DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2016
FEATURING THE CHAMPION HURDLE
TUESDAY 15 MARCH 2016
Oh Crick takes part in the RoR Parade of Stars
It was a difficult run-up to this year’s Festival, with a re-organisation at work resulting in exhaustion even before I’d begun my annual Cheltenham break. I also had a busy weekend, immediately prior to this, with a visit to see Menace, my EPDS Racing syndicate horse, at Blewbury in Oxfordshire and also briefly attending the second day of ‘Lambing Live’ at my local Agricultural/Further Education College.
Lambing Live certainly lived up to its name, as I saw at close quarters the second of twin lambs born. There were also numerous Saddleback piglets with their mums, Toggenburg goat kids, horses and ponies at the equestrian centre and, definitely last but not least, four alpacas - Nemo, Mr Toots, Machu and Picchu.
There had been concerns regarding the suitability of the College fields for parking this year, due to the excessively wet winter, but many attendees seemed to turn up in vehicles directly at the venue despite a park and ride option being available at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, and requests for public transport to be used. I gather it was necessary to use a number of suitable sports pitches at the venue instead. I walked, as it wasn’t that far away, and could have done so from most areas within my city.
I also wrote, proof-read and uploaded my Menace diary prior to heading off to Cheltenham. On the Monday morning I walked up to the local branch of my bank to withdraw money, and also bought a copy of the Racing Post, before returning home.
I spent time planning my wardrobe, and ended up with 8, then 9 skirts hanging from the picture rail just in case I wanted them; all ironed and ready to go. Suitable sweaters and cardigans were hung upon the outside of wardrobe doors; also three coats with contrasting scarves. I made four ‘outfit’ lists in a notebook, and even threw together a new pearl and glass bead necklace. But, as always seems to happen at some point during the Cheltenham Festival, my outfits soon went ‘off piste’ due to the prevailing weather! The good news is that the weather remained, more or less, dry for all four days; the bad news was that the breeze was brisk and very cold.
Having begun publicising the BetBright sponsored Prestbury Cup back in January, the GB Team Captain ... namely Choc ... was due to be at the racecourse on all four of the racedays. J On Monday, Choc and his Irish counterpart, Hector O’Heochagain, were interviewed at Cheltenham racecourse by Oli Bell of Racing UK. Previously there had been appearances on Channel 4 during Cheltenham Trials Day, telephone interviews on ATR’s Get In, not to mention many photographs on social media and videos on Youtube. BetBright’s recently appointed Chairman is horse-owner Rich Ricci; born in 1964, he was formerly the Head of Corporate and Investment Banking at Barclays, before he retired from that career. Link
Anyway, I set my alarm for around 04:00 on Tuesday. Although, yet again, I’d miscalculated slightly and it sounded just before then – the dial only shows 00-15-30-45, so it’s difficult to judge when setting the alarm time.
I woke, showered and washed and dried my hair. I ate a breakfast of Weetabix, raisins, blueberries and banana; just half a cup of tea was consumed, otherwise I was bound to be desparate to spend a penny by the time I reached the racecourse.
My outfit today was a thermal t-shirt – grey with black doves design (I have two of these for some reason); grey thermal t-shirt – the material is brushed inside; black/grey/blue polo-neck thermal t-shirt; a black M & S cardigan with peplum, cobalt-coloured flippy hem skirt, cobalt blue fleece, black fleece gillet, grey tights, black Hotter ‘Cannes’ lace-up boots, black/grey block design coat, black/white horse design cowel, brushed check fringed M & S scarf – blue/grey/black/white. Black/grey M & S handbag, bought during a price reduction period at M & S in November; I love sale items these days. Black/white/pink pigtail hat; long striped wristwarmers. Jewellery-wise, I wore solely earrings, a pair ‘butterfly wing’ ones purchased from UniqueDichroic, one of my favourite retailers on Etsy; the lady who creates them is based near Perth ... Australia; my blue ones, with a black background.
I scatched my leg on a box which I’d placed on the floor of my bedroom; it was bleeding slightly and stung too when I put my tights on. I hate deep scratches as, invariably, they scar ... and I still have the mark to prove this.
I was ready to go just before 06:25. My journey took me through the City centre, to reach the road to Hemel Hempstead. Drat; I noticed that fluff from the fleece I’d worn on Saturday, a lavender one, had stuck to my seat-beat and was now transferring onto both my black cardigan and my blue skirt. I’ve a number of M & S fleeces, but have noticed that the newer ones shed fluff onto other clothes; I know this will often depend on whether the materials ‘attract’ but I can never recall it happening with the cobalt blue, bright purple and purple ones.
I travelled via Leverstock Green, the ‘Magic Roundabout’ and Two Waters Way to join the A41 bypass.
This part of the journey went without a hitch and I’d reached Aylesbury by 07:00, where I travelled around the town, in an anticlockwise direction, via the road-road. My route then took me along the A41, through Waddesdon to Bicester. It was just a couple of minutes past 07:30; I was on schedule despite having to travel behind a number of heavy vehicles latterly. However I’m going to take back previous comments regarding the good condition of repair of the roads in Oxfordshire; they were dreadful from the county boundary to Bicester on this occasion!
At the far end of the bypass, I turned left to continue on the A41. Amazingly, the traffic queue tailing back from the M40 junction was almost non-existent; it took just one change of signals before I’d negotiated the roundabout. Traffic was moving a little more slowly on the A34, but this is not surprising, as vehicles leaving the southbound carriageway of the M40 take this route into Oxford; cars also join it from a number of side-roads.
I’d soon arrived at the Peartree Interchange; I left the Oxford bypass to reach the roundabout beneath it. Today, traffic was queueing around the island, so I had to ease my way into the flow gradually before heading very slowly down the dual carriageway to reach the A40. Roadworks were being carried out at the roundabout here; it appeared the island was being reduced in size, with the width of the eastbound carriageway of the A40 being increased as it approached the junction. As a result, a speed limit of 30mph was in operation at the present time.
Anyway, although the speed limit soon changed to 50 mph, this was not possible as there was a concrete mixer at the head of the convoy. Fortunately, however, the driver soon pulled over to permit vehicles to pass. The Witney bypass allows further heavy vehicles to be passed, but I still got stuck behind one on the route into Burford. Unusually, there was a queue of traffic tailing back from the roundabout to the south of the town; in fact I permitted a number of vehicles to cross through the queue and enter the Carterton Road whilst I was waiting. Although this also let a number of vehicles push out into the queue in front of me too!
Being early, there was no need to take the signposted ‘alternative’ route to Cheltenham races; I presume that route heads via Stow-on-the-Wold and Winchcombe. I continued on my journey along the A40 and had soon reached Cheltenham. Being rush-hour, there was a tailback from the Sixways junction; traffic was queued all the way back past the ‘school’ turning. Eventually I was able to turn right into Greenway Lane, where I soon headed through the two chicanes, before turning left at the far end and heading down Harp Hill.
At the bottom of the hill I turned right into Priors Road, headed past the entrance to the Sainsburys superstore, before turning right into Bouncers Lane. Normally, at the far end, I’d head into Tatchley Lane, then along New Barn Lane before negotiating the roundabout outside the racecourse and entering Swindon Lane and the car park. However, my favourite car park is now reserved for staff and a drop-off point; very annoying.
This being the case, I turned right and headed through Prestbury, as signposted for public parking. My route then took me along the B4632 to Southam; ahead of me a car was spewing out fumes from its exhaust. I turned left to enter Old Road, then left again to head along Southam Lane. I recognised ‘The Manor House Farm’ from a photograph tweeted by Hannah Bishop ahead of Trials Day; they had been stuck in a traffic jam there!
It became a little bit confusing at this point, as a number of entrepreneurs had set up their own car parks along the road, in addition to the official Cheltenham ‘North’ car park. I was thinking that I didn’t wish to arrive too early, so I continued past the entrance, over the railway bridge to arrive at the Evesham Road, where I turned left when the traffic lights turned green. I thus headed down the Evesham Road to reach the roundabout outside the racecourse. A left turn, second left in fact, took me past ‘Rosehill’ where UCAS is based, and I thus soon headed along New Barn Lane in an easterly direction. There’s nothing quite like undertaking a recognaissance circuit of the roads around Cheltenham racecourse!
I was soon back in Prestbury, and I continued to Southam once more, before arriving back at the entrance to the North car park. This time I turned left to enter and headed up the driveway, crossing two streams in the process. I eventually arrived at a fork; I turned right into the public car park as requested. Once inside I showed my pre-bought parking docket to one of the stewards, a lady, before heading up the hill and being directed to park over to my left. Excellent, the surface of this area was gravel, not grass. Ideal for attendance during wet weather; when the grass car parks become positively horrendous! No need for tractors here, to rescue vehicles which get stuck in the mud.
I ate two of the cheese rolls which I’d bought with me, before applying my lipstick, putting on my coat and heading up the roadway towards the entrance. The Somerset guys will think I no longer attend, if they don’t see me at the southern entrance this year; oh well. I actually followed a lady up the drive who was wearing the fawn-coloured version of my black Hotter ‘Cannes’ boots (officially described as ‘mushroom’ I gather). I love my boots, they are comfy and warm; a bargain too, purchased in the sale for 60% of the original price! For the record, I later bought a mushroom-coloured pair, again offered in the Hotter sale; 50% off!
Queues had begun to form on the paved area outside the north entrance, ahead of opening time. There was also a kiosk to the side, selling tickets for today and, presumably, the following two days also; Gold Cup day was already a sellout I understand. I bought a race-card whilst I was waiting, from a lady who was selling copies to waiting racegoers.
The throng was allowed in, through the turnstiles, at 10:30; my first task would be a visit to the ladies loo. Being a woman of habit, I always visit the same loos ... I used to use the one to the west of the concourse, tucked away under the Gold Cup restaurant building. However, although I know the men’s loo is still open at that location, I’m not sure about the women’s; a couple of years ago it was closed during the Festival so I changed my allegience to the one on the ground floor of the main grandstand, near to one of the bars, possibly the Mandarin bar.
So, there I was, heading across the Plaza, over the horsewalk and up the concourse towards the back of the main grandstand. I first heard, then saw, a group of guys taking a selfie with Rich Ricci; one of them was saying words to the effect that he was a racing ‘A’ lister if ever there was one. Then, as I continued up the slope who should I see but Choc; in fact he saw me at the same time as I saw him. Excellent. My number one goal attained within 5 minutes of entering the racecourse! Hector was with him too.
Obviously I went over to say hello; giving Choc a kiss on both cheeks, as you do! We chatted briefly before parting; he confirmed he’d be at the Festival every day. Wicked. I then continued on my journey to the ladies loo.
I love it when I’m in the right place at the right time; it happens rarely, to me. Although it did happen when I visited the Barbury Horse Trials, with my friend Den, and we bumped into Choc as we were leaving; in other words it was pure coincidence on that occasion.
Having completed my task, I then went to buy a bottle of water, before heading to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure to survey the scene. I next spotted Choc and Hector on the terrace outside the Weighing Room; just after 11:00 they headed in the direction of the Guiness Village and I didn’t see hide nor hair of my favourite man for the remainder of the day. L
Being the first day of the Festival, the RoR parade was due to take place; at 12:30. Ahead of that, a cheque for £2,000 was presented to a representative of Greatwood by bookmakers Stan James. Martin Kelly then interviewed jockey Bryan Cooper (misspelt as Brian on the big screen); he wouldn’t reveal which ‘Don’ he’d be riding in Friday’s Gold Cup – Don Cossack or Don Poli. Trainer Henry de Bromhead was the next to be interviewed.
Two RoR horses arrived in the Parade Ring ahead of schedule – namely Denman and Punjabi; they were asked to leave until the official RoR parade began! Finally it was actually time for the RoR horses to make their appearance. There were 10 this year – 9 of which ran at the 2009 Festival; my first Festival in fact.
Firstly there was Comply Or Die, winner of the 2008 Grand National; today ridden by Chelsea Pearce. Currenly, he does dressage and goes hunting. Cappa Bleu, ridden by Jane O’Brien; dressage and showing. Denman, ridden by Charlotte Alexander; hunting and team chasing are his speciality, he’s also been schooled around the cross country fences at the course.
Forpadydeplasterer, ridden by Joanne Quirke; he takes part in hunting and showing. He was being ridden side-saddle today ... which looked rather effeminate for a horse such as he! Kasbah Bliss, ridden by Kirsteen Reid; he does dressage, and his former trainer Francois Doumen was on hand today to speak about the horse.
Mikael D’Haguenet, ridden by Lesley Sutton; having undergone an operation for a kissing spine, the horse has been unable to do any jumping or hunting. However, he does take part in dressage now. Oh Crick, ridden by David Nicholson’s granddaugher Holly Nicholson. Having begun with dressage competitions, the pair are hoping to event this summer.
Punjabi, ridden by Rachael Kempster; the specialty of the 2009 Champion Hurdler is dressage. Sizing Europe, ridden by Rosemary Connors; showing. And, finally, Tranquil Sea ridden by Clemmie Shipp; the winner of the 2009 Paddy Power Gold Cup, has been competing in dressage and hopes to start eventing in the summer. RoR showing classes are also on the agenda.
As per usual, Colin Brown interviewed each rider in turn. Martin Kelly also spoke to a representative from Stan James, sponsor of today’s feature race, the Champion Hurdle.
I also noticed that AP McCoy, who now works for Channel 4 Racing, was being rewired for sound.
As I’m paranoid about reserving a space beside the course-side rails ahead of racing, I set off in good time to find one.
The favourite for the first race was Min, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; price 15-8. Next in the betting were two Nicky Henderson-trained runners; Altior, which had won his last outing impressively at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, to complete four wins in a row, and Buveur D’Air which had won both of his hurdle races so far.
The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one complete circuit to travel. This being the case, the horses cantered up all-weather strip in front of the grandstands before heading down the turf and re-entering the all-weather strip to complete their journey to the gate.
And then they were off to the sound of the familiar Cheltenham roar; game on 2016! The runners were led away by the Kim Bailey-trained Charbel, closely pursued by the Irish ‘massive’; namely Min to the inside, further out Supasundae and Bellshill, just behind these the hooded grey Petit Mouchoir, along with Tombstone. William H Bonney was amongst this clique too. Near the rear, Mister Miyagi made an error at the first flight.
The runners continued their journey up the home straight towards the next flight, with Charbel hold a two lengths lead over Min; bringing up the rear was Buveur D’Air. The field cleared the next without incident and then headed up the hill to the audible sound of excitement from the gathered race-goers.
The runners entered the back straight, still headed by the nose-banded Charbel, with Min continuing to keep close tabs on the leader. However, at the first flight therein, Ruby Walsh’s mount took off half a stride too soon, and clipped the top of it; he survived but conceded a couple of lengths as a result, having slightly ‘lost’ his hind-legs on landing.
The field had soon made up the deficit upon the leader as they headed towards flight number four. Charbel continued to lead, from Min, Supasundae, Petit Mouchoir, Altior and Bellshill; Silver Concorde brought up the rear. Supasundae made a slight error at this hurdle. The runners headed around the dog-leg turn before clearing the next flight; Bellshill was being pushed along by the time they reached the top of the hill.
The runners galloped down the hill, Charbel still holding the advantage over Min, from Supasundae, Altior, Petit Mouchoir, Tombstone, Bellshill, William H Bonney, North Hill Harvey to the outside, Buveur D’Air to the inner, Mister Miyagi, Holly Bush Henry, Penglai Pavilion and Silver Concorde.
The long-time leader remained just ahead of Min as they cleared the third last flight; however Altior was breathing down their necks having now made progress on the outside of the field into third position. The race was on as they headed down to the penultimate flight; with Charbel, Min and Altior clearing it ahead of Supasundae, Petit Mouchoir, Buveur D’Air and Tombstone. North Hill Harvey, which had been in the main group, made an error here and soon weakened out of contention.
Ruby Walsh had the advantage of a run through against the rail as they entered the home straight, but Altior to the outside of Charbel was also able to go with the pace as the long-time leader began to fade. And the Nicky Henderson runner proved to have the better turn of foot as they headed to the final flight; he was two lengths ahead as he cleared it with aplomb.
Having quickened up, Altior continued to put daylight between himself and his rivals as he galloped up the hill to the winning line; he won by 7 lengths, with his jockey Nico de Boinville having plenty in hand to permit him to celebrate as he crossed the line. Min held on to the runner-up position, with Buveir D’Air staying on to claim third prize, one and a half lengths away. Tombstone claimed 4th, having caught the gallant Charbel close home. William H Bonney completed in 10th for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson.
The race took a lot out of Min, as it was decided to put him away for the remainder of the season following this race.
The winner’s sire is High Chaparral; Nicky said that, with the sire’s unexpected success as a National Hunt stallion too, offspring have now gone out of their price range again.
I remained beside the course-side rails during the interval between race one and two.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 1 - 1:30pm
THE SKY BET SUPREME
NOVICES' HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
The Stewards held an
enquiry into the use of the whip by Kielan Woods,
the rider of HOLLY BUSH HENRY (IRE), unplaced, from the second last flight.
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 when out of
contention. The Stewards suspended Woods for 5 days as follows:- Tuesday 29,
Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 March and Friday 1 and Saturday 2 April 2016.
As is commonplace, the Arkle Chase garnered a small field; 7 runners this year. It didn’t help that Douvan, ridden by Ruby Walsh, was thought by his trainer Willie Mullins to be the best he’s ever of trained, and that’s even taking into account all of his other star names, such as Vautour and Annie Power! It didn’t help that two possible UK representatives, both trained by Gary Moore namely Ar Mad and Violet Dancer had suffered injuries earlier in the year; Violet Dancer’s injury had proved to be life ending following complications after surgery. They’d both suffered condular fractures.
Douvan was so fancied for this race that his starting price was 1-4! Vaniteux was the next best in the betting, priced 8-1.
As had been the case for the first race, the starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one complete circuit to travel. As a result, the horses cantered up all-weather strip in front of the grandstands before heading down the turf and re-entering the all-weather strip to complete their journey to the gate.
And then they were off. One of the Irish raiders, Sizing John, led over the first, from the hooded and nose-banded Fox Norton to the inside, and Douvan to their outer. Near the rear of the field, to the inside, Aso made a mistake at this fence. Heading over the second obstacle, The Game Changer sporting the maroon and white Gigginstown silks, pecked on landing.
The septet continued their journey up the home straight, joining the main Old Course circuit ahead of clearing fence number three; Douvan jumped this fence alongside Sizing John and then held a narrow advantage as they headed over the next. Travelling up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure, Douvan led, from Sizing John, Vaniteux, Fox Norton, The Game Changer, Baltimore Rock, with Aso bringing up the rear.
The runners cleared the uphill fence without incident before heading out into the country for the one and only time. Douvan was now bowling along at the head of affairs; there were no departures at the first obstacle in the back straight, although Baltimore Rock pecked on landing over it. The next fence is the water-jump, which they all cleared in their stride, before approaching the first of two open-ditches; Vaniteux was a little bit ponderous in the air over this one.
There were no noticeable errors at the next, a plain fence; the field then headed around the dog-leg turn before arriving at the second and final open-ditch. The obstacle presented no problems and the seven runners continued their journey to the top of the hill, still led by Douvan.
They rounded the far turn and began their progress down the hill towards three out; Nico de Boinville had now moved his mount into second position, just behind the favourite. At the back of the field, Aso was the least impressive jumping this fence. Douvan was travelling well within himself, but Sizing John and Vaniteux were now being pushed along as they approached the home turn. In fourth position, and in contrast, The Game Changer was also going well.
The Nicky Henderson-runner had progressed under Nico’s encouragement, and was within half a length of the leader as they entered the home straight. However, with this pressure, his jumping let him down at the penultimate fence, he blundered and stumbled badly on landing; this catapulted his jockey out of the saddle. The now rider-less Vaniteux struggled but successfully remained on his feet, however he did bump into The Game Changer in the process, and Nico was fortunate to miss the hooves of both Sizing John and Fox Norton as he somersaulted into their path. Baltimore Rock fell independently at this fence.
This left Douvan well clear of his remaining five rivals as he approached the final fence. He did take a bit of a liberty at the last by taking off too soon, but this had no bearing on the result as he galloped up the hill to win by 7 lengths. Ruby Walsh celebrated as he crossed the line. Sizing John stayed on to finish 2nd, with Fox Norton claiming 3rd having overtaken the weakening The Game Changer on the run-in. Aso was a close-up 5th, and won £3,360 for his connections. As there was no 6th-placed horse, the prize would be added to the winner’s pot!
Both Vaniteux and Baltimore Rock appeared fine following their mishaps.
Once again I remained beside the course-side rails.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 2 - 2:05pm.
THE RACING POST ARKLE CHALLENGE TROPHY STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)
No Stewards Enquiry.
The favourite for this race was novice Out Sam, trained by Warren Greatrex and ridden by Gavin Sheehan; price 13-2. Twenty-three horses went to post; one non-runner being Indian Castle.
Having exited the horse-walk and cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstands, Grand Jesture was not at all keen to follow the others to the starting gate, which was part-way down the home straight. As a result he was initially led down the course, before the jockey was legged up to complete the journey.
It was a standing start on this occasion, due to the difficulties involved with getting a large field to approach the tape at ‘no more than a jog’; thus their previous attempt or attempts had been aborted. But then they were off.
Prominent as they jumped the first fence were The Young Master, although he was less than fluent, the blinkered Holywell, Morning Assembly and Double Ross. Towards the rear of the field O Maonlai stumbled on landing, and Southfield Vic blundered; Spring Heeled was in last position. The horses continued over the second fence, where in mid-field the blinkered According To Trev made an error.
Having sorted themselves out, the big field headed up the hill towards the third, led by the familiar chestnut-coloured Double Ross under Jamie Moore. He was pursued by Holywell, Morning Assembly and Shanahan’s Turn; after these Kruzhlinin, Audacious Plan, The Young Master and Un Temps Pour Tout. There were no casualties at this fence.
Entering the back straight, Double Ross and Shanahan’s Turn cleared the next in unison; they all cleared this safely, with Out Sam and Spring Heeled detached at the rear of the field. The horses then negotiated the water-jump before heading to the first of four open-ditches. The first casualty was Audacious Plan, who fell here; as he had been travelling just behind the leaders, he severely hampered Regal Encore, then having got to his feet the horse collided and was knocked to the ground by Spring Heeled, who unseated Brian O’Connell as result.
Double Ross and Shanahan’s Turn continued to lead as the remaining 21 runners cleared the next fence without incident, before negotiating the dog-leg turn. There were no issues at the following fence, which was the second open-ditch; Regal Encore, According to Trev and Out Sam were bringing up the rear. Having now reached the top of the hill, the field headed around the far turn and began their journey down the hill to the next obstacle.
Over the next, Double Ross and Shanahan’s Turn continued to lead, from Holywell, The Young Master, Un Temps Pour Tout, Kruzhlinin, Morning Assembly, Band Of Blood, Fox Appeal, Ballykan, Algernon Pazham, Theatre Guide, the visored Beg To Differ, Katenko, Carole’s Destrier, Southfield Theatre, Doing Fine, Regal Encore, O Maonlai, Out Sam and finally According To Trev.
Having entered the home straight, Double Ross got a little bit close to the next fence but continued to dispute the lead with Shanahan’s Turn and Holywell. All the runners safely negotiated the following fence, but Beg To Differ was short of room and clipped heels with Algernon Pazham shortly afterwards; he stumbled as a result and jockey Aidan Coleman was unseated. Twenty runners now remained and these headed over the uphill fence without incident.
Carole’s Destrier appeared short of room as they rounded the bend to enter the back straight; he collided briefly with the rail and lost ground as a result. An incident then occurred at the next, the unlucky thirteenth, with Theatre Guide putting down and taking a heavy fall and Southfield Theatre being brought down as a result; although the latter did catch a foreleg on the fence, so may have come down regardless. Fortunately both horses were fine and galloped away.
The field was thinning out as Double Ross led them over the water-jump, closely pursued by Kruzhlinin, Holywell and Un Temps Pour Tout; Shanahan’s Turn, having been prominent, was now dropping back through the field. Doing Fine fell heavily at the next, the penultimate open-ditch, and Carole’s Destrier blundered badly; Noel Fehily remained aboard but decided that now was the time to call it a day. There were 15 runners still going, as According to Trev had been pulled up earlier in the back straight.
The next fence was a plain one and The Young Master blundered here. The field then negotiated the dog-leg turn and headed towards the final open-ditch. Barry Geraghty decided to pull up Regal Encore at this point. Double Ross was disputing the lead with Holywell and Un Temps Pour Tout as they cleared the fence, which Kruzhlinin hit, before continuing the climb to the top of the hill.
A loose horse, which was actually Beg To Differ, preceded the field as it headed down the slope to the third last fence. The Nigel Twiston-Davies runner was now beginning to tire and, having jumped the obstacle, Holywell and Un Temps Pour Tout went on, with Morning Assembly moving into third position as they rounded the bend and entered the home straight.
It was neck and neck as the two leaders cleared two out; both jumped it well. With both jockeys now cajoling their mounts, and Holywell receiving a crack from Richie McLernon’s whip, Un Temps Pour Tout moved into a slight lead and jumped the final fence ahead. The small but gallant Holywell had no answer today at his beloved Cheltenham; his rival drew away as they headed up the hill to win by 7 lengths at the line.
The Young Master completed in 3rd, with Morning Assembly in 4th and Kruzhlinin 5th. Algernon Pazham finished 6th and the favourite Out Sam 7th; never nearer! Despite more than a third of the field failing to complete, no injuries were reported.
Once again I remained beside the course-side rails.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 3 - 2:50pm
THE ULTIMA HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)
It was cold, so I put my hat on; a steward admired it. I also chatted to a girl from Newcastle – she was moaning about Willie Mullins – called him a crook regarding Vautour’s defection from the Gold Cup, preferring the Ryanair Chase instead, and she was also upset that her male companion kept disappearing at intervals throughout the afternoon!
Click here to read my Day 1 Diary Part II