DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2012
DAY 1 - TUESDAY 13 MARCH 2012
Choc returns having finished 4th in the
Supreme Novices Hurdle aboard Montbazon
Once again I’d booked the whole of Cheltenham Festival week as holiday from work, giving me three days including the weekend to prepare for it. Choc rode at Sandown Park on Saturday 10 March but, although I‘d have loved to attend that fixture too, it would have put too much pressure on my time ahead of Cheltenham. For the record, he did ride a winner, Call Me A Star, in the Mares’ Listed bumper; his 43rd winner of an injury-interrupted season.
On Sunday 11 March my friend Lesley, her dad, his friend June and I attended ‘Let’s Do It’ starring Strictly Come Dancing’s Anton Du Beke and Erin Boag. The event took place at the Colosseum in Watford and I decided that, instead of driving to the venue, I’d catch the ‘Abbey Flyer’ train to Watford Junction. Amazingly, I’d never caught the train to Watford before, despite the journey taking a mere 16 minutes; although it does take around 40 minutes for me to walk to the station to catch that train!
Fares are normally collected on board the train but, due to staff shortages on this particular day, fares were paid at the barrier at Watford Junction; it cost £4.50 return. A bargain. I caught the 12:28 train, so this gave me plenty of time to look around the shops before the show started at 15:00.
I hadn’t been to Watford on a shopping trip for quite a while. I used to visit Hobbycraft in Watford on a regular basis; whilst there, walking up to the Harlequin Shopping Centre too. But Stevenage now has a Hobbycraft store and, as it’s much easier to drive to, this has now become my preferred store. I love shopping in M & S, and Watford was always my favourite store; even more so than their London Colney site.
On this visit I looked around a number of shops but, fortunately, I solely purchased a set of two bras and a navy blue skirt ... from M & S. The skirt has rear hem detail, which I love. It was suitable to wear for Cheltenham or, if not, Aintree.
Having finished shopping, I headed to the Coliseum to meet up with Lesley and her companions. The show lasted for 2 hours and, in addition to the ballroom dancing, we were treated to a live orchestra, and a number of songs performed by Lance Ellington, who sings on Strictly too. The dresses Erin wore were beautiful – she reckoned she had around 540 available for the current tour! There were a number of humorous ‘interludes’ too, including Erin and Anton answering questions put forward by the audience.
After the show, Lesley gave me a lift back to Watford Junction and I caught to 18:07 train back to St Albans. I walked home the remainder of the way ... 2 miles, which included climbing the steepest hill in the city, Holywell Hill. But I felt fit, if a little tired!
The Osmonds were due to appear at the Coliseum on Wednesday 14 March ... but, of course, I’d be travelling back from Cheltenham so couldn’t make it. Instead, Lesley and I attended their Birmingham concert on 29 March; although I did have to postpone my sinus operation for 22 days in order to go!
On the day before the Festival I walked down to my local supermarket at 08:00 to buy a copy of the Racing Post. I then washed my car, after which I drove down to M & S at London Colney to purchase a pair of navy blue woollen tights ... okay, I ended up with 2 pairs of navy blue patterned ones, 2 pairs of black ones in the identical design, 2 pairs of plain navy blue tights; plus a large black ‘utility’ bag, which was to prove a godsend for Cheltenham and Aintree!
Following that, it was time to walk to my local dental practice for my quarterly appointment with the hygienist. My teeth are excellent but my gums are not! I have 28 teeth, 4 having been removed for cosmetic purposes when I had my teeth straightened in my mid-twenties. And I still have those 4 perfect pre-molar teeth; they are stored in a small pot which is placed on my bookshelf!
I spent the afternoon watching the horse-racing on ATR; Choc had one riding engagement at Taunton but he was out of luck. I turned in at 22:00, with the prospect of a 04:30 alarm call.
In the event, I actually woke at 04:05; I lay in bed until 04:25. I showered, washed and dried my hair; ate a breakfast of Weetabix, and drank a cup of black coffee, before applying my make-up.
Today’s outfit was two thermal vests, a short-sleeved top, purple sweater, purple fleece, purple cardigan, brown Next skirt (the tapered flippy hem is quite short at the front ... above the knee, which is short for me these days), purple coat, brown shoes, purple tights, and orange/pink/purple Loopy scarf. I also wore my ‘Purple Pool’ necklace and matching earrings; I’d revamped it recently, replacing the multi-coloured facetted glass beads with solely purple facetted beads. Later that day I discovered that the earrings tended to get caught in the threads of my scarf; it was very annoying.
I was ready to leave at 06:27. My route took me to Hemel Hempstead, Aylesbury, and Bicester. I then drove down the A34 towards Oxford, intermittent delays caused by vehicles as they joined the dual carriageway from side roads along the route; I left it at the Peartree Interchange. Fortunately, today, an HGV pulled up to my right when I was trying to exit onto the A44 roundabout beneath the junction; this enabled me to join the non-stop flow of traffic to the leeward side of this vehicle as it pulled out! This is the one bottleneck on my journey; joining the A44 to drive along the short stretch of dual carriageway, very slowly, to reach the A40.
I left Oxford just after 08:00. My route taking me along the Witney bypass and onwards to Burford. There is an alternative route to Cheltenham racecourse signposted at the roundabout just outside the town but, as I’m always early and well ahead of any traffic holdups, I have never needed to explore this option; presumably via Stow.
I continued along the A40 to Cheltenham. The route takes me through Charlton Kings to reach the Six Ways junction within Cheltenham. I continued along the A40 until turning right at the traffic lights into Hales Road; through the ‘longabout’ junction, past a new housing development and supermarket, before turning right into Bouncers Lane. At the far end of this thoroughfare I negotiated the mini-roundabout and entered Tatchley Lane, before driving along New Barnes Lane to reach the large roundabout outside the main entrance to the racecourse.
I entered Swindon Lane and turned right into the car park. Fortunately I’d placed my parking badge on the dashboard ahead of my journey so, upon showing this, I was directed to park in the lower field. It was 09:10; I arrive so early that the majority of cars within this area belong to workers rather than spectators. I was relieved to find that I was parked mid-row; especially after last year when almost every day I’d been parked near to the roadway only to discover my car covered in a thick layer of dust upon my return!
It then dawned on me that I couldn’t recall applying my deodorant today! What to do? Should I walk down to town to buy one and risk getting sweaty in the process? Or leave it and carry on as usual? No-one would notice in the fresh air anyway ... not that I was likely to sweat ... perspire ... or even glow on a cold day like today! I choose the latter!
Having eaten two cheese rolls which I’d brought with me; at 09:30 I set off for the entrance. The gates opened an hour later; the bags of those early queuers were checked by security staff well ahead of time. Once inside I popped to the loo, as the black coffee had now worked its way through my system! Race-cards were being sold outside the gates but, being a woman of habit, I purchased mine from the kiosk on the concourse above the Parade Ring as I always do.
It was then time to walk down to the course-side rails to take in the atmosphere ... and to maybe catch a glimpse of my favourite jockey returning from walking the course. There was a guy fixing up the advertising hoardings along the side of the horse-walk; we had a brief chat. He’d been to Sandown Park on Sunday to remove the advertising signs following the previous day’s racing, and he’d be heading up to Uttoxeter on Thursday ahead of their Midlands Grand National fixture the following Saturday.
With no sign of Choc, I returned to the Parade Ring area. But still no first glimpse of Choc; but I did see Alan King being interviewed by RUK’s Alex Steedman; Noel Williams his Assistant Trainer; Jason Maguire; Richard Johnson and Barry Geraghty.
An overhead cable had been fixed above the Parade Ring; a camera running up and down its length to get some unusual shots of the proceedings. As in previous years, a briefing took place for the official photographers during which they were also issued with a warning of what not to do during the course of their assignment. The going on the Old Course, which would be used during the first two days of the Festival, was good, good to soft in places. The cross-country course was good to firm.
At 12:15 each day, a Festival Preview is held in the Winners’ Enclosure; the presenters being Ian Carnaby and Jonathan Powell. Their first interviewee was Bob Champion regarding his continuing charity fundraising. He spoke about this year’s Aintree Legends race in which Mick Kinane, Pat Eddery, Richard Pitman and Adrian Maguire, amongst others, were due to take part. He was joined by Richard Rowe to speak about the late Josh Gifford. The next guest was Ruby Walsh, interviewed by Jonathan Powell.
At 12:30, and still part of the Preview presentation, the ROR (Retraining of Racehorses) Parade of Stars took place, in the Parade Ring. There were 9 horses taking part – Beef Or Salmon (Showing); Comply Or Die (Hunting); Monkerhostin (Hunting); Dry Old Party (Eventing); Harchibald (Showing); Penzance (Showjumping); Fork Lightening (Hunting); Strong Flow (Eventing); and The Listener (Showjumping). Ex-jockey Colin Brown spoke about each horse.
I was especially interested to see the grey Fork Lightening, who had been trained by Alan King and gave Choc his third Festival victory when winning the 1994 National Hunt Chase. It was Alan’s first Festival winner. Also Penzance, who I did see race more than once; he won the 2005 Triumph Hurdle with Choc aboard. Andrew Parker-Bowles and jockeys Timmy Murphy and Denis O’Regan were also interviewed as part of this presentation.
Today’s ‘punters pal’ was Rory Jiwani of Stan James, sponsors of today’s feature race; he ran through the popular selections today. Also interviewed was jockey Daryl Jacob; as their original guest, Ronnie Corbett, was indisposed!
Following the end of the Preview, I headed down to the course-side rails in order to gain a good vantage point ahead of the first race of the day. Choc had three riding engagements today; Montbazon in the first race, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle; Hold On Julio in the third race of the day, the JLT Specialty Handicap Steeplechase; and Bless The Wings in the final race of the day, the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Prior to the first race, the ROR horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstand before returning down the turf and re-entering the strip to canter the remainder of the way down the side of the home straight.
The starting gate for the first event was at the far end of the home straight, so the runners also cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the stands before heading down past the winning post and re-entering the strip to travel to its termination.
As is the custom before the first race of the Festival, a cheer rang out from the assembled crowd as the horses began to head out from the holding enclosure. This was followed by a much louder roar from the excited spectators as it became apparent that the horses would be off, first time.
The runners were led away by Agent Archie, Jimbill and Catch Tammy; the fancied Darlan was held up near the rear of the field. Heading up the home straight towards the stands, the order was Agent Archie, from Jimbill, Catch Tammy, Trifolium, Midnight Game, Cinders And Ashes, Montbazon, Colour Squadron, Simenon, Tetlami, Vulcanite, Prospect Wells, Hazy Tom, Darlan, Galileo’s Choice, Dylan Ross, Steps To Freedom, Allure Of llusion and Distant Memories. Montbazon was less than fluent over the second flight.
Travelling down the back straight on the only occasion, Hazy Tom tipped the top of the third flight. Cinders And Ashes flattened the fourth hurdle, but it did not affect his momentum. Choc and his mount were in fourth position as the field reached the top of the hill.
Down the hill they ran, Agent Archie still leading the way, Montbazon, Trifolium, Darlan, Vulcanite, and Cinders And Ashes his closest pursuers. Tetlami was being driven; Prospect Wells making his effort and closing on the leaders.
Montbazon challenged for the lead approaching two out and, despite not jumping it fluently, he soon led. Trifolium, Cinders And Ashes, Vulcanite and Darlan were in close pursuit; Prospect Wells on their coat-tails as they headed towards the final obstacle.
Jason Maguire rode his mount to lead over the last and, although he flattened it, he stayed on strongly up the hill to win by 1¼ lengths from Darlan, who claimed second in the final strides; Trifolium finished a neck behind in third. Montbazon, who had also made an error at the last, was a head away in 4th. Prospect Wells was just half a length adrift in 5th.
I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race; despite Choc having returned to the Winners’ Enclosure. It’s always difficult to decide what to do; whether to risk losing my viewing place or not.
BHA: Why they ran badly:
Mrs J. Harrington, the trainer of STEPS TO FREEDOM (IRE), unplaced, reported that the gelding was coughing post race.
The starting gate for the next race was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering up the all-weather strip in front of the stands before turning to head past the winning post to re-enter it and travel to the start.
Then they were off; first time. The runners were led away by Cue Card, from Al Ferof, Sprinter Sacre, Blackstairmountain, Menorah and Foildubh. Heading up the home straight on the first occasion, there was little change in the order; Blackstairmountain got a little low when jumping the fourth fence.
Cue Card continued at the head of affairs as the runners jumped the uphill fence and began the journey down the back straight for the one and only time. The grey Al Ferof was in second, Sprinter Sacre a close third. Menorah followed these, the two Irish representatives still bringing up the rear.
Cue Card led until the 8th fence, at which Al Ferof assumed pole position. However, two fences later, Ruby’s mount took off too early, ploughing through the top of the fence. He survived but it had knocked the stuffing out of him. In contrast, Sprinter Sacre was spring-heeled at the obstacle and took up the running.
Heading down the hill, Barry Geraghty’s mount was in cruise control; Cue Card his closest pursuer, Menorah in third position and Al Ferof ridden along in 4th spot. Another bold leap from Sprinter Sacre three out. His jockey glanced behind to ensure there was no challenge as he galloped around the final bend.
Menorah made an error two out; Cue Card stayed on well to chase and close on the leader, but Sprinter Sacre had the move covered and was ridden out after the last to win by 7 lengths easing down. Menorah completed 22 lengths back in third, Al Ferof was 4th. The two Irish runners well beaten in 5th and 6th. Prize money ranged from £56,654 to the winner, down to £1,456 claimed by Foildubh in 6th.
Once again I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race, in which Choc would be riding Hold On Julio.
The starting gate for this event was located between the two nearest fences in the home straight, which meant that one obstacle would be jumped three times, the others twice. The horses cantered up past the grandstand upon the all-weather strip before heading down the course past the winning post; they re-entered the all-weather track to canter a short way before exiting onto the racecourse. Choc chatted away to AP McCoy as the runners circled ahead of the off.
Then they were off; first time. The field was led away by the Jamie Moore ridden Fruity O’Rooney and one of the two greys, Our Mick. Zarrafakt was in rear. Heading up the hill on the first occasion, Fruity O’Rooney held the advantage from Our Mick, Billie Magern, Pentiffic, the giant Runshan, Magnanimity, Noland and Hold On Julio. Mossley made an error at the second fence; Bottman a little awkward at the 5th. At the rear of the field were Alfie Sherrin and Riguez Dancer.
Running downhill for the first time, Jamie Moore’s mount still led, from Pentiffic, Billie Magern, Runshan, Hold On Julio, Noland, Our Mick, Magnanimity, Quantativeeasing, Bottman, Mon Mome, Baile Anrai, Mossley, The Package, Tullamore Dew driven, Riguez Dancer, Alfie Sherrin, Zarrafakt and Mount Oscar. Still near the rear of the field, Zarrafakt made an error at the 10th, the last before heading out on the final circuit.
Fruity O’Rooney and Pentiffic disputed the lead heading away from the stands; Billie Magurn in third, Hold On Julio in fourth. Runshan had drifted back through the field. Pentiffic and Noland made bad errors at the first fence in the back straight. Our Mick wasn’t fluent at the 14th, the ditch after the water; nor was Hold On Julio. By this stage The Package, a 6-1 shot, had made noticeable progress from the back of the field, Timmy Murphy aboard. Choc was now pushing his mount along.
Fruity O’Rooney continued to lead from Pentiffic as the runners proceeded downhill for the final time. Hold On Julio made an error 3 out.
Jamie Moore’s mount led the field into the home straight, from The Package, Our Mick, Billie Magern and Alfie Sherrin. He held the advantage over the final two fences but Alfie Sherrin stayed on under pressure to take the lead on the flat and won by one length. Our Mick finished 3rd, with The Package in 4th, Billie Magern in 5th. Hold On Julio completed in 10th position.
Once again I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race.
There was a Stewards’ Enquiry associated with the third race of the day:
Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Jamie Moore, the rider of
FRUITY O’ROONEY, placed second, from the second last fence. Having heard his
evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of
Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip
above the permitted level. The Stewards suspended Moore for 7 days as
follows: Tuesday 27, Wednesday 28, Thursday 29, Friday 30, Saturday 31 March,
Sunday 1 and Monday 2 April 2012.
The parade over, the competitors cantered down past the winning post and entered the all-weather strip to canter to the starting gate; it being located at the far end of the home straight.
Then they were off; first time. The runners were led away by Overturn from Celestial Halo; in rear were outsider Kalann and the 2010 winner Binocular. Heading up the home straight towards the stands, the order was Overturn, from Celestial Halo, Rock On Ruby, Oscars Well, Zaidpour, Zarkandar, Brampour, Hurricane Fly, Binocular and Kalann.
Overturn continued to lead the field as they headed away from the stands and began the journey down the back straight. He was setting a good pace at the head of affairs and jumping slickly. Jason Maguire’s mount still held the advantage at the top of the hill, from Rock On Ruby, Celestial Halo, Oscars Well, Zaidpour, Hurricane Fly, Zarkandar, Binocular, Kalann and Brampour.
Both Hurricane Fly and Binocular made up ground as the field headed down the hill; but the leaders were still flying along. Rock On Ruby took over the lead having cleared two out; he and Overturn held a three length advantage over Hurricane Fly, from Oscars Well, Zaidpour and Binocular turning into the home straight. It soon became apparent that both Ruby’s and AP’s mounts were having difficulty in making any further impression on the two leaders despite being driven along.
Rock On Ruby cleared the last and kept on under pressure to win by 3¾ lengths at the line. Overturn was driven out to claim 2nd. Hurricane Fly finished third, 1¾ lengths away; Binocular, having blundered at the last, completed a length further back in 4th.
It was trainer Paul Nicholls’ first Champion Hurdle winner. And a welcome change of fortune for winning jockey Noel Fehily, who had lost the opportunity to become Paul’s second jockey following injury last season.
Following this race, I set off to join the hundreds of people walking across the racecourse to reach the cross-country circuit in the centre of the track. In previous years I’d stood in the area to the inside of the course, either on the mound or near to the stream; this year I went to stand close to the water jump, which serves as the 14th and 22nd fences.
Then they were off. Sizing Australia led to the first fence, a bank with hedge; the Richard Johnson ridden Balthazar King then taking over. He led to the fourth fence, after which Jacqueline Coward aboard Wedger Pardy assumed the lead. Having cleared this fence, Scotsirish was pulled up when near the rear of the field; he’d broken his near-hind leg.
Dancing Tornado didn’t appear to be enjoying his experience and was at the back of the field. The runners soon headed across the racecourse proper, jumping a double bank with hedge, timber rails, and railed hedge before returning to the central area once more. After clearing a couple more fences, they negotiated the raised fence which consisted of a ditch with bank and hedge, before heading to the water jump on the first occasion.
Wedger Pardy still led from Sizing Australia, Balthazar King, Maljimar, Midnight Haze and Garde Champetre. In rear, Dancing Tornado unseated his rider at the second of the cheese wedges. The second circuit began.
The runners negotiated a ditch with a railed hedge before jumping the raised ditch with bank and hedge again; this time at a 90 degrees angle from before. The competitors headed out across the racecourse to jump the double bank with hedge once more. But disaster struck for the 2008 and 2009 winner of this event, Garde Champetre, Nina Carberry pulling up her mount before the fence. He’d broken a foreleg; a team soon arrived to erect the green screens.
The race continued, Wedgar Pardy still holding the advantage. Just a ditch with railed hedge to clear before re-crossing the racecourse to jump a ditch with boarded hedge and then gallop on towards the water jump for the final time. Tailed off having tried to refuse at the 19th fence, Fortification was pulled up before the 23rd. Gone To Lunch was now at the rear of the field.
Just 10 more fences to jump. The runners then re-negotiated the first seven fences they’d jumped following the off; Double Dizzy, who was in 8th but losing ground, unseated at the 27th, the Aintree fence. Farther back in the field, Dream Alliance also unseated here. The tailed off Gone To Lunch was pulled up before 3 out.
The final two obstacles are situated on the racecourse proper; in fact they were ‘stuffed’ hurdles. Wedger Pardy, having led since the fourth fence, was headed 2 out by Balthazar King. Also close up were reigning champion Sizing Australia and the 2010 winner A New Story.
Richard John’s mount was hard pressed as they reached the last, but he got a better jump than his nearest pursuer, A New Story. These two battled to the line, Balthazar King prevailing by a head. Wedger Pardy was 5 lengths back in third; Sizing Australia 2½ lengths behind these in 4th.
A number of spectators ran across the roadway in an attempt to get closer to the action as the horses galloped up the home straight; they seemed totally unaware that the emergency vehicles were closely following the horses. Fortunately, the driver was able to brake in time and didn’t hit anyone. They couldn’t have been regular race-goers; otherwise they would have known that the competitors would be tracked by an entourage of vehicles; a doctor, an ambulance and a vet!
It was a good win for Balthazar King, who had been caught up in last December’s melee which occurred on the final turn when Jacqueline Coward had taken the wrong course, she’d also been riding Wedger Pardy that day. On that occasion, today’s winning horse had sustained a cheek injury as a result of the ensuing fall. This was the first time that an Irish runner had not won the Festival cross country event.
Sadly, as earlier alluded to the Irish stalwarts Scotsirish and Garde Champetre lost their lives today.
As always, it took ages to cross back to the stand side of the racecourse. Initially, everyone had to wait for all the competitors to return and then we had to funnel through a narrow gateway before walking back across the racecourse. Having reached the enclosures, I returned to the course-side rails.
The starting gate for this race was in the mid-course chute, with two flights to jump before the far turn. Upon leaving the horse-walk, the runners cantered across the home straight and up around the top bend via the all-weather strip to reach it.
Then they were off; first time. The field was led away by Dorabelle; Himayna disputed the lead wide on the course. Held up in rear were Candelita, Cloudy Spirit and Kentford Grey Lady.
Dorabelle held the advantage around the far bend and heading up the home straight on the first occasion, from Himayna still running wide, Kells Belle, Ixora, Violin Davis, Golden Sunbird, Tempest River, What A Charm, Our Girl Salley, Swincombe Flame, Quevega, Shop DJ, Alasi, The Strawberry One, Dare To Doubt, Terre Du Vent, Cloudy Spirit, Kentford Grey Lady and Candelita.
Jason Maguire’s mount continued to cut out the running as the field headed away from the grandstands. Terre Du Vent blundered badly at the fifth flight. Heading for the far turn, Dora Belle retained the advantage from Kells Belle, Ixora, Our Girl Salley, Golden Sunbird, Swincombe Flame, Violin Davis, Tempest River, Himayna and Quevega. The tightly packed field meant that a number of runners were short of room on the bend approaching 3 out; worse affected were Alasi, Cloudy Spirit and Terre Du Vent.
Heading down the hill, three times winner of this race, Quevega was soon close behind the pace. Having cleared two out, Kells Belle took the lead from the now tiring Dorabelle. Ruby’s mount tracked the leader and quickened to take over before the last. She was driven clear on the run-in to win by 4 lengths; her jockey patting the mare’s neck even before they reached the line!
The runner-up and other placed horses finished in a group, Kentford Grey Lady the best of these having run on to clinch second by a neck from Golden Sunbird. Alasi was a further neck away in 4th. The race had been run slowly, the time being 13 seconds above standard.
I returned to the steppings surrounding the Winners’ Enclosure for the first time today; safe in the knowledge that the crowds were beginning to disperse and I’d have no problem finding a vantage point beside the course-side rails ahead of the final race of the day.
There was much celebrating as Quevega arrived in the Winners’ Enclosure; the mare having now won this race for the past four years!
I returned to the course-side rails well ahead of the horses leaving the Parade Ring ahead of the last race. The starting gate for this event was in the mid-course chute; the competitors cantering across the home straight and up around the top bend upon the all-weather strip to reach it.
Then they were off; first time. The field was led away by Cucumber Run, who dived to his left when jumping the first fence. Charminster made an error here and pecked on landing; he also blundered at the second, as did Ruby Walsh’s mount That’ll Do.
Despite jumping erratically, Cucumber Run continued to lead, from Saint Are, Vino Griego, Falcon Island, Hunt Ball, Cowen Glendower, Carrickboy, Ackertac, Triolo D’Alene, Battle Group, White Star Line, Mic’s Delight, The Panama Kid, Bless The Wings with Choc aboard, Quincy Des Pictons, Going Wrong, Harpsy Cord, Educated Evans, Charminster and That’ll Do.
Ruby’s mount fell at the 4th; this left Charminster at the back of the field, but he then unseated his jockey, Jason Maguire, at the 5th!
Cucumber Run continued to lead as the runners negotiated the fences in front of the stands and he had a few lengths advantage heading up the hill towards the 8th. Vino Griego was a clear second. They were followed by Falcon Island, Hunt Ball, Ackertac, Carrickboy and Saint Are. Bless The Wings, on the outside of the field, had made up ground on the leaders. Hunt Ball and in rear, Educated Evans made errors at the first fence in the back straight.
The loose Charminster, who had up until now continued to follow the field, then decided he didn’t wish to continue out on another circuit. He tried to jump the plastic rails separating the hurdles and steeplechase course but knocked them off their support, stumbling on landing; he then cantered back towards the home straight.
Cucumber Run continued at the head of affairs as the runners headed over the water, followed by an open-ditch and a plain fence; he was closely attended by the loose That’ll Do. However, he slowed approaching the next open-ditch and lost the lead, Vino Griego going on. Down the hill they headed, Jamie Moore’s mount in front, from Battle Group, Hunt Ball, Owen Glendower, Falcon Island, Bless The Wings and Harpsy Cord. Choc’s mount wasn’t fluent 3 out and began to weaken.
Vino Griego and Battle Group disputed the lead around the final bend, Hunt Ball in their slipstream; White Star Line behind these. Battle Group led after two out but Hunt Ball soon took over, clearing the last and powering up the hill to win by 8 lengths. White Star Line completed in 2nd, Owen Glendower 3rd, Battle Group faded into 4th. Bless The Wings finished 10th.
Sadly, Wayne Hutchinson’s mount, Educated Evans, suffered a fracture to a hind-leg when falling two out and was euthanised.
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the horses arrive back. It was of no surprise that his winning owner, Somerset farmer Anthony Knott, was thrilled that his horse had won the race. Regular followers of National Hunt racing knew the story of Hunt Ball’s amazing rise through the handicap ratings, from 69 to 142 following six wins in seven starts. And about the antics of his owner; he’d jumped aboard his winning horse, the jockey still in situ, when it won at Wincanton back in January!
It was also the first Festival winner for trainer Keiran Burke; the ex-jockey having taken over Pat Rodford’s training licence last summer. Keiran had ridden the stable’s Holmwood Legend to victory in last year’s Byrne Group Plate.
There was a Stewards’ Enquiry associated with the final race of the day:
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Nick Scholfield, the rider of the winner, HUNT BALL, from the second last fence. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip when clearly winning. The Stewards suspended Scholfield for 6 days as follows: Tuesday 27, Wednesday 28, Thursday 29, Friday 30, Saturday 31 March and Sunday 1 April 2012.
BHA: Why they ran badly:
J. Harrington, the trainer of STEPS TO FREEDOM (IRE), unplaced, reported that
the gelding was coughing post race.
The day’s events having been completed, I set off to collect my car from the ‘Paddocks’ car park; having first paid a comfort break to the loo. Always a sensible idea, as the journey home would take nearly three hours! After eating the two remaining cheese rolls which I’d brought with me, I set off to join the queue exiting the car park; it was 17:50.
Outside the gate, everyone is directed to turn right and travel in a westerly direction. At the first mini-roundabout I turned left and travelled down Tommy Taylors Lane/Folly Lane. At the end of the road there was a traffic policeman directing vehicles, so a hold-up ensued! Having turned left, I drove along St Paul’s Road to reach Clarence Square, queuing at the traffic lights to cross into Clarence Road. I then headed up Prestbury Road before taking a right at the roundabout to reach Pittville Circus.
Having negotiated this, I then travelled along Pittville Circus Road to reach Hewlett Road. Another left turn took me to the ‘longabout’, I then turned left and immediately right to climb Harp Hill. As the countryside approached, I turned right and drove down Greenway Lane; negotiating two traffic calming chicanes before reaching the traffic lights at the Six Ways Junction.
Having turned left onto the A40, I drove up the escarpment and into the Cotswolds, heading for Oxford. My journey took me back via the M40 and the M25. I left the latter motorway at Junction 22, filling up my car’s fuel tank at the petrol station on the nearby retail park before proceeding home. I arrived back at 20:40.
I ate a microwave meal of Spaghetti Bolognese, uploaded my photographs and wrote my blog before turning in.