PART I

DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2018

DAY FOUR

FEATURING THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP

FRIDAY 16 MARCH 2018

 

 

 

winner Kilbricken Storm 1.jpg

 

Winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle;

Kilbricken Storm, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by Harry Skelton

 

 

I reported to the main hall for breakfast at 07:05.

Breakfast was full English again today; three rashers of bacon, scrambled egg, a fried tomato, giant mushrooms, and hash browns.  Also two yoghurts and a croissant.  Plus a pot of coffee, from which I made 2 cups.  I got back to my room at 07:30. 

My luggage was almost packed, and I did a final check before loading up my car ... although I later discovered I’d left one or two items behind.  Having taken everything to my vehicle, I headed to reception to settle up and check out.  It had been my aim to leave Eynsham Hall at 08:20 but, in the event it was 08:40 before I set off. 

Unfortunately the Woodstock Road remained closed following yesterday’s incident, so I had to continue along Jubilee Way before turning right at the traffic lights and heading along Oxford Hill.  As a result, I got caught up in a long tail-back from the mini-roundabout; in fact the roundabout I would have had priority upon if I’d been able to travel via my planned route.  There was so much traffic exiting from the supposedly closed road that I was beginning to wonder if it was now open; surely there couldn’t be that much ‘access only’ traffic  ... but I will never know. 

Like Wednesday, but unlike yesterday, the Burford Road was closed due to re-surfacing activities; as a result I had to take a right-turn having continued down the High Street, in order to enter Welch Way.  This particular route, familiar from the day before last, would take me to a junction mid-way along the A40 bypass.  Later research informed me that there were three suitable opportunities to take a right-hand turn to return me to my intended route via Minster Lovell, but I decided to continue along my recently discovered alternative route, following the road signage! 

It actually took me until 09:30 to reach the roundabout at the top of Burford; that’s 50 minutes to travel approximately 11 miles!  The remainder of my journey to Cheltenham went smoothly and I even had time to pop into Sainsburys on Priors Road to fill my petrol tank too, without feeling pressurised.  There was a slight delay in Prestbury, because a coach driver had decided to pull up on double-yellow lines; he wasn’t even in the vehicle, as I saw him return to it! 

Anyway, I parked up in the usual car park at 10:20.  As I was fully-loaded, I backed into the space just in case the front wheels got stuck in the slightly ‘stickier’ area beside the grass bank.  All week I’d been parked fairly close to the railway crossing, in the first two to four rows.   

Today’s outfit was a black polo-neck thermal t-shirt, a dark pink thermal t-shirt and a purple thermal t-shirt.  Also a magenta ribbed polo-neck sweater, a black v-neck ribbed sweater, a mauve v-neck cardigan, my much worn dark grey tweed double-frill M & S skirt, a bright purple fleece, black fleece gillet, black jeggings, purple butterfly earrings, black with white horses snood, and pink/purple/mauve material scarf.  I took my ‘Bumbleberry’ shades of purple Caron Cakes Aran-weight snood with me and my ‘Raspberry’ pink Big Fab hat ... but wore neither as it wasn’t that cold today!

Having arrived at the north entrance slightly after opening-time, I didn’t have to stand around in a queue, waiting to go in.  I headed to the ladies loo, bumping into EPDS Racing’s John Powell for a chat en route.  I then headed down to the plaza area below the Parade Ring, where I sat on a bench for a while; I saw the currently sidelined Ian Popham, also Mattie Batchelor and even Alan King ... but no sign of Choc.  It was just too difficult to find him, considering weight of numbers within the grounds; like searching for a needle in a haystack in fact.  L  

Having discovered on Wednesday the benefits of viewing from the upper ‘crescent’ of steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure, I decided to set up my stall from this position again today.  I’ve spent years at the course-side rails, and the previous Tuesday too, so it made a change to get a new perspective for my photographs.  My initial choice having been prompted by the very cold easterly breeze and the worries about the underfoot going on the members’ lawn!  Although exposed, the grandstands offer protection when standing on the upper steppings.

Martin Kelly’s guests today were Rupert Bell, Davy Russell, Derek O’Connor who would partner Edwulf in today’s Gold Cup, Ted Walsh, Kate Harrington (daughter of trainer Jessica) and Michael Shinners from Skybet. 

The first race of the day was the JCB Triumph Hurdle.  The favourite for this event was Apple’s Shakira, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Barry Geraghty; price 6-5.  As the name might suggest, the filly is a full-sister to Apple’s Jade.

One runner of interest for me, Redicean trained by Alan King and formerly owned by the Apple Tree Stud.

At the start of the day the ground was soft, heavy in places following a little rain overnight.  It was the smallest field since 1965!  The first single figure field too … although it is more likely to be a small field these days, the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle having been added to the Festival card in later years.  Four of the nine-strong field were trained by Willie Mullins!

The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one complete circuit to travel.  As a result, the horses cantered up all-weather strip in front of the grandstands before heading down the turf and re-entering the all-weather strip to complete their journey to the gate. 

 

Race 1

Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles 1 furlong (8 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

9

Farclas, Gumball, Mr Adjudicator, Redicean, Saldier, Sayo, Sussex Ranger, Apple’s Shakira, Stormy Ireland

 

And then they were off; one of the two fillies, Stormy Ireland, was fighting for her head as they approached the first flight.  Also prominent one of the three greys, Sayo, along with Sussex Ranger; the latter almost flattened the inside panel.  Noel Fehily’s mount continued to fight for her head as they continued up the home straight, Sussex Ranger was keen too.  In third position was Sayo, with Barry Geraghty endeavouring to settle Apple’s Shakira in his slipstream.  Gumball travelled to the inside of the track, from Farclas, Saldier, Redicean and Mr Adjudicator.

Having joined the circuit of the New Course, the runners subsequently crossed the sanded track-way on their way to the second flight.  Stormy Ireland continued to hold the advantage as the runners successfully negotiated the obstacle, before swinging left-handed in order to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure.  The horses were accompanied by the sound of loud cheers from the gathered crowds. 

Sayo joined Stormy Ireland at the head of affairs as they entered the back straight; he flicked his tail, not happy with being restrained by Danny Mullins.  However, once joined, she lit up again on the run down the hill to the third; Redicean was a little scrappy at this one.  Sayo re-joined her on the run to the next, only to be out-jumped by the filly at the flight.  At the rear of the field, Saldier put in an untidy leap.

Stormy Ireland continued to hold a narrow advantage over the field as the nine runners continued their journey down the back straight to the sixth flight; once again, Saldier was less than fluent when jumping it.  The runners headed around the dog-leg turn, with Sussex Ranger now starting to be pushed along by his jockey Jamie Moore.

The ground continued to rise as they headed towards three out; Sussex Ranger was less than fluent here, as was Mr Adjudicator at the back of the field.  Having reached the top of the hill, the runners swung left-handed, led by Stormy Ireland; she was just over a length clear of Sussex Ranger, Apple’s Shakira and Sayo who were disputing second position.  Behind these travelled Gumball with Redicean and Farclas; at the rear were Saldier and Mr Adjudicator.  All the runners were closely grouped and travelling well, apart from Sussex Ranger, and the slightly outpaced Gumball.

The horses continued down the hill to the penultimate flight, which Stormy Ireland took ahead of Apple’s Shakira and Sayo.  However, just as it seemed that the Nicky Henderson’s runner would burst through between Stormy Ireland and Sayo, Barry Geraghty switched her to the inside; she didn’t quicken as would be expected. 

In fact Stormy Ireland continued to lead as they headed past the two furlongs post.  Sayo continued to pursue the filly, but Farclas and Mr Adjudicator had soon closed down upon and passed him.  The long-time leader capitulated as they neared the final flight, with Farclas and Mr Adjudicator now disputing the lead as they jumped it. 

Unfortunately, the game Stormy Ireland tipped the top of the flight and fell, leaving Sayo in third position and Apple’s Shakira in fourth.  Farclas edged slightly to his right as they headed up the hill to the line, staying on well to win by 1¾ lengths from Mr Adjudicator at the line.  Sayo came home in 3rd, 3½ lengths behind the 2nd, with the favourite finishing a disappointing 4th. 

The first four finished a long way in front of the 5th, which was Saldier; Redicean was 6th and Sussex Ranger 7th.  Gumball had been pulled up before the last. 

Oh dear, it was another winner for Gigginstown; trainer Gordon Elliott had won the race four years ago with Tiger Roll.  Farclas had won on the flat in France, but this was his first win following two runner-up efforts over hurdles, in the latter of which he was beaten by Mr Adjudicator.     

It had been a horrible fall for Stormy Ireland but, eventually, she’d got to her feet and appeared fine. 

Nicky Henderson said Apple’s Shakira had been far too keen; she would wear a hood next time and be aimed for the Anniversary 4-year-old Juvenile Hurdle at the Aintree Festival. 

Redicean was disappointing – whether it was the ground, going left-handed on an undulating track or just not good enough on the day.  Perhaps, if he came out of this race okay, he might make an impression in the Grade 1 Anniversary Hurdle at Aintree; Alan’s horses seem more suited by the Liverpool track these days.

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Farclas

Gordon Elliott

Jack Kennedy

2nd

Mr Adjudicator

Willie Mullins

Paul Townend

3rd

Sayo

Willie Mullins

Danny Mullins

4th

Apple’s Shakira

Nicky Henderson

Barry Geraghty

 

I remained on the upper steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure following the race.

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room regarding this race – see link at bottom of Diary Part II

 

The favourite for the next event was last year’s Fred Winter winner, Flying Tiger, trained by Nick Williams and ridden by Noel Fehily; price 6-1. 

 

Alan King had a runner in this, namely William H Bonney, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.  There were three greys taking part in this race – Bleu Et Rouge, Sandsend and All Set To Go.

As had been the case for the first race, the starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one complete circuit to travel.  As a result, the horses cantered up all-weather strip in front of the grandstands before heading down the turf and re-entering the all-weather strip to complete their journey to the gate. 

 

Race 2

County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

Distance

2 miles 1 furlong (8 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

24

Bleu Et Rouge, Jenkins, Ivanovich Gorbatov, Tigris River, Lagostovegas, Le Richebourg, A Hare Breath, Sandsend, Remiluc, Sternrubin, Moon Racer, Brelade, Meri Devie, Whiskey Sour, Divin Bere, Flying Tiger, All Set To Go, Chesterfield, Spiritiofthegames, Ben Dundee, Mohaayed, Smaoineamh Alainn, Duca De Thaix, William H Bonney

 

And then they were off, at quite a steady pace for a race of this nature; presumably there were some concerns about the ground.  Anyway, prominent heading towards and over the first flight were Remiluc, Ivan Gorbatov, Sternrubin and Tigris River; the latter two went into a clear lead as they continued up the home straight, entering the New Course circuit as they did so. 

William H Bonney was now spearheading the main body of the field.  Also prominent were Ivan Gorbatov, Remiluc, Brelade, Smaoineamh Alainn, Duca De Thaix, Moon Racer, A Hare Breath, Mohaayed, Ben Dundee, Jenkins, Bleu Et Rouge, Divin Bere, Spiritofthegames, Flying Tiger, All Set To Go, Lagostovegas, Le Richebourg, Meri Devie, Whiskey Sour, Chesterfield, and Sandsend.

Having jumped the second flight without incident, the JP McManus-owned Tigris River went on; he was one of four horses representing the owner in this race.  As the field headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure, Richard Johnson aboard Sternrubin glanced under his arm to see the whereabouts of his rivals.  Having entered the back straight for the one and only time, the runners raced towards flight number three; as they did so, Sternrubin closed down upon the leader.  Moon Racer jumped this less fluently than his rivals.

The Philip Hobbs-trained runner was at the head of affairs as they continued along the back straight to the fourth flight. Tigris River followed him, from William H Bonney and Remiluc.  The sole Gigginstown representative, Duca De Thaix was clumsy at this one; he stepped upon a panel with his hind-legs and flattened it.

The runners continued to the fifth flight, which they all cleared without any significant errors.  Sternrubin continued to lead from Tigris River as they negotiated the dog-leg turn; they were five lengths clear of the main body of the field, which was still spearheaded by William H Bonney.  Flying Tiger brought up the rear. 

The leading duo’s advantage had been reduced by the time they jumped three out; Duca De Thaix was clumsy once again, flicking his hind-legs through the flight.  Ivan Gorbatov was now being pushed along near the rear of the field. Having reached the top of the hill, the runners swung left-handed to begin their descent towards the penultimate flight. 

Sternrubin retained his advantage as Tigris River began to drift back through the field; his nearest pursuers were Remiluc and Mohayeed, closely followed by William H Bonney, Spiritofthegames and A Hare Breath.  The field was still closely packed, apart from the detached Divin Bere.  Having all successfully negotiated this flight, Ivanovich Gorbatov and Tigris River also began to lose touch. 

Meanwhile Sternrubin continued to hold a very narrow advantage as they swept into the home straight, with Remiluc taking over the lead as they headed past the 2 furlong pole.  Mohaayed was his nearest challenger, with Chesterfield also laying down a challenge to the stand-side.  Whiskey Sour also came with a run, to the far side of Chesterfield.  Meanwhile, the grey Sandsend which had also made significant progress from the rear of the field, suffered a catastrophic leg injury and unseated Katie Walsh.

It was almost four in a line as they jumped the last, with Mohaayed and Whiskey Sour marginally ahead of Chesterfield to the near-side and Remiluc to the far-side; the latter hit the flight.  However, as they continued up the hill to the line, the challenge from both Whiskey Sour and Chesterfield petered out, leaving Remiluc and Mohayeed to battle it out to the line.  In fact the Dan Skelton runner ran on strongly as they headed to the winning post, to triumph by 2¾ lengths.

Remiluc held on to the runner-up spot, beating Whiskey Sour by three quarters of a length.  Chesterfield was 4th, Lagostovegas dead-heated for 5th with Spiritofthegames; the latter also trained by Dan Skelton.  They finished 7 lengths ahead of the 7th, which was Brelade.  Tigris River, Divin Bere, Jenkins, and Smaoineamh Alainn had all been pulled up before the last flight.

The winner was ridden by Bridget Andrews, claiming 3 pounds.  And she was snogged after the line by her fiancé Harry Skelton, who had been aboard Spiritofthegames.  This was the first handicap hurdle of this year’s Festival which had not been won by an Irish-trained horse!  Mohaayed was a 33-1 shot. 

It was Bridget’s first Festival winner; her sister Gina had won the Kim Muir last year aboard Domesday Book. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Mohaayed

Dan Skelton

Bridget Andrews

2nd

Remiluc

Chris Gordon

Harry Reed

3rd

Whiskey Sour

Willie Mullins

David Mullins

4th

Chesterfield

Seamus Mullins

Daniel Sansom

 

I remained on the upper steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure.

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room regarding this race – see link at bottom of Diary Part II

 

The favourite for the next race was Santini, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville; price 11-4.

 

There was one runner of interest in this event, namely the Alan King-trained Talkischeap, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.  There were no greys in this race.

The starting gate for this event is at the beginning of the back straight, with almost two complete circuits to travel.  Upon exiting the walkway, the horses crossed the home straight to canter along the all-weather strip which runs to the outside of the top bend to reach it.

 

Race 3

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Distance

3 miles (12 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

20

Ballyward, Beyond The Law, Calett Mad, Chef Des Obeaux, Chris’s Dream, Crucial Role, Dortmund Park, Enniscoffey Oscar, Fabulous Saga, Kilbricken Storm, Mr Whipped, Mulcahys Hill, OK Corral, Paisley Park, Poetic Rhythm, Real Steel, Robin Waters, Santini, Talkischeap, Tower Bridge

 

And then they were off, with Fabulous Saga leading the way.  Behind him travelled Chris’s Dream and Mulcahys Hill, from Beyond The Law and Kilbricken Storm.  There were no issues at the first flight and the runners continued along the back straight to the second where, again, all the horses cleared it safely. 

There was no change at the head of affairs as they headed to the next; Poetic Rhythm was travelling to the inside of the course, away from the other runners; Mulcahys Hill hit the flight.  The competitors subsequently negotiated the dog-leg turn; Fabulous Saga led the field, from Chris’s Dream, Mulcahys Hill, Beyond The Law, Crucial Role, Poetic Rhythm, Kilbricken Storm, Calett Mad, Robin Waters, Paisley Park, Talkischeap, OK Corral, Enniscoffey Oscar, Mr Whipped, Tower Bridge, Chef Des Obeaux, Real Steel, Santini, Dortmund Park and Ballyward. 

The twenty runners continued their journey up the hill, clearing the fourth flight without incident as they did so.  Having reached the far corner, the runners swung left-handed in order to travel downhill to the next obstacle.  Having jumped this one successfully, they headed into the home straight for the first time.  Fabulous Saga continued to lead the way, from Chris’s Dream, Mulcahys Hill and Beyond The Law.  Paddy Brennan, aboard Poetic Rhythm, continued to almost scrape his boot against the inside rail.  Ballyward brought up the rear.

Once again the runners jumped the next flight well, apart from Crucial Role who bunny-hopped it, before swinging left-handed to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure.  The leading group of six were now four lengths clear of Poetic Rhythm and Robin Waters; these, in turn, were three lengths clear of the main group.  Having entered the back straight, the pace increased as they headed downhill to the seventh flight.  Chris’s Dream now held a narrow advantage over Fabulous Saga.  Beyond The Law was less than fluent over this one.  Real Steel was now in last place; ahead of him Dortmund Park.

Poetic Rhythm was being pushed along as they approached the next flight.  Crucial Role hit this and flattened a panel; so did one of the JP McManus runners.  The horses continued down the back straight, to the ninth.  They all cleared this one, although Enniscoffey Oscar was now being encouraged along and Paisley Park, also trained by Emma Lavelle, was struggling to stay in touch along with Real Steel.

The leaders negotiated the dog-leg turn once more, before arriving at flight number ten.  Fabulous Saga had regained a narrow advantage over Chris’s Dream, Kilbricken Storm, Robin Waters and Chef Des Obeaux.  In fact Danny Mullins allowed his mount to stride on once more as they turned the far corner and began their journey down the hill to the penultimate flight; he was soon well clear of his rivals.

Chris’s Dream began to weaken as they approached the flight, leaving Kilbricken Storm spearheading the main body of the field.  Having cleared two out without incident, the runners continued around the bend and into the home straight.  Initially it looked as if Fabulous Saga may have slipped the field.  He was being pursued, at a distance, by Kilbricken Storm, Robin Waters, OK Corral, Tower Bridge, Chris’s Dream, Mr Whipped, Santini, Chef Des Obeaux, Ballyward and Dortmund Park.    

However, having passed the two furlong post, Danny Mullins began to send out distress signals as his mount started to tire.  Meanwhile Kilbricken Storm was staying on and now gaining with every stride. Presently, the best of the rest were OK Corral and Santini.   The Colin Tizzard-trained runner took the lead just before the final flight and jumped it like a stag. 

Fabulous Saga emptied completely after the last, with OK Corral, Santini and Ballyward overtaking him swiftly.  Meanwhile Kilbricken Storm, although hanging left, kept on gamely all the way to the line to win by 3 lengths.  OK Corral finished 2nd, with Santini one and a half lengths behind him in 3rd.  Ballyward completed in 4th.  Tower Bridge was 5th, Robin Waters, who flattened the last, finished 6th and Fabulous Saga was only 7th.     

Calett Mad, Mulcahys Hill, Beyond The Law, Talkischeap, Crucial Role, Chef Des Obeaux and Mr Whipped all pulled up; the other six completed.      

It was a first Cheltenham Festival winner for Harry Cobden; he stood up in his stirrups and waved his whip in celebration as he crossed the line.  Another 33-1 winner on the day.

The winner had finished behind Poetic Rhythm and Mulcahys Hill in Newbury’s Challow Hurdle.  But he had won the Albert Bartlett trial at Cheltenham in December.   

He’d had a number of issues, including pus in his foot earlier in the week.  Most of his tail had also fallen off when he’d first arrived at the trainer’s yard! 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Kilbricken Storm

Colin Tizzard

Harry Cobden

2nd

Ok Corral

Nicky Henderson

Barry Geraghty

3rd

Santini

Nicky Henderson

Nico de Boinville

4th

Ballyward

Willie Mullins

Paul Townend

 

I remained on the upper steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure.

 

Reports from the Stewards’ Room regarding this race – see link at bottom of Diary Part II

 

 

Well, that’s it for the first half of the diary, please ...

Click here to read my Day 4 Diary Part II

 

 

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