect Gentleman at the head of affairs as Perfect Candidate began to tire and lose his place.  The Job Is Right was in third position at this stage, with Cogry, Sego Success and Cause Of Causes behind him; the latter was travelling noticeably well.


Having entered the home straight, Perfect Gentleman was marginally ahead of The Job Is Right as they cleared their final fence.  Cause Of Causes had improved into third, with Broadway Buffalo next, having appeared from nowhere; Sego Success was in fifth position at this point.  There was a little bit of bumping as the leading group of ten horses had to manoeuvre to the outside of the omitted fence in order to bypass it; Broadway Buffalo the one losing out the most, as he’d been to the inside of the track when he jumped the final fence. 


Cause Of Causes was the first one through the gap between the fence wing and the almost adjacent hurdle, and he managed to maintain his advantage to the line, winning by 1½ lengths from Broadway Buffalo; although he was a little free with his whip, which the stewards did pick up upon later.  These two pulled five lengths clear of The Job Is Right, with Perfect Gentleman a further 6 lengths away in 4th.  Sego Success crossed the line in 5th; his reward a prize of £1,802, but not a place in the Winners’ Enclosure.


Thunder And Roses unseated his jockey at the final fence; with Royal Palladium unseating two out.       


The JP McManus-owned Cause Of Causes had certainly chosen a good day to have his first win over fences; and it was JP’s birthday today too.  The horse had previously won the valuable 2012 Ladbroke Hurdle at Ascot and claimed runner-up spot in last year’s Kim Muir.  A fifth Festival winner for trainer Gordon Elliott.







Cause Of Causes

Mr Jamie Codd

Gordon Elliott


Broadway Buffalo

Ms Katie Walsh

David Pipe


The Job Is Right

Mr Derek O’Connor

Michael Hourigan


Perfect Gentleman

Mr Patrick Mullins

Willie Mullins


Theatre Queen remained down and was, eventually, collected by the horse ambulance to be taken back to the veterinary facilities for assessment.  Sadly she had to be put to sleep having sustained a serious back injury.  Jockey Mark Wall, who was also her trainer, was distraught at the turn of events; he was consoled by a friend as he headed off the course and back to the weighing room.   


There was no reason to return to the Winners’ Enclosure following this race, so I remained beside the course-side rails.


Race 6 - 4:40pm.


The Stewards held an enquiry following a report from the Veterinary Officer that the winner, CAUSE OF

CAUSES (USA), ridden by Mr J.J. Codd, had been wealed as a result of the rider’s use of the whip. They

interviewed the rider and the Veterinary Officer. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the race, the Stewards found the rider in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip above the permitted level and in a manner that caused his horse to be wealed. The Stewards suspended Mr Codd for 10 days as follows: Thursday 26, Friday 27, Sunday 29 and Tuesday 31 March, Wednesday 1, Thursday 2, Saturday 5, Sunday 6, Thursday 9 and Saturday 11 April 2015. Under Rule (B)54 the

Stewards also fined the rider £400.


It was now time for the final race of the day.  The favourite for this event was Thomas Crapper, trained by Robin Dickin and ridden by Charlie Poste; starting price 6-1. 


The starting gate for this race was in the mid-course chute, with the horses heading across the home straight and up around the all-weather strip to reach it.  With Theatre Queen on her way to be assessed, the course was now clear and all 16 fences would be jumped in this contest ... apart from the water-jump which had been damaged during the previous race!      


Race 7

Rewards4racing Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed)


2 miles 4 furlongs 110 yards (16 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners


Killala Quay, Leap Dearg, Cold March, Dromnea, Little Jon, Gorsky Island, Stellar Notion, Golden Hoof, Knock House, Vivaccio, Horizontal Speed, Irish Cavalier, Bold Henry, Generous Ransom, Cocktails At Dawn, Rum And Butter, Monkey Kingdom, Gores Island, Thomas Crapper, Keltus


Then they were off or rather they weren’t; the first false start of the day.  The Starter raised the tape to prevent injury to jockeys, as both Horizontal Speed and Dromnea cantered forward before being turned and trotted back to rejoin the other runners.  Take Two.


Having experienced a false start, it was now time for the competitors to undertake a standing start; Dromnea and Cold March were a little fractious as they lined up.  Then they were off.  The field was led away by Stellar Notion; this being his preferred style of racing, from the front.  There was one casualty at the first, namely Golden Hoof who had been anchored at the back of the field; he appeared to have fallen as a result of being unsighted or barged into by Gorsky Island. 


The horses headed over the second fence where, back in the field, Killala Quay was less fluent than his rivals.  The runners then made their way across the intersection with the Old Course before jumping fence number three; Horizontal Speed was now leading from Little Jon, the latter made an error here.  The novices travelled downhill and around the far bend before entering the home straight.  


There was no change at the head of affairs as they began their journey up towards the crowded stands; the Nigel Twiston-Davies runner was less than fluent at the fourth fence, with Monkey Kingdom even less so.  Horizontal Speed continued to hold a clear lead from Stellar Notion and Little Jon as they headed over the next before joining the main racecourse; they were followed by Knock House, Dromnea, Cold March and Leap Dearg.  The latter belted the next fence, his nose almost touched the turf as he regained his balance; near the rear of the field, Gorsky Island made an error too.  Also towards the back of the field, Bold Henry hit the fence in front of the stands. 


With all bar one of the runners still standing, the horses headed up the hill towards fence number eight.  Having jumped this fence, Rum And Butter was pulled up by Richie McLernon because he’d already lost touch with his rivals.  Monkey Kingdom, who had been jumping poorly and struggling in rear, was pulled up after clearing the first fence in the back straight.


A steward was on-hand to wave a chequered flag to remind jockeys to bypass the damaged water-jump.  Their next fence was now the first of two open-ditches; all the runners cleared this without problem.  Horizontal Speed continued to lead the field, and he reached for the next fence, a plain one.  They then negotiated the dog-leg turn before heading to the final open-ditch where, in mid-field, Gores Island made an error. 


Having reached the far turn, the runners headed down the hill to the third last.  Horizontal Speed continued to lead, from Little Jon, Dromnea, Knock House, Generous Ransom, Leap Dearg and the improving Thomas Crapper.  Stellar Notion had dropped away by this point and, trailing in rear, Killala Quay was pulled up. 


Richard Johnson’s mount led the runners into the home straight, pursued by Little Jon, Thomas Crapper, Knock House, Dromnea, Generous Ransom and Leap Dearg.  They cleared two out and still Horizontal Speed proved a tough nut to crack as he held them all at bay, narrowly.  The leaders headed over the final fence, where Little Jon stumbled on landing and lost his place.  This left Thomas Crapper as the nearest pursuer, but he hung left, as did Generous Ransom under a right-hand drive. 


The way was now clear for the roan (or grey) Irish Cavalier to storm up the outside under Paul Townend to claim the prize as Horizontal Speed faltered on the run to the line.  Thomas Crapper overtook the long-time leader too, as did Generous Ransom.  The winning distances 2½ lengths, ½ a length and a neck.  A second winner for Paul Townend today and, for trainer Rebecca Curtis, the fourth consecutive year she’d had a winner at the Festival too; the previous being TeaforThree, At Fishers Cross and O’Faolains Boy.   


The light grey, Keltus, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies fell at the second last when weakening.  Bold Henry and Cold March pulled up before the same fence.







Irish Cavalier

Paul Townend

Rebecca Curtis


Thomas Crapper

Charlie Poste

Robin Dickin


Generous Ransom

Daryl Jacob

Nick Gifford


Horizontal Speed

Richard Johnson

Philip Hobbs


Race 7 - 5:15pm.


No Stewards Enquiry.


Non-Race Related Incidents

Race 7: Following a false start in this race, the Starters reviewed the video footage and were satisfied that

no rider had breached the Starting Procedures.

I returned to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure at the end of the day; finally, presentations complete, it was now time for me to leave.  I popped to the loo prior to heading up the main concourse and out through the gates located next to the Centaur building.  I went over the bridge, across the road, across another area where food kiosks were located to arrive at the Evesham Road.


As on every Festival Day at this time, the nearside lane of the road was choc-a-bloc with vehicles heading towards Cheltenham town.  I weaved my way through and across the road when nothing was heading out of town in the other direction.  I climbed the tarmac drive opposite and had soon reached my car in the top field. 


I’d normally wait a while before I leave, consuming my two remaining cheese rolls but, as the queued traffic wasn’t particular bad at this point in time (17:50), I started the engine and drove to join the queue.  A car soon permitted me to filter into the main queue upon the drive.  It was then that my problems began, and it didn’t help that the pickup and drop off point was now located in the bottom field and this added to the congestion. 


Unbelievably it took 40 minutes for me to travel from my space in the top car park to the exit gate, 200 or 300 yards maybe.  I even had time to eat those two cheese rolls and didn’t have to move my car once during the time I consumed them!  And what is it that makes the traffic police always seem to stop me as the first car in the queue that they won’t let out to follow those ahead?  They obviously think a mature woman is a push-over ... they obviously don’t know how angry I can get when my patience is tried ... grrrrrrhhhhh!


Anyway, having finally exited onto Swindon Lane at 18:30, right-turn only, I was directed down Tommy Taylors Lane.  Fortunately the long delay inside the car park meant that the tailback of traffic at the far end was fairly short and I was soon able to turn left onto St Paul’s Road.  Having reached the traffic lights at the Evesham Road crossing, there were altercations between one of the cars in the queue ahead of me and pedestrians who were ignoring the fact that vehicles now had the right of way along Clarence Road. 


I turned left at the far end and headed up Prestbury Road to the next roundabout, where a right turn took me around Pittville Circus and into Pittville Circus Road.  I continued to the end thereof to reach Hewlett Road.  A further left turn meant I’d soon arrived at the longabout, where a left and right permitted me to drive up Harp Hill and take a right into Greenway Lane.  I arrived at the Sixways junction at 18:50.  My fears about traffic jams along my escape route had been unfounded but, due to the hold-up within the car park, it had taken 60 minutes to travel around 3 or 4 miles. 


Once the lights had changed I headed eastwards along the A40.  There were no long hold-ups on the journey to Oxford, although I recall a little confusion seeing lights in the darkness to the side of the road between the dual carriageway and the Puesdown Inn.  Workmen I think, but confusing after dark none the less.  There was also a queue of traffic encountered just after the Burford roundabout; this transpired to be the aftermath of an accident on the opposite side of the carriageway just this side of the Witney bypass roundabout.


I’m never too tired to return via the M40 / M25 option early on during Festival week so, having reached the Wolvercote roundabout, I travelled around the Oxford bypass to join the former motorway at Junction 8.  The motorway seems to rise in stepped phases as it approaches the Chiltern escarpment, prior to entering a deep cutting to reach the top thereof.  Motorway lighting begins shortly afterwards. 


Upon sighting the low flying aircraft warning sign, relating to nearby Booker Airport, I knew it would soon be time to move into the middle lane prior to the High Wycombe central junction where the inside lane filters off the motorway.  Darkness falls again following the junction and the motorway gradually descends to the viaduct over the valley just prior to Junction 3 at Loudwater.      


The motorway expands to 4 lanes just beyond, where it’s lit once more; then there’s just one more junction, Beaconsfield, before it joins the M25.  Driving upon the M25 can actually be described as a pleasure when it’s past rush-hour!  Having travelled clockwise, I departed the motorway at Junction 22 and headed up the dual carriageway to the London Colney roundabout, then into St Albans and home.


I arrived back at 20:55.  Following a supper of penne mozzarella I logged onto my laptop to upload the day’s photographs for safe-keeping and to save a number of links in preparation for writing my Cheltenham blogs.  And I knew that I shouldn’t have worn my navy blue fleece with my cerise pink cardigan ... because lots of fluffy bits transfer from the inside of the former onto the latter; it’s happened before!


I turned in at 22:45.


One day down, three to go.           

Photos - Cheltenham Festival Day 1 – Parade of Stars & Choc

Photos - Cheltenham Festival Day 1 – Races 1 & 2

Photos - Cheltenham Festival Day 1 – Races 3 & 4 (Champion Hurdle)

Photos - Cheltenham Festival Day 1 – Race 5 (OLBG Mares’ Hurdle) & Choc

Photos - Cheltenham Festival Day 1 – Races 6 & 7



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