PART II

DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2016

DAY TWO

FEATURING THE QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE

WEDNESDAY 16 MARCH 2016

 

 

 

Race 5 u.jpg

 

Any Currency (Woody) wins the Cross-Country Chase ...

although there would be an unfortunate postscript

 

Click here to read Day 2 Diary Part I

 

It was now time for the feature event of the day, the Queen Mother Champion Chase. 

 

The favourite for the race was the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux, ridden by Ruby Walsh; price 4-6.  His name translates to ‘One of the seals’ … but it’s not clear what type of seal!  Also back for another attempt at regaining the trophy were the 2013 Champion Sprinter Sacre, the 2014 Champion Sire De Grugy and the 2015 Champion Dodging Bullets.  Sprinter Sacre had been showing much of his old sparkle when winning both of his races this season, but Sire De Grugy wasn’t the force of old and Dodging Bullets had managed just one run during the season, at Newbury in February when runner-up, having been suffering with a splint problem.

 

Parade over, the ten runners cantered back down the turf to enter the all-weather strip and canter to the starting gate at the far end of the home straight. 

 

Race 4

Sportingbet Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles (13 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

10

Dodging Bullets, Felix Yonger, God’s Own, Just Cameron, Sire De Grugy, Sizing Granite, Somersby, Special Tiara, Sprinter Sacre, Un De Sceaux

 

And then they were off.  It was no surprise that Special Tiara and Un De Sceaux were vying for the lead as they headed to the first fence.  Sprinter Sacre was prominent in third, and he was flanked by Dodging Bullets to the inside and Just Cameron to his outside.  Behind these were Somersby to the outer, God’s Own, Felix Yonger and Sire De Grugy.  Sizing Granite, which had won the Grade 1 Maghull Novices’ Chase at the Aintree Festival last season, clouted the first and was lucky to survive the error; he now trailed the field.

Initial battle won, Special Tiara ridden by Noel Fehily, led the field to the second fence; on this occasion it was Felix Yonger’s turn to make an error and he also dropped off the pace.  Meanwhile, Special Tiara was scorching up the track to the next, with the favourite three or four lengths behind and Sprinter Sacre spearheading the remainder.   

It was Special Tiara’s turn to make an error at the third; he got too close and pecked on landing as a result.  The leader made no mistake at the fourth; he’d learnt by his error and gave it plenty of daylight.  Un De Sceaux was a little low at this one, dragging his hind-legs through it.  Ruby would probably have liked to dictate the pace aboard the favourite but, with Special Tiara in the field, there was little option at this stage than to travel in his slipstream.

The field now headed away from the main grandstands to reach fence number five; Special Tiara continued to hold a clear lead over Un De Sceaux and there was also clear daylight between him and Sprinter Sacre leading the main field.  Having made bad errors earlier in the race, Felix Yonger was finding it hard to remain in touch and Sizing Granite was tailed off.  

Ruby’s mount closed up upon the leader as they approached and jumped the first fence in the back straight; he was half a length behind as they headed to the water-jump.  Jonathan Burke aboard Sizing Granite decided to call it a day at this point, as there was no hope of making up the lost ground and becoming competitive.   

The leader dragged his hind-legs through the fence slightly, and Dodging Bullets hit it too, despite the obstacle being the smallest in height on the course.  Special Tiara extended his advantage and jumped the first of the open ditches really well; Sprinter Sacre took off a long way from the fence but it was not a problem to make the distance for the big horse.  The following fence was a plain one, and Dodging Bullets hit it. 

Special Tiara continued to lead as the runners headed around the dog-leg turn; still trailing the others, Paul Townend decided to pull up Felix Yonger before the next, the final open-ditch four out.  Un De Sceaux leapt this one at speed and took a narrow lead.  Further back in the field, Dodging Bullets was now being ridden along. 

They reached the far corner and then headed down the hill, Ruby taking advantage of the descent to send his mount into a clear lead.  Mindful of this development, Nico de Boinville decided he had to follow the pace and urged his mount on as they approached the third last.  Sprinter nodded slightly on landing over the fence, but he had soon drawn alongside Special Tiara and this galvanised the latter to also close upon the leader.  Sandwiched between the two Irish runners as they approached the home turn, Nico soon let his mount sweep into the lead.  It now became apparent that Un De Sceaux had nothing to offer to fight off this challenge.  Sprinter Sacre stumbled slightly as he turned into the home straight but this didn’t stop him from pulling away from his rivals.

He cleared the penultimate fence in his stride; the fourth-placed God’s Own made an error here.  Nico gave his mount a couple of cracks with the whip as he approached the last, which he hit, but the 2013 Champion was not to be denied and, although tiring up the hill, he won by 3½ lengths at the line.   It was a close battle for 2nd, with Special Tiara just losing out in the final few strides to Un De Sceaux; the margin a nose.  God’s Own finished five lengths back in 4th, with Somersby 5th, Just Cameron 6th, Dodging Bullets 7th and Sire De Grugy last of the finishers.    

There was no fluke about the result, as Sprinter Sacre went on the win the Grade 1 Celebration Chase at Sandown Park on the final day of the season; again putting Un De Sceaux firmly in his place; the winning distance on that occasion 15 lengths!  But Un De Sceaux did go to France in May and won the Grade 2 Prix La Barka impressively!

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Sprinter Sacre

Nico de Boinville

Nicky Henderson

2nd

Un De Sceaux

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins

3rd

Special Tiara

Noel Fehily

Henry de Bromhead

4th

God’s Own

Paddy Brennan

Tom George

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 4 - 3:30pm

THE BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)

 

No Stewards Enquiry.

Paul Townend, the rider of FELIX YONGER (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding made a mistake at the second fence and was never travelling thereafter.

The Stewards noted that SPRINTER SACRE (FR), ridden Nico de Boinville, and trained by Nicky Henderson would wear earplugs.

The Stewards noted that JUST CAMERON, ridden by Joe Colliver, and trained by Micky Hammond, was late entering the parade ring and consequently failed to parade. They were satisfied that this was due to the trainer having difficulty in fitting the tongue strap.

The Stewards noted that SIZING GRANITE (IRE), ridden by J.J. Burke, and trained by Colm A. Murphy, would wear earplugs. J.J. Burke, reported that SIZING GRANITE (IRE) made a bad mistake at the first fence and was never travelling thereafter.

 

I used to head across to the centre of the racecourse to get a better view of the Cross Country race but, ever hopeful that Martin Keighley’s Any Currency might win, again I stayed where I was.  There was a good reason for this, namely the fact that it takes ages to return from within the centre course enclosures at the end of this race due to weight of numbers; especially as race-goers have to wait until the course is clear of horses and emergency vehicles too.  So, by the time you arrive back, the presentations have ended! 

 

The favourite for the Cross-Country Chase was the Enda Bolger-trained Josies Orders, ridden by Ms Nina Carberry; price 15-8.  However, for the first time, this race was a conditions event with all runners carrying 11 stone 4 lbs.  Hopefully this would help Martin Keighley’s Any Currency to finally gain the victory he deserved, having finished as runner-up in 2014 and 2015. It also marked the return of Balthazar’s King, badly injured during the 2015 Grand National.  The maximum field of 16 went to post, with 5 horses balloted out. 

Obviously the starting gate for the race was situated in the middle of the racecourse.  This meant the horses crossed over the home straight upon leaving the horse-walk to head up in front of the Best Mate enclosure to reach it.

 

Race 5

Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country)

Distance

3 miles 7 furlongs (32 fences)

No. of Runners

16

Any Currency, Ballyboker Bridge, Balthazar King, Bless The Wings, Cantlow, Dolatulo, Josies Orders, Love Rory, Quantitativeeasing, Rivage D’Or, Rossvoss, Sire Collonges, Third Intention, Uncle Junior, Utah De La Coquais, Valadom

 

And then they were off, heading to the first obstacle which was a bank with hedge; one of the brace of greys Valadom leading the way with Ted Walsh’s Rossvoss bringing up the rear.  The runners turned left to head to the ditch with railed hedge.  Having negotiated this obstacle, they continued on their way to the birch island fence.  Valadom continued to lead, from Love Rory, Ballyboker Bridge, and Any Currency with, out wide, Balthazar King.  The second grey Sire Collonges travelled next, from Third Intention, Josies Orders, Quantitativeeasing, Dolatulo, Bless The Wings, the French-trained Utah De La Coquais, last year’s winner Rivage D’Or, Cantlow, Rossvoss and Uncle Junior.  

With the option to go to the left or the right of the aforementioned birch island, fourteen chose to take the inside route to the left, the exceptions being Balthazar King and Rossvoss.  They crossed over the intersection with the mid-course chute before arriving at the Aintree canal-turn style fence.  As with its Aintree counterparts, plenty of spruce was dislodged as they jumped it; Dolatulo made a noticeable mistake here. 

Valadom led the runners over the next fence, a bank with hedge, before they crossed over the mid-course chute once more.  At the far side of this was the double-bank each topped by hedges; a group of six had set up a lead over the remainder by the time they jumped the hedge with log fence which followed.  

Having soon headed across the downhill stretch of the Old Course, the runners turned right to jump fence number eight, a double bank with hedge.  They turned right again to head uphill to the timber rails.  Valadom continued to lead from Love Rory (JP Manus silks with red cap), Any Currency, the blinkered Sire Collonges, Ballyboker Bridge, and Balthazar King.  Third Intention led the other group, from Josies Orders (JP McManus silks first string white cap), Quantitativeeasing (JP McManus silks, green/gold quartered cap), Dolatulo, Bless The Wings, Utah De La Coquais, Cantlow (JP McManus silks, green cap gold star), Rivage D’Or (Gigginstown silks), Rossvoss and the veteran, 15-year-old Uncle Junior brought up the rear. 

Their route then took them across the mid-course chute once more, before they jumped a railed hedge and headed across the downhill stretch of the Old Course; Uncle Junior was showing his age as he began to trail the field.  The horses headed over a ditch with railed hedge, followed by a pole and railed hedge; travelling downhill, the runners were becoming strung out. 

Having crossed the mid-course chute yet again, they jumped over a ditch to land on top of the raised bank, before jumping over a small hedge to drop off of it again.  There were a number of small stumbles as they reached ground-level once more, including from Balthazar King and Third Intention.  Valadom led them into the gulley, where they cleared the water-jump fence; the water being a stream which runs across the racecourse. 

The horses then turned left and soon headed up the ramp and dropped down over the hedge of the first cheese-wedge; a few strides later the runners jumped up onto the second cheese-wedge before travelling down the short slope and continuing on their way.  However, the second wedge caught out the 2012 / 2014 winner Balthazar King and he failed to find his feet and fell; this departure also hampered the favourite Josies Orders.  Fortunately the Philip Hobbs runner seemed fine.

Meanwhile the remaining 15 runners continued out onto the second circuit.  They headed over the ditch and railed hedge, which had also been fence number two, before bearing left on a fairly long gallop to arrive at the raised bank once more; they crossed this at a 90 degrees angle to previously.  Valadom was still ahead, from Love Rory, Any Currency and Sire Collonges.  These four held a clear advantage over the remainder of the field.  

Again it was a fairly long run to the next, during which they crossed over the downhill section of the Old Course once more, before arriving for the second time at the double-bank with hedge.  They then turned right, heading briefly uphill before turning right again to head over a ditch and railed hedge; they jumped this particular fence just once.  Heading back, they crossed the downhill section of the Old Course for a fourth time in order to reach fence number twenty-one; again jumped just once, a ditch with boarded hedge. 

A number of runners had now bridged the gap between themselves and the leading four; however, five were in danger of completely losing touch, namely Utah De La Coquais, Rivage D’Or, Dolatulo, Rossvoss and Uncle Junior.  The loose Balthazar King followed at the rear.  Meanwhile Valadom continued to set a strong pace at the head of affairs as they headed back towards the water-jump.  Love Rory remained in second although, from time to time, he needed to be cajoled along; Any Currency was travelling well in third, far better than he usually did in fact.  Utah De La Coquais was pulled up before the water-jump, Rossvoss after it.

Heading towards the twenty-third fence, which was a double-spread hedge, the McManus ‘massive’ had now closed upon the leaders.  Having begun the final circuit, the leading group was now ten strong as they cleared the bank with hedge for the second time.  As the runners turned left, Love Rory ran out of petrol very quickly and was pulled up before jumping the next.  Sire Collonges soon began to lose touch with the main group too. 

The eight-strong leading group headed over the ditch with railed hedge before continuing to the birch-island fence once more.  On this occasion, Bless The Wings and Cantlow decided to take the outside, right-hand option, whilst Valadom, Any Currency, Ballyboker Bridge, Third Intention, Quantitativeeasing, and Cantlow took the left-hand one.  Martin Keighley’s runner nosed ahead as they galloped across the far end of the mid-course chute before arriving at the Aintree canal-turn fence for the second and final time; this was fence number twenty-seven of the thirty-two.  Cantlow was the next to lose touch with the leading group as they headed over the bank with hedge and across the mid-course chute for the final time. 

Any Currency held a half-length advantage as they jumped the next, the double bank each topped by hedges.  There were still seven in contention as they cleared the log with hedge fence just prior to taking a sharp left turn which took them onto the Old Course proper for the final stage of the race. 

Any Currency led the way from the ex-Alan King-trained Bless The Wings (now trained by Gordon Elliott), from pace-setter Valadom, Third Intention, BallyBoker Bridge, Quantitativeeasing and Josies Orders.  Aidan Coleman, aboard the leader and seeking his second ever Cheltenham Festival win, was beginning to get animated as they headed down to the second last, a stuffed hurdle.  However, the old boy was answering every call and remained narrowly ahead as they approached the home turn.      

Turning in there were just six in with a chance as Valadom faded quickly.  Amateur Jamie Codd headed to the stand-side rails aboard his mount Bless The Wings, with Quantitativeeasing and Josies Orders the final two to make their challenge to the far side of the leader.  But Any Currency was still ahead as they cleared the last, also a stuffed hurdle; he was the more fluent too, as his nearest rival had to put in a short stride in order to meet it right.

Despite Jamie Codd throwing everything including the kitchen sink at his mount, he was soon fighting a losing battle.  Any Currency drifted over towards the nearside rail on the run-in but he had clear daylight, and it was left to Josies Orders to make the final challenge … but it was too late, the veteran won by a length at the line to claim the Keighley’s first ever Cheltenham Festival win!  Whoo Hoo!!!  It was third-time lucky for the horse, after two runner-up finishes in this race.  

Bless The Wings finished just 1¼ lengths back in 3rd, an excellent effort from the 33-1 shot.  Quantitativeeasing was a further 5 lengths away in 4th, Third Intention 5th, Ballyboker Bridge 6th and Valadom 7th.  Twelve finished, three pulled up and Balthazar King fell.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Any Currency

Aidan Coleman

Martin Keighley

2nd

Josies Orders

Ms Nina Carberry

Enda Bolger

3rd

Bless The Wings

Mr J J Codd

Gordon Elliott

4th

Quantitativeeasing

Mark Walsh

Enda Bolger

 

Having spent the duration of the race upon the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure, I was in the right place to see the victorious team arrive back to a very noisy reception from the ecstatic crowd. 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

 

Race 5 - 4:10pm

THE GLENFARCLAS STEEPLE CHASE (A CROSS COUNTRY STEEPLE CHASE) (CLASS 2)

No Stewards Enquiry.

The Stewards noted that DOLATULO (FR), ridden by Gavin Sheehan, and trained by Warren Greatrex, would wear earplugs, which would come out at the start. The Veterinary Officer reported that DOLATULO (FR), unplaced, had lost its left hind shoe.

The Stewards noted that BALLYBOKER BRIDGE (IRE), ridden by A.E. Lynch, and trained by Peter Maher, would wear earplugs, which would come out at the start.

Marc-Antoine Dragon, the rider of UTAH DE LA COQUAIS (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding made a mistake at the twenty first fence, causing him to lose an iron.

Richie McLernon, the rider of LOVE RORY (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding stopped quickly.

I nipped across to the Pre-Parade Ring, between the connections posing for photographs and the presentation, in the hope of seeing Choc; and I was rewarded for my foresight too J.  The owners had also taken Hector under their wing, for he accompanied them.  Sarah Welford, who formerly worked for Alan King and now works for Apple Tree Stud was also there; she’s Gerard Tumelty’s partner, and now owns retired racehorse Blazing Bailey too.  

The favourite for the next race was Jaleo, trained by John Ferguson and ridden by Aidan Coleman; price 6-1.  Alan King had three runners in this race, the grey Paddys Runner ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, Messire Des Obeaux ridden by Noel Fehily as he was owned by Potensis Bloodstock and Ardamir ridden by Denis O’Regan and owned by the Dunkley and Reilly Partnership.

Having won over hurdles in France, Ardamir had run disappointingly on his first two outings for his new owners, losing to two of today’s rivals Kasakh Noir and Jaleo.  However, following a breathing operation, he’d then won well at Doncaster on his latest start, beating another of today’s rivals Our Thomas at Doncaster.  By May, his ownership had reverted to Apple Tree Stud, which is owned by Paul Dunkley, with Danny Reilly’s share seemingly relinquished; he was also tried out on the flat during the following summer.  Their other shared jumper, Ned Stark, was sold at Doncaster’s HIT sales following a disappointing season and was purchased by Irish trainer Gordon Elliott.  I look forward to seeing how he gets on.

Having left the Parade Ring, the competitors initially cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstands on their way to the 2-mile starting gate at the far end of the home straight. 

Choc and Ardamir’s connections remained within the Parade Ring in order to watch the race unfold upon the big screen.

Race 6

Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

Distance

2 miles 110 yards (8 hurdles to negotiate)

No. of Runners

22

Fixe Le Kap, Campeador, Voix Du Reve, Chic Name, Duke Of Medina, Kasakh Noir, Wolfcatcher, Romain De Senam, Le Curieux, Akavit, Doubly Clever, Jaleo, Paddys Runner, Diego Du Charmil, Missy Tata, Coo Star Sivola, Messire Des Obeaux, Ardamir, Harley Rebel, Pullard, Duke Street, Our Thomas

 

And then they were off, first time.  Prominent as the runners headed to the first flight were, towards the inside out, Duke Street, Coo Star Sivola, Chic Name and Akavit.  Denis O’Regan may have been instructed to take an inside line, as he travelled against the rails in mid-field.  With no noticeable errors occurring at the initial obstacle, the 4-year-olds began the long journey up the home straight towards the second. 

Duke Street, Coo Star Sivola, Chic Name and Akavit continued to hold their prominent positions; they were followed by the grey Fix Le Kap, Duke of Medina, Harley Rebel, Wolfcatcher, Messire Des Obeaux, Le Curieux, Jaleo, Ardamir, Paddys Runner, Our Thomas, Diego Du Charmil, Doubly Clever, Romain De Senam, Kasakh Noir, Missy Tata, Pillard, Voix Du Reve and Campeador.

Akavit now held the advantage from Duke Street as the runners joined the Old Course and approached the second flight.  Our Thomas, travelling in mid-field, was a little slow jumping it.  Duke Street against the rail matched strides with Akavit as they headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure; Coo Star Sivola travelled in their wake, with Wolfcatcher and Chic Name disputing fourth.  By the time they entered the back straight for the one and only time, Paddys Runner had dropped to the rear of the field, and shared that position with the hooded Pillard. 

Heading down the back straight, the runners jumped flight number three.  The pace was strong, and Duke of Medina was another to have dropped back through the field, joining the Alan King-trained grey, and Pillard in a triumvirate slightly adrift of the others.  Ardamir wasn’t travelling well either, as he was now the back marker of the main group.

Akavit dropped off the pace as they continued to the fourth, Duke Street and Coo Star Sivola now leading; in third position, Wolfcatcher was a little ungainly at this one.  The runners had now reached the dog-leg turn, at which point Ardamir received reminders as he struggled to compete three from rear; evidently he was still encountering breathing issues and was choking.  The sole filly, Missy Tata, travelling in mid-field, flattened a panel in the next flight.

Coo Star Sivola and Duke Street continued to dispute the lead as they headed to the top of the hill before beginning their journey down it.  Wolfcatcher travelled in their wake, followed by Kasakh Noir, Diego Du Charmil and Messire Des Obeaux; behind these Missy Tata and Campeador, along with Voix Du Reve.  Having been struggling in rear, both Wayne Hutchinson and Denis O’Regan decided to call it a day at this point, aboard Paddys Runner and Ardamir respectively. 

Meanwhile, it was heating-up at the head of affairs as they cleared three out; Coo Star Sivola holding the advantage over Duke Street, Diego Du Charmil, Wolfcatcher, Kasakh Noir, Messire Des Obeaux, and Missy Tata.  Barry Geraghty had taken a pull aboard Campeador, waiting until he laid down his challenge.  Wolfcatcher made a mess of two out, where his jockey Jack Quinlan clung onto the reins in order to steady himself; he soon dropped back.

Meanwhile Coo Star Sivola led the runners into the home bend, with Diego Du Charmil at his quarters preparing to pounce at an opportune moment.  Both Duke Street and Kasakh Noir were now being pushed along, as Campeador loomed up to the outside of the Paul Nicholls runner.  Close of their heels was Ruby Walsh aboard Voix Du Reve, also Missy Tata; Messire Des Obeaux was struggling to go the pace at the back of the leading group.

It came as no surprise that, having entered the home straight, Ruby aboard Voix Du Reve scythed through runners aboard as the space opened up for him.  Having reached the final flight, they took off four in line; Voix Du Reve to the inside, Coo Star Sivola to his outer, Diego Du Charmil to his right and Campeador to the nearside.  Diego Du Charmil flew the obstacle but, in contrast, Coo Star got a little close to it.  However, both ‘Kamikaze Rupert’ and Bazza’s mounts tipped the top and fell independently of each other; Campeador was actually lucky not to break his neck.  Barry was buried; Ruby stayed on-board until the horse rolled over onto its side. 

This incident didn’t help Kasakh Noir, as he collided with the grey’s head and neck as the latter tumbled over, nor Missy Tata which had to sidestep the prostrate horse and jockey.  This left Diego Du Charmil in front, from Coo Star Sivola; however, staying on very strongly from miles back having been in twelfth position turning in, was the Paul Nicholls second-string, the hooded Romain De Senam.

Sam Twiston-Davies was riding for all he was worth as they approached the winning post; his stable-mate eating up the ground all the way to the line.  It was very close, a head the winning distance, he’d just held on aboard Diego Du Charmil.  Having been in the bandwagon for the entire race, Coo Star Sivola finished a close 3rd, just half a length further back.  Missy Tata was 3¼ lengths back in 4th, Doubly Clever 5th, Kasakh Noir 6th and Messire Des Obeaux 7th.       

Seventeen of the 22 runners completed, the tiring Akavit also having been pulled up after two out.  Voix Du Reve was fine and galloped after the others to the line.  Campeador appeared to be in trouble as he thrashed about in his struggle to rise, but was later seen being led back up the horse-walk; he was okay.  Both jockeys were fine too, although Barry limped away.        

It was Diego Du Charmil’s first outing in this country, having been placed in 3 starts over hurdles in France.

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Diego Du Charmil

Sam Twiston-Davies

Paul Nicholls

2nd

Romain De Senam

Nick Scholfield

Paul Nicholls

3rd

Coo Star Sivola

Lizzie Kelly

Nick Williams

4th

Missy Tata

Bryan Cooper

Gordon Elliott

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 6 - 4:50pm

THE FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)

The Stewards held an enquiry into the running and riding of ROMAIN DE SENAM (FR), ridden by Nick Scholfield, and trained by Paul Nicholls, which was settled in at the rear on the outside in the early stages of the race and then appeared to lose its position between the third and second last, without being asked for any apparent effort, before running on in the home straight to finish second, beaten a head. The Stewards interviewed the rider. They also heard observations from the Handicapper. The rider stated that his instructions were to get the gelding settled, as he had run freely in the past. He added that he was happy with his position early in the race but then, from the top of the hill, he held on to the gelding to ensure that he finished the race going forward, as he had faded in some of his previous races. He further added on getting a clear run around the inside on the final bend ROMAIN DE SENAM (FR) stayed on strongly up the hill. He considered that although the gelding had made the running in the past he felt that he responded well to being settled in and if he rode it in the future he would adopt similar tactics. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the race the Stewards noted his explanation.

The Veterinary Officer reported that PADDYS RUNNER, which was pulled up, trained by Alan King, lost its right fore shoe.

Will Kennedy, the rider of DUKE STREET (IRE), unplaced, reported that the gelding was badly hampered by a faller at the last flight.

 

The favourite for the final race of the day was the mare Augusta Kate, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend; price 7-2.  Alan Shearer and Lee Westwood were amongst her owners. Alan King had a runner in this one, Criq Rock, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson. There was one non-runner, so 23 went to the start.

With the starting gate located at the far end of the home straight, the horses would have cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the main grandstands before heading down the turf and re-entering the gallop to reach it.

 

Race 7

Weatherbys Champion Bumper

(Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race) (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles 110 yards

No. of Runners

23

Avenir D’Une Vie, Bacardys, Ballyandy, Ballymalin, Battleford, Castello Sforza, Coeur Blimey, Compadre, Criq Rock, First Figaro, Geordie Des Champs, High Bridge, Jot’em Down, New To This Town, Onthewesternfront, Pride of Lecale, Rather Be, Spirit Of Kayf, Tarcagua, Very Much So, Westend Story, Winsome Bucks, Augusta Kate

 

Then they were off, with the Wylie’s Battleford, plus Spirit of Kayf and Winsome Bucks leading the way.  Travelling close behind these were Avenir d’Une Vie, second favourite Ballyandy, and the Bloomfields’ High Bridge.  The tightly packed group of runners continued their journey up the home straight towards the grandstands, with Spirit of Kayf and Winsome Bucks spearheading the field.  Bringing up the rear were First Figaro and Geordie Des Champs.    

Spirit of Kayf held a half-length advantage as the runners headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure and turned into the back straight for the one and only time.  Winsome Bucks continued in second position, from Battleford, Ballyandy, High Bridge, Avenir d’Une Vie, Castello Sforza, Augusta Kate, Coeur Blimey, Turcagua, Bacardys, Compadre, New To This Town, Very Much So, Westend Story, Jot’em Down, Ballymalin, Rather Be, Pride Of Lecale, Onthewesternfront, Criq Rock, Geordie Des Champs and First Figaro. 

The runners travelled down the back straight, negotiating the dog-leg turn on their journey up the hill to the far corner; Spirit Of Kayf continued to spearhead the field.  The well-fancied New To This Town was being pushed along and had dropped to the rear of the group.  The competitors soon headed down the hill, with Spirit of Kayf and Winsome Bucks soon swallowed up; they dropped back quickly through the field, with Ballyandy trapped behind them as they did so.

Meanwhile, Battleford and High Bridge took up the running, closely followed by Augusta Kate; Pride Of Lecale had made progress and now loomed up to the far outside of the runners.  Sam Twiston-Davies was urging Ballyandy on, in order to make up ground towards the inside rail, which he did.    

Battleford held the lead as they turned into the home straight, pursued by High Bridge, the grey Gigginstown runner Avenir d’Une, JP McManus’ Castello Sforza,  August Kate, Pride Of Lecale, Ballyandy, Bacardys and Very Much So. 

The leading horses fanned out across the course as they approached the empty wings of the final flight, Battleford nearside still marginally ahead, from High Bridge, Avenir d’Une and Ballyandy to the far side closing fast.  As they headed up the hill to the winning post, it became a skirmish between Battleford and Ballyandy; the latter seemed to have the measure of the Willie Mullins-trained horse but, as they approached the line, Battleford began to fight back.  Photograph.

The verdict was a win for Ballyandy, by a nose.  Bacardys stayed on strongly to the line to claim 3rd under Ruby Walsh, with Castello Sforza in 4th, and the never nearer Westend Story in 5th; he came home with a rattle having also been caught up in the backwash of weakening runners on the downhill section, similar to Ballyandy.       

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Ballyandy

Sam Twiston-Davies

Nigel Twiston-Davies

2nd

Battleford

M P Fogarty

Willie Mullins

3rd

Bacardys

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins

4th

Castello Sforza

Barry Geraghty

Willie Mullins

 

At the end of Day 2, the BetBright Cup score was GB 9 : Ireland 5

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 7 - 5:30pm

THE WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER (A STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE) (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)

 

The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by M.P. Fogarty, the rider of BATTLEFORD, placed second, 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 above the permitted level and in an incorrect place. The Stewards suspended Fogarty for 13 days as follows: Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 March, Friday 1, Saturday 2, Sunday 3, Monday 4, Tuesday 5, Thursday 7, Friday 8, Saturday 9, Sunday 10, Monday 11 and Tuesday 12 April 2016. Under Rule (B)54 the Stewards also fined the rider £300.

The Stewards noted that RATHER BE (IRE), ridden by Andrew Tinkler, and trained by Nicky Henderson would wear earplugs, which would come out at the start.

The Stewards noted that FIRST FIGARO (GER), ridden by Davy Russell, and trained by D.K. Weld, would wear earplugs, which would come out at the start. Davy Russell, the rider of FIRST FIGARO (GER), unplaced, reported that he lost an iron in the home straight.

As planned, I left after the sixth race of the day.  I headed up the concourse, out through the main gates, across the bridge, over the driveway, across the short section of gravel, before crossing the Evesham Road, then heading up the tarmac entrance to the top park, along the muddy track and into the far Swindon Lane car park to collect my vehicle. 

Many race-goers had already departed, demonstrated by the spaces left by their vehicles within the car park.  I’d soon joined the early exodus, making my way back to the gravel driveway before heading down the hill to join the queue tailing back from the Swindon Lane gate.  As always, vehicles eased their way into the queue ahead, extending slightly the time it took me to exit.  Vehicles were instructed to turn right, although a member of the traffic police did allow the occasional driver to turn left instead; however, this suited me fine. 

I thus headed in a westerly direction, over the bridge which denotes an disused railway line, before reaching a mini-roundabout; I turned left here, to head down Windyridge Road.  A number of roads in this area are named after racehorses – Mandarin Way, Pendil Close and Arkle Close are three examples.  I drove to the end of the road, soon arriving at the T-junction with Swindon Road; the queue was short, and I soon turned left, then left again at a roundabout.  I took the subsequent left-hand fork, to enter St Paul’s Road, travelling past the end of Tommy Taylors Lane/Folly Lane; another of the well-subscribed exit routes. 

I had to wait for oncoming vehicles to pass by, as the road narrows as it approaches Clarence Square.  I didn’t have to wait long at the traffic lights at the junction with the Evesham Road, before heading along the left-hand lane of the one-way system and turning up Prestbury Road to reach a roundabout thereon.  I took a right in order to head around Pittville Circus and into Pittville Circus Road; this was where I had decided to stop in order to make a call to the RAC.  The road is wide, although used as a cut-through by a number of drivers, including myself. 

I parked opposite a primrose-yellow 3-storey residential building.  There was, however, a noisy drain cover close by; in fact it sounded like someone was knocking on my car window each time a vehicle drove over it!  That was off-putting, to say the least!  A number of people were taking their dogs for a walk in the fading daylight. 

It was still light when the RAC man arrived; his name was Ben.  He actually arrived much sooner than I’d expected him too, especially as he would have to contend with the departing race-day traffic too; I’d been quoted two hours.  However, he also couldn’t find anything wrong with the headlights; but he did suggest I use them on ‘auto’ rather than ‘manual’ setting.  He also did a check under the bonnet … and discovered that the coolant was below the minimum level; he topped it up for me, at a cost of £5.  Did I have a leak or had my servicer omitted to check this I wondered?  Ben also said that he’d had to attend a vehicle at the racecourse yesterday, and it took him around an hour to actually get into the car park to do so!

Anyway, I was soon on my way again, and it was not yet 19:00.  Despite having the headlights checked for the second time, I still wasn’t 100% happy with them.  Okay, I could see more clearly than I had the previous day, but they weren’t as good atilluminating as they should have been.  By this point I was wondering if my night vision had now deteriorated to unacceptable levels!  I’d already tried my night vision glasses, over my own spectacles, the previous day, but they had been totally useless!  Anyway, I persevered and headed back over the Cotswolds, upon the A40.  It was also spitting with rain by this time. 

With the strain of driving, and a lack of sleep, added to my current level of pre-Festival exhaustion, I was losing concentration by the time I was neared Oxford.  However, being desperate to reach home, I continued around their ring-road and onwards to join the M40 motorway.  I finally saw sense, and exited the motorway to stop at the Beaconsfield Services, for 25 minutes; the road layout both into and out of the Service Station is very complicated, but I successfully negotiate the maze on both occasions. 

By the time I rejoined the M40, to head the remaining distance to join the clockwise carriageway of the M25, I was resigned to the fact I was far too exhausted to attend the Festival on Day 3, Thursday.  So I now had a £65 ticket I would be unable to use, plus £8 for pre-paid parking; Poodles. 

It seemed that the break hadn’t really done me much good, as I continued to be on the verge of losing concentration for the remainder of my motorway journey.  Fortunately, junction 20 is not very far from home, and I arrived back shortly before 22:00. 

It was actually a relief that I didn’t need to set my alarm for 04:00 the following morning!  And, hopefully, with over 24 hours in which to recuperate from the rigors of the first two days of the Festival, I’d be in a better place and fit to attend Gold Cup Day.

I didn’t actually sleep in for too long, rising at around 07:30; I even went for a walk down to the local supermarket shortly after their 08:00 opening time in order to purchase a copy of the Racing Post!  I watched the Festival coverage, live on Racing UK during the day; this included seeing Choc and Hector interviewed by presenter Alex Steedman ahead of racing. 

I also knitted another woollen hat, using a ball of Big Fab yarn which I’d had for ages – grey and turquoise in colour.  I used ideas from a pattern I’d already got, but it was knitted to my own design, with a turn-back edge providing double thickness to keep my ears warm!  I even made a very quick self-coloured bobble using a pom-pom maker I’ve got; as opposed to the old-fashioned cardboard circles method.   

I didn’t turn in quite as early as I’d hoped, namely at 22:30, but I was hopeful that I’d feel less tired the following day, regardless.   

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

POSTSCRIPT:

There would be an unfortunate postscript to the Cross Country race:

http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/43544/any-currency-at-risk-of-losing-cheltenham-festival-victory     

The BHA delivered their verdict in August:

http://www.racinguk.com/news/article/45302/martin-keighley-vows-to-train-more-festival-winners-after-any-currency-lose

 

And, for the record, here is the link to a copy of Day 3’s Stewards’ Enquiries. 

 

PHOTOS – Cheltenham Festival Day 2

Races 1 & 2 & 3 (Neptune Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1, RSA Novices’ Chase – Grade 1 & Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle)

Race 4 (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1)

Race 5 (Cross-Country Chase)

Race 6 (Fred Winter Novices’ Handicap Hurdle)

 

 

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