PART II

DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2017

DAY TWO

FEATURING THE QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE

WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH 2017

 

 

 

Special Tiara.jpg

 

The winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase;

Special Tiara ridden by Noel Fehily

 

Click here to read my Day 2 Diary Part I

 

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

It was no surprise that the favourite for the next race was Douvan, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh; price 2-9.  Hard to believe, but Willie Mullins had never won this race, nor the Cheltenham Gold Cup, so perhaps this was his opportunity to claim one of the events missing from his CV.

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

 

Race 4

Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles (13 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

10

Douvan, Fox Norton, Garde Le Victoire, God’s Own, Simply Ned, Sir Valentino, Sizing Granite, Special Tiara, Top Gamble, Traffic Fluide

 

Having exited from the corral to the inside corner of the track, the horses headed away from the starting gate initially before turning and walking back once more.  The flag having been raised, then dropped, the runners were off first time and heading towards the first of their thirteen fences. 

It came as no surprise that Special Tiara took off narrowly ahead at this jump, with Douvan almost upsides to his outside and Fox Norton to the inner.  Letting the race unfold in front of them whilst bringing up the rear were Traffic Fluide, Sizing Granite, God’s Own and Sir Valentino.  There were no jumping issues here. 

The runners continued to the next where, again, there were no problems as they cleared it.  The horses had soon joined the Old Course, with Richard Johnson having allowed Garde Le Victoire to stride on to join Special Tiara at the head of affairs. They soon reached fence number three, where the first jumping error was delivered by Douvan; he took off too far away from the fence and had to reach for it.  He did get to the other side safely however. The ten runners continued up the home straight to the fourth, with Garde Le Victoire continuing alongside Special Tiara, from Douvan, Fox Norton, Top Gamble, God’s Own, Simply Ned, Traffic Fluide, Sizing Granite and Sir Valentino.  In contrast to his effort at the previous obstacle, Douvan measured this one well and gave it plenty of air as he jumped it.

The first four jumping challenges having been successfully met, they soon swung to their left and headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure to reach the fifth.  Special Tiara asserted his advantage over the remainder of the field as they did so and was three or four lengths clear as they turned into the back straight for the one and only time.  They continued down the slope to the sometimes tricky first fence therein.  There were a couple of nodding on landing issues at this one, from Garde Le Victoire and Fox Norton. 

The following obstacle was the water-jump, with Douvan now in second position as they jumped it; at the rear of the field Sizing Granite was slow, struggling to go the pace required in a race of this nature, he soon became detached from the others.

The next fence was the first of the open-ditches and Special Tiara was well clear of his rivals as they headed over this one.  Again Douvan took off a little too early and had to reach for it.  Meanwhile Special Tiara continued to motor onwards to the following fence, a plain one; he remained well ahead of the others.  The favourite led the main group, from Garde Le Victoire, God’s Own, Fox Norton, Simply Ned, Top Gamble, Sir Valentino and Traffic Fluide.  Sizing Granite was many lengths behind these.  They all negotiated this one without a problem.

The runners then headed around the dog-leg turn on their approach to the final open-ditch.  Once again Douvan stood off the fence; Garde Le Victoire made an error here and, as a result, he was soon ridden along whilst dropping back through the field. Sizing Granite was pulled up before this one.  Fox Norton had joined Douvan to dispute second position as they headed around the bend and began their journey down the hill towards three out.  Special Tiara was still well in advance of his rivals. 

The leader flew over this one and was quickly into stride again heading down towards the home turn.  Fox Norton, Douvan, Sir Valentino and God’s Own jumped this fence in unison but, whereas the lesser fancied horses were now in hot pursuit of the leader, Douvan had got a little close to the fence and dropped back into fifth position.  Shortly afterwards there were signs of distress from Ruby Walsh as he began to niggle away at his mount. 

Meanwhile Special Tiara continued to gallop on, and was soon heading around the home bend, with little sign of tiring. His nearest rival now was God’s Own, followed by Sir Valentino, with Fox Norton currently a little out-paced.  The leader was a length clear as he jumped the penultimate fence; God’s Own misjudged his take-off and banked the fence, this affected his challenge immediately and he was soon overtaken by Sir Valentino.  Fox Norton was also staying on as his stamina kicked-in.

The leading group all came under pressure as they headed to the final fence but Special Tiara continued to hold them off and flew the last; his rivals cleared it well also.  Noel Fehily continued to work hard aboard his mount, driving him out as he headed towards the line; his sole challenger being Fox Norton which continued to close the deficit under Aidan Coleman.  Would he hold out?

Yes, he did. He won by a head at the line.  Sir Valentino finished 6 lengths behind the leading duo, only just holding off the staying-on Top Gamble by a nose.  God’s Own claimed 5th, with Traffic Fluide a close 6th and Douvan a further 4 lengths behind in 7th.  Garde Le Victoire and Simply Ned came home in their own time.

The winner was bred by Henry de Bromhead’s aunt and uncle. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Special Tiara

Noel Fehily

Henry de Bromhead

2nd

Fox Norton

Aidan Coleman

Colin Tizzard

3rd

Sir Valentino

Paddy Brennan

Tom George

4th

Top Gamble

Davy Russell

Kerry Lee

 

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

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 4 - 3:30pm
THE BETWAY QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION STEEPLE CHASE (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)

The Stewards gave permission for FOX NORTON (FR), trained by Colin Tizzard, to go first in the parade.

The Stewards noted that this race was started by flag owing to the fact that, as the Starter was about to effect the start, the gate mechanism developed a fault.

Ruby Walsh, the rider of DOUVAN (FR), unplaced, reported that the gelding jumped poorly throughout. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding, during routine testing, revealed it to be lame behind.

The favourite for this event was Cantlow, trained by Enda Bolger and ridden by Adrian Heskin; price 9-4. Any Currency returned for another crack at this race, having lost the victory to an unfortunate time-limit infringement of a legally administered drug, the previous year.  Another entry was Bless The Wings, formerly trained by Alan King and now trained by Gordon Elliott, also Cause Of Causes which had won just two chases previously, but they’d both been at the Festival; last year the Kim Muir, and the 2015 National Hunt Chase. 

Once again JP McManus owned five horses competing in this race – Auvergnat, Cantlow, Cause Of Causes, Colour Squadron and Quantitativeeasing. 

There was one grey in the race, namely Valadom.  Also a French-based runner Amazing Comedy.

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

 

Race 5

Glenfarclas Handicap Chase (Cross Country)

Distance

3 miles 7 furlongs (32 fences)

No. of Runners

16

Alelchi Inois, Amazing Comedy, Any Currency, Auvergnat, Ballyboker Bridge, Bless The Wings, Cantlow, Cause Of Causes, Colour Squadron, First Lieutenant, Kingswell Theatre, Quantitativeeasing, Sausalito Sunrise, Third Intention, Usuel Smurfer, Valadom

 

Any Currency was walked around outside the starting gate area initially, before returning to the box before the tape was strung across and the flag was raised.

Then they were off, first time.  The runners were led away by Any Currency and Valadom; bringing up the rear was Colour Squadron.  Having cleared the bank with hedge, the horses swung left-handed to reach the next, a ditch and railed hedge.  Heading to this fence, Ballyboker Bridge took a very narrow lead.  The route then heads over a bridge across a gulley before arriving at the birch island fence; all bar three of the runners jumped this via the inside left-hand option. 

The horses then headed across the beginning of the chute and into the in-field once more.  Fence number four was the replica Canal Turn Aintree-style fence and all 16 cleared this without problem.  The following fence was a bank with hedges; shortly afterwards they re-crossed the chute before heading over a double-bank with hedges. 

Fence number seven was described as the Glenfarclas barrels; having cleared these without incident, the runners then headed across an intersection with the Old Course.  Ballyboker Bridge continued to lead the way from Any Currency, Valadom and First Lieutenant.  Immediately upon reaching the in-field again, the runners jumped a double-bank with hedge; travelling near the rear of the field, Auvergnat made an error here.

The horses then swung to their right to head up hill to the American-style timber rails.  Ballybroker Bridge led from Any Currency, First Lieutenant, Valadom, Third Intention, Alelchi Inois, Cantlow, Amazing Comedy, Usuel Smurfer, Bless The Wings, Sausalito Sunrise, Cause Of Causes, Kingswell Theatre, Auvergnat, Quantitativeeasing and, finally, Colour Squadron. 

Having successfully cleared this obstacle, the runners continued up hill and headed over the chute once more.  Just prior to crossing another intersection with the Old Course, they jumped a railed hedge.  Auvergnat made another error at this one.  The runners then headed slightly downhill to a large railed hedge, with a ditch on take-off and a slight drop on the landing side.  All sixteen competitors jumped this one well.

The runners then swung to their right to reach fence number 12; a pole and railed hedge.  Again there were no jumping problems here.  The route then took them back across the chute before arriving at the ditch, bank and hedge obstacle for the first time.  Near the rear of the field, Quantitativeeasing landed slowly when jumping off the bank.  The competitors then headed down into the dip in order to negotiate the water-jump before swinging to their left in order to approach the cheese-wedges combination; this is a replica of the Grande Fromage in Pau.  These would mark the end of what is classed as the first circuit.

All sixteen runners cleared the initial part successfully but not so the second.  First Lieutenant decanted his rider and Usuel Smurfer lost his footing and fell.  Both Sausalito Sunrise and Quantitativeeasing were hampered by these departures.  Having solely unseated, the rider-less First Lieutenant carried on amongst runners and the loose Usuel Smurfer continued too, some distance behind them.

The remaining fourteen soon swung to their left and headed over a ditch with railed hedge; it had also been the second fence.  The detached loose horse decided to swing wide of the fence rather than jump it.  The runners then headed across the bridged gulley once again before bearing to their left and crossing the ditch with raised bank and hedge once more; this was at right-angles to the first time.  Sausalito Sunrise wasn’t very fluent at either elements, and didn’t land particularly well when returning to ground level once more.

Meanwhile, Ballyboker Bridge continued to lead the way, from Cantlow now disputing second position with Any Currency.  The runners soon headed back across the intersection with the Old Course, before jumping the double-bank with hedge once more.  They then swung right, to head uphill; Colour Squadron continued to bring up the rear.  On this circuit instead of continuing straight ahead, they quickly swung to their right in order to jump a ditch with railed hedge.

The runners bunched up a little as they headed back across another intersection with the Old Course.  Fence number twenty-one was a ditch with a boarded hedge; Third Intention pecked on landing and Sausalito Sunrise also made an error here.

Following this, the runners made a right-hand turn to head down into the dip and cross over the water-jump for the second and final time.  The leading duo, Ballyboker Bridge and Any Currency were being harried by the loose First Lieutenant as they successfully negotiated this before swinging left to continue to the double-spread hedge.  Ballyboker Bridge dived at this one but survived the error. 

The leading duo were a couple of lengths clear of their rivals as they headed away from the fence; Amazing Comedy led the main group over it, followed by Third Intention, Alelchi Inois, Cantlow, Valadom, Auvergnat, Cause Of Causes, Bless The Wings, Kingswell Theatre, Sausalito Sunrise, Colour Squadron and Quantitativeeasing. 

Third Intention began to lose ground as they continued to the next, a bank with hedge; it had also been their first fence.  The competitors had now entered the third and final section of the race.  Amazing Comedy had joined the leading duo by the time they negotiated the ditch with railed hedge.  For the third time, the runners headed across the gulley bridge.  The French-raider was hampered slightly as the loose First Lieutenant veered across to the inside of the track in order to avoid jumping the next fence.

All of the runners decided to jump the birch-island fence via the left-hand option on this occasion; Valadom stuttered into the fence and lost a few lengths as a result.  The tailed-off Quantitativeeasing was pulled up by his jockey before this obstacle.  Once again, the horses headed across the beginning of the chute in order to reach the Aintree-style fence.  Having received a reminder, the grey regained some ground upon his rivals as they did so.

The horses swung out wide in order to make the turn and were led over the fence by Amazing Comedy.  Valadom lost ground once more as he jumped it, and Third Intention was slow here too. The runners continued forward to the twenty-eighth obstacle, which was a bank with hedge.  There was no change at the head of affairs as they once again headed back across the chute; Any Currency had lost his position by this point and the pursuit was now led by Cantlow and Auvergnat with, behind these, Cause Of Causes and Bless The Wings. 

The field headed over a double-bank with hedge, which Cantlow jumped more slowly than his nearest rivals and he was soon relegated to fourth-position whilst Cause Of Causes improved somewhat.  The final fence taken on the cross-country section of the course was the Glenfarclas barrels and Amazing Comedy was four lengths clear of his nearest rivals as he headed towards the racecourse proper.

As the remaining competitors entered the track, the loose First Lieutenant re-joined them having, presumably, gone astray for the past four obstacles! He’d not been spotted on camera since bypassing the birch-island jump and was already heading down the Old Course in their direction!

Arriving at the second last, a stuffed hurdle, all four of JP’s remaining runners along with Bless The Wings were nipping at the leader’s heels.  Then, having swung into the home straight, Jamie Codd drove his mount into the lead on the run down to the final obstacle, another stuffed hurdle.  Despite running down the final flight and jumping out to his left over it, Cause Of Causes was a couple of lengths ahead of Bless The Wings as he cleared it.

The leader then powered away from his rivals as they headed up the hill towards the line; the winning distance was 9 lengths.  Bless The Wings claimed 2nd place, 1¼ lengths ahead of Cantlow, with Auvergnat a further 1¼ lengths back in 4th.  Amazing Comedy completed in 5th, Ballyboker Bridge 6th, Colour Squadron 7th, Third Intention 8th and Any Currency 9th.  10th was Kingswell Theatre, Valadom 11th and Sausalito 12th and last.  

It was JP McManus’ 6th winner of this event, but the first not trained by Enda Bolger. Causes Of Causes is a flat-bred horse, whose American sire is best known for siring horses which race on the dirt!

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Cause Of Causes

Mr Jamie Codd

Gordon Elliott

2nd

Bless The Wings

Davy Russell

Gordon Elliott

3rd

Cantlow

Adrian Heskin

Enda Bolger

4th

Auvergnat

Robbie Power

Enda Bolger

 

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

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 5 - 4:10pm
THE GLENFARCLAS STEEPLE CHASE (A CROSS COUNTRY STEEPLE CHASE) (CLASS 2)

The Stewards noted that BALLYBOKER BRIDGE (IRE), trained by Peter Maher, would wear earplugs.

The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of SAUSALITO SUNRISE (IRE), unplaced, trained by Philip Hobbs, during routine testing, revealed it to be lame.

The favourite for the next race was Divin Bere, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Noel Fehily; price 9-2.  This was the 13th running of this particular event.

Alan King had three runners in this race, namely Fidux ridden by Tom Bellamy, Rainbow Dreamer ridden by Tom Cannon and Dino Velvet ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.

There was one grey, Fadas, and two described as black, namely Project Bluebook and Flying Tiger.

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

Race 6

Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

Distance

2 miles 110 yards (8 hurdles to negotiate)

No. of Runners

22

Divin Bere, Project Bluebook, Fidux, Long Call, Dolos, Flying Tiger, Prospectus, Poker Play, Domperignon Du Lys, Rainbow Dreamer, Diable De Sivola, Linger, Dreamcatching, Dakota Moirette, Nietzsche, Zig Zag, Icario, Fadas, Dino Velvet, Dodgybingo, Percy Street, Candy Burg

 

As the horses exited the holding pen, two or three horses caught the plastic rail which guided the runners out onto the racecourse and dislodged a few sections of it.  Dino Velvet, Flying Tiger and Fadas were at the rear of the group as they headed away from the starting gate initially. 

Having turned, the horses were jogging in and deemed too keen by the Starter; he waved his flag as did the marshal standing in front of the first obstacle.  The jockeys attempted to organise themselves whilst the tape was drawn back across the course once more.  It was a shambles; they were requested to take a turn, although for many this was as quick a turn as possible!  Dino Velvet and Fadas stood at the rear of the field patiently looking on.

Finally satisfied, the Starter let them go.  To the wide outside Poker Play was quite slowly away, as was Fadas to the inside.  The first flight came upon them quickly, with Fidux and Linger disputing a narrow lead as they cleared it.  Also prominent as they headed up the home straight to the second flight was the visored Rainbow Dreamer, the blinkered Dodgybingo, also Dakota Moirette to the wide outside before he was reined back to slot in behind Percy Street in mid-field.

Fidux travelling to the inside, continued to dispute the lead with Linger as they jumped the second hurdle.  Dodgybingo produced a dodgy jump having bumped into the rear of Linger over this one.  The Alan King runner led by a length as they swung left and headed up the hill and into the back straight; Prospectus under Ruby Walsh brought up the rear.

Dodgybingo joined Fidux as they headed towards flight number three.  Nietzche, Percy Street and Dakota Moirette tracked the leading duo, with Linger soon losing ground and dropping back through runners.  All twenty-two runners successfully negotiated this flight.  Behind the leaders travelled Rainbow Dreamer and Zig Zag; bringing up the rear Dino Velvet, Fadas and Prospectus. 

There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners streamed over the next flight and continued around the dog-leg turn.  So, giving a run-down of the competitor order at this point … the field was led by Fidux and Dodgybingo, followed by Nietzche alongside Dakota Moirette, from Zig Zag to the inside of Rainbow Dreamer, Percy Street, Dolos and Divin Bere.  Behind these were Dreamcatching, Poker Play, Project Bluebook against the rail, Candy Burg, Domperignon Du Lys, Flying Tiger, Diable De Sivola, Linger, Long Call, Icario, Fadas, Dino Velvet and finally Prospectus. 

It was Dino Velvet which made a bad blunder at the next flight, which meant that he lost touch with the back of the main group; Prospectus and Linger were also detached behind him.  The latter was pulled up before the next and reported as lame.  Fortunately the McNeill Family-owned runner was able to gain momentum as they travelled down the hill towards the third last and was back in touch by the time they’d reached the third last. 

Fidux was swallowed up by his rivals as they jumped it, as was Dodgybingo shortly afterwards.  Divin Bere now spearheaded the runners, with Dakota Moirette and Dolos his wingmen as they continued to the second last.  It was closely packed upfront as the runners headed towards the final bend; Poker Play and Domperignon Du Lys amongst those squeezed for space at this point.  Weaving his way through was Richard Johnson aboard Flying Tiger. 

The favourite led the runners around the home turn, endeavouring to hold off the challenges of Dakota Moirette to his inside and the hooded Nietzsche to his outside as they headed towards the final flight.  The latter had taken a narrow advantage as they reached it, but he didn’t jump it very fluently.  Meanwhile to the far side, Flying Tiger had been driven to within a length of them.  It was now a three-way drive to the line.

Richard Johnson’s mount soon put his head in front and, although Divin Bere rallied on the run in, he couldn’t completely peg back the leader.  The winning distance was a neck at the winning post, with Nietzsche a further neck away in 3rd place.  Project Bluebook claimed 4th, five lengths behind them.  Diable De Sivola finished 5th, Percy Street 6th, Dakota Moirette 7th and Dino Velvet a never nearer 8th.

Rainbow Dreamer was 12th and Fidux last of the finishers in 19th, as Icario fell at the last and Prospectus was pulled up before it.  Both jockey and horse were okay following their fall. 

It was Nick Williams’ first Cheltenham Festival winner, although presumably not the first string, as his step-daughter Lizzie Kelly had chosen to ride Diable De Sivola.  It was a surprise, as far as the betting was concerned, with the winner priced at 33-1. 

The winning horse had demonstrated behaviour issues in the past, and Lizzie had advised that Flying Tiger should wear earplugs initially, before they were removed at the start.  In his recent Kempton Park outing, in the Adonis, the horse had worn earplugs throughout and these had made him too relaxed that day.  After that particular run, it had been decided to aim Flying Tiger for the Fred Winter, rather than the Triumph Hurdle.  The plan had worked a treat today, with the horse not wearing earplugs, and picking up as required at the right moment.

Nick Williams had been the man who had sourced Fox Norton from France. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Flying Tiger

Richard Johnson

Nick Williams

2nd

Divin Bere

Noel Fehily

Nicky Henderson

3rd

Nietzsche

Danny Cook

Brian Ellison

4th

Project Bluebook

Brian Hughes

John Quinn

 

Finally, I decided to move away from the rails and I actually headed to the Pre-parade ring; I wanted to see Perfect Harmony. 

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 6 - 4:50pm
THE FRED WINTER JUVENILE HANDICAP HURDLE RACE (CLASS 1) (Grade 3)

The Starters reviewed recordings of the start but were satisfied that no riders should be reported for contravening the starting procedures.

Rachael Blackmore, the rider of LINGER (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding made a mistake at the second flight and was never travelling thereafter. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding, during routine testing, revealed it to be lame behind.

I went to the Parade Ring and stood at the top of the steppings for a while, before returning to the course-side rails once more.

 

The favourite for the next race was Cause Toujours, trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by brother Harry; price 9-2. 

Jamie Snowden had a runner in this one, Dans Le Vent ridden by Aidan Coleman.  Alan King also, namely the previously mentioned Perfect Harmony ridden by Ian Popham; the horse is owned by Mrs Prowting and has a very kind eye too. 

There were three greys, Carter McKay, Debuchet and Nelson’s Touch.

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

 

Race 7

Weatherbys Champion Bumper

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

Distance

2 miles 110 yards

No. of Runners

22

And The New, Bakmaj, Better Getalong, Carter McKay, Cause Toujours, Claimantakinforgan, Copernicus, Fisherman Frank, Imperial Eloquence, Mountain Rock, Next Destination, Perfect Harmony, Quick Grabim, Robin The Raven, West Coast Time, Western Ryder, Fayonagh, Irish Roe, Dans Le Vent, Debuchet, My Mate Mark, Nelson’s Touch

 

In contrast to the previous races commencing at this point today, the corral wasn’t in use for this particular race.  In fact the majority of runners were grouped together and already heading away from the gate whilst latecomers, including Bakmaj, Robin The Raven, Copernicus and Quick Grabim had their girths checked.

Having turned to approach the tape, it came as no surprise that the first attempt to start was a failure.  The main group had been travelling too fast, before assimilating West Coast Time, and their approach spooked Quick Grabim, and Copernicus even more so.  Meanwhile, in the main group, West Coast Time decided to give a rather feeble double-barrel kick aimed towards Western Ryder.  It was a terrible mess with Debuchet coming out of the pack to charge the tape.  He went some distance up the track, as did Copernicus and Bakmaj; a number of others less so.

Anyway, they all pulled-up quite quickly before walking back again.  With the others already lined up for a standing start, a number of the returning horses had a problem slotting back into line.  However, once Debuchet to the wide outside had consented to turn in the right direction, the Starter let them go.  The standing start doesn’t always suit horses, and both Nelson’s Touch and Fayonagh lost a number of lengths upon their rivals.

Meanwhile, up front, the runners were led away by My Mate Mark, with also prominent Copernicus and the grey Debuchet to the nearside, with the also grey Carter McKay to the inner.  A strong gallop was being set as they headed up the home straight towards the enclosures. 

Now seems as good a time as any to recount all of the runners, so here we go.  My Mate Mark led the way from Copernicus.  Travelling line across the course behind these were Carter McKay, Robin The Raven, Irish Roe, Dans Le Vent and Next Destination.  Behind these, from the inside, Bakmaj, Perfect Harmony, Cause Toujours, Claimantakinforgan, and Debuchet.  Then West Coast Time, Quick Grabim, Western Ryder, Mountain Rock, Fisherman Frank, Imperial Eloquence, Better Getalong, And The New with jockey Brendan Powell glancing behind on a couple of occasions, then Nelson’s Touch and, bringing up the rear, Fayonagh. Ian Popham appeared to be chatting to Harry Skelton at one point.

Having travelled through the empty wings of what earlier in the day had been the final flight, the runners soon swung to their left and headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure.  Having turned into the back straight, My Mate Mark continued to bowl along at the head of affairs; he was three lengths clear of Copernicus which spearheaded the main group.

Heading further along the straight having initially stretched his advantage, the leader was being reeled in gradually as they first passed to the outside of the water-jump and then the open-ditch whilst continuing through the empty wings upon the hurdles track.  Fisherman Frank was already being pushed along prior to the runners reaching the dog-leg turn.

Continuing around it, My Mate Mark remained ahead of his rivals, narrowly, from Copernicus, Irish Roe, Dans Le Vent, Robin The Raven and Carter McKay.  Having lost ground at the start, Fayonagh’s jockey Jamie Codd, seemed happy to remain at the back of the field; that was until Fisherman Frank tired enough for his mare to automatically overtake that one without effort.

Having reached the top of the hill and turned the corner to head down hill, the long-time leading duo were soon swallowed up by the field as Dans Le Vent, Debuchet and Carter McKay swept by to take up the running.  However, the latter was soon tapped for toe and couldn’t sustain a challenge.  Thus heading into the home straight, Debuchet held a clear advantage over Dans Le Vent, from Cause Toujours, Claimantakinforgan, and Ruby Walsh laying down a challenge aboard Next Destination … you just knew he’d be there somewhere!

However, as they headed through the empty wings of the final flight, Fayonagh suddenly caught the eye having swung around the outside of the field; she was gaining upon the leading runners with every stride.  Debuchet’s jockey, Danny Mullins, must have thought he’d got the race in the bag as they continued up the hill towards the winning post, as Claimantakinforgan, Western Ryder, and Next Destination seemed unable to overhaul him.

But the mare’s challenge proved far too strong and she swept all of her remaining rivals aside to win by 1¼ lengths at the line.  Claimantakinforgan finished 3rd, 1½ lengths behind the runner-up, with Next Destination a neck 4th and Western Ryder also a neck 5th.  Jamie Snowden’s Dans Le Vent completed in a very pleasing 6th position, 5 lengths behind these.  Perfect Harmony completed in 11th position. 

All of them finished apart from Fisherman Frank who was pulled up one furlong out, having been completely tailed off.  The favourite Cause Toujours had finished 9th; it was no surprise that My Mate Mark and Copernicus finished 19th and 21st respectively having set a fast early pace.

It was another win for trainer Gordon Elliott, his fifth of the Festival so far.  Fayonagh was the first of her sex to win the race since 2004 and only the third ever in history to triumph.  Jamie Codd had been responsible for buying the mare originally, at the Cheltenham Tattersalls sale last December for £64,000; he’d also recommended that she be sent to Gordon to be trained.  The trainer revealed that there had originally been a possibility she might have gone to Sandown Park the previous Saturday to run in the mares’ listed race instead of heading here.  She won a first prize today of £32,685. 

Racing UK’s Lydia Hislop interviewed the winning rider; “Well bought and well-ridden” were her congratulatory words at the end of the conversation. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Fayonagh

Mr Jamie Codd

Gordon Elliott

2nd

Debuchet

Danny Mullins

Ms Margaret Mullins

3rd

Claimantakinforgan

Nico de Boinville

Nicky Henderson

4th

Next Destination

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room:

Race 7 - 5:30pm
THE WEATHERBYS CHAMPION BUMPER (A STANDARD OPEN NATIONAL HUNT FLAT RACE) (CLASS 1) (Grade 1)

The Stewards noted that CARTER MCKAY and NEXT DESTINATION (IRE), both trained by W.P. Mullins, would wear earplugs and that BETTER GETALONG (IRE), trained by Nicky Richards, and MOUNTAIN ROCK (IRE), trained by A.P. Keatley, 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. The race subsequently was started by flag as the Starter was concerned that the ground staff responsible for the re-fitting of the tape would be at risk from the runners in the confined space.

Michael Blake, the trainer of FISHERMAN FRANK, which was pulled up, reported that the gelding had a breathing problem. The Veterinary Officer reported that a post-race examination of the gelding revealed it to have atrial fibrillation.

So, yet again, the Irish had outpointed the GB team and, after day two, they had a two point lead in the Prestbury Cup.

Betbright Prestbury Cup

Score at the end of Day 2

GB

Ireland

6

8

Knowing that the first day (Tuesday) seems to have teething problems with regards to leaving the racecourse, I was hopeful that Wednesday would be an improvement … but it wasn’t.  Traffic was almost gridlocked on the approach to the gateway which exits onto the driveway; it didn’t help that drivers were jumping the queue and pushing in further down the hill, thus disadvantaging those like me near the back thereof.  Grrrrrrr ….

 

Having finally reached the gate onto Southam Lane and travelled through the village of Southam itself,  there was then a long and slow queue through Prestbury, courtesy of the police directing traffic at the islands to the far end of Deep Street.  I’m not keen to wait in traffic, as I can hear the fan start up intermittently to cool my engine ... but, looking on the bright side, if it didn’t I’d be in trouble!  Prestbury is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in England. 

I’d left the racecourse enclosures at 18:10, but it took me until 19:15 to escape from Cheltenham.  The only advantage I can ascertain to parking in the north car park is the fact that my car won’t get stuck in the mud during heavy spells of rain!  The western car parks are so much quicker to make an escape from, usually 25 minutes maximum to reach the Six Ways junction!

Anyway, the trip across the Cotswolds went smoothly, apart from one idiot who pulled out from the Puesdown Inn immediately in front of me; I had to brake.  I arrived back at Eynsham Hall at around 20:00.

When you are out in the countryside, you definitely notice the night sky far more; having parked my car, I admired the constellation of Orion before heading back to my room within the Cottage.  It was the contents of a Pot Noodle tub for supper again this evening.

 

 

PHOTOS – Cheltenham Festival Day 2 (Index)

 

 

 

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