DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2016
DAY FOUR - FEATURING THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
FRIDAY 18 MARCH 2016
Don Cossack wins the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Ireland;
owned by Gigginstown Stud, trained by Gordon Elliott
and ridden by Bryan Cooper
Click here to read my Day 4 Diary Part I
It was now time for the feature event of the day, and the Festival for that matter, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The favourite for this race was the Gordon Elliot-trained, Gigginstown-owned, Don Cossack ridden by Bryan Cooper; price 9-4. Also taking part was Cue Card, for Colin Tizzard and Paddy Brennan and he was aiming to win the £1,000,000 bonus having already triumphed in this season’s legs one and two, Haydock’s Betfair Chase and Kempton Park’s King George VI Chase respectively.
Alan King had a runner in the event, the popular almost white Smad Place, winner of the current season’s Hennessy Gold Cup and also the Cotswolds Chase on Cheltenham Trials Day in January.
Being the feature event of the day, there was an on-course pre-race parade. The horses were led out onto the racecourse, the competitors sorting themselves into number order before being paraded in front of the grandstands; they were preceded by a brace of mounted huntsmen.
Once the parade was completed, the horses cantered down the turf to enter the all-weather strip and travel part way down it before exiting onto the course. The Gold Cup starting gate is situated just beyond the second nearest steeplechase fence and is run over two complete circuits plus two fences and the run-in.
And then they were off. With Smad Place, Don Cossack and O’Faolains Boy leading the way to the first of the 22 fences. The grey got a little bit close and hit it, thus enabling O’Faolains Boy to take a narrow advantage as they headed to the next. Having cleared this, On His Own was bustled away from the fence.
So, heading up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure for the first time, O’Faolains Boy led from Smad Place, Don Cossack, On His Own, Djakadam, Cue Card, Carlingford Lough, Don Poli and, finally, the darker grey (or roan) Irish Cavalier. Having turned into the back straight, Smad Place and O’Faolains Boy jumped the next fence in unison. Djakadam, travelling in fifth position, cleared the obstacle okay today; having fallen at this fence (second circuit) during January’s Cotswolds Chase.
All nine runners took the water-jump in their stride, before heading to the first of the open-ditches. There were no problems here, as would be expected from a class field of chasers. Smad Place led over the next, although he did jump out slightly to his right. They then headed around the dog-leg turn, with On His Own being niggled along in fifth position. There were no problems at the following fence, which was another open-ditch, and the horses continued on their journey to the top of the hill led by Smad Place and O’Faolains Boy, from Djakadam, Don Cossack, Cue Card, On His Own, Carlingford Lough, Don Poli and Irish Cavalier.
The runners were quite strung out as they jumped another plain fence and headed around the far turn; the pace was strong. The following fence proves to be the trickiest on the New Course, but they all cleared it with just a couple of nods on landing from Djakadam and Irish Cavalier. Smad Place continued to lead from O’Faolains Boy as they headed down the hill to fence ten, and again he jumped out slightly to his right over it. The former Gold Cup runner-up On His Own had now dropped to seventh position and was being pushed along.
With ears pricked, Smad Place had gained a couple of lengths advantage as they headed around the bend and into the home straight; one circuit was now complete. The nine runners had soon jumped the next, where Cue Card made a mistake. Smad Place was enjoying himself with a uncontested lead and cleared the next well.
The field then headed away from the main grandstands to travel up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure once more. The grey continued to lead the main group, from O’Faolains Boy, Djakadam, Don Cossack and Cue Card. A number of lengths behind these travelled the remainder, led by Carlingford Lough.
They had soon entered the back straight and headed over the first fence therein, followed by the water-jump; Smad Place continued to hold a small advantage over the field. The runners cleared the next, an open-ditch, without incident. However, time was running out for Smad Place as O’Faolains Boy jumped into the lead at the next; Ruby Walsh aboard Djakadam then snuck up the inside to share to lead as they headed around the dog-leg turn.
The runners cleared the final open-ditch, with Don Cossack now moving smoothly into third position around the outside and Cue Card just in behind them. To the inside of Smad Place, the Colin Tizzard runner jumped up into fourth place as they headed over the fence just prior to the far turn. The leaders were three abreast as they turned the corner, Djakadam to the inside of O’Faolains Boy and Don Cossack; the former soon with a slight advantage due to taking the shorter line.
They’d soon reached the tricky fourth last, where Don Cossack got a little too close and the mistake stemmed his momentum. Cue Card meanwhile, was just in behind the leading duo and a gap opened up between them as they headed down the hill to allow him to begin his challenge; O’Faolains Boy began to tire but Don Cossack was disputing the lead once more.
Unfortunately, Paddy Brennan asked for a long stride prior to take off but Cue Card wasn’t so sure; as a result he paddled over the apron, ploughed through the fence and fell. It was a horrible looking fall but, fortunately, he didn’t damage his neck during the subsequent roll, and the momentum took him up onto his haunches; he immediately found his feet and galloped off after the others. Paddy was okay too, he appeared to have missed being kicked or rolled upon; understandably however, he appeared to be gutted as he remained bent over in a kneeling position on the ground.
Meanwhile this left Djakadam and Don Cossack to lead the field around the home turn, with the latter soon a length up and travelling the better. The Gigginstown first-string was the more fluent jumping the penultimate fence; second-string Don Poli was now staying on from the rear of the field and had moved into third position as he cleared it also.
The leaders headed over the final fence and, despite staying on up the hill, Djakadam made no impression upon his rival and Don Cossack went on to win by 4½ lengths at the line. Don Poli finished a further 10 lengths away in 3rd, with Carlingford Lough pinching 4th place on the line by a nose from Irish Cavalier; they’d finished 7 lengths behind Don Poli. Smad Place claimed 6th and prize money of £6,440.00, O’Faolains Boy was 7th and On His Own completed 8th and last.
Cue Card was fine and I wonder what would have happened had he stood up. He went on to win the Grade 1 Bowl Chase at the Aintree Festival three weeks later. However, he was beaten into 4th place on his final outing before his summer break, when competing in the Punchestown Gold Cup behind Carlingford Lough, Djakadam and Don Poli.
I remained beside the course-side rails following the race.
There was no report from the Stewards’ Room regarding the feature race.
The favourite for race five was last year’s winner On The Fringe, owned by JP McManus, trained by Enda Bolger, and ridden by Ms Nina Carberry; price 13-8. The media circus surrounding retired Olympian cyclist Victoria Pendleton was overshadowing this year’s race, sadly; having made it to the starting line-up, she would ride the Paul Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder. Although, having rumoured to have been paid a large fee to achieve her goal, surely that means she’s not an amateur!
And then they were off, with Cave Hunter, Current Exchange, Brackloon High and Paint The Clouds prominent as they headed to the first fence; at the rear of the field was Pacha Du Polder. Cave Hunter was a little bit awkward at the second, having got slightly too close to the fence before take-off. The maximum-sized field then headed away from the main grandstand enclosure and up the hill in front of the Best Mate stand, led by Cave Hunter and Alskamatic, from Current Exchange, Impact Area and Paint The Clouds. The favourite, On The Fringe, was taking close order just behind the leaders.
Having entered the back straight, the runners headed over a plain fence, then the water-jump, followed by the first of the open-ditches. The field continued to be led by Alskmatic, one of the two greys Impact Area, and the improving Richmond. There were no jumping issues for the amateur riders; Chapoturgeon and Camden, along with Pacha Du Polder continued to bring up the rear.
Having headed over another plain fence, the runners negotiated the dog-leg turn before approaching the second open-ditch. Richmond was now marginally ahead, from Alskamatic, Current Exchange and Impact Area. Near the rear of the field, Chapoturgeon hit the fence but the partnership remained intact. They continued their journey up the hill to the far corner of the track, jumping another plain fence en route. It wasn’t a ‘going day’ for the Easterby’s Camden, as he scrambled over the fence having been relegated to last position.
Alskamatic had regained the lead by the time they reached the tricky fence at the top of the hill; he retained his advantage despite getting a little close to the fence. Alongside him, Richmond wasn’t brilliant either, nor to their outside the light grey Impact Area who nodded on landing; just behind the leading quartet, Current Exchange hit it too. However, there were no departures here, and Victoria Pendleton had now moved up to third from last, with Marito and Camden now behind her.
The horses headed down the hill to the next where, to the outside of the leading group, Impact Area and Major Malarkey bumped into each other in mid-air. Alskamatic, head bowed, led the runners around the turn and into the home straight; one circuit now completed with no departures. Behind the leader travelled Current Exchange, from Major Malarkey, Impact Area, Paint The Clouds, Richmond, Mendip Express, Brackloon High and Cave Hunter. Behind these were Temple Grandin, Dark Lover, On The Fringe, Twirling Magnet, It Came To Pass, Mr Mercurial, Current Event, Pena Dorada, Pacha Du Polder, Chapoturgeon, Indiana Bay, Need To Know, Camden, Aupcharlie, and Marito.
The leader was a bit slow over the next, which permitted Major Malarkey to take the lead and he was a number of lengths clear of his rivals as they headed over the following fence; Chapotugeon hit this one. The pace had increased and the runners were beginning to string out as they headed up the hill and into the back straight for the final time. There were a few untidy leaps as they jumped the next fence; and particularly by Camden which was struggling at the rear of the field.
The horses streamed over the water-jump where, near the back, Aupcharlie made an error. At this point, Sarah Easterby decided to call it a day aboard Camden and steered her mount to its right to bypass the penultimate open-ditch. The remaining 23 cleared it without problem, with Dark Lover now struggling at the rear of the field. The following fence was a plain one, where Chapoturgeon and Dark Lover made errors.
The field then negotiated the dog-leg turn and approached the final open-ditch; Major Malarkey was still a number of lengths clear of his rivals. Temple Grandin cleared it slowly to the rear of mid-field. Meanwhile the leader continued his journey to the top of the hill, jumping the fifth from home in the process. As the ground began to fall away on the approach to the tricky fourth last, Major Malarkey had stretched his lead to 8 or 9 lengths over Current Event and Alskamatic.
There were no departures at this fence, although Cave Hunter made a mistake when in sixth position and dropped back as a result; Pachu Du Polder had noticeably improved its position and now had at least nine horses behind him! Down the hill they headed with Major Malarkey still ahead as they jumped three out, although with his lead diminished. Towards the rear of the field, It Came To Pass departed. Although listed as a fall, he barely lost his footing; as a result the loose horse immediately followed the others.
And Major Malarkey under Steven Clements was still three lengths clear of his rivals as they headed into the home straight with just two to jump; Current Event lay second, with Mendip Express just behind him. Aupcharlie had stayed on into fourth, and was now alongside Paint The Clouds, with On The Fringe and Alskamatic close behind these, also Marito. They headed over the penultimate fence with Major Malarkey still ahead; Chapoturgeon fell here when in 7th or 8th position, and Cave Hunter unseated near the rear of the field.
However Major Malarkey’s rivals were soon on terms, with Current Event and On The Fringe now upsides to the stand-side of him as they jumped the last fence. Aupcharlie to the far side and Marito to the stand-side were just a length behind them too. Finally, heading up the hill to the winning post, On The Fringe took the lead, hotly pursued by Marito, with Current Event endeavouring to continue his challenge too.
The leader’s advantage continued to diminish as they galloped to the line, but On The Fringe held on to win by a neck from Marito representing Northern Ireland. Paint The Clouds under Sam Waley-Cohen ran on at the death to claim 3rd, just 1 length behind, and Current Event took 4th a further length behind.
Having gained confidence from her experienced mount throughout the race, Victoria Pendleton had flown up the run-in to take 5th at the line, just half a length behind Current Event, with Aupcharlie in 6th and the gallant Major Malarkey in 7th.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 5 - 4:10pm
THE ST. JAMES'S PLACE FOXHUNTER STEEPLE CHASE CHALLENGE CUP (CLASS 2)
I decided to return to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure ahead of the next race. I was fully aware that, with the score in the BetBright Cup currently standing at 14-12 to the Irish, the trophy presentation might take place after the next race if the Irish were to win it and thus make their lead unassailable. There is a large screen at the far end of the Parade Ring, so I was able to watch the final two races of the Festival.
The favourite for the next race was the Gordon Elliott-trained Squouateur, ridden by Jack Kennedy; price 9-4. Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Label Des Obeaux ridden by Tom Bellamy.
The starting gate for this event was located in the mid-course chute; upon exiting the horse walkway, the runners cantered across the home straight and headed up the all-weather track around the top bend in front of the Best Mate enclosure. They then crossed the racecourse to reach the aforementioned chute, and would have two flights to negotiate before the far turn.
Then they were off. The runners were led away by Work In Progress and Roadie Joe; bringing up the rear as they jumped the first flight were Mr Mix and Buiseness Sivola. There were no casualties at the first two obstacles thus, having completed successfully the jumping tasks within the chute, the runners headed down the hill to reach the far end of the home straight, still led by the free-going Work In Progress under Bridget Andrews.
This partnership was followed by Roadie Joe, Bivouac, Nabucco, Zulu Oscar, Qualando, Laurium, Ibis Du Rheu, Label Des Obeaux, Childrens List, Flying Angel, Handiwork, Whiteout, Sky Khan, Montdragon, Squouateur, Westend Star, Tully East, Matorico, Urano, Mr Mix, Goodwood Mirage, Jetstream Jack and Buiseness Sivola.
Having cleared the third flight without incident, the runners continued their progress up the home straight, still spearheaded by Work In Progress a few lengths clear of his rivals. The first departure occurred at the fourth flight, the one in front of the grandstands; Laurium blundered, shooting jockey Jeremiah McGrath into orbit before he plummeted to the ground to his mount’s off-side. As Laurium had been travelling close behind the leaders, those in his wake galloped over the prostrate jockey and Urano was hampered. In fact it was a very similar scenario to Montbazon’s departure in the County Hurdle earlier in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the remaining 23 runners headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure and out into the country for the one and only time; Work In Progress had extended his lead and was now 10 lengths clear of his rivals. They headed over flight number five where, near the rear of the field, Mr Mix blundered. The leader clipped the top of the following hurdle, as did the loose horse also clear of the field; still heading the main group was Roadie Joe. Work In Progress hit the next too, as did Label Des Obeaux.
The leader had soon reached and negotiated the dog-leg turn. Flying Angel, disputing second position, was a little ungainly at the next flight. The runners continued their journey to the far turn, before heading down the hill to what would now be the last flight, as Jeremiah McGrath was still being attended to on course. Work In Progress led, from Flying Angel, Tully East, Zulu Oscar, Handiwork, Nabucco, Whiteout, Roadie Joe and Label Des Obeaux.
Work In Progress’ lead had shrunk to a couple of lengths as they cleared this flight, the loose horse just behind him with Tully East the first challenger. Further back in the field, Mr Mix to the outside and the weakening Roadie Joe to the inner fell at this flight. The double departure hampered a number of runners, namely Urano, Jetstream Jack, Goodwood Mirage and Matorico; however they were all out of contention at the time.
The loose Laurium led the runners into the home straight, ears pricked. Tully East soon took the lead from the tiring Work In Progress, but he wasn’t able to pull away, and his rivals continued to close; Flying Angel, Whiteout, Sky Khan and Ibis Du Rheu his dangers. A steward was waving a flag to the nearside of the course, to warn the jockeys of the omission of the final flight; it was dolled off with white boards too. Flying Angel and Ibis Du Rheu took the lead as they reached the diversion; they were neck and neck now.
Obviously the loose horse couldn’t decipher the instruction so he jumped the flight, but two members of the ground staff waived their arms and this encouraged the horse to divert around the area where green screens had been erected to allow privacy to the stricken jockey.
Meanwhile Flying Angel and Ibis Du Rheu continued their battle up the hill to the line, with the latter proving the strongest and he went on to win by 1¼ lengths; Sky Khan finished a further 1¼ lengths away in 3rd position, with Tully East 6 lengths away in 4th. Label Des Obeaux finished 12th of the 19 which completed. The winner, Ibis Du Rheu, had made very good progress late on, having been in 9th position as they headed towards the home turn.
Sadly a seventh fatality of the 2016 Festival occurred during this race; the victim was the JP McManus-owned, Jonjo O’Neill-trained, Montdragon. He’d been pulled up after the final flight, having weakened on the journey down the hill to it; the horse hadn’t been affected by the departures at the obstacle either but the post-race comments stated that he was fatally injured.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 6 - 4:50pm
THE MARTIN PIPE CONDITIONAL JOCKEYS'
HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 2)
The Stewards considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, IBIS DU RHEU (FR), ridden by Jack Sherwood, and trained by Paul Nicholls, compared with its previous run at Sandown Park on 6 February 2016 over three miles, where the gelding finished fifth of nine, beaten 33 lengths. They noted the trainer’s explanation that IBIS DU RHEU (FR) failed to stay the trip in the soft ground at Sandown Park. They ordered the gelding to be routine tested.
Click here to read my Day 4 Diary Part III