PART I

DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2018

DAY THREE

FEATURING THE RYANAIR CHASE

THURSDAY 15 MARCH 2018

 

 

 

 

Runner-up Terrefort 13.jpg

 

Currently my favourite grey in training – Terrefort,

runner-up in the JLT Novices’ Chase

 

 

I was up at 06:00 today … and treated myself to a mug of peppermint tea before breakfast.  The early morning TV news was reporting concerns with micro-plastic molecules in bottled water – maybe time to give up the Evian then!

I showered and washed and dried my hair before heading to the main Hall at 07:10.  Breakfast was 3 bacon rashers, 2 hash browns, 1 tomato, scrambled eggs, a sausage, two yoghurts (both yellow), and two cups of coffee.  I returned to my room at 07:40, applied my make-up and was ready to depart at 09:05.  It seems that the more time I have, the longer it takes for me to get ready!

The traffic queue into Witney was shorter than the previous day; that’s because the Burford Road was open to traffic this morning.  I got held up briefly by a skip lorry on my way out of town, but the journey to Cheltenham went smoothly.  I did end up following a flat-bed lorry carrying building supplies, upon the Andoversford bypass; it even headed up Greenway Lane ahead of me.  It makes me cringe, when I see large vehicles travelling that particular route.  No wonder the road surface is in such a state, although this particular lorry turned right at the top, rather than head down Harp Hill. 

I arrived at the racecourse at 10:20 today, parking up in the same area as the previous two days. 

Today’s outfit was a black/grey/blue polo-neck thermal t-shirts, a grey with black birds design thermal t-shirt, turquoise thermal t-shirt, grey ribbed polo-neck sweater, grey ribbed v-neck sweater, lake-coloured v-neck cardigan, turquoise with black check and front frill M & S skirt which I bought in the sale, a teal-coloured fleece, peacock-coloured jeggings, and teal-coloured padded BHS jacket.

I wore a pair of blue butterfly earrings, black with white horses snood, multi-coloured scarf (an absolute favourite), black Hotter ‘Danville’ ankle boots, and I took with me my ‘Cake Pop’ turquoise and grey striped Caron Cakes Aran-weight snood but didn’t need it.  I also had my delphinium-coloured Big Fab hat with me and, possibly, wore it later in the day.   

The turnstiles were open by the time I reached the north entrance.  Following a trip to the loo, I went to stand at the top of the lower steppings above the Winners’ Enclosure.  I didn’t need to buy water today as I still had yesterday’s bottle ... perhaps I wasn’t thirsty during the day yesterday.

It soon started to rain, so I moved to shelter beneath the upper steppings.  Whilst there, one of the EPDS members walked by; he (Barry?) stopped for a chat.  He spotted his friend too, who also stopped to chat to us.  I subsequently climbed to the upper steppings, where I would remain for the rest of the afternoon. 

Martin Kelly’s guests were Robbie Power, Patrick Mullins, a journalist and writer named Tom Peacock, and Steve Jones; the latter is ‘Templegate’ in the Sun and represented Sun Bets, sponsor of today’s Stayers’ Hurdle.  Rupert Bell returned today, having missed the previous day because he was the worse for wear following a birthday celebration.  He’s younger than I am, just, so it makes me feel old that I’m older than Oli Bell’s dad!

The ground, today, on the New Course was described as soft, heavy in places; there having been rain overnight.  With Ruby Walsh now on the injury sidelines, there were a number of jockey changes too.

The favourite for the first race was the grey Terrefort, trained by Nicky Henderson and ridden by Daryl Jacob; price 3-1.  He’s one of my favourite horses.

Having left the horse-walk, the horses cantered across the racecourse before entering the all-weather strip which runs around the top bend in order to reach the two and a half mile starting gate within the mid-course chute.  The jockeys took their mounts to look at the first fence within the chute, then bypassed it to circle around on the course ahead of the race; they jumped just two of the three fences therein.  

 

Race 1

JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs (16 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

9

Benatar, Bigmartre, Finian’s Oscar, Invitation Only, Kemboy, Modus, West Approach, Terrefort, Shattered Love

 

And then they were off for the first race on today’s card.  The grey Terrefort, with his low head carriage, set off with Bigmartre to his inside.  The runners cleared the first safely with Kemboy and the keen-running Benatar at the back of the field.  Modus had jumped it slightly big and nodded on landing as a result.

The nine-strong field continued along the mid-course chute, heading over a sanded-trackway and the Old Course intersection on their way to the second obstacle.  Bigmartre led marginally as they jumped this one.  The horses crossed the New Course, swinging left-handed and heading downhill to reach the entrance to the home straight. 

Straightening up, the horses had soon reached the third fence.  The leader jumped slightly right-handed over this one; he continued to lead from Terrefort, Finian’s Oscar, Shattered Love, Benatar, Modus, the blinkered West Approach, Invitation Only and Kemboy. The hard-pulling Benatar had progressed into third position by the time they reached the next fence; West Approach had been relegated to last place having jumped it.

The runners now joined the main circuit of the New Course as they continued to the fifth fence.  The eleven competitors jumped this well, before progressing to and clearing the next.  Bigmartre remained at the head of affairs as the field swung left-handed to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure, with one circuit now to travel.  The enthusiastic crowd cheered loudly as they did so.

Bigmartre continued to lob along to the outside of Terrefort as they entered the back straight.  Finian’s Oscar travelled in third position, from Shattered Love and Benatar; Modus followed these, from West Approach, Invitation Only and Kemboy.  Having continued downhill briefly, Modus made an error at the next fence. 

The following obstacle was the water-jump and the Harry Whittington-runner led by a length as they jumped it; Invitation Only was now at the back of the field.  The next fence was the first open-ditch, which Terrefort flew over, jumping for fun.  In contrast Finian’s Oscar was less than fluent with, behind him, Kemboy making a bad error.

Terrefort disputed the lead with Bigmartre as they crossed the tenth fence; a plain one.  Modus made a mistake here and dropped back to share last position with Invitation Only and Kemboy.  The runners subsequently headed around the dog-leg turn before arriving at the final open-ditch; Bigmartre stood a long way off from this, but cleared it well. 

The runners continued to climb to the top of the hill, jumping five out during their journey.  Having reached the far corner, the horses swung left-handed once again; Terrefort, with ears pricked, was looking for the next fence, although he did get a little bit close to it.  At the back of the field, Invitation Only sprawled on landing and almost came to a standstill; Paul Townend pulled him up immediately as all chance had been lost.

Meanwhile, the remaining eight were heading down the hill towards three out; Finian’s Oscar had now joined the leading duo at the head of affairs.  However, he was out-jumped by the other two, and Shattered Love overtook him in her pursuit of the leaders. 

Terrefort continued to travel well as the runners headed towards the home turn, as was Shattered Love; between them, Bigmartre was coming under pressure, as was Finian’s Oscar behind them.  As Bigmartre entered the home straight he lost his place, with Shattered Love and Benatar now in pursuit of the grey. 

The Gigginstown-runner drew alongside Terrefort as they jumped two out and she was more fluent than her rival too.  The mare began to draw clear of her opposition as they continued to the final fence; although she did blunder at it.  After the last she stayed on strongly up the run-in and, despite wandering around, went on to win by 7 lengths at the line. 

Terrefort had run well in defeat and came home in 2nd position, 5 lengths ahead of Benatar.  Kemboy claimed 4th, with Finian’s Oscar 5th, West Approach 6th, Bigmartre 7th and Modus 8th.  They’d all carried 11 stone 4lbs, apart from the baby Terrefort who’d carried 11 stone 3lbs and the mare only 10 stone 11lbs. The winner’s sire is Yeats.   

Ireland had made it 7 wins out of 8 in the JLT Novices’ Chase; with the very sadly ill-fated Tarquin Du Seuil the sole GB winner in the race’s brief history. 

It was Jack Kennedy’s only ride of the day, but it had been a winning one and it cemented his position as top jockey at the Festival after 15 races had been completed.  Shattered Love was also the first female to win a novice event at the Cheltenham Festival since Brief Gale won the RSA in 1995.   

Evidently Benatar had finished lame on his near-hind. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Shattered Love

Gordon Elliott

Jack Kennedy

2nd

Terrefort

Nicky Henderson

Daryl Jacob

3rd

Benatar

Gary Moore

Jamie Moore

4th

Kemboy

Willie Mullins

David Mullins

 

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 this event was Glenloe, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Barry Geraghty; price 9-2.  There were no greys in this race.

The starting gate for this 3-mile event was at the beginning of the back straight, with two circuits to travel.  This being the case, the runners cantered across the racecourse having exited from the horse-walk and headed up the all-weather track in front of the Best Mate Enclosure. 

 

Race 2

Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle) (Listed)

Distance

3 miles (12 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

23

Thomas Campbell, Who Dares Wins, Boite, Mine Now, Dell’ Arca, Louis’ Vac Pouch, Sykes, Lovenormoney, Wait For Me, Prime Venture, Sort It Out, Delta Work, Theo’s Charm, Taj Badalandabad, Whataknight, Forza Milan, The Mighty Don, Protek Des Flos, Kansas City Chief, Glenloe, Dadsintrouble, Connetable, A Great View

 

And then they were off, with Sykes taking the lead from the blinkered Connetable as the runners headed down the back straight to the first flight.  Also prominent were Lovenormoney, the first-time blinkered Thomas Campbell and Boite. 

The runners cleared the hurdle without incident and they continued their run along the back straight to the next; at the rear of the field was Louis’ Vac Pouch.  There were no departures at this flight, or the third, and Connetable together with Sykes led them around the dog-leg turn on their journey to the fourth.  Behind these were Boite, Who Dares Wins and Lovenormoney, followed by Thomas Campbell to the outside of Glenloe and Protek Des Flos.  After these travelled Theo’s Charm, Kansas City Chief, Delta Work, Sort It Out, Whataknight, Dadsintrouble, Mine Now, A Great View, Taj Badalandabad, Forza Milan, The Mighty Don, Dell’ Arca, Prime Venture, Wait For Me and, finally Louis’ Vac Pouch.  Whataknight wasn’t particularly fluent at the flight towards the top of the hill. 

The runners subsequently swung left-handed in order to head down the hill to the fifth flight; there was no change at the head of affairs as they did so.  Being a 3-mile hurdle race for, in the main, experienced handicappers, and also on soft to heavy ground, the pace being set was steady.  The runners cleared the flight in their stride before heading left-handed once more to enter the home straight. 

Sykes and Connetable continued to spearhead the closely packed field as the runners headed over the sixth flight; all 23 runners were still standing as the leading duo galloped up the hill in front of the Best Mate enclosure with just under one circuit now to travel.  There had been little change in the order by the time they entered the back straight for the final time and headed down to the first flight therein.

Matt Griffiths’ mount continued to jump well, and cleared the flight without touching a twig.  Connetable remained almost upsides and they were followed by Lovenormoney, Who Dares Wins, Boite and Thomas Campbell.  The first of JP’s four runners, Glenloe, was travelling in seventh position, although he was less than fluent at the eighth flight; Dadsintrouble hit this one and Forza Milan was less than fluent too, dropping to the rear of the field as a result.

The horses continued their journey along the back straight to the ninth flight; to the inside of runners in mid-field, Kansas City Chief blundered at this one.  Forza Milan received reminders having jumped the obstacle, as he was now beginning to tail off.  The remaining runners were still closely packed as they headed around the dog-leg turn for the final time.  The backmarker was pulled up before the next flight, three out; it transpired that he’d broken a blood vessel.

Sykes and Connetable remained ahead of their rivals as they continued to the top of the hill; Lovenormoney was being rousted along to the outside of the field, whilst Prime Venture was making significant progress, also to the outside of runners.  The horses subsequently swung left-handed to head down the hill towards the penultimate flight.  The long-time leading duo were still ahead of their rivals as they jumped it; further back in the field, A Great View blundered badly and came off the bridle.

There were still many horses in with a chance as they rounded the home turn; Wayne Hutchinson had found a gap against the inside rail and Who Dares Wins took a very narrow advantage as the runners entered the home straight.  Connetable went with him, as Sykes faded out of contention.  However, the Alan King-runner was soon swamped as Glenloe, Delta Work and Taj Badalandabad laid down their challenges.  Harry Cobden’s mount was still in the front line too, having travelled over towards the stand-side rails.

In fact, Connetable held a very narrow advantage as they jumped the final flight; both Glenloe and Delta Work, who were now his closest challengers, each flattened a panel, with Glenloe momentarily losing his hind-legs from under him too.  Davy Russell then drove the Gigginstown runner into the lead, but the margin over Glenloe was narrow.  Barry Geraghty’s mount continued to press Delta Work all the way up the hill to the line, but the latter prevailed by a nose at the winning post. 

The tough and very game Connetable stayed on all the way to the line to claim 3rd spot; 2¾ lengths behind the first two.  Taj Badalandabad kept on under pressure to claim 4th.  Who Dares Wins finished 5th, A Great View 6th despite his bad error at the penultimate flight, Whataknight was 7th and Prime Venture 8th.  A number of the backmarkers cantered or just trotted over the line.     

Poor old Who Dares Wins had to shoulder 11 stone 6lbs, compared to the winner with just 10 stone 10lbs.  The other horses which had finished ahead of him carried even less!

Damn, another winner for Gigginstown ... it was getting tedious seeing Dreary O’Leary and his family collecting yet another winner’s trophy! 

The winner had only begun racing this season, despite now being a 5-year-old, and had been in the money on all seven starts to date.

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Delta Work

Gordon Elliott

Davy Russell

2nd

Glenloe

Gordon Elliott

Barry Geraghty

3rd

Connetable

Paul Nicholls

Harry Cobden

4th

Taj Badalandabad

David Pipe

Tom Scudamore

 

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 odds-on favourite for the next event was Un De Sceaux, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend deputising for the injured Ruby Walsh; price 8-11. 

Having left the horse-walk, the horses cantered across the racecourse before entering the all-weather strip which runs around the top bend in order to reach the two and a half mile starting gate within the mid-course chute.  As this race began at the beginning of the chute, the jockeys took their horses to look at the demonstration fence on the in-field and, having had their girths checked, they circled around the Cross-Country birch island fence.    

Race 3

Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)

Distance

2 miles 5 furlongs (17 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

6

Balko Des Flos, Cloudy Dream, Cue Card, Frodon, Sub Lieutenant, Un De Sceaux

 

Having exited the in-field, the runners headed onto the racecourse and then they were off and heading towards the first fence.  Cue Card led the way, from Sub Lieutenant and Un De Sceaux; Cloudy Dream brought up the rear.

Having negotiated the first fence safely, the runners continued their journey along the mid-course chute towards fence number two.  Un De Sceaux, subdued for the present, got in a little close to this obstacle.  The horses then headed over the sanded track-way, prior to crossing the Old Course circuit, and arriving at fence number three.

There was no change in the running order as they continued across the New Course intersection before swinging left-handed and downhill towards the turn into the home straight.  Cue Card continued to lead as they jumped the first in the home straight, although he did get a little close to it.  The horses journeyed to the next obstacle, which Cue Card, Sub Lieutenant and Un De Sceaux jumped in unison. 

The six competitors joined the circuit of the New Course shortly afterwards, continuing over a sanded track-way on their way to the sixth fence.  Having now been given his head, Un De Sceaux took up the running and led over it. Sub Lieutenant was now in second position, from Cue Card, Balko Des Flos, Frodon and Cloudy Dream.  The leader jumped the next with plenty to spare, before swinging left-handed to head up the hill in front of the Best Mate Enclosure.

Having entered the back straight, Un De Sceaux extended his advantage over his rivals as he headed downhill to the eighth fence.  The leader flew over the fence; the others jumped it well, apart from Cloudy Dream who was a little less than fluent.  The next fence was the water-jump, with Cue Card being niggled along as they approached it.  The runners cleared this one in their stride and continued to the next, which was the first of the open-ditches.

The leader took off a long way from the fence but cleared it well.  Having jumped the obstacle, Cue Card began to lose his place despite jockey Paddy Brennan pushing him along.  The following jump was a plain fence, which they all cleared well.  Un De Sceaux was four lengths clear of Sub Lieutenant as they headed around the dog-leg turn.  Balko Des Flos followed him, from Frodon and Cloudy Dream; Cue Card had now been relegated to last position.  Realising that the veteran had lost all chance, Paddy Brennan pulled him up before the open-ditch.

Meanwhile Un De Sceaux had cleared the open-ditch with a clear advantage, with Balko Des Flos out-jumping his stable-companion to take second position as the five remaining runners continued their journey up the hill to the next obstacle.  The leader put in another extravagant jump at this one, Balko Des Flos travelled well in second position, from Cloudy Dream; both Sub Lieutenant and Frodon were now being ridden along at the back of the field. 

Having reached the top of the incline, the runners swung left-handed before reaching four out; all five runners cleared this without a problem.  Having closed upon the leader, it appeared that Davy Russell would mount his challenge to the inside of the track.  However, Paul Townend shut the door on him and Davy subsequently switched to the outside berth instead.  The chestnut was travelling so well that he jumped the third last upsides the favourite.

Having landed, Balko Des Flos breezed into the lead without effort as they headed towards the home turn.  Having entered the straight, Davy Russell’s mount continued to cruise along in the lead.  Paul Townend hadn’t given up though, and urged his horse along in an endeavour to keep tabs on the Gigginstown runner. 

Having jumped the penultimate fence, Balko Des Flos extended his advantage; his jockey administering the odd slap down the horse’s neck to ensure he didn’t lose concentration.  The chestnut made an error at the last, but he still had too much in hand over his rival and was ridden out to the line to win by 4½ lengths.  Un De Sceaux finished 2nd, and Cloudy Dream was 8 lengths further back in 3rd.  Sub Lieutenant came home in 4th, with Frodon last. 

Damn, another winner for Dreary O’Leary.  Ireland had won the race for the third successive year, although this was the first time that the sponsor had won their own race.   Connections had been worried about the ground today.  

Davy said his mount had taken him to the front three out, rather than him wanting to go forward; he didn’t mind, as Balko Des Flos wasn’t the type to quicken and he didn’t want to be out-battled by the favourite on the run-in.

Having been pulled up today, connections of the 12-year-old Cue Card decided to ‘let the dust’ settle with regards to their charge’s future.  However, with a final outing planned for Sandown Park on the last day of the season, he failed to sparkle on the gallops as the fixture approached and, as a result, was retired.  He did, however, make a guest appearance at the Esher track that afternoon. 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Penhill

Willie Mullins

Paul Townend

2nd

Supasundae

Jessica Harrington

Robbie Power

3rd

Wholestone

Nigel Twiston-Davies

Aidan Coleman

4th

Colin’s Sister

Fergal O’Brien

Paddy Brennan

 

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 3 Diary Part II

 

 

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