PART II

DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2017

DAY ONE

FEATURING THE CHAMPION HURDLE

TUESDAY 14 MARCH 2017

 

 

 

Buveur D'Air for Diary.jpg

 

The winner of the Champion Hurdle;

Buveur D’Air ridden by Noel Fehily

 

 

Click here to read my Day 1 Diary Part I

 

It was now time for the feature event of the day, the Champion Hurdle.  This being the case, there was a pre-race parade, with the horses exiting the horse-walk and congregating upon the racecourse before being led up the home straight in front of the main grandstands.  Parade over, they then cantered down the turf to enter the all-weather strip and continue their journey to the starting gate which was situated at the far end of the home straight.  

 

The favourite for the race was the Alan King-trained Yanworth, ridden by Mark Walsh.  JP McManus’ first jockey, Barry Geraghty having sustained an injury at Kempton Park the previous month. He was priced at 2-1.  I’m not quite sure why he was such a short-price, as many were convinced that 2 miles and half a furlong was far short of his optimum trip … including me! 

 

There were a total of 3 JP McManus runners, the other two being Buveur D’Air and veteran My Tent Or Yours.  Having finished 3rd to Altior in last year’s Supreme Novices’, the former had been successful on both his runs over the larger obstacles this season, before returning to win over hurdles at Sandown the previous month.  The idea of switching back to hurdles had become a firm possibility for Nicky in January.  Both he and jockey Noel Fehily thought there might be more to come from the horse in this sphere; besides, that way, he’d avoid Altior in Novice Championship races!

There was also a rumour that his trainer had been concerned by the speed with which the horse had attacked his steeplechase fences!  Presumably he was the most suitable of JP’s horses to go after this prize now that Faugheen and Annie Power had been beaten by injury this season.  Mind you, that did leave Yanworth between a rock and a hard place.      

Simon Munir and Isaac Souede also had two runners in this event, Footpad and the Alan King-trained Sceau Royal.

Having exited the holding pen, the runners initially headed away from the starting gate before walking in towards the tape; Moon Racer appeared the keenest, having jig-jogged in to the outside of runners. 

 

Race 4

Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles 110 yards (8 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

11

Brain Power, Buveur D’Air, Cyrus Darius, Footpad, Moon Racer, My Tent Or Yours, Petit Mouchoir, Sceau Royal, The New One, Wicklow Brave, Yanworth

 

And then they were off, with the grey Petit Mouchoir (Little Handkerchief) and The New One leading the way to the first.  In contrast, Wicklow Brave wasn’t at all keen and it took much cajoling from his jockey Paul Townend and one of the assistant starters too, to persuade him to jump off, but not before he’d lost a number of lengths!

The grey touched down slightly ahead over the first flight, with The New One jumping out slightly to his right as is his habit.  Having spread out across the course initially, the runners closed up into a group as they made the long journey up the home straight towards the second flight.  Petit Mouchoir continued to lead, from The New One, Moon Racer, Yanworth and Brain Power.  The latter landed over this flight a little awkwardly. 

Heading up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure, the horses began to string out behind the leader as a good pace was being set.  There was no change at the head of affairs as they began their journey down the back straight; Petit Mouchoir led from The New One, Moon Racer, Yanworth and Brain Power.  They were followed by Buveur D’Air, Footpad, Cyrus Darius, Sceau Royal, My Tent Or Yours and Wicklow Brave; after a tardy start, the latter had now closed up upon the field.

There were no jumping issues at the first in the back straight, although Yanworth wasn’t the fastest across it.  The eleven runners were bunched up again at this stage.  The New One hit the next one, which meant he briefly gave away second position to Brain Power before regaining it.  The horses headed around the dog leg turn before approaching the fifth flight. 

A number of horses made a mess of this particular obstacle.  Petit Mouchoir kicked out the protective orange strip on the inside section.  The New One hit the third panel; Moon Racer blundered in the wake of the Twiston-Davies’ runner, and Buveur D’Air flattened the intermediate section.  However, Petit Mouchoir continued to lead the way to the far corner, from Brain Power, The New One, Yanworth and Buveur D’Air.  Behind these travelled the improving My Tent Or Yours, Sceau Royal, Footpad, the now struggling Moon Racer, Cyrus Darius and Wicklow Brave.

Having travelled around the bend, the runners began to motor downhill towards the third last flight, the grey still out in front with The New One being pushed along in an endeavour to hold his second position.  Petit Mouchoir landed first, from Brain Power upsides The New One, with Buveur D’Air travelling strongly just behind them.  Having held a good position since the beginning of the race, the favourite was outpaced at this point … he’s not a 2-miler!  Tom Scudamore decided to pull up Moon Racer before the flight, in order to save his mount for another day.

The runners sped down to the penultimate flight with the long-time leader remaining just ahead of his rivals; whilst Brain Power had weakened quickly, this had left the pushed along The New One and the strong travelling Buveur D’Air to lay down a challenge to him.  Petit Mouchoir hit this one and shortly afterwards he was joined to the outside by Noel Fehily’s mount.  My Tent Or Yours crept up the inside of the hard-driven The New One as they headed around the home turn, whilst Wicklow Brave laid down a challenge to the outside of them. 

Buveur D’Air took the lead as they headed towards the final flight, with My Tent Or Yours almost upsides the grey as they cleared it.  The JP McManus second-string was not for stopping and he drew away to win by 4½ lengths from the perpetual runner-up My Tent Or Yours. 

Petit Mouchoir held on for third, 3 lengths back, with Footpad just holding off the challenge from the staying-on effort of The New One for 4th place; a short-head the distance between these two, 3 lengths behind the third-placed horse.  Sceau Royal finished 6th, with Yanworth 7th, Wicklow Brave 8th, Brain Power 9th and Cyrus Darius 10th.

It was owner JP McManus’ 50th Cheltenham Festival winner!  And it was trainer Nicky Henderson’s 6th triumph in this particular race too.  That’s three wins for See You Then, plus Punjabi, Binocular and now Buveur D’Air.  And, of course, the trainer’s 57th all-time Festival winner too.

Also an inspired buy for JP … although inspired is probably not the word as he had shown so much potential prior to the sale anyway; he’d been purchased as a result of the Potensis Bloodstock dispersal sale last year, having already been trained by Nicky Henderson. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Buveur D’Air

Noel Fehily

Nicky Henderson

2nd

My Tent Or Yours

Aidan Coleman

Nicky Henderson

3rd

Petit Mouchoir

Bryan Cooper

Henry de Bromhead

4th

Footpad

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins

 

Again I wasn’t going anywhere ahead of the next race. 

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 4 - 3:30pm
THE STAN JAMES CHAMPION HURDLE CHALLENGE TROPHY (CLASS 1)(Grade 1)

The Stewards gave permission for PETIT MOUCHOIR (FR) to go first in the parade and they noted that the gelding would wear earplugs, which would be removed at the start. The Stewards noted that BUVEUR D'AIR (FR), trained by Nicky Henderson, would wear earplugs and that MOON RACER (IRE), trained by David Pipe, would wear earplugs which would be removed at the start.

The Stewards noted that WICKLOW BRAVE, ridden by P. Townend, and trained by W.P. Mullins, lined up with the other runners but was reluctant to jump off when the tape was released.

Mark Walsh, the rider of YANWORTH, unplaced, reported that the gelding was unsuited by the slow early pace. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding, during routine testing, failed to reveal any abnormalities.

The Stewards considered the running of MOON RACER (IRE), ridden by Tom Scudamore, and trained by David Pipe, which was pulled up. The Stewards noted the trainer’s explanation that the gelding made a mistake at the top of the hill when weakening. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding failed to reveal any abnormalities.

The Veterinary Officer reported that BRAIN POWER (IRE), unplaced, trained by Nicky Henderson, lost its right fore shoe.

The favourite for the next race was Limini, trained by Willie Mullins and the choice of jockey Ruby Walsh over Vroum Vroum Mag; the former had won last year’s Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at this Festival, whereas the latter had won this same race.  There had been 9 previous runnings of this race, with Willie having won it the last 8 years – 6 times with Quevega, Glens Melody which won when Annie Power fell at the last and, of course, Vroum Vroum Mag.  The ‘elephant in the room’ being Whiteoak, the 2008 winner, trained by Donald McCain!

Today’s favourite was priced 6-4.  Also competing was Apple’s Jade, runner-up in last year’s Triumph Hurdle and a very impressive winner of the Grade 1 Anniversary 4-year-old Juvenile Hurdle at the Aintree Festival too, not to mention a Grade 1 Punchestown Festival win and the Hatton Grace Hurdle too.

I, personally, had three runners of interest in this one – the Alan King-trained Midnight Tour ridden by Tom Cannon, Miss Crick also trained by Alan and ridden by Wayne Hutchinson, plus the Noel Williams stable-star Briery Queen ridden by Richard Johnson.

Having left the Parade Ring and headed along the horse-walk, the runners exited straight onto the course, heading across the turf to canter up around the top bend upon the all-weather strip to reach the mid-course chute.

 

Because the race distance was two and a half miles, this meant it didn’t commence at the beginning of the chute, but slightly further along. 

 

Race 5

OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs (10 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

17

Apple’s Jade, Bon Chic, Briery Queen, Debdebdeb, Hidden Identity, Indian Stream, Jer’s Girl, Lifeboat Mona, Limini, Midnight Jazz, Midnight Tour, Miss Crick, Pass The Time, Rock On The Moor, Rons Dream, The Organist, Vroum Vroum Mag

 

And then they were off, with Pass The Time and Rons Dream leading the way to the first flight.  Also prominent were Apple’s Jade, Midnight Jazz and Indian Stream.  The mares cleared the flight in their stride before heading across the interchange with the Old Course  to reach flight number two; they all cleared this one safely too.

The runners continued downhill, bearing to their left as they did so, also crossing the New Course along the way; Pass The Time continued to lead the way from Rons Dream, Apple’s Jade, Debdebdeb, Indian Stream and Midnight Jazz.  Following these were Miss Crick upsides stable-companion Midnight Tour, then Vroum Vroum Mag to the outside of Jer’s Girl, Lifeboat Mona, followed by the hooded Briery Queen, Limini, Bon Chic, Hidden Identity, Rock On The Moor and The Organist.   

Having turned into the home straight, the runners soon arrived at the third flight; the leader was a little bit clumsy at this one.  The field continued their long journey towards the next; the pace being set was a steady one.  They all landed safely over this flight, although Indian Stream to the outside of runners did hit it. 

The runners now turned away from the main grandstands and headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure; as they did so, Apple’s Jade took a narrow advantage over her rivals.  Bringing up the rear were Hidden Identity, The Organist, Rock On The Moor and Bon Chic. 

Upon entering the back straight, the field began to string out, with Apple’s Jade now the clear leader.  There was daylight between the second-placed Pass The Time and third-placed Rons Dream; and again between her and Debdebdeb alongside Midnight Jazz.  It was then three lengths back to the main body of the field led by Midnight Tour and Indian Stream. 

Having jumped the fifth flight, the main body of runners had regrouped once more, leaving solely Apple’s Jade clear; she too, was soon also absorbed into the group.  There were a couple of untidy jumps at the next flight, from Midnight Jazz and Lifeboat Mona; meanwhile Bon Chic jumped it slowly at the rear of the field, after which she was pushed along.

The runners headed around the dog-leg turn and had soon reached the seventh flight; the hurdle seemed to be set very close to the bend today; as was the hurdle at the far end of the home straight.  Pass The Time jumped this flight a little awkwardly; Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag had closed up noticeably upon the leader, ready to cover any move she might make.  Bon Chic had been dropped off the back of the group by this stage, with Hidden Identity detached too by the time they reached the far turn.  At the rear of the main group now were Lifeboat Mona, The Organist and Indian Stream.

Miss Crick and Midnight Tour got caught up in the backwash as Pass The Time dropped back through the field.  Thus, heading down the hill towards three out, Apple’s Jade continued to lead, from Rons Dream, Limini, Vroum Vroum Mag, Debdebdeb, Midnight Jazz, Briery Queen and Rock On The Moor.  Apple’s Jade was still a length ahead of her nearest rival as she jumped it. 

However, back in the field, Jer’s Girl capsized on landing over this one; as she was travelling towards the inside of the runners when this mishap occurred, Pass The Time was unable to avoid her prostrate body and she was brought down.  Then, to add insult to injury, Hidden Identity also collided with them and was brought down too.  Oops.  Jer’s Girl was quickly to her feet and was caught by jockey Mark Walsh. 

Meanwhile, up-front, the Gigginstown runner still held sway over her rivals as they jumped the penultimate flight; Vroum Vroum Mag was travelling in second, with Limini, Rons Dream and Indian Stream just behind these.  The Organist had also made progress from the rear of the field.  

And still Apple’s Jade led the way as they headed around the final turn; Vroum Vroum Mag remaining her nearest pursuer.  Limini and Indian Stream were close on their heels, from The Organist, the now tiring Rons Dream, and then Briery Queen. 

The leaders moved nearer the stand-side as they exited the bend; the Willie Mullins-runners now flanking Apple’s Jade as they headed towards the final flight; Ruby’s mount to the far-side and last year’s winner to the nearside.  The nearest British challenger was Indian Stream, hotly pursued by Briery Queen; behind these were Rons Dream and the now staying on Midnight Tour.

Vroum Vroum Mag got her head in front, very narrowly, as they cleared the last; Limini hit this one which didn’t help her cause.  Briery Queen also made an error which hindered her too.  However, as the leaders headed up the hill to the winning post, it was Apple’s Jade which proved the strongest and she ran out to win by 1½ lengths at the line.  It was left Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini to fight it out for the runners-up spot, and the former prevailed by a nose. 

Having been less than fluent at the last, Briery Queen was unable to collar Indian Stream and had to settle for 5th place by half a length.  Midnight Tour finished a clear 6th.   Twelve completed, with Miss Crick and Bon Chic both pulled up.  

Obviously this had been a kick in the teeth for trainer Willie Mullins, as Apple’s Jade had been transferred from his yard to Gordon Elliott’s as part of the mass Gigginstown exodus earlier in the season. 

RUK’s Stewart Machin reported that Jer’s Girl was fine, as was Hidden Identity; both were walked back in.  He also said that Pass The Time was okay; although Nick Luck had earlier stated that one was being assessed by the veterinary team.  As I didn’t see any bad news reported, I have to presume all three didn’t suffer any serious injury.

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Apple’s Jade

Bryan Cooper

Gordon Elliott

2nd

Vroum Vroum Mag

Paul Townend

Willie Mullins

3rd

Limini

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins

4th

Indian Stream

Noel Fehily

Neil Mulholland

 

Again I remained beside the course-side rails after the race.

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 5 - 4:10pm
THE OLBG MARES' HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1)(Grade 1) (Registered as The David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle Race)

The Stewards noted that LIMINI (IRE), trained by W.P. Mullins, would wear earplugs and they gave permission for RONS DREAM, trained by Peter Bowen, to wear a hood in the parade ring only.

The Veterinary Officer reported that LIFEBOAT MONA, unplaced, trained by Paul Nicholls, was lame left hind.

The favourite for the marathon event of the Festival was A Genie In Abottle representing trainer Noel Meade and ridden by Mr Jamie Codd; price 4-1. 

This year the race was named in honour of the late JT McNamara; the amateur jockey had passed away last July following an infection.  He’d been paralysed from the neck down since suffering a fall during the Cheltenham Festival’s Kim Muir Chase in 2013. 

Alan King had a representative in this race, namely Kerrow ridden by Mr Joshua Newman.

This race is the marathon event of the Festival, being just shy of 4 miles in distance.  There were two greys in this one, Arpege D’Alene and Champers On Ice.

The starting gate for this event was in the mid-course chute; this being the case the horses cantered across the home straight when they exited the horse-walk, before heading up around the all-weather strip to reach it.

 

Race 6

National Hunt Chase

(Listed Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase)

Distance

4 miles (25 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

18

A Genie In A Bottle, Arbre De Vie, Arpege D’Alene, Ballycross, Bells ‘N’ Banjos, Beware The Bear, Bigbadjohn, Champers On Ice, Dancing Shadow, Edwulf, Flintham, Haymount, Kerrow, Martello Tower, Missed Approach, Tiger Roll, What A Moment, Calett Mad

 

And then they were off.  It was another civilised start, as they were away at the first attempt!  The cheek-pieced and nose-banded Flintham was one of the three which led the runners to the first fence; inside him, upsides were Ballycross and Missed Approach as they cleared it.  Arbre De Vie and Haymount brought up the rear at this early stage of the race.

The runners continued to the second fence where, close to the back of the field, Champers On Ice made a bad error.  They then headed over the intersection with the Old Course before reaching fence number three.  All eighteen runners cleared this, with the David Pipe-trained grey now at the rear of the field. 

The runners continued downhill, whilst bearing to their left, led by Flintham.  He was followed by Ballycross, Missed Approach, Bigbadjohn, Tiger Roll, Martello Tower; Kerrow was behind these, alongside Bells ‘N’ Banjos.  Having turned into the home straight on the first occasion, all of the horses cleared the first fence therein well. 

The runners continued to the next, where Beware The Bear landed awkwardly, having possibly jumped into the back of the race favourite; this resulted in his jockey Sam Waley-Cohen losing both his irons.  However, he’d regained them by the time they reached the junction with the Old Course.  Flintham continued to lead as the runners headed over the next; there were no noticeable errors here and the competitors quickly reached the following fence.  Again the runners cleared it well.

The field then headed away from the main grandstand, continuing up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure to reach fence number eight.  Dancing Shadow jumped this one more slowly than those around him and, as a result, lost his place.  The runners then headed around the turn and into the back straight.  Calett Mad, to the outside of the field, made an error at the first therein and Dancing Shadow wasn’t particularly fluent here either; subsequently the latter was being pushed along.

The next fence was the water-jump; Haymount accumulated four faults here, having put a foot in the water!  Splash!  They continued on to the first of the open-ditches, where the leader stood a long way off but cleared it okay.  In contrast, Martello Tower did the same thing, but it resulted in an error; Tiger Roll also made a mistake here, possibly influenced by the former’s poor jump.  The following fence was a plain one, and every horse cleared this without an issue.

The field remained tightly grouped as they headed around the dog-leg turn led by Flintham and Missed Approach.  There was an improved effort from everyone as they headed over the second of the open-ditches on their journey to the top of the hill.  Having reached the far turn, they swung left-handed to head downhill to the next fence.  All eighteen runners survived this obstacle, with Dancing Shadow continuing to be driven along at the back of the field.

There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners turned into the home straight for the penultimate time, with Flintham and Missed Approach sharing the lead.  Just behind them, Tiger Roll was pulling for his head, mad keen to get on with it!  Calett Mad travelled to his outside, with Ballycross close behind these; Haymount had improved his position greatly, and was now alongside Kerrow in the forefront of mid-field.  Having dropped quickly to the back of the field, Martello Tower was pulled up. 

The remaining runners soon arrived at the next fence, where the favourite didn’t put in a particularly fluent jump and Champers On Ice made yet another error.  They moved on to fence number sixteen; Flintham blundered at this one, which allowed Missed Approach to briefly take an undisputed lead.  Mark Bradstock’s runner was on terms again as they headed up the hill towards the fence in front of the Best Mate enclosure.

The runners headed over this one, around the turn and into the back straight for the final time led by Flintham.  The gradient is slightly downhill to the first fence therein and both Tiger Roll and Champers On Ice made a mistake here.  Missed Approach took the water-jump better than his rival; the latter received reminders at this point.  Further back in the field Bells ‘N’ Banjos received a slap down his neck. 

The seventeen-strong field now headed to the penultimate open-ditch.  Flintham was getting tired now and a tardy jump handed to lead to Missed Approach once more.  There was further error from Tiger Roll at this fence too.  Bringing up the rear of the main group at this stage were Arbre De Vie and Beware The Bear; Dancing Shadow continued, but tailed off.

The following obstacle was a plain one and Missed Approach led narrowly over this, although pressed again by Flintham, now to his outside.  The runners again headed around the dog-leg turn on their approach to the final open-ditch.  Missed Approach and Flintham continued to dispute the lead, from Tiger Roll with Calett Mad, Ballycross and What A Moment.  Behind these travelled Haymount, Kerrow and Bells ‘N’ Banjos; then Arpege D’Alene, A Genie In Abottle and Edwulf, followed by Bigbadjohn, Arbre De Vie and Beware The Bear.  Champers On Ice was behind these, with Dancing Shadow tailed-off.

Champers On Ice made yet another mistake at the open-ditch, and Bells ‘N’ Banjos was pushed along having jumped it.  By the time they’d reached the top of the hill, the jockeys aboard Champers On Ice and Dancing Shadow decided to call it a day.

The remaining 15 runners swung left-handed to head down the hill towards the third last fence; Flintham’s stamina finally gave way at this point and he began to drift back through the field.  Tiger Roll joined Missed Approach at the head of affairs as they jumped it.  However, further back in the field and having safely negotiated the fence, Arbre De Vie clipped the heels of Kerrow and stumbled badly, unseating Katie Walsh as a result.  Oops! 

Meanwhile, Tiger Roll took a narrow advantage as they headed around the home turn, with Edwulf looming up to his outside shortly afterwards as they approached the penultimate fence; both horses were a little clumsy jumping this one.  However, having looked a dangerous threat, Edwulf’s challenge began to falter on the run to the last; Tiger Roll extended his lead and was going clear again as they jumped it. 

Then, whilst Tiger Roll continued to pull away from his rivals, Edwulf began to falter even more badly; he seemed to be galloping up and down almost on the same spot.  Missed Approach swept by him in pursuit of the leader but to no avail; the Gigginstown runner galloped on to win by a diminishing 3 lengths at the line.  Haymount claimed 3rd place, with Arpege D’Alene in 4th. 

The favourite, A Genie In Abottle, finished 5th, with Kerrow 6th.  Edwulf never made it to the line; he was pulled up and dismounted.  What A Moment was pulled up also.     

Former Triumph Hurdle winner, Tiger Roll, obviously loves Cheltenham … but it was amazing that he won, considering the number of jumping errors he made too!

Having run well and still occupying second position after the last, although held, Edwulf was pulled-up on the run in having faltered. The experienced amateur Derek O’Connor hopped off his mount, which appeared very agitated before it collapsed; the green screens were erected and the horse ambulance soon arrived.

A second runner, which I believe to be Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Ballycross which finished 10th, also suffered the staggers following the race; he remained on his feet and was treated with buckets of water whilst standing close to the horse-walk exit point.  Feeling unwell, the horse refused to move initially; he was stroked and talked to by one of the handlers at this point. Eventually he recovered and was led back up the racecourse to the stables. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Tiger Roll

Ms Lisa O’Neill

Gordon Elliott

2nd

Missed Approach

Mr N McParlan

Warren Greatrex

3rd

Haymount

Mr Patrick Mullins

Willie Mullins

4th

Arpege D’Alene

Mr Will Biddick

Paul Nicholls

 

Again I was not for moving and remained beside the course-side rails following the sixth race.  

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 6 - 4:50pm
THE JT MCNAMARA NATIONAL HUNT CHALLENGE CUP AMATEUR RIDERS' NOVICES' STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 2)

The Stewards held an enquiry into possible interference shortly after landing over the third last fence. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the race they found that KERROW (IRE), placed sixth, ridden by Mr Joshua Newman, switched right-handed interfering with ARBRE DE VIE (FR), who clipped heels and unseated Ms K. Walsh, the rider. The Stewards found Mr Newman in breach of Rule (B)54.1 and guilty of careless riding in that he had switched right when not sufficiently clear They suspended him for 5 days as follows: Tuesday 28 and Friday 31 March and Sunday 2, Monday 3 and Tuesday 4 April 2017.

The Stewards noted that ARBRE DE VIE (FR) and HAYMOUNT (IRE), both trained by W.P. Mullins, would wear earplugs.

The Veterinary Officer reported that MARTELLO TOWER (IRE), which was pulled up, trained by Ms Margaret Mullins, was lame left hind.

The final race of the day was delayed slightly, as Edwulf continued to be treated on track.  Ropes were fetched and the prostrate horse was dragged onto the New Course, to enable treatment to continue and the Handicap Chase to be run.

The favourite for the final race of the day was Foxtail Hill, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies and ridden by son Willy; price 6-1.  There was one grey in this race, namely Mixboy.

The starting gate for this race was in the mid-course chute, with the horses heading across the home straight and up around the all-weather strip to reach it. 

 

Race 7

Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed)

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs 110 yards (16 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

20

Zamdy Man, Last Goodbye, Double W’s, Mixboy, Foxtail Hill, Hammersly Lake, Captain Redbeard, Templehills, Bun Doran, Killiney Court, Its’afreebee, Powersbomb, Tully East, Relentless Dreamer, Deans Road, Gold Present, Two Taffs, Sizing Tennessee, All Hell Let Loose, Burtons Well

 

And then they were off, yet again at the first time of asking.  Foxtail Hill led the way to the first, from Templehills, Deans Road and Killiney Court; all 20 runners cleared the first fence without incident, with Hammersly Lake bringing up the rear.

The leader got a little close to the second and hit it as a result; he remained ahead however.  Near the rear of the field, Powersbomb was awkward here too.  The runners then headed across the intersection with the Old Course.  Captain Redbeard dragged his legs through the third fence, whilst travelling to the outside near the rear of the field.

The horses then headed down hill, swinging to their left as they did so; Bun Doran, to the inside of the runners, appeared keen as they did so.  Having entered the home straight, Foxtail Hill led them over the next.  Its’afreebee jumped out to his right over the first fence therein, taking the grey Mixboy with him.  The Gigginstown runner, All Hell Let Loose, was now travelling at the back of the field.  Once again, Foxtail Hill got a little close to the following fence but remained ahead of his rivals.  Having landed over this one, All Hell Let Loose received a reminder.

The field continued on their journey and soon joined the Old Course; Willy Twiston-Davies’ mount spearheaded the field, from Deans Road and Its’afreebee.  The Gigginstown runner stumbled badly on landing over the next fence.  There were no noticeable errors as the horses jumped the following obstacle before bearing away to their left to travel up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure.

Willy Twiston-Davies appeared to see a long stride before the fence, his mount took off but failed to make it safely to the other side and they ended up on the ground.  There were a few frantic tugs at reins to avoid the prostrate horse and jockey and, fortunately, no-one was brought down or unseated; although Two Taffs was badly hampered, and Templehills was slightly inconvenienced, as was Hammersly Lake.  Foxtail Hill was okay and initially followed the field; Bryan Cooper aboard All Hell Let Loose decided to call it a day before heading out into the country; as did David Mullins aboard Hammersly Lake.

This departure left Deans Road and Its’afreebee to dispute the lead as they headed to the first fence in the back straight.  However, Deans Road lost his legs on landing having jumped this one, although jockey Andrew Lynch survived this very bad blunder.  In contrast, Burtons Well hit the fence and fell.  As a result Templehills was hampered by the former, with Tully East and Relentless Dreamer by the latter incident.

With the excitement momentarily over, the remaining sixteen runners headed towards the water-jump led now by Its’afreebee.  Mixboy was his closest pursuer, from Sizing Tennessee, Gold Present, Killiney Court and Bun Doran; the latter landed awkwardly over the fence, having dragged a hind-leg through the birch.

The following obstacle was the first of the open-ditches; the leader jumped it awkwardly and his saddle began to slip as a result.  This left the grey in the lead.  They headed to the next, a plain fence, where Sizing Tennessee made a mistake.  The runners then continued around the dog-leg turn and approached the final open-ditch.  The current order was Mixboy, from Gold Present with Killiney Court and Double W’s.  Bun Doran was close up to their inside, outside him Its’afreebee and Deans Road, also Zamdy Man.  Behind these travelled Last Goodbye, Tully East, Relentless Dreamer, Powersbomb, Two Taffs, Templehills, Sizing Tennessee and, finally, Captain Redbeard. 

All of the runners cleared the open-ditch; however Its’afreebee’s effort was half-hearted and Harry Skelton decided to call it a day shortly afterwards because he could no longer continue with a slipped saddle to contend with.  Templehills was also pulled up after the fence, as was Captain Redbeard and Sizing Tennessee.

This left twelve runners to head down the hill to the third last fence.  The grey led, very marginally, as they jumped it, from Killiney Court, Double W’s and Gold Present; however, he was swamped by his rivals as they met the rising ground on the run towards the home turn.  It was left to Killiney Court and the white-faced chestnut Double W’s to lead them into the home straight, closely pursued by Gold Present, Deans Road, Powersbomb and Bun Doran.

Six horses, line across the track, took the penultimate fence in unison.  However, towards the inside, Killiney Court had got too close to it and fell; it didn’t help that he appeared short of room too.  Behind him, Last Goodbye was severely hampered by this departure and the prostrate jockey, Mikey Fogarty, was fortunate not to be trampled by Bun Doran’s hooves; Relentless Dreamer was slightly interfered with too.

However, this still left a number of horses in the front rank as they galloped towards the final obstacle.  To the nearside, Powersbomb was narrowly ahead, from Gold Present and Tully East.  Bun Doran was still there too, as was Double W’s, Deans Road and the staying on Two Taffs.  But it was Tully East which finished more strongly than his rivals, and he headed up the hill to win by 1¼ lengths at the line.  A win for jockey Denis O’Regan and also for trainer Alan Fleming who used to be based in Surrey and trained the popular grey Starluck. 

Gold Present kept on under a strong drive from Jeremiah McGrath to repel the challenge of Two Taffs by a neck.  Powersbomb finished 4th, with Last Goodbye 5th, Bun Doran 6th, Relentless Dreamer 7th, Deans Road 8th, Double W’s 9th, and Zamdy Man 10th and last.  Having quickly tired, Mixboy was pulled up before the last. 

When Foxtail Hill had departed at the uphill fence, green screens had been erected; not for the horse but for the jockey.  Curiously Foxtail Hill, which initially rose and galloped after the field, turned back and came to have a look at Willy!  The jockey did eventually get to his feet and walked to the ambulance.  However, it was later reported that he’d fractured his T8 and T9 vertebrae and had cracked a few ribs too. Ouch.  

Poor Willy has always been injury prone, which is why he switched to flat racing for a while before returning to the National Hunt code this season, having begun to suffer from weight issues.  Get well soon Willy.

There was a very sad postscript later in the season for Arpege D’Alene’; he lost his life at Ayr during the running of the Scottish Grand National.  It was not as a result of a fall; he suffered a catastrophic leg injury on the flat. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Tully East

Denis O’Regan

Alan Fleming

2nd

Gold Present

Jeremiah McGrath

Nicky Henderson

3rd

Two Taffs

Davy Russell

Dan Skelton

4th

Powersbomb

Mr Jamie Codd

Brian M McMahon

 

Racing over, I finally left the rails to return through the tunnel to the area beside the Winners’ Enclosure.

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 7 - 5:30pm
THE CLOSE BROTHERS NOVICES' HANDICAP STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Listed Race)

The record of vaccinations in the passport of KILLINEY COURT (IRE), trained by Henry de Bromhead, did not comply with the Rules of Racing. The Stewards found the trainer in breach of Rule (E)18 and fined him £140.

The Stewards noted that FOXTAIL HILL (IRE), trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, would wear earplugs.

The Veterinary Officer reported that SIZING TENNESSEE (IRE), which was pulled up, trained by Colin Tizzard, had bled from the nose. The Stewards ordered the gelding to be routine tested.

So, despite the absence of the Willie Mullins stars, with the trainer not having had a winner today either, Ireland were one ahead of the GB at the end of play today.

Betbright Prestbury Cup

Score at the end of Day 1

GB

Ireland

3

4

 

The veterinary team having persevered with Edwulf, and with the assistance of helpers fetching numerous buckets of water, it was later reported that the horse had recovered from what was described as a seizure.  Social media later stated Edwulf had eaten up well the following morning and the outlook was positive.   

Attending the races alone can sometimes be a lonely place but, today whilst standing beside the course-side rails, I’d had a chat with a retired gentleman who was also going to attend Aintree like myself and then, later, with a middle-aged guy who was going to put his money on Debdebdeb in the Mares’ race because his daughter’s name is Deborah.  

Presentations complete, I visited the ladies’ loo before setting off back to my car. 

Exiting the car park after racing was a nightmare.  I began my drive at 18:10 and it took ages to even exit onto the driveway which leads to Southam Lane; this was due to the fact that 4 queues of traffic had to merge at points along the driveway.  I ensured that I changed to the right-hand lane to enable me to travel out via Prestbury, as the Evesham Road was closed to traffic until 19:30. I did have a slight issue exiting onto the Southam Road; even second gear proved almost too high to cope with the weight of my luggage!

I didn’t get very far however, before encountering a further traffic jam – movement was barely discernible through Prestbury High Street.  It transpired that this was caused by police directing traffic at the double-roundabout junction with Tatchley Lane; no surprise there then!  Having negotiated this junction, it was then a clear run all the way along Priors Road to the Harp Hill turning; the traffic lights at the Sainburys supermarket junction were out of action. 

I managed to get plenty of impetus before climbing up the steep incline which is Harp Hill and then turning into Greenway Lane.  I’d soon reached the Six Ways junction – it had taken me 75 minutes to escape from Cheltenham … ridiculous!  So much for the new and improved traffic measures which have been implemented during the Festival since last year!!!

I was pleased to discover that my night vision was okay this year, as I headed up the Cotswolds escarpment upon the A40.  My night driving confidence was thus restored, having taken a battering last year during the Festival.  I continued along the A-road as far as the beginning of the Witney bypass, at which point I took a left turn and headed towards the town.         

My accommodation, at Eynsham Hall, was situated to the northeast thereof.  It was easy to find, despite the darkness, as I’d made an exploratory detour last July when returning home after visiting Graeme McPherson’s yard.  Also, I’d driven past the entrance using Google-maps satellite view to remind myself of the landmarks to look out for on approach to the driveway.  Due to the delays, I didn’t arrive until well after 20:00. 

Having turned off the road to the right in order to pass through the gateway, with a lodge to the right too, I caught my first glimpse of the country house at the far end of the driveway.  The large trees lining the driveway close to the entrance made for a spooky approach; the huge branches were up-lit.  Spotlights also highlighted the house and, having reached the area just prior to the courtyard, I turned right and parked in one of the few vacant spaces within a gravel car park.

I then set off towards the house, on foot.  Someone had parked their vehicle so close to the shrubbery in the corner, close to the Estate Office, that I could barely squeeze through the gap in order to take the sign-posted shortcut!  I entered the house through one of two large doors; inside was a large reception room with a fireplace.  A doorway to the left led to the reception area located beside the main staircase; I checked-in and was provided with directions to The Cottage within the grounds.

I returned to my car and, as it was heavily laden, I decided to drive around to the Lodge car park, it being nearest to my accommodation. It transpired I was situated on the second floor; it took me a second trip to the car to unload and I still had to relay my belongings up four short flights of stairs. 

The room was fine, with a double-bed, a TV and tea making facilities too.  The bathroom was large, although it would later prove difficult to have a bath and wash my hair due to the facilities being located under the eaves of the roof!

Although it would have been possible to have a meal at the main Hall, I settled down to eat the contents of one of the three chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle tubs I’d brought with me – one for each evening of my stay.  They had cost just pence, whereas I understand a meal would have been upwards of £28.00.  Breakfast was almost £13 a day, so I decided upon one good meal ahead of racing, rather than break the bank with an additional evening meal; accommodation had already become a large additional cost to my Cheltenham Festival holiday this year!

 

My mobile phone didn’t connect to the internet at my chosen hotel location, so the only racing information I received was curtailed overviews via my email.  Drat.  It’s amazing how cut-off one feels without an internet connection.   

 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Postscript

 

Having been tested post-race, Yanworth failed a drugs test and was disqualified from his 7th place in the Champion Hurdle; the anti-inflammatory drug of which traces were found, is permitted to be used on horses in training but must no longer be present in a horse’s system on raceday:

 

https://www.racingpost.com/news/champion-hurdle-favourite-yanworth-failed-drug-test/291782

Here is the BHA press release regarding Yanworth’s disqualification:

http://www.britishhorseracing.com/disciplinary_notices/result-enquiry-king-heard-disciplinary-panel-thursday-6-july-2017/

 

 

PHOTOS – Cheltenham Festival Day 1 (Index)

 

 

 

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