PART II

DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2015

DAY THREE

FEATURING THE WORLD HURDLE

THURSDAY 12 MARCH 2015

 

 

Race 4 o.jpg

 

Cole Harden, winner of the World Hurdle.

Jockey Gavin Sheehan is delighted;

so too, in the background, is trainer Warren Greatrex.

 

Click here to read Day 3 Diary Part I

 

It was now time for the feature race of the day, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle.  I decided to remain upon the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure, rather than venture to the course-side rails. 

 

It did cross my mind to have a bet, but I thought I’d better quit whilst I was ahead ... if asked, my choice, each-way, would have been Cole Harden ... because he’d had a breathing operation since his last run! 

 

The favourite for the race was the Paul Nicholls-trained Saphir Du Rheu, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies; price 5-1.  The horse is owned by Andy Stewart, owner of retired World Hurdle legend Big Buck’s; similarly, Saphir Du Rheu experienced jumping issues when beginning his chasing career earlier in the season and, as a result, reverted back to hurdles in January to win the Cleeve Hurdle on Trials Day. 

 

The World Hurdle being the feature race of the day, the horses congregated upon the racecourse just beyond the walkway exit point.  Having sorted themselves into number order, the runners were paraded in front of the grandstands prior to heading to the starting gate.  It always seems a shame that the Ryanair Chase doesn’t warrant a pre-race parade, especially as the winner’s prize money for the World Hurdle is slightly less than for the winner of the Ryanair! 

 

The starting gate was at the beginning of the back straight so, having finished the parade and then headed through a gap in the rails in order to cross over the run-in of the New Course, the horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the Best Mate enclosure.  After that the jockeys took their mounts to look at the first flight before heading back along the course to the starting gate.  

 

Girths checked, they headed back down the hill towards the home straight, before beginning a very sedate walk towards the tape. 

 

Race 4

Ladbrokes World Hurdle (Grade 1)

Distance

3 miles (12 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

16

Abbyssial, At Fishers Cross, Aubusson, Blue Fashion, Cole Harden, Jetson, Lieutenant Colonel, Monksland, Reve De Sivola, Saphir Du Rheu, Seeyouatmidnight, Tiger Roll, Un Temps Pour Tout, Whisper, Zaidpour, Zarkandar. 

 

And then they were off.  The runners were led away by Cole Harden, Reve De Sivola to his outside, Seeyouatmidnight at his girth, and Jetson wider still.  Behind these raced Saphir Du Rheu, Lieutenant Colonel, Un Temps Pour Tout and Whisper; at the rear of the field was Zaidpour.  Tom Scudamore’s mount was a little clumsy at the first flight.

 

The runners continued along the back straight to hurdle number two; which they all cleared in their stride.  At Fishers Cross made an error at the third flight.  They headed around the dog-leg turn to approach the next; Cole Harden led by a couple of lengths from Reve De Sivola who, in turn, was two lengths clear of Seeyouatmidnight; the two Willie Mullins runners brought up the rear. 

 

Having reached the top of the hill, the runners turned left-handed and began their journey down the hill to flight number five; Cole Harden extended his lead as they did so.  Near the rear of the field, Monksland made an error at the flight.  Seagulls were disturbed as the runners headed down towards the bend into the home straight. 

 

There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners continued their journey up the home straight to the next obstacle.  Reve De Sivola disputed second place with Seeyouatmidnight, from Saphir Du Rheu and Jetson; the latter easily recognisable with his black and neon orange colours.  They were followed to the inside by Zarkandar, to his outside the keen Lieutenant Colonel, Aubusson, Un Temps Pour Tout, the flashy Blue Fashion with stable-mate Whisper; behind these Tiger Roll, Monksland, At Fisher Cross, Zaidpour and Abbyssial. 

 

To the inside of the field, Saphir Du Rheu inflicted damage on the hurdle but it did not stem his momentum.  Cole Harden was four or five lengths ahead of his rivals as he turned away from the grandstands and headed up the hill to complete the first circuit; Zaidpour continued to bring up the rear.  The leader hit the 7th flight, but it had little effect on his progress; he wasn’t too fluent at the next either. 

 

By the time Cole Harden had reached the following flight, his rivals had closed up the deficit; still travelling at the rear of the field, Abbyssial made another error.  This was the horse which was responsible for Ruby suffering a compound fracture of his upper arm when he fell in last year’s Triumph Hurdle.  The runners headed around the dog-leg turn to reach flight number ten; disputing fifth place, Lieutenant Colonel still remained keen.

  

Having cleared this without problem, the runners soon reached the top of the hill and headed around the far bend before they began their journey down the hill once more.  All bar two of the runners were travelling in the main group, the exceptions being the Willie Mullins runners, Zaidpour and Abbyssial, who were two of three lengths adrift of the others.

  

Heading down the hill, Reve De Sivola was now being pushed along in an attempt to retain his place just behind the leader.  And just when it looked like Zarkandar was about to make his move, having been travelling well, he blundered at the penultimate flight and lost his place; Blue Fashion was hampered and pecked as a result of this careless jump.

 

Once again the seagulls were disturbed as the runners headed around the final bend.  Cole Harden continued to hold the advantage from Seeyouatmidnight, Un Temps Pour Tout and Saphir Du Rheu; Reve De Sivola now retreating back through the field.  The runners continued their journey to the last, the Warren Greatrex runner battling on bravely as his rivals attempted to catch him. 

 

Saphir Du Rheu appeared to be the biggest danger to the long-time leader as, having laid down a challenge entering the home straight, Whisper now proved one-paced.  At Fishers Cross was staying on, Zarkandar too having recovered from his blunder.  Seeyouatmidnight was still in third position but, having jumped the last he weakened quickly, overtaken by Noel Fehily’s mount and the Rebecca Curtis runner too as they headed towards the line.

 

Meanwhile, Cole Harden stayed on strongly after the last and extended his margin over Saphir Du Rheu to 3¼ lengths at the line.  Zarkandar just held off At Fishers Cross by a neck to claim 3rd place.  Whisper was 5th, Un Temps Pour Tout 6th and Seeyouatmidnight 7th.  Zaidpour, never nearer, in 8th.

 

It was Gavin Sheehan’s first Cheltenham Festival winner, trainer Warren Greatrex’s too.

    

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Cole Harden

Gavin Sheehan

Warren Greatrex

2nd

Saphir Du Rheu

Sam Twiston-Davies

Paul Nicholls

3rd

Zarkandar

Noel Fehily

Paul Nicholls

4th

At Fishers Cross

AP McCoy

Rebecca Curtis

 

Having watched the race from the vantage point of the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure, I was able to participate in the celebrations following the race.  Warren was overcome with emotion and cried like a girl!  His analogy, not mine. 

 

Warren now trains at Uplands in Lambourn, the former yard of racing legend Fred Winter. 

 

Race 4 - 3:20pm.

THE LADBROKES WORLD HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)

No Stewards Enquiry.

 

There were two runners of particular interest in the next race; namely Hollow Penny trained by Alan King and ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, and Champion Court trained by Martin Keighley and ridden by Conor Shoemark. 

 

It was no surprise that the favourite for this race was Monetaire, trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore; the stable has a very good record in this event.  His price 11-2. 

 

I remained upon the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure, rather than venture to the course-side rails.  I have to confess that, at this year’s Festival, I missed viewing at least one race from the course-side rails each day.

 

Anyway, having left the horse-walk, the runners headed out across the track to canter up the all-weather strip in front of the Best Mate enclosure before cantering across the back straight to reach the mid-course chute.  This race has been extended by one furlong this year, and thus includes an additional fence; again this is a result of the new starting arrangements which have been put in place this season.   

 

After showing their mounts the example chase fence, the jockeys milled around in the area close to beginning of the chute to have their girths checked.  They then congregated in one large group to circle around the birch island fence in order to keep the horses warmed up ahead of the race; although a few, here and there, decided to peel away in order to ‘do their own thing’, including Tom Scudamore aboard Monetaire.  In fact, RUK’s Lydia Hislop referred to them as a raggedy mess!

 

However, they soon grouped up again, and collected the stragglers before heading to the entry point at the beginning of the racecourse chute.  They headed to the tape but, no, the starter wasn’t happy and the two stewards in front of the first fence waved their yellow flags to denote a false start.  Monetaire, who had been at the back of the pack, went the shortest distance before strolling back to the gate.      

 

It was now a standing start, with a little bit of scrimmaging to the inside and to the outside of the line as they jostled for a position.  De Boitron and Filbert kept their rivals waiting, as they initially refused to face forwards.

 

Race 5

Browne Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate (Handicap Chase) (Grade 3)

Distance

2 miles 5 furlongs (17 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

23

Hunt Ball, Rajdhani Express, Caid Du Berlais, French Opera, Edgardo Sol, Buywise, Dare Me, Kings Lad, Make A Track, Un Ace, Aupcharlie, Hollow Penny, Attaglance, Champion Court, Rawnaq, De Boitron, Darna, Bally Legend, Burn And Turn, No Buts, Filbert, Monetaire, Klepht

 

But then they were off; Monetaire and Burn And Turn were more slowly away than the others, to the outside of the track.  They headed to the first, where Kings Lad was the first to rise, followed by Aupcharlie.  In the centre of the track, Un Ace jumped to his left, slightly hampering Hollow Penny as a result; Make A Track also made an error here. 

 

The runners galloped to fence number two; the leader misjudged his leap and ploughed through the fence.  Daryl Jacob was still on board but it was a case of ‘Houston we have a problem’; as a result of the error, the reins flew over the horse’s head, and then he put his near-fore through the loop, a figure-of-eight loop at that!  This left the jockey fumbling around the horse’s neck in an attempt to retrieve them but, without any steering, Kings Lad veered off to his right and was out of the race.  This unexpected manoeuvre hampered Attaglance and Make A Track for a few strides. 

 

The field traversed the Old Course before heading over fence number three.  Aupcharlie and French Opera were now leading, from Rawnaq and Champion Court; the back marker was Filbert.  The runners crossed the New Course and continued downhill to the far corner; Kings Lad was now heading down the adjacent hurdles track. 

 

They entered the home straight for the first time, where No Buts was a little less than fluent at the first fence therein.  Settling at the head of affairs were French Opera (Frenchie) to the inside, Aupcharlie centre and Champion Court to the outside.  Dare Me hit the next fence hard.  The runners joined the New Course and headed up towards fence number six; there were no noticeable errors here. 

 

Heading over the next, Make A Track had come through to lead narrowly from Champion Court and Aupcharlie. Bringing up the rear as they headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure were, from the back, Filbert, Dare Me, Buywise, Burn And Turn and No Buts.  They entered the back straight and headed down the slope to fence number eight; Hollow Penny was bowling along just behind the leaders.  The runners continued over the water-jump to arrive at the first of the open-ditches.  At the back of the field, Dare Me clobbered the fence; as a result, Aidan Coleman steered his mount to the outside of the track to pull up.

 

The following fence is a plain one; they all cleared this one, with Filbert in danger of losing touch at the rear of the field.  The runners then negotiated the dog-leg turn before jumping the final open-ditch; Make A Track and Champion Court still led the closely grouped field.  Buywise, second from the rear, was not jumping particularly fluently but, then again, he never does! 

 

Having reached the top of the hill, the runners swung around the long sweeping bend to approach the infamous and difficult fourth last.  Make A Track and Champion Court continued to lead, from Aupcharlie, Hollow Penny, Attaglance, Un Ace, and Caid Du Berlais.  They all jumped the fence well, apart from a little nod on landing from Filbert in rear. 

 

There were many horses still in with a chance as they headed down the hill to the third last fence.  Hollow Penny was a little less than fluent here, with jockey Wayne Hutchinson going to the buckle end of the reins. Near the back of the field, Edgardo Sol blundered badly; as a result, Noel Fehily had to reach down to put his left foot back in the iron. 

 

Meanwhile Make A Track and Champion Court led the runners into the home straight; Darna had made noticeable progress and, having found a gap between the fading Aupcharlie and Hollow Penny, he was now pursuing the two leaders.  Darna joined Make A Track at the head of affairs as they jumped the penultimate fence; Champion Court now third, narrowly, from Rawnaq to the far side, Hollow Penny centre, Caid Du Berlais nearside and the improving Monetaire.       

           

Having made much of the running, Make A Track and Champion Court both began to fade.  Darna led over the final fence by half a length from Monetaire and Rawnaq; Hollow Penny landed over it in fourth position.  On the run-in, the favourite looked as though he had every chance of claiming the prize, but Darna was not for passing; jockey David Bass drove him out to win by 1¼ lengths at the line. 

 

Rawnaq, who had made an error at the last, held on by a neck to take third from the fast finishing Buywise; the latter having made a late challenge up the standside.  Hollow Penny finished a close 5th, just a head in front of Bally Legend, with Champion Court a very respectable 7th. 

 

The price of the winner was 33-1!  There had been no fallers, just two pulled-up; and one of those was a result of the Kings Lad ‘reins’ incident.  Daryl Jacob had managed to pull-up his mount quite quickly and before he’d reached the home straight; he’d then jumped off and unbuckled the reins in order to free them from around the horse’s leg.  No harm done, fortunately. 

    

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Darna

David Bass

Kim Bailey

2nd

Monetaire

Tom Scudamore

David Pipe

3rd

Rawnaq

Andrew Lunch

Matthew J Smith

4th

Buywise

Paul Moloney

Evan Williams

 

It was exactly 20 years since the trainer Kim Bailey did the Champion Hurdle/Gold Cup double with Alderbrook and Master Oats, and 16 years since his last Cheltenham Festival winner with Betty’s Boy.  Having lost the ride aboard Kim’s other runner Un Ace to AP McCoy, David Bass claimed his first ever Festival winner aboard Darna instead! 

 

Kim explained that this victory probably meant more to him than his previous Festival successes; it has been a struggle to re-establish his yard since the glory days of the early 90’s.  Kim mentioned that ex-jockey Norman Williamson, who used to ride for the yard, was the first person to congratulate him.  It was Kim’s 52nd winner of the season, from 45 horses. 

 

Race 5 - 4:00pm.

THE BROWN ADVISORY & MERRIEBELLE STABLE PLATE (A HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE) (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)

The Stewards considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, DARNA, ridden by David Bass, and trained by Kim Bailey, compared with its previous run at Cheltenham on 1 January 2015, where the gelding finished seventh of thirteen, beaten approximately nineteen and a half lengths. They noted the trainer’s explanation that DARNA had undergone a wind operation since its last run. They ordered the gelding to be routine tested. Daryl Jacob, the rider of KINGS LAD (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding made a bad mistake at the second fence and the reins went over the horse’s head. Aidan Coleman, the rider of DARE ME (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding jumped poorly throughout.

 

Martin Keighley had a runner in the next race, namely Benbane Head (Benny) ridden by Mr Tom Weston.  It was also interesting to see the ex-Alan King trained Bless The Wings; the horse having gone to the sales when he began to disappoint his original connections.  He was now trained by Gordon Elliott, who is based in County Meath in Ireland. 

 

The race favourite was Champagne James, trained by Ted Walsh and ridden by daughter Katie Walsh; price 4-1. There were four greys in the race, Masters Hill, Gold Bullet, Grand Vision and Sixty Something; the first three of these Irish-breds and the latter French-bred.  Grand Vision is almost white, Masters Hill has a black mane, and Sixty Something wore first-time blinkers. Grand Vision and Masters Hill sported cheek-pieces; the former for the first time also.     

 

I waited to see a number of horses parade and then set off to the course-side rails; I was in time to see Benbane Head canter up the horse-walk in front of the grandstands. Being a 3 mile 2 furlong event, having reached the top end of the all-weather strip, the horses cantered back down the turf to re-enter it and head part way down the home straight before exiting back onto the course close to the starting gate. 

 

This race had also been extended by half a furlong and by one fence, to allow additional room for the amateur riders to line up. 

 

Race 6

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

Distance

3 miles 2 furlongs (22 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

24

Grandads Horse, Masters Hill, Across The Bay, Clondaw Knight, Buddy Bolero, Just A Par, Gold Bullet, Grand Vision, The Nephew, The Package, Guess Again, Benbens, Vintage Star, Garrahalish, Bless The Wings, Benbane Head, Champagne James, Ericht, Heaney, Sixty Something, Ballyoliver, Tap Night, The Ould Lad, Standing Ovation

 

And then they were off, at the first time of asking.  Standing Ovation led the runners to the first fence; to his outside Sixty Something and The Nephew.  Just behind these the first-time blinkered The Package to the inside and Across The Bay on the outside of the field.  Plum last clearing the obstacle was the favourite, Champagne James; he was immediately preceded by Garrahalish and Bless The Wings.  Nine Carberry aboard Bless The Wings was wearing different coloured silks to those published; fortunately I know what the horse looks like regardless!

 

There were no jumping issues at either of the first two fences, with the keen The Nephew jumping into the lead at the second of these.  The runners then headed up the hill into the back straight for the first time; Benbane Head was travelling just behind the leading group in fifth position.  The runners travelled down the slope to reach fence number three, which they all cleared okay.  The following fence is the water-jump, where Tap Night near the rear of the field was a little slow.

 

The horses then headed to the first open-ditch; disputing the lead were Standing Ovation, Sixty Something and The Nephew.  Again no incidents, with Bless The Wings and Champagne James continuing to bring up the rear.  In midfield, Ballyoliver made a slight error at the 6th, a plain fence.  The field negotiated the dog-leg turn before arriving at the second open-ditch. 

 

Standing Ovation flew this one, upsides him The Nephew jumped it slightly askew. Sixty Something now shared third place with Across The Bay.  Benbens became the first casualty of the race when he took off too early and ploughed through the fence; he didn’t fall but this severely halted his momentum and jockey Steven Clements was fired over his head as a result.  Steven somersaulted across the turf, and received a number of kicks from the horses travelling behind him.  Ouch.

 

Meanwhile the runners continued up the hill to the next fence; which they all cleared in their stride before heading around the long sweeping bend at the far corner of the track.  Fence number nine is notoriously difficult but, on this circuit, it claimed no victims.  The horses headed down the hill to the next fence, still led by Standing Ovation and The Nephew.  They were followed by Sixty Something, Across The Bay and Benbane Head; then Grand Vision, Ballyoliver, The Package, Guess Again and Vintage Star.  To the rear of mid-field were Masters Hill, Just A Par, Grandads Horse, Ericht, The Ould Lad, Heany, Buddy Bolero and Gold Bullet; the tail-enders being Tap Night, stable-mate Clondaw Knight, Garrahalish, Bless The Wings and Champagne James.  

 

They streamed over the next fence without incident; the loose Benbens continuing to jump whilst following the field.  The Nephew was still pulling as they headed into the home straight; one circuit now completed.  Across The Bay was a little slow at the next fence; and there was interference caused to Champagne James when Clondaw Knight made an error when travelling just in front of him.  The runners all cleared the next before heading away from the grandstands and up the hill to begin their final circuit.

 

They entered the back straight; the favourite had finally overtaken a rival, thus relegating Bless The Wings to last place.  Sixty Something made an error at the next fence.  The loose Benbens finally realised he didn’t need to jump the fences in order to follow the others!   There were no incidents at the water-jump but at the next fence, which is an open-ditch, Just A Par made a bad error and one of the Malcoln Denmark-owned runners, Guess Again, fell; it may have been as a result of them being too closely packed at that point in mid-field.  Also when behind, Garrahalish unseated well after the fence. 

 

Meanwhile Standing Ovation continued at the head of affairs, closely attended by Sixty Something.  Ballyoliver made an error at the following fence, a plain one.  The remaining runners headed around the dog-leg turn to approach the final open-ditch.  And, finally, Champagne James had begun his progress through the field.  All the horses jumped this fence well.  Having tailed-off, Vintage Star was pulled up before the fence.

 

The remaining runners continued their journey up the hill to the next, with Standing Ovation and Sixty Something now holding a three lengths advantage over their rivals.  Paying for his earlier errors, Ballyoliver began to struggle and had dropped to the rear of the field by the time they cleared it.  With the benefit of the downward slope just beginning to come into play on the long bend before the difficult fourth last, Sixty Something’s jockey decided now was a good time to attempt his getaway and he struck for home. 

 

But he didn’t get very far; the horse put in a short-stride before the aforementioned jump, landed too steeply and fell.  The plan had failed.  Unfortunately the same thing happened to Benbane Head also.  With two horses on the ground, there was a resultant melee; Across The Bay, Masters Hill and The Nephew all being brought down.  It was good to see every horse get up seemingly intact and gallop away, as the casualties all took crunching falls. 

 

The exit of the leader had left Standing Ovation with a narrow lead over The Package and Grand Vision as they headed over the third last fence.  Around the home turn, Jamie Codd’s mount slipped up the inside of his stable companion to take the lead and he was travelling well.  Behind the leading three, Bless The Wings had grown wings and was devouring the ground to the outside of the track.  Ericht, travelling in the second group of runners along with Heaney, Grandads Horse and Buddy Bolero, badly blundered two out. 

 

The Package continued to pull away from his rivals as he approached the last fence, which he flew; he then galloped up the run-in to win by 12 lengths at the line.  Bless The Wings had been given far too much to do and tired as he headed up the hill, but he still hung on to claim second, 1¼ lengths ahead of Buddy Bolero. Grand Vision completed in 4th. 

  

The rider-less Masters Hill, who had been brought down 4 out, followed the others to the line but, as his paces slowed, it became obvious that he was lame in front, for he eventually limped to the winning post before stopping.  The stable-staff and vet were quickly in attendance and, hopefully, he’ll be okay given rest.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

The Package

Mr Jamie Codd

David Pipe

2nd

Bless the Wings

Ms Nina Carberry

Gordon Elliott

3rd

Buddy Bolero

Mr K E Power

Tony Martin

4th

Grand Vision

Mr M Legg

Colin Tizzard

 

Being near the end of the day, I was able to wait beside the course-side rails to see the winning horse and jockey walk by before I headed back to the Winners’ Enclosure.

 

It was amateur rider Jamie Codd’s second victory of the week; his fourth Festival winner in total.   Also good news for the winning 12-year-old, having run many good races during his career; he’d won just 4 times previously dating back to 2007. 

 

When interviewed by RUK’s Stewart Machin, Jamie said he’d not realised the horse would have a good chance in the race until he arrived that morning; a number of lads having backed him.  Then, when David Pipe had collected the saddle from him having weighed out, the trainer told him the horse would win!  Evidently The Package had also recently done a good piece of work with Moon Racer, the winner of yesterday’s Champion Bumper race. 

 

First time blinkers and a tongue-tie helped; Jamie said it was just hands and heels needed today, the horse had been travelling so well!  And he mentioned that he’d been lucky because, travelling ‘down the paint’ on the inside, he’d been able to avoid the prostrate Sixty Something at the top of the hill. 

 

Benbane Head was fine; Martin’s stable staff went to collect him, before leading him back down the horse-walk in front of the grandstands.  Hopefully he’d suffered nothing more than a muddy noseband.  However it was not such good news for his jockey, as Tom Weston was being attended to by ambulance medics. 

 

Race 6 - 4:40pm.

THE FULKE WALWYN KIM MUIR CHALLENGE CUP HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (AMATEUR RIDERS) (CLASS 2)

The Stewards considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, THE PACKAGE, ridden by Mr J.J. Codd, and trained by David Pipe, compared with its previous run at Aintree on 6 December 2014, where the gelding was pulled up. They noted the trainer’s explanation that THE PACKAGE was better suited by the fitting of first time blinkers, and also appreciated the better ground. They ordered the gelding to be routine tested.

 

I always try to stay for the charity race; I think I’ve missed it just once; the competitors have gone above and beyond to get fit, lose weight or even learn to ride, in order to take part.  They deserve to be supported in their endeavours.  Over the years the race has raised so much money for well-deserving causes with sponsorship collected by the participants; this year the beneficiary being the Injured Jockeys Fund. 

 

There were twelve riders taking part.  Firstly Clifford Baker, Head Lad to Champion Trainer Paul Nicholls.  Lucy Charnock who has been the IJF Almoner for the South East for 6 years.  Simon Clare, PR Director for Coral who had never even ridden a horse prior to last September.  Phillip Clark, a RUK cameraman; he has ridden out for various trainers over the years and won a charity race at Doncaster.  James Collins, a company director and Champion Conditional Jockey in Ireland in 1989; his old boss, when a jockey, was the late Dessie Hughes. 

 

Jonathan Mills is a Bloodstock Manager for Darley Godolphin.  Olive Murphy, who rode in the Pony Club as a child, is a hunting enthusiast, and has ridden in a few point-to-points; she currently works as a member of the senior cabin crew for Aer Lingus and is a life-long friend of JT McNamara.  Event rider Andrew Nicholson, who has represented New Zealand internationally.  Hayley O’Connor, a familiar face on ATR, and a member of Ladbrokes PR team. 

 

Emily Scott, Racing Assistant to Highclere Thoroughbred Racing.  Rod Trow, who has ridden 10 point-to-point winners and has been Assistant Trainer to Dr Richard Newland since 2006.  He resumed riding out in 2009 despite undergoing 2 spinal fusion operations; he is also a Communications Consultant and qualified Sports Coach.  Finally, Thomas Williams, a student at Loughborough University and Pupil Assistant to Violet Jordan.     

 

Ruby Walsh was on hand to offer Phillip Clark riding advice; Ruby is sponsored by Racing UK, which is why he regularly appears on the channel.  Charlie Longsdon, who trained his mount Java Rose, said that Phillip needed to jump off with the pace otherwise he’d have no chance!   


Due to Tom Weston’s injuries being assessed, the jockeys and horses were ‘held’ in the Parade Ring for a while.  It later transpired that Tom had been air-lifted to hospital in Bristol having punctured both lungs.  He’d not broken or fractured any ribs however; much to the consternation of the doctors, who couldn’t explain it! 

 

Dusk was falling by the time the participants exited onto the racecourse; some were led around by their respective stable staff, more experienced pilots were not, within the area opposite the grandstands, at the junction of the home straight and beginning of the main circuit.  I had headed down to the course-side rails ahead of the race.  There was a further delay to the start, again due to Tom Weston having been injured; for Health and Safety reasons, all emergency vehicles must be back in place prior to commencement of any race.

 

Race 7

St Patrick’s Day Derby

(Charity race in aid of Cancer Research UK)

Distance

1 mile 5 furlongs

No. of Runners

12

Knight’s Parade (James Collins), Arlecchino (Lucy Charnock), Bombadero (Rod Trow), Church Field (Olive Murphy), Golden Jubilee (Andrew Nicholson), Hurricane Ridge (Hayley O’Connor), Java Rose (Philip Clark), Lexington Bay (Simon Clare), Monarchs Way (Jonathan Mills), No Likely (Emily Scott), Rainy City (Clifford Baker), Red Four (Thomas Williams)

 

Then, finally, they were off ... or rather they weren’t, as Phillip Clark had tried to get a flyer as instructed!  The rider trotted her back to the others, but he was nearer last than first as they set off and, being on the wide outside, also lost ground around the top turn.

 

Leading the runners down the back straight was Clifford Baker on Rainy City, from Jonathan Mills and Hayley O’Connor; bringing up the rear was Thomas Williams aboard Red Four.  Having initially been strung out, they appeared better grouped having reached the dog-leg turn; Golden Jubilee stumbled slightly at this point.  As they climbed the hill towards the far turn, the distance between first and last began to increase again. 

 

Clifford Baker’s mount continued to lead as they headed down the hill but, as the bend into the home straight took hold, both Hayley O’Connor and James Collins took advantage of a big gap to his inside in order to make their challenges.  Rod Trow aboard Bombadero was close up in fourth position at this point, with Andrew Nicholson aboard Golden Jubilee three lengths adrift of them.

 

Clifford Baker headed over to the stand-side rails, with Hayley O’Connor choosing the centre of the track, and James Collins the far-side.  The latter made his challenge and was narrowly ahead as they passed between the flight-less wings of the final hurdle.  He then went on to win by two or three lengths at the line. 

 

It was a close fought battle for third, with Monarchs Way and Jonathan Mills claiming this position by half a length from Golden Jubilee and Andrew Nicholson; the latter had beaten Rainy City and Clifford Baker by just a head.  Sixth place was taken by Lexington Bay and Simon Clare, seventh Bombadero and Rod Trow; eighth Red Four and Thomas Williams, ninth Church Field and Olive Murphy.  No Likey and Emily Scott finished tenth, Arlecchino and Lucy Charnock eleventh and poor old Java Rose and Phillip Clark finished last!      

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Knight’s Parade

James Collins

Gordon Elliott

2nd

Hurricane Ridge

Hayley O’Connor

Jessica Harrington

3rd

Monarchs Way

Jonathan Mills

John Ferguson

4th

Golden Jubilee

Andrew Nicholson

Nigel Twiston-Davies

 

I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back.

 

Non-Race Related Incidents

 

Race 4: The Stewards held an enquiry following a report from a Stipendiary Steward that he had observed Gavin Sheehan using his mobile phone outside the designated area. They interviewed the rider and the Stipendiary Steward. Having heard their evidence the Stewards found the rider in breach of Rule (D)33.1 and fined him £290.

 

Race 5: The Stewards held an enquiry following a report from the Starter that Bryan Cooper, the rider of MAKE A TRACK (IRE), J.J. Burke, the rider of AUPCHARLIE, Conor Shoemark, the rider of CHAMPION COURT (IRE), and David Bass, the rider of DARNA, 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 Cooper, Burke and Shoemark in breach of Rule (D)44.4. They suspended Cooper for 1 day as follows: Friday 27 March 2015. They suspended Burke for 1 day as follows: Thursday 26 March 2015. They suspended Shoemark for 2 days as follows: Thursday 26 and Friday 27 March 2015, this being his third offence within the last 12 months. They accepted Bass’ explanation that his horse had broken into a canter without him encouraging it to do so, and therefore found him not to be in breach of Rule (D)44.4.

 

Race 6: It was reported to the Stewards that Mr T. Weston had been airlifted to hospital as a result of

injuries sustained following the fall of BENBANE HEAD (USA), at fence fourteen. Having reviewed the video footage of the race the Stewards determined that BENBANE HEAD (USA) had fallen independently and had then brought down THE NEPHEW (IRE), ridden by Mr Tommie O’Brien. There are procedures in place for incidents of this nature and those will be carried out.

 

Having stayed to watch the completion of the charity race and subsequent presentations; well it would be rude not to, it was then time for me to go home.  Eventually connections were requested to leave the Winners’ Enclosure, as the start of the Brightwells Sale was imminent; horses entered in the sale were already being led around the main Parade Ring area as I departed.

 

I popped to the loo within the ground floor of the main grandstand prior to walking back up the concourse to the main gate.  The incline makes one appreciate the climb up the home straight to the winning post; but I think I’d act upon the course, as I always manage to overtake numerous punters during my progress.  Although it is annoying when people cross my path, slowly, especially when heading from the back of main grandstand into the building opposite.

 

But it has to be noted that climbing steep hills is always easier for people with shorter legs, rather than longer legs like mine; many years of rambling in the Chilterns has taught me this!  When rambling with Mark, who had shorter legs, he used to get ahead of me on the hills, only for me to catch up again and overtake him on the flat! 

Anyway, I digress ... again!  Having parked in the bottom field of the Swindon Lane car park, I headed out over the wide bridge in front of the Centaur, across the driveway and over the small gravelled area to reach the Evesham Road.  Again I picked up a free printed sheet listing the following day’s runners from one of the girls standing at the exit point.  I weaved through the traffic and headed up the driveway opposite, before heading through the gap in the hedge and across the grass to reach my car.

 

After a brief break, during which time I ate the two remaining cheese rolls, I backed out of my space and went to join the queue to exit the gate.  Many punters leave early on Day Three, missing the charity race in order to get a head start; possibly mindful that they will need to arrive earlier to avoid the crush on the final day if attending all week.  It has been known for the right-only exit option to be overlooked on this quieter day, as per last year, but not today.  It was 18:10 when I left, my earliest yet.

 

This being the case I headed westwards along Swindon Lane and was directed to turn along Tommy Taylors Lane/Folly Lane.  The queue was short at the junction with St Paul’s Road and I was soon able to turn left to head back to Clarence Square, across the Evesham Road into the one-way Clarence Road.  A left turn took me into Prestbury Road and a right-turn at the following roundabout permitted me to skirt Pittville Circus and head into Pittville Circus Road. 

 

Signposts suggest that the best way to exit onto Hewlett Road is to turn right at the next mini-roundabout and head along All Saints Road.  But I know better, and turn left to continue along the remaining section of Pittville Circus Road to join Hewlett Road further along.  I have to say that the road surface in Pittville Circus Road was in serious need of repair at this point in time!

 

I turned left at the end thereof, and headed up to the longabout.  A left and a right took me up Harp Hill and into Greenway Lane.  That’s another busy shortcut thoroughfare in serious need of repair.  The centre section of the road just prior to the junction with Harp Hill is particularly bad.  I negotiated the two traffic calming chicanes as I headed downhill towards the residential area just prior to the Sixways junction.  Excellent, it was just 18:30 and I was hopeful that I’d arrive home at the earliest time so far this week ...

 

Again today I found myself stuck behind a coach but I was hopeful that I’d be able to overtake it at either the traffic lights on the Andoversford bypass or upon the dual carriageway up the final part of the escarpment.  I failed miserably to carry out my plan on this occasion, as the lights were on green for the coach but turned to red for me.  So, having lost ground on it, the vehicle was nowhere in sight by the time I’d reached to the dual carriageway.

 

But, just when I was thinking that I was doing well for time regardless, what should I encounter but an emergency road repair on the opposite carriageway just prior to the Stow/Cirencester Road and, with it, a long tailback of traffic from temporary lights.  I already had a suspicion that there was some kind of delay, as I’d already noticed the lack of regularly-spaced traffic heading to Cheltenham from the Oxford direction!  And I have an aversion to the glare of headlights in the darkness, probably old age setting in and making this a bit of a problem at my time of life!

 

So I caught up with the coach at this point ... and lost many of those precious ten minutes I’d gained whilst waiting through a number of temporary traffic light changes for it to be my turn to pass the road repair vehicles and workmen.  Having closed up upon the vehicles in front of me due to the delay, it transpired that the car in front of the coach was not driven by the speediest of motorists; as a result we lost touch with the back of the convoy. 

 

This would not have been a problem but for the fact in resulted in a large enough gap between vehicles for ‘Old Lob’ to exit from a lane on the left, and he was driving a slow tractor!  Just what I needed.  The tractor remained on the A40, travelling at 35 mph, for what transpired to be miles before he turned into a lane to the left shortly before Burford. 

 

Having negotiated the roundabout at the top of the aforementioned town, I drove along the road at the top of the ridge to reach the beginning of the dual carriageway of the Witney bypass.  Finally I had the opportunity to overtake the coach.  Having reached the far end of the bypass, the road heads downhill, past the Evenlode Pub/Restaurant on the opposite side of the road, through a set of traffic-lights close to a service station before arriving at a roundabout.  The road then passes over a bridge, through a further set of traffic lights, then over another bridge and under the A34 before finally arriving at the Wolvercote roundabout.   

 

I was feeling fine, not tired, so decided to take the A40 Oxford bypass to travel back via the M40 / M25.  Annoyingly, as I was driving down the dual carriageway after the traffic lights close to the Sandhills area, that bloomin’ coach overtook me.  How very annoying.  I joined the M40 at Junction 8 and headed towards London. 

 

The coach was obviously travelling at some speed but I made good time and managed to overtake him again having passed the High Wycombe central junction.  I didn’t notice him again.  Having reached the M25, I took the clockwise carriageway to return to St Albans.  With no accidents forewarned, I was able to exit the motorway at Junction 22.  Although, having moved into the inside lane following the busy M1 junction, I had to move out again because repairs were being carried out upon a short section of the roadside barriers; needed due to yesterday’s accident perhaps?

 

As the roads were quiet at this time of the evening, I travelled via the ring-road to reach my favoured supermarket-based service station to fill up the tank for the final time this week.  Apart from Sunday, when it cost me £25.44 to fill the car’s tank having used petrol for my trip to Blewbury, etc, fuel cost me around £21.75 each day.  It just goes to prove that the price of fuel has dropped substantially since last year, when it cost me between £24.76 and £26.76 on the three mid-Festival days.

 

Thanks to the home-journey delays, I arrived home at 20:45.  Supper was scrambled eggs on toast.  Again I uploaded my photographs onto the laptop and copied a number of web links before bedtime; I turned in at around 10:45 yet again.

 

Three down, one to go!

   

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 Races 1 & 2

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – Race 3 (Ryanair Chase)

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – Race 4 (World Hurdle)

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – Race 5

Photos – Cheltenham Festival Day 3 – Race 6 & St Patrick’s Derby Charity Race

 

 

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