DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2015
FEATURING THE QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE
WEDNESDAY 11 MARCH 2015
Dell’Arca crashes out in the Coral Cup;
horse and jockey were unharmed
Having made a minor adjustment to my alarm clock, it sounded at close to 04:00 this morning; in hindsight, it must have woken me at 03:40 the previous day. It became apparent pretty quickly that I’d developed a headache overnight – it may have been partly due to dehydration but, more likely, it was because I had awoken with a stiff neck. It was far easier for me to look to the left than the right, and also to stretch the right side of my neck, rather than to compress it.
I showered and washed and dried my hair before applying my makeup. Again breakfast began with two Weetabix, some raisins, some blueberries and slides of banana. But I forgot to eat any toast today. I had half a cup of tea, although I had already taken a few sips of water when I first got up; I would regret it later!
The forecast today was for a little rain, accompanied by a very cold easterly breeze. I decided it would be most appropriate to wear my black faux sheepskin coat today as it was warm to wear, fairly long and I didn’t mind if it got wet. The remainder of my outfit was as follows. Three thermal t-shirts – violet, pink and purple, a deep pink-coloured v-neck sweater (Iris according to the label), dark grey tweed double-frill skirt, dark violet fleece, black fleece gillet, grey tights, black Clarks wedge-heeled shoes, black cowl with white horse design print, pink and navy geese design Per Una scarf plus my Cerise Galaxy Glass pendant with matching earrings.
I set out on my journey at 06:12 today. Again my route took me through St Albans City Centre, onwards to Hemel Hempstead and Aylesbury; there was a brief delay whilst a slow moving milk float held up the traffic on the initial section of the latter’s ring-road. I then continued through Waddesdon to reach Bicester. Traffic wasn’t too bad on the section of dual carriageway leading to junction 9 of the M40, nor upon the subsequent A34. I left the latter at the Peartree Interchange as usual; again vehicles had formed a stationary queue around the roundabout on the A44. I hate pushing out into the traffic ... but it has to be done.
Traffic was nose to tail on the dual carriageway leading down to the Wolvercote roundabout and I left Oxford upon the A40 at 07:50 today. There were no problems or delays on the next section of my route and the tailback from Cheltenham’s Sixways junction was shorter today because I was earlier. When the lights changed I turned right into Greenway Lane, before heading down Harp Hill and along Priors Road and taking a right into Bouncers Lane. At the far end I negotiated the mini-roundabouts before entering Tatchley Lane.
Having reached the roundabout at the far end of New Barn Lane, outside the main entrance to the racecourse, I went straight across into Swindon Lane and, a short distance on my right, entered the bottom field of the car park. There were no spaces therein but, unlike yesterday, I was directed to turn left immediately upon entering the upper field. This meant I was driving along a muddy track, following a string of vehicles driven by staff working at the event. The route took me past the yard when the ‘long-stay’ horse transporters are parked and, after driving along a cinder track between very high hedges, I arrived in the far field, still alongside Swindon Lane.
I was directed to take a left turn to double-back on myself and, following a drive along the top of the field, I reached an area close to the driveway which serves as the exit route for those aforementioned horseboxes. It was 09:00. Despite it being early, I couldn’t sit around for long, as I was desperate to spend a penny. I had one of two options, either use one of the portaloos … no way … or walk down to Cheltenham town centre to visit Marks and Spencer and their loos!
Having chosen the latter, I set off along the muddy track back towards the Evesham Road. I knew that my walk would make me feel hot, so I didn’t put on my fleece or gillet, but would return to the car to collect them later, prior to entering the grounds. The route into town is very straightforward; having walked down the first section of Evesham Road opposite the racecourse, I crossed Swindon Lane close to the roundabout, before continuing downhill on the western side of the road, past the Pump Room opposite and through the park.
At the Clarence Road junction, Evesham Road becomes Portland Street and then Pittville Street. I crossed the road to enter the Marks and Spencer food-hall on the opposite side of the road. Over the years I’ve become a regular visitor to this branch of the retail store so was soon able to locate the escalator and travel up to the first floor to find the ladies’ loos. I’d made it; but it was a pretty close call!!!
Never one to pass up the opportunity to peruse the aisles, I stopped off briefly to look at the lingerie section; I found a pretty pinky-mauve coloured t-shirt bra in my size which I purchased. Then, having taken the escalator back down to the ground floor, I took a look around the women’s section. There was nothing to appeal to me … until I saw a group of stands with handbags hung upon them; there was a sale in progress. I noticed a brown shearling bag from their Indigo range, which I’d considered buying a few weeks ago. However, I’d resisted at that time, thinking that £39.50 was a little too much to spend on the item. But they were now reduced to £25 … I snapped one up!
Shopping over, I headed back to the racecourse, this time beginning my walk on the eastern side of the road. Traffic being light at this time of the morning, I safely negotiated the Clarence Road crossing. Further up, adjacent to the park, there were a couple of rickshaws blocking the path – one painted in Kauto Star’s colours, the other in Synchronised’s colours (in other words JP McManus’ silks). The riders, dressed in their matching silks, kindly moved their vehicles so that I was able to pass by without stepping onto the grass verge.
A little further up I crossed over onto the western side of the road, and headed up the hill towards the Racecourse. Having crossed Swindon Lane by using the traffic island, I continued along Evesham Road until I found the steps which lead down into the bottom field. There were a few vehicles using the drop-off point but I negotiated them safely before heading along the top of the field, through a gap in the hedge, across the concrete driveway and into the field where I had parked.
I sat in my car for a little while, and ate a couple of the cheese rolls which I’d brought with me. I also inserted my contact lenses at this point and they remained comfortable throughout the day, in fact I didn’t take them out again until I reached home. Having stowed my new treasures safely in the boot of my car to deter any thieves, I put on extra layers of clothing before setting off to my usual entry turnstile. The initial queues had dispersed by this time and I was able to enter the grounds without delay, having had my bag checked once more. It was 10:55.
Having purchased a race-card from the kiosk opposite the entrance, I made my way to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure. My headache had eased a little following my walk to town, but the cold breeze seemed to aggravate it once more whilst I was standing in this exposed position.
This being the case, after race-day presenter Martin Kelly had interviewed his first guests I decided to take a wander around. First I headed to the Pre-Parade Ring, where a number of horses were entering the area prior to being prepared ahead of the first race. I then walked down the slope, across the new plaza area, and down through the wide concourse between the tents to reach the Shopping Village.
Expensive and tweedy describes the retailers best. Even Hiho Silver has lost its way with the products offered. I remember liking their earrings when I first saw them at the 2009 Festival ... but nothing appeals now. I’ll stick to unique one-off dichroic earrings and necklaces offered by retailers on the Etsy website. I have a number of favourite retailers, in the UK, USA and Australia.
The only item I fancied was a limited edition print of a painting of steeplechasers at Cheltenham, the subjects were entering from the left-hand side of the picture as they were jumping fences in the back straight, with the grandstands in the far distance. And I didn’t actually see this until I paid my second and final visit to the Shopping Village on Thursday!
Following that I set off across the concourse and through the tunnel between the new and old grandstands.
Having crossed the members’ lawn, I found my customary spot close to the half furlong point. The familiar steward was on duty today ... and she’d wrapped up warmer than yesterday; although yesterday was very pleasant until the sun disappeared behind the grandstand. I know from years of experience just how cold it can be standing around at the races!
I still had a little bit of a headache but, at this point, I decided to wrap my cowl around my head and neck and it finally disappeared ... after nine hours! I just don’t take painkillers; ibuprofen is not recommended as it causes the stomach to produce additional acid and I take tablets to prevent this because I suffer from acid reflux as a result of a hiatus hernia. I used to be fine with paracetamol but, for the past three or four years, they’ve made me feel spaced-out; definitely not recommended when out and about 100 miles from home and also having been in control of a car on a long-distance journey! It’s frightening too, as I’ve felt very peculiar when under their influence.
With too much technology available, the weather forecast for the week continued to be revised. Rain was, or had been, forecast for some point today but, in the event, very little materialised; all I noticed was just a few light spots on the very cold breeze at the start of racing.
Here are details of today’s non-runners:
Race Horse and Trainer - Penalty - Reason
3:20 CHAMPAGNE FEVER (IRE), trained by W. P. Mullins (Ireland). Waived Self Cert (Injured in Box)
3:20 CLARCAM (FR), trained by Gordon Elliott (Ireland). Waived Self Cert (Stiff)
5:15 PYLONTHEPRESSURE (IRE), trained by W. P. Mullins (Ireland). Waived Self Cert (Lame)
The favourite for the first race was the Willie Mullins-trained, Ruby Walsh-ridden Nichols Canyon; price 7-2. Alan King had a runner in this race, Ordo Ab Chao; he was the last horse I’d seen Choc ride (live that is), in the Aintree Bumper on Grand National Day when they finished 4th.
The starting gate for this race was situated at the beginning of the mid-course chute. This being the case, the horses cantered across the home straight and up along the all-weather strip in front of the Best Mate enclosure to reach it.
The Warren Greatrex representative, Warrantor, showed a little bit of temperament at the start; at one point an assistant needed to lead him across to join the others.
At the due time, the runners approached the entrance point to the mid-course chute sedately; prior to jig-jogging towards the tape. Then they were off, first time. There was a roar from the expectant crowd as the first race got underway; although not as loud as upon the first day.
The runners were led away by Windsor Park to the inside, Warrantor in the centre, and Beast Of Burden to the outside; the former was sporting the purple and yellow colours of Dr Lambe, as worn by last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere. Ordo Ab Chao travelled three from the back.
The runners cleared the first two flights without incident before traversing the Old Course and heading downhill to the far turn to enter the home straight. Windsor Park and Warrantor continued to lead, from Nichols Canyon, the grey Vyta Du Roc, Beast Of Burden, Outlander, Ordo Ab Chao, Snow Falcon, Parlour Games and the slightly detached Anteros. Having jumped flight number three, the runners began their long journey up towards the grandstands and flight number four.
Warrantor held a slight advantage over his nearest rival approaching the flight but, having put in a short stride and lost a little momentum, he had dropped to third position as they galloped away from it. Windsor Park and Beast Of Burden matched strides as they headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure; following these was Warrantor, then came Nichols Canyon and Vyta Du Roc, followed by Ordo Ab Chao and Outlander, Snow Falcon, and a two length gap to Parlour Games, with the same distance to Anteros.
Having reached the top of the hill, they turned left and headed slightly downhill to reach flight number five; Beast Of Burden now alone at the head of affairs. All the runners jumped this flight well. They galloped to the next flight, where the chestnut leader got in a little close to it; being a big horse he was not the nimblest in the field.
The runners negotiated the dog-leg turn before heading to the next flight; Outlander made an error here. The field was well-grouped, apart from back-marker Anteros, as it travelled to the top of the hill and began the journey down the slope. Outlander began to make his move on the outside of the field, taking advantage of the momentum to be gained approaching the third last. Just to his inside, Ordo Ab Chao made up ground too.
Vyta Du Roc took the lead having landed over the flight, Beast Of Burden now disputing second with Windsor Park. Having looked dangerous approaching the flight, Outlander appeared outpaced, as did Ordo Ab Chao. The weakening Warrantor blundered here. They headed to the penultimate flight, the battle was now joined; Windsor Park rose first, from Nichols Canyon who had now appeared on the scene under Ruby Walsh. But the latter made an error here.
This enabled Vyta Du Roc to regain his place and he was laying down a challenge to Windsor Park as they turned into the home straight. Snapping at their heels were Parlour Games having improved his position and slipped up the inside rail under AP McCoy, and Nichols Canyon; also in the leading group were Snow Falcon, Ordo Ab Chao and Outlander. Beast Of Burden was now trailing them by a number of lengths.
They began their charge towards the final flight, with Windsor Park extending his lead slightly over the grey; the others seemingly unable to go with the present pace. However, Barry Geraghty’s mount made a complete mess of the last and was lucky not to fall. This now left Parlour Games as the nearest challenger, from Nichols Canyon, Snow Falcon, the recovering Vyta Du Roc, Outlander and Ordo Ab Chao; five or six lengths probably covered the distance from the leader to the 7th.
However Windsor Park had much the better turn of foot and went away to win by 3¾ lengths at the line. I’m sure the runner-up Parlour Games would not have caught him, even if AP had not lost his whip on the run-in. Nichols Canyon claimed 3rd with Vyta Du Roc despite his setback keeping on to take 4th; surely the latter would have finished as runner-up but for his mistake at the last. Ordo Ab Chao completed in 7th, but far from disgraced in this Grade 1 event.
And it was another Irish winner to add to their first day tally of 5.
With Ordo Ab Chao having finished unplaced, there was no need for me to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure post-race.
Race 1 - 1:30pm.
THE NEPTUNE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT NOVICES' HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Registered as The Baring Bingham Novices' Hurdle Race) (Grade 1)
No Stewards Enquiry.
The Veterinary Officer reported that BEAST OF BURDEN (IRE), unplaced, trained by Rebecca Curtis, had
bled from the nose.
The favourite for the next race was Don Poli, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Bryan Cooper; the horse sports the maroon and white colours of the Gigginstown Stud.
The starting gate was located between the nearest two fences in the home straight; this being the case, the horses cantered up in front of the grandstands before returning down the turf and re-entering the all-weather strip to continue part way down it to the start.
The jockeys, having taken their horses to look at the take-off side of the second fence from the stands, then proceeded around the obstacle to reach a small enclosure which had been created upon the New Course. Girths were checked, after which they circled around prior to being called out onto the racecourse.
Then they were off; first time. The runners were led away by Kings Palace who disputed the lead with The Young Master to his outside. Just behind the leading duo were Apache Jack, Southfield Theatre and Don Poli; they were followed by the sole mare, Adriana Des Mottes, Wounded Warrior; If In Doubt brought up the rear. All eight cleared the first fence without problem, before heading up the hill in front of the Best Mate stand to approach fence number two; the two leaders were four lengths clear of their nearest rivals. Kings Palace put in a better jump than his companion at the fence; the JP McManus runner was a little slow at the back of the field.
Having entered the back straight, they then headed down the slope to fence number three. In contrast, the David Pipe runner nodded slightly on landing over this one. The following fence was the water-jump, and they all cleared this in their stride. The Young Master took off quite early at the first of the open-ditches, but he cleared it okay, and Kings Palace got a little bit too close to the inside wing; debris flew from the upright birch as a result.
The next fence was a plain one and they all cleared this without incident before heading around the dog-leg turn to the second open-ditch; again there were no errors here. Having reached the top of the hill they turned left-handed before descending again to reach fence number eight. There was no change at the head of affairs as The Young Master and Kings Palace took them along; the latter saving ground close to the inside rail. Tom Scudamore’s mount was a little bit awkward at this obstacle.
The Young Master took a clear advantage as they headed into the home straight. There was a tiny error from Southfield Theatre at the next fence; by this point of the race Apache Jack was sharing last place with If In Doubt. Don Poli got a little bit close to the next, having put in a short stride on take-off. The runners now headed away from the main grandstands and up the hill to fence number eleven; Kings Palace had now taken a marginal lead.
Turning into the back straight for the final time, Apache Jack was now being bumped along. The leader put in a good leap at the next fence; meanwhile both Southfield Theatre and If In Doubt nodded on landing. The runners headed to the water-jump for the final time; despite this being the smallest fence on the course, The Young Master blundered as he dragged his hind-legs through the birch.
The following fence is an open-ditch, which they all cleared without difficulty; following the fence, AP decided to give his mount a slap with his whip to encourage the horse to keep of terms with those ahead of him. Fence number fifteen is a plain fence and, again there were no issues in the jumping department; Kings Palace continued to lead, from Southfield Theatre, The Young Master, and the urged along Don Poli; the latter is noted for being slightly lazy. They were followed by Wounded Warrior, Adriana Des Mottes and If In Doubt. Apache Jack was a number of lengths behind the main group and struggling.
The horses soon negotiated the dog-leg turn, before arriving at the final open-ditch. Southfield Theatre took off too early, reached for the fence which resulted in him stepping through the birch; he survived but lost his position to Don Poli. The latter was now back on the bridle having gone through a flat spot. As they headed around the far bend, Bryan Cooper’s mount was just half a length down on the leader. Southfield Theatre retained third place as they galloped down the hill with, seemingly at first, none of the others able to make up the deficit. The Young Master had now run his race and had dropped back to last place; Apache Stronghold had been pulled up.
Having cleared the third last, Adriana Des Mottes began to bridge the gap. Don Poli was three or four lengths ahead of his nearest rival, the fading Kings Palace, as they turned into the home straight; Southfield Theatre had soon overtaken the long-time leader too. Coming off the home bend, it was now apparent that Wounded Warrior was staying on, and was challenging the mare for fourth place.
Don Poli led over two out, Southfield Theatre continuing to throw down a challenge; both Wounded Warrior and Adriana Des Mottes overtook the tiring Kings Palace on the run to the final fence. Having cleared the last, Bryan Cooper had to drive his mount out up the hill; the horse wasn’t giving it his all, the telltale signs being his pricked ears! However, he still pulled away to win by 6 lengths at the line.
Southfield Theatre held on to second place, by 1½ lengths from Wounded Warrior; the latter rallying to regain 3rd position from Adriana Des Mottes at the post. If In Doubt was just half a length behind them in 5th. Kings Palace, having been eased once beaten, finished 6th; The Young Master also came home in his own time.
It became apparent that Southfield Theatre had sustained a bad cut when he stepped through the final open-ditch. Having begun his ride back down the horse-walk, Sam Twiston-Davies subsequently dismounted and unsaddled his horse, before returning on foot. The horse was led away to the top of the racecourse where one of the vets was waiting to examine him; he would then have either been taken away from treatment or led back directly to the nearby stables. More
Yet another Irish winner; it was now Ireland 7 – GB 2.
There were reports of a brief rain shower at this point of the day. I didn’t really notice! Anyway, I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race.
Race 2 - 2:05pm.
THE RSA STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Bryan Cooper, the rider of the winner, DON POLI (IRE), on the run in. 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 in an incorrect place. The Stewards
suspended Cooper for 2 days as follows: Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 March 2015.
The Stewards considered the running of THE YOUNG MASTER, ridden by Barry Geraghty, and trained by Neil Mulholland, which finished unplaced. The Stewards noted the trainer’s explanation that the gelding ran too freely in the early stages. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding during routine testing failed to reveal any abnormalities.
The favourite for this year’s Coral Cup was the Harry Fry-trained Activial, ridden by Noel Fehily; priced at 17-2. Second in the market was Aux Ptits Soins at 9-1; the horse was making his British debut for the Paul Nicholls yard and was ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies.
The starting gate for this race was situated at the beginning of the mid-course chute. Therefore the runners cantered across the home straight and up along the all-weather strip in front of the Best Mate enclosure to reach it.
Girths checked, again the horses congregated in a group to undertake circuits around the cross-country birch island fence in order to remain warmed-up prior to the race commencing. However, the bottom-weight Barizan didn’t join his compatriots as they headed out onto the track; he’d been withdrawn at the start on veterinary advice.
Then they are off, the remaining 25 runners started at the first attempt. Leading the field over the first was the large chestnut Zabana; to his inside and almost upsides was the visored Hisaabaat, the first-time blinkered Dell’Arca and the cheek-pieced Shammick Boy. At the rear of the field was Ttebbob, who was fighting for his head. Three of the hurdle panels looked a little worse for wear as the runners headed away from it and towards flight number two. The second favourite, Aux Ptits Soins, who was travelling around a third of the way down the field, blundered at this obstacle; as a result he briefly threw his jockey up his neck.
Having traversed the Old Course the runners headed downhill towards the far bend, Zabana continued to lead the way. He was followed by Shammick Boy, Dell’Arca, Bear’s Affair, Rolling Star, Aux Ptits Soins, Hisaabaat, Activial and Volnay De Thaix. Ttebbob was still at the rear, just in front of him travelled Plinth and Daneking. Having negotiated the far turn, the runners soon headed over flight number three; there were no noticeable errors at this obstacle.
The field began its long run up the home straight to reach flight number four; Shammick Boy now disputed the lead with Zabana. Behind these the keen Bear’s Affair matching strides with Dell’Arca. The first casualty was the latter, who stepped on the flight and fell. Having been travelling just behind the leaders, this caused havoc for any runner following in his wake; namely Hisaabaat, Clondaw Kaempfer, Plinth and Baradari who were hampered, along with Marinero who was badly hampered and Ttebbob who was brought down. Both horses were fine following the incident, as were the jockeys.
The remaining runners headed away from the main grandstands and up the hill to reach the back straight; there was still no change at the head of affairs, and Baradari was now at the rear of the field. They soon began their journey down the back straight, clearing the first flight therein; the JP McManus second-string Vulcanite made an error here and also his first-string Plinth was less than fluent.
Zabana and Shammick Boy continued to lead from Bear’s Affair and Un Ptits Soins; behind these raced Activial, Hisaabaat, Rolling Star, Vasco Du Ronceray and Mijhaar. Clondaw Kaempfer jumped the next flight slowly, having dropped to the back of the field alongside Baradari. The runners negotiated the dog-leg turn and headed to flight number seven. Shammick Boy made an error here and was now ridden along in order to keep pace with those disputing second position, and in mid-field Volnay De Thaix flattened a panel.
They continued their journey to the top of the hill before heading around the far bend and down the hill to the third last. And still Zabana remained ahead of his rivals, but with Activial, Shammick Boy, Aux Ptits Soins, Vasco Du Ronceray and Mijhaar queuing up to take him on. Sam Twiston-Davies’ mount jumped the flight awkwardly but it didn’t appear to stop his momentum, but the game was up for Shammick Boy who quickly lost his place and dropped back through the field.
The runners headed towards two out, with Aux Ptits Soins now taking on the long-time leader at the head of affairs. Back in the field, Goodwood Mirage blundered badly at the flight and Shammick Boy fell having tired. Meanwhile the leaders entered the home straight, Zabana narrowly ahead due to having taken the inside line around the final bend. Behind the two leaders were Activial, Bear’s Affair, Volnay De Thaix, Taglietelle and Hammersley Lake.
Having arrived at the final flight, the leading duo jumped it in unison; Activial chased them in third, closely followed by Taglietelle. The long-time leader began to drift out to his left, then back again, by which time the Paul Nicholls runner had gained a slight advantage and he held it to the line to win by a neck. Both Activial and Taglietelle had stayed on under pressure and continued to close the gap upon the two leaders all the way to the winning post. This resulted in Activial finishing just a neck behind Zabana, with Taglietelle half a length back in 4th. Five lengths away in 5th was Volnay De Thaix, the first of Nicky Henderson’s six runners competing in the race. Yes, six!
Unfortunately one of those runners came to grief at the last, namely the tiring Rolling Star. I didn’t see what happened, but the green screens were soon erected. Thus another incident had occurred at an obstacle in front of the stands. I didn’t see what happened to the horse but, sadly, it proved to be life-ending; the horse ambulance eventually arriving to remove him from the course.
Yesterday had seen the fatal fall of Theatre Queen at the fence nearest the main grandstands, and the green screens had also been erected following L’Unique’s final flight fall during the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle. Fortunately the latter had eventually got up and been led away to much applause from the gathered spectators.
GB had finally clawed one back, the competition now standing at Ireland 7 – GB 3.
The winner sported the well-known yellow and red colours of Mr Teletubbies himself, John Hales. And, as is the owner’s preference, the horse is a grey; a very dark grey in this instance, but bound to become a lighter grey as it gets older ... I know the feeling well! And it was exactly 17 years to the day that John had had his first ever Cheltenham Festival winner, with popular grey One Man.
When interviewed after the race, Sam Twiston-Davies said it was nice to get a winner on the board after a frustrating first day; it now took the pressure off of him and he felt he could now relax.
Again there was no reason for me to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure following the race.
Race 3 - 2:40pm.
THE CORAL CUP (A HANDICAP HURDLE RACE) (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
No Stewards Enquiry.
That’s it for the first half of the diary, please ...
Click here to read Day 2 Diary Part II