DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2017
FEATURING THE CHAMPION HURDLE
TUESDAY 14 MARCH 2017
Penzance, now 16, takes part in the RoR Parade of Stars;
The winner of the 2005 Triumph Hurdle retired from racing in 2008
My first chore on the day before the Festival was to buy a copy of the Racing Post from the local supermarket; I also made a last minute decision to buy three Pot Noodle tubs whilst there, as I was conscious that an evening meal would be costly at the hotel where I was due to stay.
As usually happens on the day prior to one of the Festivals whether it be Cheltenham or Aintree, I headed down to the local retail park to visit the large M & S store. The main reason is to purchase tights, to ensure that all my possible outfits have matching or contrasting pairs. Not that it would have mattered particularly, as on three of the four days I wore jeggings under my skirts with tights beneath! But I didn’t know that when I went shopping.
I also bought a pair of cobalt blue jeggings; I couldn’t resist them. However, what I really want is a teal-coloured pair but I’ve ‘missed the boat’ as far as those are concerned, as there seems to be less variety in the way of colour at the moment. And I don’t like pull-on ones particularly, as my bum is too flat so they have a tendency to fall down!!!
Anyway, my alarm sounded at 03:50 on Day One, which gave me over two and a half hours to prepare ahead of my journey. I took a shower, washed and dried my hair before applying my make-up and eating breakfast.
Today’s outfit was a grey/blue/black thermal polo, a grey with black birds-patterned thermal t-shirt, and a grey brushed material thicker thermal t-shirt. A dark grey ribbed v-neck jumper, a turquoise button to the neck BHS cardigan, a neon blue fleece, a black fleece gillet, a pair of indigo blue tights, a neon blue flippy-hem skirt, black ‘Cannes’ lace-up leather and suede Hotter boots, black BHS coat (the one which I bought for just £20 in their sale a few years ago), a turquoise ‘Finding Nemo’ M & S scarf (it has a coral reef and clown fish printed on it), plus the ‘Indie’ wool snood which I recently knitted. My earrings were mid-blue butterfly wings created by Unique Dichroic; probably my favourite Etsy store.
The handbag which I used all week was a Defea design ‘Graphic Print’ Kipling one; in navy/blue/white/gold. I took my black and white Kipling handbag too, just in case I decided that the Defea one wasn’t big enough, or if it rained and the original one became soggy!
With everything packed, including the kitchen sink, I set off from home at 06:35. My journey took me via the city centre, then to Hemel Hempstead; I noticed that the road surface adjacent to the speed cameras on the hill leading to the ‘Magic Roundabout’ was worn out. No doubt a result of numerous drivers braking at this point to avoid being caught speeding! I headed via Two Waters Road to reach the A41 dual carriageway before heading to Aylesbury. I managed to stall my car at the far end of their ring-road, whilst waiting to pull out onto a roundabout. My car wasn’t being as responsive as usual, due to the heavy cargo. The driver of the vehicle behind me tooted … I gave him a rude gesture … naughty me!
I then travelled via Waddesdon and Bicester; there was yet another new road layout on the final stretch of the A41, leading down to junction 9 of the M40. I didn’t encounter any holdups until the start of the A34; it was slow moving traffic as the three lanes merged into two and also with traffic entering from the Wendlebury turning. This cleared until approaching the Peartree Junction where vehicles slowed once more; I left the A34 at this point.
Changes have been made at the Wolvercote roundabout, and this has freed up movement around the earlier Peartree junction. This being the case, I was able to negotiate the latter without having to squeeze through stationary traffic; in fact the initial stretch of the outside lane of the dual carriageway leading down to the Wolvercote junction was clear too. However, the newly installed traffic signals on that roundabout do result in vehicles blocking the lanes and thus appear to prevent free movement around it at peak times.
Once upon the A40, my journey then went smoothly all the way to Cheltenham. As suggested by the racecourse, I decided to park in the northern car park, travelling via Greenway Lane, Harp Hill, Priors Road, Bouncers Lane and Prestbury. I arrived at 09:20 and was directed to park in the area close to the pedestrian walkway which leads through the car park to the northern entrance.
At 09:50 I decided to head to the aforementioned entrance in order to join the queue for entry; gates opened at 10:30. I purchased a race-card from a seller outside the entrance. For security reasons, bags were checked prior to entry.
Having driven in from Hertfordshire, once inside the grounds my first task was to visit the ladies loo within the ground floor of the main grandstand; these have been extended to include more stalls – so hopefully no queuing at peak demand times. I then went to buy a cup of coffee and a bottle of water before heading back towards the main plaza where a statue of AP McCoy was about to be unveiled; the retired jockey was in attendance. Following this, I headed back up the hill to the steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure.
The first casualty of the day appeared to be a race-goer who must have collapsed close to the rear entrance to the Princess Royal stand. Medics and a doctor or doctors were quickly in attendance, rushing across the Parade Ring to reach the stricken person. Green screens were soon mustered, as was an ambulance. I have no idea of the outcome; but if you’ve got to go you’ve got to go, but you’d hope it would be at the end of the Festival, not before it had even begun.
I’ve just checked, and you can have your cremated ashes scattered at Cheltenham racecourse … what a fabulous idea! Oh wow ... and free of charge too!
The RoR (Retraining of Racehorses) Parade takes place on the first day of the Festival each year. This year there were 12 horses taking part:
Firstly, Beware Chalk Pit a two-time winner over fences; his current forte is showing.
Big Buck’s, winner of the World Hurdle on 4 occasions – 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. He now enjoys hunting.
Finian’s Rainbow, winner of the 2012 Queen Mother Champion Chase. He hunts regularly and his rider hopes to compete in RoR showing and show-jumping classes this year.
Forpadydeplasterer, winner of the 2009 Arkle Chase. He hunts and competes in showing classes, including side-saddle.
Long Run, winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2012 and the 2011 (run in January 2012) and 2012 King George VI Chase. He hacks and hunts now.
Midnight Chase, five time winner at Cheltenham; he enjoys hunting and eventing.
Penzance, winner of the 2005 Triumph Hurdle. He has competed in dressage, show-jumping and hunter trials.
Punjabi, winner of the 2009 Champion Hurdle. He competes in dressage and goes hunting.
Rubi Light, placed in the 2011 Ryanair Chase. Retired last year, his handler hopes to compete in dressage and showing this year.
The Giant Bolster, placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, began re-training three months ago, and it is hoped to compete in RoR dressing and showing classes this year.
Balthazar King, winner of the 2014 Cross-Country Chase. Having recovered from a life-threatening injury incurred during the Grand National, he now hunts regularly with Izzi Beckett, wife of trainer Ralph.
Denman, winner of the 2008 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He retired from racing in 2011 and enjoyed hunting regularly and going team-chasing since that time. However, no longer ridden, he was soon to enter full retirement and would return to owner Paul Barber’s farm. Charlotte Alexander, who has been looking after Denman, would take on the soon to be retired Silviniaco Conti in his stead!
Meanwhile I’m still waiting for Medermit to be invited!
As usual, at noon, presenter Martin Kelly interviewed a number of people of interest; these included Cheltenham Radio presenter Rupert Bell, father of Oli. Also amateur jockey Jamie Codd and Brett Williams of Stan James, the sponsor of the Champion Hurdle. It was good to see that Tom Stanley of Racing UK had been promoted to roving reporter this year; Oli Bell having been snapped up by ITV Racing. I like Tom … and I like Oli too!!! Oli does still appear on RUK, during the week.
I headed to the course-side rails in plenty of time to reserve my place ahead of racing; probably at the half furlong mark. The first race was at 13:30 and, of course, would be accompanied by the famous Cheltenham roar as the horses set off.
The joint favourites for this race were Ballyandy, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by son Sam, and Melon trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; their price was 3-1.
Paul Morrison of RUK pointed out that Melon over-tracks and might be susceptible to over-reach issues.
Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Elgin ridden by Wayne Hutchinson. There was a grey, Labaik and a roan Bunk Off Early; you could see the difference in colour when stood beside each other but sometimes, when referring to thoroughbreds, a horse which I would have described as a roan is listed as a grey!
To reach the starting gate, upon exiting the horse walk the competitors cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstands before then heading down the turf and re-entering the all-weather gallop to canter to the far end of the home straight.
Having exited the holding pen, the group headed away from the starting gate before turning to make their final approach; there was also a concern that Labaik would dig his heels in and refuse to start, having done so on a couple of previous occasions. Bunk Off Early had a little kick out at Capital Force as they bunched up ahead of the off; fortunately he didn’t make contact.
There was a mini roar, then the customary Cheltenham roar as the horses set off; Irish-raider Cilaos Emery spearheaded the field as they headed towards the first flight. Meanwhile, although at the back of the field, Labaik had consented to run.
Having all successfully cleared the first flight, the blaze-faced chestnut Crack Mome could be seen fighting for his head in the centre of the group. The hooded Cilaos Emery continued to lead from Pingshou and Beyond Conceit as they headed up the home straight towards flight number two. There was a little bit of bumping and barging after they’d landed over this one; Glaring was the worst protagonist, as his slow jump resulted in Ballyandy being hampered in the backwash.
The pace remained a steady one as the horses headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure. There was no change at the head of affairs, with Capital Force, Labaik and Magna Cartor bringing up the rear. Bunk Off Early was a little short of room against the inside rail as they turned the corner into the back straight. Capital Force made an error at the first flight therein.
The fourteen runners continued their journey along the far side of the course, with Cilaos Emery leading from Beyond Conceit; Pingshou came next with, upsides him, Melon, River Wylde and High Bridge. Behind these travelled Glaring, Bunk Off Early, Crack Mome, Ballyandy, Elgin, Labaik, Capital Force and Magna Cartor. Melon bunny-hopped the next flight.
Having negotiated the dog-leg turn, the runners soon reached the top of the hill and headed over the fifth flight. The leader wasn’t particularly fluent at this one and, further back in the field Glaring made a glaring error and was immediately being pushed along. The field then turned the far corner and free-wheeled downhill to reach the third last obstacle. The long-time leader still had an advantage of almost a length as they cleared it; in mid-field, Bunk Off Early made a bad error here.
Cilaos Emery remained narrowly in front as they headed towards two out, with Beyond Conceit and River Wylde continuing to press him and Ruby Walsh cruising in his slip-stream aboard Melon. Having cleared this flight, Ballyandy was now being pushed along in fifth position, with Labaik just behind him catching the eye as he progressed through beaten runners.
Cilaos Emery and River Wylde were neck and neck as they headed around the final turn; Ruby continued to bide his time, waiting to pounce should the hoped-for gap appear. However as it did so, due to the long-time leader dropping away, Labaik loomed up to the nearside of River Wylde to lay down his challenge. The grey was already ahead as the leaders jumped the last; both Melon and the Nicky Henderson runner were clumsy here which didn’t help their causes.
Ruby galvanised his mount as they headed up the hill towards the line but, although the distance between him and Labaik failed in extend initially, the grey was able to finally draw away as the finish approached; the winning distance was 2¼ lengths at the line. River Wylde had faded after the last but still held on to 3rd position, despite the gap extending to 8 lengths. Ballyandy was 1¼ lengths behind him in 4th.
Cilaos Emery finished 5th, with Beyond Conceit 6th and Elgin 7th. All fourteen completed, with Glaring the tailed-off last; he’d not been helped by a poor round of jumping.
The winning jockey was teenager Jack Kennedy, the winning trainer Gordon Elliott.
The subsequent history of the horse was a tale to tell. He was entered for the Aintree Festival sale, only to be withdrawn. He then turned up at the Punchestown Festival and got left at the start, although he did eventually consent to race but having thrown away his chances; another blot on his copybook. Finally, he raced for a second time at the Irish Festival, only to sustain a serious and possibly career-ending injury. Talented but obviously star-crossed it would seem.
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 Stewards noted that BUNK OFF EARLY (IRE), unplaced, brushed the running rail on the bend turning into the back straight, causing it to shift right-handed, interfering with BALLYANDY, placed fourth, which stumbled, but after viewing a recording of the race they were satisfied that it did not involve a riding offence.
The Stewards noted that BUNK OFF EARLY (IRE), CRACK MOME (FR) and MELON, all trained by W.P. Mullins and BALLYANDY, trained by Nigel Twiston Davies, would wear earplugs. They noted that CAPITAL FORCE (IRE), trained by Henry de Bromhead, would wear earplugs, which would be removed at the start. They gave permission for MAGNA CARTOR, trained by John Joseph Hanlon to mount in the chute and go early to post.
The Veterinary Officer reported that CILAOS EMERY (FR), placed fifth, trained by W.P. Mullins, lost its right hind shoe.
The very hot favourite for the next race was Altior, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville; last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner was priced at 1-4. There was one grey in this race, namely Cloudy Dream sporting the colours of owner Trevor Hemmings.
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.
Having exited the corral, the horses headed away from the starting gate initially before turning and coming into line. And then they were off, with Charbel narrowly ahead of Ordinary World and Some Plan as they cleared the first fence; the grey brought up the rear.
Charbel and Ordinary World led the runners to the next; Three Stars wasn’t fluent jumping it. As a result, his jockey Robbie Power decided to pull him up. Meanwhile the remaining eight competitors headed onto the main circuit of the Old Course and soon reached the third obstacle. Some Plan hit the third; he’d not jumped particularly well at all of the fences so far.
The Kim Bailey runner held an advantage of two or three lengths over Ordinary World as they headed to the fourth. Having all cleared it safely, Altior’s jockey permitted his mount to progress into second position; the chestnut Forest Bihan brought up the rear as they jumped the uphill fence.
The runners turned into the back straight and headed slightly downhill to the sixth. Charbel continued to lead, from Altior, Ordinary World, Some Plan, Royal Caviar, Cloudy Dream, A Hare Breath and Forest Bihan. The favourite wasn’t quite as fluent as he might have been at this one, having shortened up to jump it; the back-marker hit this one.
The following obstacle was the water-jump and Some Plan, having made progress at the earlier fence, wasn’t so fluent and lost his place once more. The next was the first of the open-ditches and A Hare Breath jumped it awkwardly and was pushed along for a few strides having found itself in joint last position.
The ninth fence was a plain one, with Charbel continuing to lead the way as they cleared it. Cloudy Dream was a little skew-whiff here, and A Hare Breath was slow and relegated to sole last. Having negotiated the dog-leg turn the horses had soon arrived at the final open-ditch. Altior reached for this one, slightly dragging his hind-legs through the fence as a result, but it didn’t affect his momentum as he drew closer to the leader as they approached the top of the hill.
The runners headed around the far turn and began the journey down the hill to the third last; Charbel continued to spearhead the field as they did so. Royal Caviar hit this one, and Forest Bihan made a bad blunder.
The race was beginning in earnest as they headed towards and around the final turn. Charbel still held the advantage over the favourite, with Cloudy Dream and Ordinary World in hot pursuit of the leading duo as Royal Caviar began to drop away.
The long-time leader was still narrowly ahead as they jumped the penultimate fence. However, he landed too steeply and fell, tumbling over as jockey David Bass grasped his helmet in order to protect himself from his mount’s flying hooves and the other runners too. Both Forest Bihan and Some Plan had to swerve to avoid the living obstacles.
Meanwhile, Altior led the runners down and over the final fence; he was a length or so up on the grey as they cleared it. Ordinary World dropped away tamely after the last, which left Cloudy Dream to pursue the favourite as they headed towards the winning post. However, although initially more workmanlike than on previous outings, he’d soon asserted himself and drew away to win by 6 lengths at the line. Altior was Nicky Henderson’s 56th Cheltenham Festival winner.
Ordinary World completed a further 9 lengths behind the grey, with Royal Caviar the best of the rest another 7 lengths back in 4th, ahead of Forest Bihan. Some Plan and A Hare Breath also completed.
Both Charbel and David Bass were fine following their mishap, although the jockey wasn’t very happy about it! Three Stars was dismounted when pulled up; a little sore, but was okay to be walked back.
Evidently, as reported by Nick Luck, the winning jockey Nico de Boinville and David Bass had shared a house for many years during their formative years at Nicky Henderson’s.
Once again I remained beside the course-side rails.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 2 - 2:10pm
The Stewards noted that ALTIOR (IRE), trained by Nicky Henderson, would wear earplugs.
Robbie Power, the rider of THREE STARS (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding lost its action. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding failed to reveal any abnormalities.
The favourite for the third race was Singlefarmpayment, trained by Tom George and ridden by Adrian Heskin; price 5-1. The winners for the past three years were taking part today, namely Holywell (2014), The Druids Nephew (2015) and Un Temps Pour Tout (2016); the latter was top-weight today. Translated it means ‘a time for everything’.
Alan King had two runners in this event, namely Annacotty ridden by Ian Popham and Label Des Obeaux ridden by Wayne Hutchinson. There were three greys - Viconte Du Noyer, Vintage Clouds and Vic De Touzaine.
Having exited the horse-walk, the horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstands, before heading down the turf and continuing part-way down the remainder of the all-weather strip before exiting onto the racecourse close to the starting gate.
As the 23 runners circled on track ahead of the start, Annacotty had a minor kick-out; these horses don’t like being crowded! Considering the large field-size, it was a very civilised and even start!
Heading to the first, Annacotty and Go Conquer led the runners over it; prominent were Henri Parry Morgan and Vintage Clouds. There was a departure at the first, with Caid Du Berlais falling and hampering Clarcam and Coologue as a result. Holywell, travelling just behind the leaders, clouted the second fence.
Having negotiated the first two fences, the runners soon headed up the hill towards the one situated in front of the Best Mate enclosure; Annacotty continued to lead the way from Go Conquer and Henri Parry Morgan. Having been badly hampered at the first, Clarcam brought up the rear as all the remaining runners cleared it. The race commentator reported that Caid Du Berlais and jockey Stan Sheppard were both okay following their mishap.
Meanwhile the field had turned into the back straight and were now heading towards the fourth fence. They all jumped this well, with Junction Fourteen now marginally last. The following fence was the water-jump, with the diminutive Holywell sluggish over this one; as a result he received slaps down his shoulder as they headed towards the next, the first of the open-ditches. There were no recorded jumping errors here.
A plain fence was negotiated safely before the horses headed around the dog-leg turn. Annacotty and Go Conquer continued to set the pace, from Henri Parry Morgan, Vintage Clouds, Un Temps Pour Tout, The Young Master and Holywell. The following fence was another open-ditch and, again, the runners cleared it in their stride.
Go Conquer continued to press Annacotty as the runners headed down the hill to the next fence. There was one notable error here, from Measureofmydreams; his jockey Sean Flanagan had to go to the buckle end of the reins when landing over this one. Junction Fourteen was still detached at the rear of the field. Having turned into the home straight, with one circuit now complete, Measureofmydreams made an error at the next fence too!
It was now Viconte De Noyer’s turn to make a jumping mistake, at the next. Meanwhile Annacotty and Go Conquer had stretched their advantage over their rivals as they continued to bowl happily along at the head of affairs, heading towards the uphill fence. The latter held a slight advantage as they jumped it. The Young Master, Henri Parry Morgan and Un Temps Pour Tout were their nearest rivals.
Having seemed to regain his equilibrium once warming to his task, Holywell decided to put in a short stride before this fence and took it far more slowly than his rivals. This resulted in The Druids Nephew to his inside being bumped, and Measureofmydreams to his outer hampered. A Good Skin was manoeuvred towards the inside to avoid conflict and this, in turn, affected Theatre Guide who squeezed up Buywise against the rail! Following this incident, Richie McLernon decided to call it a day aboard the 2014 winner.
Meanwhile, up front, there was no change as Annacotty and Go Conquer continued to lead the field over the first fence in the back straight, followed by Un Temps Pour Tout, then a gap of four or five lengths to the remaining runners. The horses continued over the water-jump without incident before heading to the penultimate open-ditch. There were no departures here, although a number of runners were beginning to lose touch having successfully cleared it; Junction Fourteen was pulled after this one.
Annacotty was now displaying signs of tiredness as he dropped off the lead still held by Go Conquer. The runners cleared another plain fence before heading around the dog-leg turn on their approach to the final open-ditch. Go Conquer led from Un Temps Pour Tout and the pushed-along Annacotty. Vic De Touzaine now loomed up to the outside of Vintage Clouds and The Young Master. Behind these were Pilgrims Bay, Henri Parry Morgan, Singlefarmpayment and Buywise; Noble Endeavor was at the rear of this leading group. Those struggling towards the back of the field and a number also detached were previous Festival winner Ibis Du Rheu, Label Des Obeaux, previous Festival winner The Druids Nephew, Theatre Guide, A Good Skin, Clarcam, Coologue, Measureofmydreams and Viconte Du Noyer. A Good Skin cleared the ditch very slowly and continued to lose ground.
Having reached the far corner of the track, the runners headed downhill towards the third last. There were a number of changes in the order at this point, with Noble Endeavor and Singlefarmpayment making forward moves, as did to a lesser extent The Druids Nephew, along with the two Gigginstown runners Measureofmydreams and Clarcam. Meanwhile, Annacotty and Henri Parry Morgan had drifted back in the opposite direction.
Having appeared to be a serious danger at the top of the hill, Vic De Touzaine wasn’t particularly fluent at this fence and began to fade quickly. Thus, heading around the turn and into the home straight, Go Conquer still held the lead, closely pursued by Un Temps Pour Tout alongside Singlefarmpayment. Noble Endeavor travelled just behind, with Buywise next from Vintage Clouds. These six had drawn away from the remaining runners as they approached two out.
And Go Conquer was still ahead as they jumped it, although Singlefarmpayment was so close that they must have bumped slightly in mid-air. Vintage Clouds landed steeply over this one and capsized on landing. The long-time leader capitulated as they headed down to the last fence, with the favourite and Un Temps Pour Tout jumping it in unison. The battle to the line between the hooded Singlefarmpayment and the blinkered Un Temps Pour Tout had begun.
At first it appeared that the Tom George runner would prevail, but last year’s winner fought back to take a very narrow advantage as they headed towards the line; in the end though, he only just hung on to victory, because Singlefarmpayment had stayed on and continued to reduce the deficit close home. The winning distance was a short-head.
Noble Endeavor finished 3rd, well clear of the remainder, with Buywise 4th. The gallant Go Conquer completed in 5th, with The Young Master 6th. Label Des Obeaux was a disappointing 11th, Annacotty 12th. Vic De Touzaine blundered and unseated Liam Treadwell two out.
Both Label Des Obeaux and Noble Endeavor were reported to be a little ‘heat stressed’ following the race … so it buckets of water at the ready for them both!
Once again I remained beside the course-side rails.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 3 - 2:50pm
The Veterinary Officer reported that JUNCTION FOURTEEN (IRE), which was pulled up, trained by Emma Lavelle, had bled from the nose.
Sean Flanagan, the rider of MEASUREOFMYDREAMS (IRE), unplaced, reported that the gelding was hampered by a faller at the second last fence.
Brian Hughes, the rider of COOLOGUE (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding was hampered by a faller at the first fence.
The Veterinary Officer reported that NOBLE ENDEAVOUR (IRE), placed third, trained by Gordon Elliott, suffered from post-race ataxia.
The Veterinary Officer reported that LABEL DES OBEAUX (FR), unplaced, trained by Alan King, suffered from post-race ataxia.
The Veterinary Officer reported that VICONTE DU NOYER (FR), which was pulled up, trained by Colin Tizzard, lost its left fore shoe.
The Veterinary Officer reported that HOLYWELL (IRE), which was pulled up, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, lost its left hind shoe.
Well, that’s it for the first half of the diary, please ...
Click here to read my Day 1 Diary Part II