DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2017
FEATURING THE STAYERS’ HURDLE
THURSDAY 16 MARCH 2017
The winner of the Stayers’ Hurdle;
Nichols Canyon ridden by Ruby Walsh
Click here to read my Day 3 Diary Part I
The favourite for this race was Unowhatimeanharry, trained by Harry Fry and ridden by Noel Fehily; price 5-6. Would the jockey win the third feature race of this Festival having already won the first two?
Also taking part today were the 2015 winner Cole Harden, the 2014 Champion Hurdle winner Jezki, the 2011 Triumph Hurdle winner Zarkandar and Thistlecrack’s half-brother West Approach.
The starting gate was at the beginning of the back straight so, having finished the pre-race parade and then headed through a gap in the rails in order to cross over the run-in of the New Course, the horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the Best Mate enclosure. After that the jockeys took their mounts to look at the first flight before heading back along the course to the starting gate.
Girths checked, they headed back down the hill towards the home straight, before beginning a very sedate walk towards the tape.
Having walked towards the starting gate in an orderly fashion, the runners were off first time, led by Cole Harden. He was tracked by Lil Rockerfeller and Ballyoptic. Agrapart came next, from West Approach, Snow Falcon, Shaneshill, Unowhatimeanharry, Zarkandar, Nichols Canyon, Clondaw Warrior and Jezki. All 12 jumped the first flight in their stride, although Agrapart was a little slow having stuttered into it.
The runners continued down the back straight, led by the 2015 winner. There were no problems at the second hurdle, or the third. The leading three, Cole Harden, Lil Rockerfeller and Ballyoptic were seven or eight lengths ahead of their rivals as they headed around the dog-leg turn; West Approach was leading the main pack, although he wasn’t particular fluent at the fourth flight.
Having reached the far corner, they swung left-handed and headed downhill to the fifth flight. Cole Harden was setting a good pace and his rivals were strung out behind him; the commentator estimated that it was probably a good 25 lengths between first and last at this point! Having all negotiated the next flight safely, Gavin Sheehan’s mount led the field into the home straight; Ballyoptic and Lil Rockerfeller were now travelling within a length of him.
Turning into the home straight on the first occasion, the main group had closed up some of the deficit. Cole Harden jumped the next flight well, whereas Ballyoptic and Lil Rockerfeller were both a little clumsy at this one; further back in the field, Agrapart was less than fluent too.
Cole Harden was four lengths clear of his nearest rivals as he headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure. It was then two by two; Ballyoptic still with Lil Rockerfeller, Unowhatimeanharry with West Approach, Agrapart alongside Snow Falcon. Zarkandar travelled with Shaneshill, then Nichols Canyon, Clondaw Warrior and Jezki.
Turning into the back straight for the final time, the runners had now completed one full circuit. Cole Harden’s advantage had shrunk on the approach to the seventh flight and all of the runners were now travelling in one group having jumped it. Having been less than fluent at a number of the flights, including this one, Lizzie Kelly was soon pushing Agrapart along as he dropped back through the field.
The runners continued their journey down the back straight, with Agrapart making another error at the next flight. Ballyoptic and Snow Falcon hit the following hurdle. Gavin Sheehan galvanised his mount at this point and extended his lead as they headed to and around the dog-leg turn. However, his rivals soon had him covered and they gradually closed the deficit as they headed up the hill and over flight number ten.
Cole Harden was being pushed along as they continued around the top turn; he remained half a length ahead of Lil Rockerfeller. The field began to bunch up as they travelled down the hill to the penultimate flight. There was no change at the head of affairs, but the majority of runners were now poised to mount a challenge. Behind the leader were Lil Rockerfeller, West Approach, Ballyoptic, Unowhatimeanharry, Snow Falcon, Shaneshill, Zarkandar, Jezki, Nichols Canyon, Clondaw Warrior and Agrapart; the latter was the only one to be struggling at this point.
West Approach made a mistake at this hurdle; he flattened the inside panel and was soon a spent force. Cole Harden received a few reminders as they headed towards the home turn, but Lil Rockerfeller now had his measure and took a narrow lead as they entered the home straight. The favourite followed him through, but he was being tracked by Ruby Walsh aboard Nichols Canyon. Oh dear …
Anyway, Trevor Whelan’s mount continued to battle on gamely and initially held both Unowhatimeanharry and Nichols Canyon. The leader jumped away to his left over the final flight, veering towards the favourite; meanwhile Ruby’s mount was finishing with a flourish with the rail to guide him. Lil Rockerfeller then edged back to his right, staying on towards the line, but it was too late, Ruby had stolen the prize by three quarters of a length.
Unowhatimeanharry could find no extra as the post approached; he finished 3½ lengths away in 3rd. Although no match for the leading three, Cole Harden came home to claim 4th place. Snow Falcon finished a long way back in 5th, with Clondaw Warrior 6th, Zarkandar 7th, Jezki 8th and Agrapart the last of the finishers; the other three had pulled up.
Willie Mullins admitted that he’d almost not brought the winning horse to the Festival; they’d wanted to try something new with the horse, having failed to find the key to him recently. His wife had suggested a new jockey, Willie thought a new stable, they did both and a different work routine too. However the trainer was far from confident today, as he’d gone to have a cup of tea and thus watched the race on TV; the trainer had nearly dropped his tea cup when Nichols Canyon flew up the home straight to win.
Willie thought the plan would now be to stay with 3-mile hurdle races for the winner and, hopefully, return next year to defend his crown. He admitted it had been a mistake to try to turn him into a 2-mile Champion hurdler ... that scenario sounds a bit familiar! Although having won 8 Grade One races including this one, the horse had already been doing okay up to now!!!
Neil King, trainer of Lil Rockerfeller was absolutely thrilled with his charge; in fact his celebrations would have been worthy of a win!
I fancied a change of scenery following this race, so I headed across to the centre of the racecourse.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 4 - 3:30pm
The Stewards noted that NICHOLS CANYON and SHANESHILL (IRE), both trained by W.P. Mullins, would wear earplugs.
The favourite for this event was Diamond King, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Davy Russell; price 5-1.
I had one runner of interest in this race, Pinkie Brown, because he’s an interesting colour … you’ve guessed it, he’s pinkie brown; although officially described as a grey, he’s roan!!! There was a proper grey too, Champagne At Tara.
Anyway, having left the horse-walk, the runners headed out across the track to canter up the all-weather strip in front of the Best Mate enclosure before cantering across the back straight to reach the mid-course chute.
And then they were off, at the first time of asking. There was a little bit of argy bargy towards the outside of the field, between Un Ace, Katachenko and Cold March as they jostled for a position on the run to the first fence. Village Vic was the first to land over this one. Road To Respect made a horrendous error here, skewing in the air and hampering Katachenko too; they both survived.
The 24 runners continued to the next fence, Richard Johnson’s mount still holding the advantage, from Baron Alco, All Together, Sizing Codelco and Katachenko. At the rear of the field, Voix D’Eau hit this fence. The horses headed across the Old Course intersection before reaching the third fence. Village Vic got too close to this one and stumbled on landing; he lost the lead as a result. Thus, heading across the next intersection, the blinkered Cold March led from Katachenko alongside Baron Alco, followed by Village Vic and Germany Calling, then Mad Jack Mytton, Sizing Codelco and All Together.
The Venetia Williams runner took them along at a good clip as they swung left-handed, heading down the hill towards the far end of the home straight. The Herefordshire-based trainer had two competitors in the race, the other being Tango De Juilley. Having entered the aforementioned straight, all of the horses cleared the fourth fence without incident; Un Ace was now detached at the rear of the field. The favourite, Diamond King, was among the back-markers at this stage.
Cold March was two or three lengths clear of his rivals as they jumped the next. The runners joined the New Course circuit at this point and continued to fence number six. Behind the leader remained Katachenko and Baron Alco, then Germany Calling, Village Vic, King’s Odyssey, Sizing Codelco, All Together, Mad Jack Mytton, Bouvreuil, Road To Respect, Thomas Crapper, Tango De Juilley, Champagne At Tara, Art Mauresque, Ballykan, Voix D’Eau, Cocktails At Dawn, Diamond King, Pinkie Brown, Rock Gone, Starchitect, Henryville and Un Ace.
However at this obstacle, Diamond King made an absolute howler of a mistake; he banked the fence and his nose hit the ground on landing; Davy Russell managed stay in the plate (that’s a pun), although he dropped back to last but one. They all cleared the fence in front of the grandstands without an issue before Cold March led them up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure and into the back straight for the one and only occasion.
The runners headed down hill to the next fence, with Baron Alco jumping into the lead at this one; further back in the field, Katachenko made a slight error and he was pushed along on landing. The following fence was the water-jump and they all cleared this well.
Baron Alco continued to lead as they headed towards the first open-ditch. Germany Calling fell here, whilst tracking the leaders, having seemed to catch his near-fore on the fence. It was a nasty fall, but he did get up, only to be cannoned into by Diamond King. Henryville was hampered in this incident too, also Un Ace when trailing.
Thus 23 horses headed on to the next, a plain fence. Rock Gone made an error here; Champagne At Tara had lost ground quickly and was pulled up before the next, as was the favourite Diamond King. The remaining runners continued around the dog-leg turn, still led by Baron Alco. Village Vic had improved into second position as they jumped the final open-ditch. Travelling just behind the leaders, All Together dived over the fence, his nose touched the ground and Brendan Powell was catapulted over his head. Cold March was badly hampered in this incident.
Meanwhile, Baron Alco led the depleted field towards the next fence, the one at the top of the hill. There were no departures at this fence, although the jumping efforts from those towards the rear of the field were less than impressive. Katachenko was being ridden along as they headed towards the tricky fourth last fence; they all survived this jumping test, although Mad Jack Mytton did nod on landing over it.
Heading down the hill to the third last, Baron Alco and Road To Respect disputed the lead, from Thomas Crapper, Village Vic and Mad Jack Mytton. Behind these were Voix D’Eau, Bouvreuil, Katachenko, Ballykan, Henryville, Starchitect, Art Mauresque, Sizing Codelco, King’s Odyssey, Rock Gone, Pinkie Brown, Un Ace, Tango De Juilley and Cocktails At Dawn. Cold March had been pulled up too.
There were no departures at this fence and the runners headed towards and around the home turn with just two more fences to jump. Road To Respect was travelling better than Baron Alco at this stage, and he was one length clear of this rival as they cleared the penultimate fence; he jumped to his left over this one, whilst Baron Alco jumped to his right. Thomas Crapper was over in third, followed by Bouvreuil. However, Mad Jack Mytton landed steeply over this one and fell; he hampered Starchitect as a result. The horse was quickly up, uninjured.
There was now just one fence to go and, although the leader got close to it, he survived this error and drew away from his rivals to win by 6 lengths at the line. Baron Alco kept on gamely to claim the runner-up spot; with Bouvreuil keeping on to take 3rd, 1¾ lengths behind him. Thomas Crapper claimed 4th, 2¾ lengths further back.
Starchitect was 5th, Ballykan 6th, Rock Gone 7th, Art Mauresque 8th, Henryville 9th, Katachenko 10th, Village Vic 11th, Voix D’Eau 12th, Un Ace 13th, King’s Odyssey 14th and, last of the finishers was Sizing Codelco in 15th. Tango Du Juilley pulled up after 3 out, as did Cocktails At Dawn. Pinkie Brown was pulled up before the last.
This was Noel Meade’s first ever winner over fences, as opposed to hurdles, at the Cheltenham Festival.
After the race I headed back to the grandstand-side of the racecourse.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 5 - 4:10pm
The Stewards noted that GERMANY CALLING (IRE), trained by Charlie Longsdon, would wear earplugs which would be removed at the start.
Davy Russell, the rider of DIAMOND KING (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding was badly hampered by a faller.
Liam Treadwell, the rider of COLD MARCH (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding was badly hampered by a faller.
Instead of returning to the course-side rails, I decided to head over to the Pre-Parade Ring to see Alan King saddle Dusky Legend. I stayed at the top of the steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure to view the next race.
The favourite for the next race was Let’s Dance, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; price 11-8.
Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Dusky Legend ridden by Wayne Hutchinson; they’d finished as runner-up in this race last year. There were no greys in this event.
Airlie Beach had a strange story to tell, with regards to already being a mum:
The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one complete circuit to travel. This being the case, the horses cantered up all-weather strip in front of the grandstands before heading down the turf and re-entering the all-weather strip to complete their journey to the gate.
There had been a false start initially so the 15 mares and one filly, the latter from France, had to begin from a standing-start. Then they were off, with La Bague Au Roi and Montana Belle disputing the lead as they touched-down over the first flight. To the inside, Airlie Beach came through to take over at the head of affairs as they continued their journey up the home straight, joining the New Course circuit as they did so.
Thus heading to the second, Airlie Beach led from La Bague Au Roi; they were followed by Montana Belle, Coillte Lass, Dusky Legend, On Demand, to the nearside Tahira. Behind these Verdana Blue, Forge Meadow, Awayinthewest, Asthuria, Barra, Let’s Dance, Groovejet, Toe The Line and Titi De Montmartre.
There were no departures at the flight in front of the grandstands, although La Bague Au Roi hit it; she’s a big girl so this didn’t affect her momentum. Awayinthewest wasn’t particularly fluent here. However, shortly afterwards, as the leaders began their journey up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure, there was a gasp from the spectators as Toe The Line fell on the flat; very sadly she’d broken a leg.
Meanwhile, the remaining runners continued around to bend and into the back straight still led by super-mum, Airlie Beach; Groovejet brought up the rear. The field continued on the slightly downhill run to the third flight, with La Bague Au Roi taking the lead briefly having jumped it.
Airlie Beach came back to dispute the lead with the Warren Greatrex representative as they headed over the next flight. Montana Belle travelled just behind them, ahead of Dusky Legend, Tahira and Verdana Blue. The leading group was three or four lengths ahead of the others; these were led by On Demand and Forge Meadow. Meanwhile, Ruby was biding his time aboard the favourite, four from the back of the field.
La Bague Au Roi took the advantage once more as they headed over the fifth flight; having cleared this one the runners headed around the dog-leg turn before negotiating another one on their journey to the top of the hill. There was no change at the head of affairs as they began to swing left-handed; Montana Blue, however, had lost her place and started to drift back through the field. And still Ruby was prepared to sit and wait close to the back of the field.
The fifteen runners continued downhill to the penultimate flight; Tahira joined the leader as they jumped it and the latter was a little clumsy here. The horses headed towards the home turn, with Airlie Beach, Dusky Legend and Verdana Blue snapping at the heels of the leading duo. Behind these were Barra to the outside and Forge Meadow to the inner against the rails. Following these Coillte Lass, Montana Belle and Asthuria; Let’s Dance was upsides the latter, with Ruby’s boot almost scraping the inside rail. Tailed off was Groovejet.
Instead of tracking up the inside of runners as might be expected, Ruby steered Let’s Dance towards the outside; he was probably weary that those to the inner had been tracking the pace and were more likely to fade at this point. Barra and Verdana Blue were definitely travelling better than his other rivals as they headed up the stand-side of the course. Tahira checked-out very tamely on the run to the last and quickly dropped back through the field.
As they neared the final flight, this left Verdana Blue leading the pack, with Barra, Let’s Dance and Dusky Legend disputing second position and Asthuria staying on under a drive from Danny Mullins. Despite diving at the flight, Let’s Dance took the advantage as they cleared it. Verdana Blue, under Jeremiah McGrath, began to fade as they headed up the hill and she was soon joined by Barra and Dusky Legend.
However this trio proved to be of no danger to the favourite and Let’s Dance continued with a clear advantage on the run to the line to win by 2¾ lengths. The Gigginstown representative Barra, snatched 2nd from Dusky Legend by a neck; Verdana Blue was a further neck away in 4th. Asthuria completed in 5th, Awayinthewest 7th and La Bague Au Roi 7th. The free-running Airlie Beach had finished 14th.
Thus, having started the day with no winners at this Festival so far, the team of Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh had now bagged four! The jockey said he’d have liked to travel closer to the pace but his mare didn’t have the speed to do so earlier in the race because she is more suited by two and a half miles; so it was more by accident than design.
All the runners had completed the race apart from poor Toe The Line, whose life was terminated behind green screens erected at the beginning of the track in front of the Best Mate enclosure. RIP. L
I was standing on the steppings when the winner and placed horses returned.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 6 - 4:50pm
The Stewards held an enquiry following a report from the Veterinary Officer that an employee of R. Collet, the trainer, brought into the stables a substance, Phosphalugel, a gastric antacid, which may have been allowed with the permission of the Veterinary Officer, but for which the trainer had not sought this permission prior to entry into the stables. They interviewed the trainer, the Veterinary Officer and the Equine Welfare Integrity Officer. Having heard their evidence the Stewards referred the matter to the Head Office of the British Horseracing Authority.
The Stewards enquired into the fall of TOE THE LINE (IRE), ridden by Denis O’Regan, on the bend turning away from the stands. Having viewed recordings of the incident the Stewards found that the fall was caused by the mare sustaining an injury. Being satisfied that no other horse or rider was involved the Stewards took no further action.
The Stewards noted that LET'S DANCE (FR), trained by W.P. Mullins, would wear earplugs and that LA BAGUE AU ROI (FR), trained by Warren Greatrex, would wear earplugs which would be removed at the start.
The Starters reviewed recordings of the start but were satisfied that no riders should be reported for contravening the starting procedures.
I remained on the steppings for the duration of the final race of the day.
Considering there is a fault with RUK’s highlights recording of Day 3, them not me, so far I’m doing okay. It affected Races 3 to 7, with sections of the races encountering ‘freeze frame’ issues; the picture freezes then jumps ahead thus missing out parts of the action. Anyway, let’s see how we get on with the final race of the day …
The favourite for this race was Squouateur, ridden by Mr Jamie Codd and trained by Gordon Elliott; price 5-1.
One of my particular favourites, the veteran Forgotten Gold, took part; he’s trained by Tom George and was ridden by his son, Mr Noel George.
There were three greys in this one; namely the mare La Vaticane, Unioniste and, of course, the favourite Squouateur.
Whilst still an amateur jockey at the start of his career, Choc won the Kim Muir in 1997 aboard King Lucifer.
He also won the Hamlet Cigarette Gold Card Handicap Hurdle final aboard Pharanear – that’s the equivalent of the current Pertemps Handicap Hurdle Final.
Being a 3 mile 2 furlong event, having reached the top end of the all-weather strip, the horses cantered back down the turf to re-enter it and head part way down the home straight before exiting back onto the course close to the starting gate.
It was a standing start for this race … no surprise there then, with Balbir Du Mathan the slowest away as the maximum-sized field of 24 runners headed to the first fence. Prominent were Pendra, Lessons In Milan, Domesday Book, Premier Bond, Forgotten Gold and Venitien De Mai. Premier Bond was hampered at the first, having bumped into Domesday Book’s hindquarters as they jumped it.
Pendra led the runners to the next, from Lessons In Milan; the latter wasn’t particularly fluent here, nor was Another Hero further back in the field. Having successfully negotiated the first two fences, the runners headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure and into the back straight on the first occasion; Pendra continued to lead.
The runners then headed down the slope to the third fence which they all jumped without incident. The following obstacle is the water-jump … but my recording has frozen just prior to this and doesn’t resume until they head around the dog-leg turn. However, according to the Racing Post results page, there are still 24 runners at this point, so I’m going to provide a run-down here!
Thus, the field continues to be led by Pendra, from Lessons In Milan, Domesday Book and, to the outside, Forgotten Gold. Behind these are Southfield Royale, Premier Bond and the grey Unioniste. Following these Lamb Or Cod, Sugar Baron, Kilfinichen Bay, Doctor Harper, the obviously improving Balbir Du Mathan, Local Show, Venetien De Mai, Whats Happening, Another Hero, Mall Dini, Hadrian’s Approach, Father Edward, Potters Cross, La Vaticane, Squouateur, Potters Legend and Alvarado.
The next fence is the second of the open-ditches and they all successfully cleared this one, before continuing to the top of the hill in order to jump fence number eight. Again there were no casualties here; Alvarado trailed the field.
The runners soon began to swing left-handed on their approach to the tricky obstacle at the top of the hill. The leading four jumped this fence okay but, just behind them to the inside, Southfield Royale got too close, hit the top and fell. His departure hampered Sugar Baron, Lamb Or Cod, Another Hero and Kilfinichen Bay. Also, further back to the outside of the field, Venitien De Mai departed; this seriously interfered with La Vaticane, but her jockey managed to hang on for dear life and they continued in the race.
Meanwhile the remaining 22 runners headed down the hill to the next fence, still led by Pendra and Lessons In Milan. Travelling in mid-field, just behind Local Show and Whats Happening, the possibly unsighted Hadrian’s Approach fell here. As his rivals headed away from the fence, it became apparent having struggled to his feet, that the Nicky Henderson runner had seriously injured his off fore. His jockey, the experienced Will Biddick was quickly to his feet and he grabbed his mount’s reins as the 2014 bet365 Gold Cup winner hobbled on three legs. It was an awful sight.
Turning into the home straight, having now completed one full circuit, Balbir Du Mathin had improved into third position, just behind Pendra and Lessons In Milan. Steven Clements’ mount had taken the advantage by the time they reached the next fence, although he did hit it. The remaining 21 runners continued to the fence in front of the main grandstands and the Trevor Hemmings-owned competitor, Lessons In Milan, jumped into the lead once more.
Balbir Du Mathin went on again as they headed up the hill and entered the back straight for the final time; Lessons In Milan continued in second position, from Domesday Book, Pendra and Premier Bond … the recording freezes again here … resuming as the leaders clear the water-jump. Domesday Book and Balbir Du Mathin are disputing the lead at this point.
The following fence was the penultimate open-ditch and Balbir Du Mathin skewed over this one, landing rather awkwardly as a result. Domesday Book was leading the field as they headed over fence number sixteen, from Lessons In Milan, Balbir Du Mathin, Premier Bond, Whats Happening, Pendra, Local Show, Forgotten Gold and Lamb Or Cod. Heading around the dog-leg turn, Potters Cross was now beginning to tail off, just the detached Alvarado now behind him.
The next obstacle was the final open-ditch; Local Show hit this one and lost ground upon the leaders. Balbir Du Mathin was also back-peddling through the field when he made an error at the plain fence at the top of the hill; his jockey soon decided to pull him up. Meanwhile, Domesday Book and Premier Bond now disputed the lead as they swung left-handed on their approach to the tricky fourth-last; Forgotten Gold travelled to the outside of the field in third position, with Pendra and Lessons In Milan disputing fourth. Whilst travelling just behind this group, Potters Legend blundered here but survived. In contrast, towards the back of the pack the favourite blundered also and unseated his rider.
As they began their journey down the hill to what should have been the third last, Pendra’s jockey urged his mount forward, seemingly conscious to retain a good position as they were waived around the fence. To the far side of the omitted fence, green screens had been erected around the stricken Hadrian’s Approach. Having motored down the hill, Domesday Book and Pendra had set up an advantage over their nearest pursuer, Premier Bond. He, in turn, was clear of Potters Legend, Lessons In Milan, Forgotten Gold and Mall Dini.
The leading duo were neck and neck as, having turned into the home straight, they headed to the penultimate fence; Mr Derek O’Connor riding Pendra and Miss Gina Andrews aboard Domesday Book. The former held the slight advantage as they jumped it. Pendra then began to assert and extended his lead to two lengths on the run down to the final fence; he and his nearest rivals cleared the fence well.
Would the JP McManus runner continue to extend his lead as the line approached or would Domesday Book, Potters Legend, Premier Bond or Mall Dini make inroads into his advantage? In fact, at present, his nearest pursuer was the loose Squouateur.
The answer to that turned out to be no, with Domesday Book raising his game once more under a strong drive from Gina Andrews and they got up on the line to win by three quarters of a length. Pendra held on to the runner-up spot, with Premier Bond completing in 3rd, Potters Legend 4th and the best of the Irish, Mall Dini, in 5th position.
Fifteen finished the race, with Alvarado, Potters Cross, La Vaticane and Local Show also having been pulled up. Forgotten Gold had completed in 10th place.
It was a first Cheltenham Festival winner for the trainer Stuart Edmonds and for the amateur jockey Gina Andrews. Also, of course, he’d saved the GB team from a complete whitewash on Day 3 of this year’s Festival. Day Three, which is deemed St Patrick’s Thursday, had been a near whitewash last year too, with the home team’s Thistlecrack the sole GB winner that day.
Phew, Domesday book had saved the day from becoming an Irish whitewash. But GB now had to win every race on Friday in order to draw with Ireland.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room:
Race 7 - 5:30pm
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Miss Gina Andrews, the rider of the winner, DOMESDAY BOOK (USA), from the third last fence. Having heard her evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found her in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that she had used her whip above the permitted level and without giving her horse time to respond. The Stewards suspended Miss Andrews for 13 days as follows: Friday 31 March, and Sunday 2, Monday 3, Tuesday 4, Wednesday 5, Thursday 6, Saturday 8, Monday 10, Tuesday 11, Thursday 13, Saturday 15, Monday 17 and Tuesday 18 April 2017. Under Rule (B)54 the Stewards also fined the rider £400.
The Stewards noted that LA VATICANE (FR), trained by David Pipe, would wear earplugs.
The Starters reviewed recordings of the start but were satisfied that no riders should be reported for contravening the starting procedures.
To avoid the problems of the horrendous exit traffic jams of the previous two days, I decided to stay to watch the Tattersalls Horses in Training and Point to Pointers sale which began at 18:15 in the Winners’ Enclosure; I saw more than half of the lots go through the sales ring.
Gerry Hogan purchased a horse named Minella Mischief on behalf of Mrs Prowting; the new owner was in attendance, as was Hannah Bishop. He’s a point-to-point winner, by Kayf Tara. He was to be trained by Noel Williams, alongside three of Mrs Prowting’s homebred horses.
As it was 19:40 when I drove out of the gate, I decided to turn left in order to join the Evesham Road which was now open to traffic. I headed towards Cheltenham town, continuing straight ahead at the roundabout outside the main entrance to the racecourse. There was a minor delay as I approached Pittville Park, but I’d soon turned left to drive along Wellington Road to reach a roundabout and then onto Pittville Circus.
I then headed along Pittville Circus Road and turned left at the T-junction with Hewlett Road. This soon took me to the longabout, before I headed up Harp Hill, turned into Greenway Lane and reached the Six Ways junction. It just wouldn’t be Festival week without driving along Pittville Circus Road at least once! Besides, I think my future retirement flat may be situated in the vicinity too!!! And it’s also within walking distance of the racecourse.
I arrived back at Eynsham Hall at 20:40, just in time to see the end of the penultimate episode of the Great Pottery Throw Down. I fancy doing a bit of pottery … I know it’s mucky … but I’m currently feeling creative!
And, for the third day running, my supper was the contents of a Pot Noodle tub!
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There was a sad postscript to the purchase of Minella Mischief. He soon developed a deteriorating lameness which proved to be incurable despite the best of treatment and, as a result, was put to sleep.