DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2018
FEATURING THE CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP
FRIDAY 16 MARCH 2018
The winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup;
Native River, trained by Colin Tizzard and ridden by Richard Johnson
Click here to read my Day 4 Diary Part I
Being the feature event of the day, there was an on-course pre-race parade. The horses were led out onto the racecourse, the competitors sorting themselves into number order before being paraded in front of the grandstands; they were preceded by a brace of mounted huntsmen.
The favourite for this event was Might Bite, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Nico de Boinville, and winner of this season’s King George VI Chase; price 4-1. There were no returning winners in this event, as Sizing John was currently on the injury sidelines due to a pelvis problem.
However, last year’s third did return, Native River; he’s one of my favourites in training. In fact I first noticed him, because he’s a flashy chestnut, when he ran at Cheltenham in January 2015! A number of regulars returned, including Djakadam.
There were two greys taking part – Bachasson and Saphir Du Rheu. There was no Smad Place this year, as he’d been retired earlier in the season having suffered a few ‘niggling’ issues; he was due to be retired at the end of the season regardless.
Once the parade was completed, the horses cantered down the turf to enter the all-weather strip and travel part way down it before exiting onto the course. The Gold Cup starting gate is situated just beyond the second nearest steeplechase fence and is run over two complete circuits plus two fences and the run-in.
And then they were off, with Native River, Might Bite, Definitly Red and Our Duke prominent as the runners headed towards the first fence. At the rear of the field was Tea For Two; he hit the fence. The runners continued to the next, where one of the greys Bachasson, travelling to the rear of mid-field, hit the top and took a tumbling fall.
Meanwhile, the remaining fourteen runners swung left-handed in order to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure; Native River continued to lead, and he was being shadowed by Might Bite. The horses subsequently turned into the back straight, heading downhill to the third fence; they all cleared this well. The loose horse was fine and he followed the field, at a distance.
The next fence was the water-jump; Native River remained at the head of affairs jumping this one, from Might Bite, Our Duke, American, Djakadam, Saphir Du Rheu, Definitly Red, Anibale Fly, Road To Respect, Outlander, Total Recall, Tea For Two, Killultagh Vic and Edwulf. The following fence was the first open-ditch and American wasn’t fluent here.
The runners continued over the next fence; there were no noticeable errors here. Shortly afterwards, the competitors headed around the dog-leg turn on their way to the second of the open-ditches. Native River put in a lovely jump at this one; in contrast, near the back of the field, Killultagh Vic made an error. Being the New Course, there was a further plain fence to be jumped before the top of the hill. The leading duo held a clear advantage of around four lengths over their rivals as they cleared it.
The runners subsequently swung left-handed to head a short distance to the often tricky fence situated prior to the intersection with the mid-course chute; it caused no problems for these experienced chasers. There was no change at the head of affairs as the horses headed down the hill to the tenth fence. Djakadam spearheaded the main group, from Our Duke, Definitly Red, American, Road To Respect, Anibale Fly, Saphir Du Rheu, Total Recall, Outlander, Killultagh Vic, Tea For Two and Edwulf.
There were no jumping issues at this fence and Native River led the field into the home straight; one circuit now complete. The runners continued over the sanded track-way, past the exit from the Old Course and on towards to the next fence. The leader jumped it well, as did the remainder apart from Our Duke and Killultagh Vic who both hit it.
There were no jumping errors at the fence close to the grandstands, and the horses soon swung left-handed to begin their final circuit; their progress was accompanied by cheers from the gathered spectators. The main body of the field had closed upon the leading duo by the time they entered the back straight once more. They runners continued down the hill to the next, where Djakadam made a mistake.
The following fence was the water-jump, which they all cleared well; Definitly Red was subsequently being pushed along. Native River remained ahead as they headed over the penultimate open-ditch; there were no errors at this fence. The leader did touch a twig or two when jumping the sixteenth, but it didn’t affect his rhythm. The competitors had now reached the dog-leg turn and continued on their journey to the final open-ditch; Killultagh Vic was beginning to lose touch at the rear of the field.
Richard Johnson’s mount put in a great leap over the fence; both he and Might Bite had begun to put distance between themselves and the main group once more. The runners continued up the hill, jumping five out, before swinging left-handed. The leader came up out of his jockey’s hands at the next, the tricky fence at the top of the hill, but cleared it okay despite having stood off it! Our Duke and Saphir Du Rheu were pulled up.
Native River continued to stretch the field, stamina being his forte. Might Bite was still travelling well at his quarters, with Djakadam, Road To Respect, Anibale Fly and Total Recall endeavouring to get on terms with the leading duo. Nico de Boinville’s mount loomed up beside the leader as they cleared three out; Total Recall, who is not particularly renowned for his jumping ability despite winning the former Hennessy Gold Cup the previous December, hit the fence, came down and then somersaulted. It was a horrible looking fall, but the horse got up okay.
Meanwhile, Native River was being pushed along as the remaining horses headed towards the home turn; but he was still responding to his jockey’s urgings. Might Bite continued upsides and it looked only a matter of time before Nico de Boinville would give his mount his head. Having entered the home straight, the leading duo continued across the sanded track on their way to the penultimate fence. The two were still locked together as they jumped it. Road To Respect and Anibale Fly were in pursuit but not gaining.
Might Bite narrowly headed the brave Native River as they continued to the final fence, but the flashy chestnut wasn’t giving in; in fact he was fighting back and landed marginally ahead as the duo cleared the obstacle.
But which of these two chasing superstars would gain the day? As they began their journey up the run-in it was neck and neck, before Native River’s strength and stamina began to prevail. He stayed on strongly and, despite edging right on the run-in and flicking his tail on one occasion too, went on to win by 4½ lengths at the line; Richard waved his whip in celebration after he’d crossed the line. Might Bite had been outstayed today, but it was an excellent effort in defeat from the King George winner.
Anibale Fly claimed 3rd place, 4 lengths further back, with Road To Respect 4 lengths behind him in 4th. Djakadam finished 5th, Definitly Red 6th, Tea For Two 7th, Edwulf 8th; American was 9th and last. Outlander and Killultagh Vic had both been pulled up before the final fence.
The winning jockey was congratulated after the line by both Barry Geraghty and Nico de Boinville; he received a pat on the back from the former and a handshake from the latter. It had been 18 years since Richard won his only other Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Looks Like Trouble.
When interviewed, Richard said he’d been a passenger; Native River loves jumping and does just as much as he has to when waiting in front. He also thought he’d set a steady pace but, when you’re on a good horse, it’s deceptive. “A warrior and a pleasure to ride.” He admitted on a different track with different going conditions, the result may have been different. It was a “A dream fulfilled” for trainer Colin Tizzard.
I love it when a horse I love wins! And it was fabulous to have such a good vantage point when the triumphant pair returned to the Winners’ Enclosure too.
I remained on the upper steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room regarding this race – see link at bottom of this page
After the excitement of the Gold Cup, with a dream result, it was now time for The Foxhunter Chase; this is the amateur riders’ equivalent of the feature race; run over the same course and distance.
The favourite for this race was Burning Ambition, trained by P M Power and ridden by Mr Jamie Codd; price 4-1. There were two greys in this race, Unioniste and the almost white Grand Vision; I love the latter! Also returning was last year’s winner, Pacha Du Polder.
Having left the Parade Ring, the competitors cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstand before returning via the racecourse turf to re-enter the strip and exit onto the racecourse part way down it. The amateur jockeys took their mounts to look at their first fence before returning to the starting gate.
And then they were off, with the 24 runners charging towards the first fence; prominent were Minella For Value, Top Wood, Volnay De Thaix, On The Fringe and Foxrock. Despite the quick early tempo, all the runners cleared the first fence; although Saddlers Encore did make a mistake at it. Caid Du Berlais made a mistake at the second and Balnaslow trailed the field.
The runners swung left-handed, heading up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure; Top Wood now held an uncontested lead. He was followed by Minella For Value, Shantou Magic and Sir Jack Yeats. Having entered the back straight, the field headed downhill to the third. Travelling near the back of the field, Saddlers Encore departed at this one. The horse and jockey Josh Newman were quickly on their feet.
The next fence was the water-jump; the remaining 23 runners cleared this in their stride and Vincitore and Balnaslow brought up the rear. They continued to the next, the first of the open-ditches. Vincitore over-jumped at this one and lost his rider as a result! Wells De Lune took over at the head of affairs as the runners jumped fence number six, a plain one. The leader extended his advantage as they headed around the dog-leg turn on their way to the second open-ditch. He was a little slow at this one, but subsequently stretched his advantage once more.
The runners continued to climb up the hill, heading over another plain fence in the process. They swung left-handed before arriving at the next. There were no noticeable errors at this fence, and Wells De Lune led them down the hill to the ninth. Twenty two runners were still standing having jumped this one; Top Wood and Minella For Value disputed second position, from Foxrock and Warden Hill. Behind these travelled Burning Ambition, the beautiful Grand Vision and Shantou Magic. On The Fringe travelled against the rail, with Unioniste and Cousin Pete. After these came Sir Jack Yeats, Virak and Barel of Laughs; the latter owned by Mrs Peter Andrews, owner of Smad Place. Further back were Volnay de Thaix, Wonderful Charm, last year’s winner Pacha Du Polder, Premier Portrait, Shotavodka, Caid Du Berlais, Young Hurricane and, finally, Balnaslow.
Having turned into the home straight, the horses headed over the next, without incident; Wells De Lune continued to lead, narrowly. The runners all cleared the next, which would be the final fence on the next circuit. They subsequently swung left-handed to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure once more.
Having turned into the back straight for the final time, the horses continued downhill to the thirteenth. Wells De Lune made a mistake at this one and lost the lead to Top Wood. The next fence was the water-jump and a number of the runners were now being pushed along; these included Foxrock and Wonderful Charm. The following obstacle was the penultimate open-ditch, where Shantou Magic made a very bad error; he was pulled up before the next.
Top Wood was clear by about three lengths as they continued over the sixteenth fence; his nearest pursuers were Grand Vision and Warden Hill. The runners then negotiated the dog-leg turn on their way towards the final open-ditch. The leader remained clear of the field as he cleared this one; towards the rear of the field, Volnay De Thaix made an error.
The competitors continued to meet the rising ground on their way to the next fence. Warden Hill was tiring and had begun to drop back through the field. Cousin Pete now joined Grand Vision in their pursuit of the leader as they jumped it; On The Fringe was less than fluent at the fence. Having now reached the top of the hill, Top Wood swung left-handed on his way to four out. He remained around five lengths clear of the pursuing duo as he jumped it; they, in turn, were clear of Barel Of Laughs, Burning Ambition, Sir Jack Yeats and Pacha Du Polder.
The leader’s advantage was diminishing as the runners headed down the hill towards the third last; Cousin Pete was snapping at his heels when Top Wood nodded on landing over this one. However, despite this, the latter retained the lead. Grand Vision remained in third position as they headed towards the home turn. Jamie Codd, aboard Burning Ambition, pulled down a set of goggles having landed over the fence and was closing in upon the leading trio. Barel Of Laughs was also still in contention; Caid Du Berlais had made significant progress latterly and last year’s winner was endeavouring to close upon the leading group.
The runners headed into the home straight, crossing the sanded track-way as they did so, on their journey to the penultimate fence. Despite having looked vulnerable having jumped the previous fence, Top Wood remained ahead of his rivals as he jumped two out. Burning Ambition was mounting a challenge but he wasn’t particularly fluent at this fence. Cousin Pete was still a close up third, just ahead of Caid Du Berlais and Grand Vision.
Jamie Codd’s challenge began to falter as the runners headed to the final fence; meanwhile, staying on behind the leaders were Balnaslow, On The Fringe and Pacha Du Polder. Unfortunately it wasn’t the best of jumps from Top Wood at the last, and Pacha Du Polder having flown it, suddenly burst through to grab the lead.
However, Top Wood soon began to rally. Harriet Tucker, aboard the Paul Nicholls runner, gave her mount a slap but subsequently half-dislocated her right shoulder; it happens often evidently! This meant she couldn’t offer any further encouragement apart from hands and heels as they headed towards the line.
She held on by a neck, despite the best efforts of the brave Top Wood and his pilot Sam Davies-Thomas who certainly went down fighting; Top Wood was formerly trained by David Pipe. Barel Of Laughs and Cousin Pete dead-heated for 3rd, a further 3¼ lengths away. Caid Du Berlais was a head further back in 5th, with Grand Vision 6th, Balnaslow 7th and Burning Ambition fading away into 8th having suffered from heat exhaustion.
I think that one could safely say that, had Victoria Pendleton not ridden Pacha Du Polder in 2016 (they were a fast finishing 5th), he’d probably have won the race on three occasions! He was a 25-1 shot today; despite his previous record in the race. It was Harriet’s first ride at Cheltenham and only her second ride under rules.
I don’t know whether it’s my imagination, or just the main camera angle being from the back of a vehicle, but the ‘tricky’ fence at the top of the hill didn’t seem quite so bad this year. Could it have been re-sited slightly, as an aerial shot on Googlemaps suggests it may not be a permanent fixture on the track. The second last on the Old Course remains a portable fence, having been moved from its previously controversial location on rising ground just before the home turn.
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 this page
The favourite for the penultimate race was Flawless Escape, trained by Gordon Elliot and ridden by Jonathan Moore; price 13-2.
Alan King had a runner in this race, namely Coeur De Lion ridden by Kevin Dowling. Another runner of interest was the Martin Keighley-trained mare Brillare Momento ridden by Harry Stock. There were three greys in this race, namely Dream Berry, Carter McKay and Diese Des Bieffes.
The starting gate for this event was located in the mid-course chute; upon exiting the horse walkway, the runners cantered across the home straight and headed up the all-weather track in front of the Best Mate enclosure. They then crossed the racecourse to reach the aforementioned chute, and would have two flights to jump before negotiating the far turn in order to enter the home straight.
And then they were off; prominent heading to the first flight were Brave Eagle, Delire D’Estruval sporting the Munir/Souede colours, the grey Diese Des Bieffes, also Brillare Momento wide of the others. The pace was restrained, the field closely packed as they jumped the hurdle; as a result, Sire Du Berlais representing JP McManus’ first string, jumped it awkwardly and this had a slight knock-on effect with those around him.
The runners subsequently headed over a sanded track-way prior to crossing the Old Course circuit before arriving at the second obstacle. Delire D’Estruval led the runners over this one and Brillare Momento made a slight mistake. Short of room near the back of the field, one of the Ricci horses Deal D’Estruval flattened the inside panel. At the rear of the field was the other Ricci-owned runner, Burrows Saint.
Having then crossed over the intersection with the New Course, the sole Gigginstown representative Blow By Blow took the lead. Deal D’Estruval’s jockey finally managed to place his left foot back in the iron as the runners headed down the hill, swinging left-handed as they did so.
Blow By Blow led the field into the home straight; he was a two or three lengths clear of Delire D’Estruval who disputed second position with the mare Brillare Momento. Flawless Escape hit the third flight but, despite this, soon joined the latter two as they continued their journey up the straight. They were followed by Brave Eagle and Diese Des Bieffes, then Lough Derg Spirit and Brelan D’As. Next in the field were Melrose Boy, Poppy Kay, Sire Du Berlais, Couer De Lion and Tommy Rapper. Travelling to the rear of mid-field were Munir and Souede’s No Hassle Hoff, Deal D’Estruval, Dream Berry, Early Doors, Carter McKay, former Fred Winter winner Flaxen Flare, Burrows Saint, Mr Big Shot, Arthington and, finally, Discorama.
They continued over a sanded track-way before joining the New Course circuit on their way to the fourth flight. All 23 runners cleared this one in their stride before they headed up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure still led by Blow By Blow; Brillare Momento was now a clear second. Discorama was slightly detached at the rear of the field.
Having entered the back straight, the runners continued down the hill to the next flight. The leaders jumped this one well, but further back in the field there was a number of sub-standard efforts; this included yet another error from Deal D’Estruval. The leader was travelling well within himself as they headed to the next flight; he pricked his ears and wandered around a bit on the approach. Flawless Escape wasn’t flawless at this one; he bunny-hopped it!
The pace was still steady as the runners continued to the next flight; this meant there was quite a bit of bunching amongst the main body of the field. Despite this, all of the runners cleared this one okay. However as the horses headed towards the dog-leg turn, the diminutive Poppy Kay got squeezed for room and stumbled; she stayed on her feet and the partnership with Sean Houlihan remained intact.
There was no change at the head of affairs as they continued to climb towards the farthest point of the course; they all successfully negotiated three out before swinging left-handed to head down the hill to the second last. Blow By Blow still led, from Brillare Momento but there was a wall of horses behind them; these included Flawless Escape, Delire D’Estruval, Diese des Bieffes, Tommy Rapper, Early Doors, Mr Big Shot and Arthington.
The leading duo jumped the penultimate flight upsides. Tommy Rapper made an error at this one, as did Deal D’Estruval back in the field. Having tailed off, Poppy Kay was pulled up after the hurdle. Meanwhile, up front and having been joined by Brillare Momento, Blow By Blow went on again as the runners entered the home straight.
As the mare began to fade, Diese Des Bieffes and Early Doors came through to spearhead the challenge. However, Blow By Blow continued to hold his rivals at bay and he led by 3 or 4 lengths as he cleared the final flight. Early Doors jumped this one okay, but Diese Des Bieffes made an error. With just the run-in now to conquer, the Gigginstown runner ran on strongly all the way to the line to triumph by 5 lengths.
Despite having just five horses behind him when clearing two out, Discorama who was making his handicap debut, had made such good progress since turning in that he jumped the final flight in fourth position. He subsequently stayed on the claim the runner-up spot, 1¼ lengths in front of 3rd-placed Early Doors. Another of JP’s horses, Sire Du Berlais finished 4th. Diese Des Bieffes finished 5th, Lough Derg Spirit 6th, Dream Berry 7th and Brillare Momento a very creditable 8th. It was a 1-2-3-4 for the Irish.
The winner had plenty of good previous form, having been a Grade 1 bumper winner at the Punchestown Festival a couple of years previously, beating Moonracer, Bacardys and Presenting Percy! Admittedly, though, his rivals had given him a soft lead today.
This race can be a stepping stone to better things, as Don Poli had won a previous renewal, as had Sir Des Champs and Killultagh Vic.
Mr Big Shot went on to win a race at the Aintree Festival; today was his first outing in a handicap, over a longer distance than accustomed to.
I remained on the upper steppings overlooking the Winners’ Enclosure.
Reports from the Stewards’ Room regarding this race – see link at bottom of this page
The favourite for the final race of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival was North Hill Harvey, trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by brother Harry; price 7-1. There were no greys in this race.
I had two particular runners of interest in the race, namely the Alan King-trained Valdez ridden by Wayne Hutchinson and the Nicky Henderson trained Theinval ridden by Jeremiah McGrath. I remember making a wish to ask that Valdez and Theinval returned safely after the race ... they did, but other horses, three in fact, weren’t so fortunate L
Returning was last year’s winner Rock The World; he was now owned by JP McManus, one of five JP runners in the race! Choc won the 2007 race on the Paul Nicholls-trained Andreas.
Having reached the top of the racecourse, all the runners then headed down the turf to re-enter the all-weather strip in order to continue their journey to the starting gate at the far end of the home straight.
With Bright New Dawn being led in, they were off and sprinting to the first. Prominent were Foxtail Hill, Gino Trail and Three Stars. Just behind the leaders, the Ricci-owned Townsend jumped to his right, colliding with Sizing Platinum as a result. Not surprisingly, Valdez also jumped to his right, but it caused no issue as he had plenty of space near the rear of the field. Bright New Dawn was already tailed off having been reluctant to race.
The runners continued on to the second fence, with Gino Trail and Foxtail Hill now clear of Three Stars who, in turn, was clear of the others. Foxtail Hill pecked on landing at this one. Travelling just behind the leading duo, Dresden misjudged his take off, crashed through the fence and belly-flopped on landing. With momentum still carrying him forward and the jockey momentarily remaining aboard, Bouvreuil then smashed into Dresden’s hindquarters and he, too, was now on the floor and out of the race.
Don’t Touch It was hampered in the incident having been upsides Bouvreuil when the latter hit the deck. Valdez was able to side-step the prostrate horses, as did Doitforthevillage, because they were behind the others. The Paul Nicholls-runner was soon on his feet, galloping after the rest but poor Dresden suffered a fatal injury as a result of the incident. L
The remaining twenty competitors continued across the sand track-way, subsequently joining the New Course circuit, on their way to the third obstacle. Gino Trail held the advantage over Three Stars and Foxtail Hill. Valdez jumped suddenly out to his right as they cleared this fence, and Wayne Hutchinson was unseated; had he forgotten that his mount nearly always jumps out to the right? It certainly hadn’t been his week, having ended up on the floor when Dusky Legend fell, and again when Lisp fell, both on Wednesday. But they say things come in threes.
Meanwhile Gino Trail continued at the head of affairs as they continued towards and over the fourth fence; from Three Stars, Foxtail Hill, North Hill Harvey, Sizing Platinum, Theinval, Don’t Touch It, Dolos, Eastlake, Townshend, Garde Le Victoire, Some Plan, Vaniteux, Top Gamble, Le Prezien, Rock The World, Born Survivor, Doitforthevillage and, finally, Bright New Dawn.
They subsequently swung left-handed to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure; one circuit now to travel. The rider-less Valdez remained amongst runners and the loose Bouvreuil continued too, just ahead of the back marker Bright New Dawn.
The runners entered the back straight and headed down to the next fence, where Don’t Touch It made an error. Bright New Dawn remained at the back of the field, but was no longer detached. The horses continued to the water-jump, which they all cleared well; the loose Valdez had now worked his way through the field and was almost upsides the leader as they jumped it. Towards the rear of the field, Born Survivor accumulated four faults, having dropped his hind-legs in the water with a splash!
The following fence was the first of the open-ditches, the rider-less horse veered severely out to his right as he jumped this one; Three Stars jumped out to his right too, as horses do tend to copy those ahead of them. All of the horses cleared this one, and Valdez came back to join the piloted horses once more. Gino Trail led them over the next, a plain fence, where Three Stars blundered.
Valdez was tucked in behind Gino Trail as the runners negotiated the dog-leg turn on the run to the final open-ditch; the loose horse made a mistake here but, fortunately, he was clear of the field so didn’t impend any of them. The runners continued on their journey towards the top of the hill, Jamie Moore’s mount leading from North Hill Harvey to the outside of Three Stars and Foxtail Hill. Behind these travelled Sizing Platinum, Some Plan and Theinval; after these Top Gamble, Eastlake, the rider-less Bouvreuil, Vaniteux, Don’t Touch It, Le Prezien, Garde Le Victoire, Born Survivor, Rock The World, Doitforthevillage, Bright New Dawn, Townshend and, slightly detached as they jumped five out was Dolos.
The runners subsequently swung-left handed on their way to the fence at the top of the hill. Once again the rider-less Valdez jumped out to his right; North Hill Harvey got in a little close to this one and bumped Three Stars when landing. There was also a mistake made, one from the back of the field, by Townshend.
Meanwhile the field was soon heading down the hill to the third last fence, Gino Trail still holding the advantage from Three Stars, North Hill Harvey and Some Plan. Out the back were Don’t Touch It, Doitforthevillage, Garde Le Victoire, Townshend and Dolos. They arrived at this fence, but the novice North Hill Harvey hit the top of it and came down. It was a very awkward fall; his legs splayed out beneath him as he skidded along the ground, Harry Skelton remaining aboard initially. Barry Geraghty’s mount managed to side-step the prostrate horse’s legs and Top Gamble had to jump over the fallen jockey’s legs; Vaniteux managed to avoid Harry Skelton too, Doitforthevillage both horse and jockey. As the remaining runners continued, poor North Hill Harvey, although head up, remained in a crumpled heap on the ground. L
Meanwhile Gino Trail continued at the head of affairs as the runners headed towards the home turn, Three Stars and Some Plan had almost joined him; both of the uninjured rider-less horses were travelling immediately behind the leading trio, with Theinval heading the remainder. Having entered the home straight, and unencumbered by the weight of a jockey, Bouvreuil and Valdez came to join the leader; he was almost the meat in the sandwich. The rider-less Bouvreuil remained on a straight course as he jumped the penultimate fence alongside the leader; Valdez veered behind them, to his right, to clear it. Fortunately this manoeuvre it didn’t put off Three Stars, Some Plan, Theinval or Le Prezien who were in hot pursuit of the long-time leader. However, just behind these, Sizing Platinum made a bad blunder.
However, as they approached the last, Bouvreuil began to hang to his left, which meant that Jamie Moore had to switch behind him; the loose horse then saw an escape route and decided to bypass the fence, which meant changing direction and veering off to his right. Fortunately he was far enough in front of the leader at this point not to seriously inconvenience him. But Valdez remained amongst the leaders, along with his tendency to jump severely out to his right.
Gino Trail reached the last fence with a two lengths advantage over his nearest rival Le Prezien. Meanwhile Valdez switched in behind Gino Trail and across Some Plan; the latter was distracted by this movement and subsequently fell. Having landed safely, Le Prezien continued to gain upon the long-time leader and had soon sailed on by. Theinval was laying down his challenge to the far side, Top Gamble to the near-side.
Le Prezien continued to storm up the run-in and won by 4½ lengths at the line, from the gallant Gino Trail. The latter held off the late challenge of his stable-mate Top Gamble who had closed down the deficit to a neck at the winning post. Theinval finished 4th. Both of the loose horses had beaten Le Prezien to the line, with Valdez veering across on the run-in to join Bouvreuil beside the stand-side rails; fortunately the Alan King-runner had caused no further carnage and he passed the winning post first.
Three Stars claimed 5th, Doitforthevillage 6th, Dolos was 7th despite having appeared in trouble four out, and Born Survivor was 8th. Last year’s winner Rock The World finished 9th and Bright New Dawn, who hadn’t wanted to race at all, completed in 10th; Foxtail Hill followed him home, from Sizing Platinum, Garde Le Victoire, Vaniteux and, finally, Eastlake. Townshend was pulled up before three out and Don’t Touch It blundered 3 out when struggling and was pulled up before the last. It was Paul Nicholls’ 4th win in this race.
As may have been surmised, North Hill Harvey didn’t make it; he was too badly injured. I believe Some Plan was taken from the course for assessment but he, too, subsequently lost his life. L Jockey Harry Skelton was also asked to go to hospital to be checked out as a precaution.
The Grand Annual turned out to be a disaster with regards to fatally injured horses; three having been lost. The race is okay but its run at the wrong time, when jockeys are desperate to claim the final event of the Festival each year. Raya Star was lost during the 2014 running; Choc had been riding him that day. L
Reports from the Stewards’ Room regarding this race – see link at bottom of this page
For the second year running, the GB team were seriously outgunned in the Betbright Prestbury Cup ... although we got two more winners than last year; however, there was no Irish opposition in the Ultima on day one!!!
Once again, Gordon Elliott snatched the Leading Trainer award from Willie Mullins. There were 17 Irish-based winners, with 15 of those trained by Gordon and Willie.
With Ruby Walsh injured since early on day two, Davy Russell claimed his first Leading Jockey title this year.
Sadly there had been six equine fatalities at the year’s Festival – Gordon Elliott’s Mossback (Gigginstown), Evan Williams’ Report To Base (the Ruckers), Willie Mullins’ Sendsend (Sullivan Bloodstock), Henry Oliver’s Dresden (Dan Lloyd), Dan Skelton’s North Hill Harvey (Mrs Widdowson and Mrs Kelvin-Hughes) and Henry de Bromhead’s Some Plan (Roger Brookhouse); five of these are well-known owners in the National Hunt field.
I headed to the ladies’ loo for a comfort break ahead of beginning my journey home to Hertfordshire.
I began my journey at around 18:45; it took me until 19:15 to reach the gateway on Southam Lane due to queuing vehicles. I waited until the final opportunity to cross into the right-hand lane too; for London-bound traffic only. I had enough impetus to get up the two slopes – onto Old Road and Southam Road shortly afterwards; fortunately the temporary traffic lights were still in operation at the latter junction.
This year, there was no queuing traffic through Prestbury on any of the four days; or at least not when I’d driven through! I headed out via Harp Hill and Greenway Lane ... I wonder if authorities will ever be able to afford to resurface this route or many other roads for that matter! Although, having said that, the two traffic calming chicanes have been re-tarmaced quite recently. I left the Six Ways junction at 19:30.
My driving glasses, which I wear over the top of my vision glasses, seemed to help me a lot this year, even the intermittent rain didn’t faze me as it sometimes does after dark.
Having been staying near Witney for the duration of the Festival, I was hopeful that I’d be okay driving home on Friday night. However, this year, I still ‘hit the wall’ at Beaconsfield and spent a little too much time yawning – not recommended when driving on the M40 and M25. I did make fairly good time and arrived home at 21:35; although this was 20 minutes later than last year.
Having snowed two weeks previously, the stable-yard visit to Graeme McPherson’s had been postponed until Saturday 17 March. I could have stayed over but, in hindsight, was glad I got home before the snow returned once more.
The Lambourn Open Day was also severely affected by the bad weather, with solely Nicky Henderson’s yard able to open and no afternoon events taking place either. Hopefully, next year, the weather will be better, as Easter is later in the calendar.
Next up was the Aintree Festival … and I was looking forward to meeting up with my friend Sandra for the three days of fabulous racing on Merseyside. It’s far more relaxed than Cheltenham and, hopefully, the Irish-based trainers would be concentrating on the Punchestown Festival at the end of April, rather than the Grand National fixture!
Tickets for the 2019 Cheltenham Festival went on sale on 19 March 2018; with the first ‘price hike’ taking place in early July.
Despite wondering if I’d curtail my diary writing due to issues with my pelvis affecting my ability to sit for extended periods at a laptop, I’ve completed the Cheltenham Festival ones as usual! Fortunately RUK broadcast the Festival highlights on Good Friday, as my Skybox failed to record both Wednesday and Friday; although I recorded the latter highlights programme when I arrived home from Gloucestershire.
I later discovered that I’d left my multi-socket power lead in my hotel room; that was quite a feat, as I recall checking that everything was switched off and unplugged! At the time, I thought I’d also left behind my slippers; so I had to replace two items. The power lead was a year old, but I’d only bought the slippers the previous Monday; fortunately they cost only £7.50.
Later in the summer I found the slippers hidden inside my holdall bag ... never mind, you can never have enough pairs of flip-flop slippers to wear!