DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2016
DAY FOUR - FEATURING THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
FRIDAY 18 MARCH 2016
With 14 winners apiece, the BetBright Prestbury Cup is shared
... subject to the later enquiry regarding Any Currency’s victory
Click here to read my Day 4 Diary Part II
The favourite for the final event of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival was Rock The World, trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by Robbie Power; price 9-2. My personal favourite was Pearls Legend; he’s a very admirable horse!
Having reached the top of the racecourse, all the runners then headed down the turf to re-enter the all-weather strip in order to continue their journey to the starting gate at the far end of the home straight.
And then they were off. Velvet Maker led them away, from Next Sensation, Pearls Legend, Croco Bay and Red Spinner. Travelling just behind the leaders, Dandridge blundered at the first; in his wake Sizing Codelco also blundered and he parted company with Jonathan Burke. Savello also made a mistake here. The runners continued to the second fence, with Next Sensation now upsides Velvet Maker at the head of affairs. Further back in the field, Germany Calling breasted the fence and lost ground.
The remaining 23 runners continued on their journey up the home straight, joining the New Course circuit prior to reaching fence number three. Velvet Maker and Next Sensation continued to lead from Pearls Legend which hit it, Croco Bay, Red Spinner and Arthur’s Oak which also rapped it. Behind these travelled Rock The World, Solar Impulse, Eastlake, Workbench, Dresden, Dunraven Storm, Dandridge, Surf And Turf, and Lough Kent; The Saint James remained at the rear of the field and was jumping less than fluently.
Velvet Maker led over the next and the runners headed away from the main grandstands and up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure, soon entering the back straight for the one and only time. The first fence therein can often be a tricky one, but all the horses cleared this without problem. However, this was not the case at the following one, the water-jump.
Croco Bay, which was travelling just behind the leaders, capsized on landing, his hindquarters flying into the air due to momentum; this didn’t do any favours to Rock The World which was hampered. Eastlake was also badly hampered; Surf And Turf was affected by this departure, as was Dresden too. The remaining runners cleared the first of the open-ditches without issue, although both Chris Pea Green and The Saint James had begun to lose touch at the rear of the field.
Having also jumped the next without incident, they headed around the dog-leg turn to approach the final open-ditch. Velvet Maker continued to lead, from Next Sensation, Red Spinner and Pearls Legend. Behind these were Arthur’s Oak, Workbench, Solar Impulse, Rock The World, Dunraven Storm, Bright New Dawn, Dresden, Savello, Eastlake, Lough Kent, Dandridge, Raven’s Tower, Gardefort, Germany Calling, Surf And Turf, Bold Henry, Chris Pea Green and The Saint James.
Pearls Legend hit this one and he lost a place; Eastlake was a little slow over it, and Chris Pea Green blundered badly. The runners headed over the following fence, where Dresden made an error and lost his place; Bright New Dawn back-peddled rapidly. Having reached the top of the hill, they continued their run to the tricky fourth last. Red Spinner took off miles away from the fence, but landed safely despite this. There were a number of risky landings further back in the field, notably from Arthur’s Oak, Dandridge and Gardefort but the remaining horses all stayed on their feet. Chris Pea Green was pulled up prior to the fence.
They headed down the hill and over three out, with Red Spinner taking a narrow advantage over Next Sensation, Velvet Maker, Savello and Pearls Legend; near the rear of the field, Bold Henry fell and hampered the retreating Bright New Dawn.
Last year’s winner Next Sensation retreated rapidly having entered the home straight. This left Red Spinner with a narrow lead over Savello, Pearls Legend, Velvet Maker, Solar Impulse and Rock The World as they jumped the penultimate fence; Gardefort fell here when behind. It was Sam Twiston-Davies aboard Solar Impulse who took the lead as they headed to the final obstacle, and he was a length or so ahead of Red Spinner and Rock The World as they cleared it.
Heading up the hill and despite hanging to his right, Solar Impulse ran on well and won going away by 3¾ lengths at the line. It was Dandridge which initially stayed on strongly up the run-in to take 2nd, from the rallying Rock The World in 3rd. Savello finished 4th and my favourite, Pearls Legend, dead-heated with Red Spinner for 5th.
The winner had been wearing first-time blinkers. At 28-1, the Paul Nicholls runner was the longest priced winner of the entire 2016 Festival. And the first major winner he’d trained for owners Andrea and Graham Wylie; although their third winner of this particular Festival, the other two were trained by Willie Mullins – Yorkhill and Black Hercules. The co-founder of Sage’s association with both Paul and the Irish trainer began when his former trainer Howard Johnson was banned in early 2012 following a BHA disciplinary enquiry.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 7 - 5:30pm
THE JOHNNY HENDERSON GRAND ANNUAL STEEPLE CHASE CHALLENGE CUP (HANDICAP) (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
With the final two winners at the Festival being trained in Great Britain, the BetBright Cup competition was a draw. The presentation of the trophy took place prior to those for the final race; Choc and Hector actually presented it to themselves. Choc then loitered in the Parade Ring for a while, chatting to Paul Nicholls’ Head Lad Clifford Baker, amongst others.
It was gone 18:00 when Choc and Hector headed back in the direction of the Weighing Room. However, I was determined to say hello to Choc for the second time this week, so I skirted the Parade Ring whilst the pair prepared to do their final video to camera at the end of the competition. I arrived a little too soon, as Choc asked me to wait until he’d done it ... then he began to wander off in the direction of the main grandstand before I’d had chance to chat with him! He always tells me he has a very poor memory!!!
But I called him back, and he climbed through into the space between the inner railing and the main fence around the Parade Ring in order that I could give him a kiss on both cheeks. J I asked him if he’d be at Aintree. “Unfortunately no,” he said. However he soon rephrased that, as he told me he was going skiing with William instead. A shame for me and my friend Sandra, but excellent news for William; it will be his young son’s Easter holidays at that time. I told him not to do anything dangerous whilst skiing; I still worry about him.
Anyway, it was then time for me to leave. I popped to the loo, at the usual location, before heading back down the concourse and exiting via the North Entrance. I headed across to the pathway which traverses the car park, and followed it all the way to the far end. It was easy to locate my car, and I sat therein whilst eating the remaining two cheese rolls ahead of departure.
It appeared that many race-goers had left early, for the end of the queue for departure was some distance along the drive; this queue continued to shorten as I sat in my car. Normally, I leave at around 19:30 on the final day but, with traffic appearing quite light, I actually set off at 18:50! And I got to the gate without even encountering a queue at all; I also changed into the right-hand lane in order to head back through Southam today.
There were temporary traffic lights at the point Old Road exited onto the B4632, and I didn’t have to wait long before I was on my way again. There were no traffic queues through Prestbury and, at the double-roundabouts, I headed into Prestbury Road. A short distance later I turned into Priors Road; shortly afterwards, at the far end of Bouncers Lane, I encountered the back of a traffic jam. I suppose, in hindsight, I should have continued along Prestbury Road and then turned left to travel via Pittville Circus; it was too late now.
Anyway, it didn’t take too long to reach the longabout at the bottom of Harp Hill; although the queue was further hampered by a pedestrian crossing and traffic lights at the entrance to Sainsburys. Those drivers not taking the short-cut and choosing instead to continue along Hales Road, appeared to be faced with a big delay.
However, having reached the Sixways junction via Greenway Lane, I encountered a longer queue than usual. And at least one coach was in the queue ... how on earth do coach and lorry drivers manage to negotiate Harp Hill and the lanes, including two traffic calming chicanes, to reach this point. No wonder the road surface has seen far better days; there should be a weight limit for vehicles here. In future I might consider Mill Lane too, if that is a throughway, because it would avoid having to wait at the Sixways junction.
But, regardless, I was soon on my way back to Oxford, with my car headlights providing the vision I’d usually expect, finally! And, at some point, I also put on my night vision glasses to help with the extensive glare from oncoming traffic. However, by the time I’d reached the far end of the Witney bypass, exhaustion had set in once more. If I’d been feeling up to it, I would have continued to the M40, then M25 and home. But, hoping to keep myself awake, I headed up the A34 to Bicester instead, thus retracing my outward journey, via Aylesbury and Hemel Hempstead. It didn’t actually help much, as I was still felt like a zombie. I arrived home at 21:40, my earliest yet this week ... and that was despite taking the slowest route!
I was so exhausted by the time I turned in at 01:30 in the morning that I didn’t even bother to take off my eye make-up, although I did remove my foundation. And, the following morning, it was still in the same condition as I’d applied it over 24 hours previously; amazing. The trick is to apply Maybelline Color Tattoo 24hr Cream Gel Eyeshadow as a base coat; it’s bloomin’ marvellous! I rarely wear it on its own, but apply prior to my favourite eyeshadow, which is a plum-coloured pressed powder L’Oreal one, the eyeshadow never ever wears off or creases. Wonderful. And they are not even paying me to say that!!!
It will come as no surprise that I had hoped to sleep in late the following morning but, in the event, a nuisance phone call woke me at around 08:30. Thanks whoever you were. I know I wanted to watch Saturday morning’s Channel 4 Morning Line at 09:00 but I already had that covered, having set up the Sky box to record it.
Later on in the morning I walked to the local Postal Sorting office to collect a package which Royal Mail had been unable to deliver the previous day, as it was to be signed for. Woo hoo; it was the two Premier tickets to Sandown’s Jump Finale on Saturday 23 April, one for Lesley and one for me; they were £22.50 each, a special introductory price which was due to increase after the end of March.
I didn’t actually get over my exhaustion, or at least feel as good as I’m able to at my advanced age, until the following weekend, which was Easter. I also had an issue with low level stomach pains on both Saturday and Sunday evenings – I presume due to having not eaten properly for three of the past four days.
Annoyingly too, I’d also broken out in spots ... at my age? It appears to be a side-effect of the anti-reflux tablet I have to take each day. Some brands are worse than other ones; I thought the current ones were okay, far better than some, but not as good as others – perhaps the stress and not eating properly had contributed also. My friend Denise gets the same problem with her anti-reflux tablets.
As I had in 2015, I’d booked the following Monday as annual leave ... and I needed it too, not only to give me extra time to begin updating my website, but also to begin my recovery from overwhelming exhaustion.
Cheltenham Festival Leagues Tables
PHOTOS – Cheltenham Festival Day 4