DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2012
DAY 2 - WEDNESDAY 14 MARCH 2012
Choc and Vendor return to the Winners’ Enclosure
having finished third in the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Hurdle
The alarm woke me at 04:30; my heart pounding as a result. Having showered, washed and dried my hair, I applied my make-up, I drank a cup of black coffee and ate a breakfast of Weetabix. I was ready to set off for Cheltenham at 06:26.
My outfit today was two thermal vests, black short sleeved top, purple sweater, purple fleece, purple cardigan, grey tweed skirt, black wedge shoes, purple coat, and a knitted Can Can scarf in red and purple berry shades.
The weather conditions today would best be described as murky. As usual, my journey took me around my local ring-road to join the A4147 to Hemel Hempstead. Taking care to stay within the speed limit, there being a number of speed cameras en route to the ‘magic roundabout’, I then headed to join the A41 dual carriageway to Aylesbury.
Upon reaching the suburbs I travelled via the ring-road to rejoin the A41 west of the town. My route then went via the Bicester bypass before turning southwestwards to reach junction 9 of the M40. Having negotiated the traffic light controlled junction, I proceeded along the A34, before leaving at the Peartree Interchange.
This is the worst section of my journey, as it is always difficult to enter the barely moving traffic stream negotiating the roundabout beneath the junction before travelling at a snail’s pace down the dual carriageway of the A44 to reach the A40. It would not be such a problem but for the fact that this section of my journey coincides with the build up of rush hour traffic entering Oxford; it’s just the wrong time of the day. But there’s no way I would risk travelling via the M25 and M40 on a weekday, despite it being the quickest route to Oxford ... provided there are no accidents blocking the road!
Having finally reached the roundabout, I set off in an easterly direction towards Burford. Any holdups on the initial section of the A40 soon become a distant memory once the Witney bypass is reached. I try not to drive too fast along this stretch of my journey as, with petrol prices high, fuel consumption must be a concern. My petrol bill would total over £100 for the week.
Having negotiated the roundabout to the west of Minster Lovell, the road becomes single lane in each direction once more. This section of the journey is the most bleak; the countryside sloping away on both the north and south sides of the road. There is a speed limit of 40 mph in operation to both the east and west sides of the roundabout located south of the town of Burford. After that it was back to the national speed limit once more; that’s 60 mph on a single carriageway A road.
My remainder of my journey to Cheltenham went smoothly. Today, for the first time and despite this being my 20th visit to the racecourse, upon reaching the Six Ways Junction, I turned right to travel up Greenways Lane. However, the road proved to be even more potholed when travelling in this direction; so I decided that I’d probably revert to my normal inward route for the remainder of the Festival. At the end of the lane I turned left and drove down Harp Hill to reach the ‘longabout’. It was a little more difficult to exit onto the junction than I’d expected, with a steady stream of traffic coming from my right.
My route then took me via Bouncers Lane, with the usual delay negotiating the roundabout at the far end of it due to traffic exiting Prestbury. Having reached the racecourse, I drove across the big roundabout just outside the main entrance, and entered Swindon Lane before taking a right turn into the car park.
Fortunately again today, I was directed to park some distance away from the dusty roadway, in fact just one car from the far end. It was 09:00; plenty of time until the gates were due to open. I know, I’ll visit the local branch of my employer, located in Pittville Street. I put on my coat and changed into my wedge shoes and set off down Evesham Road in the direction of the town. It didn’t take long to get there, accustomed as I am to route marching! They have got used to expecting me to call in during Festival week, as I’ve now done it on three of the past four years.
The Branch Manager, Samantha, offered me a cup of coffee and we had a long chat whilst in the basement kitchen. It was then time for me to return to the racecourse in time for the gates to open. However, despite me arriving back at 10:30 there were no queues, the gates had opened early. Never mind, I’d probably not missed anything and, on the positive side, I’d not had to queue at all. My bag was searched by security before I went through the turnstiles.
I nipped to the loo before purchasing a race-card from the kiosk located on the concourse. I then walked through beneath the grandstand to reach the course-side rails; always hoping to catch a glimpse of Choc as he returned from walking the course. It was also murky in Cheltenham, but not damp. Whilst I was waiting, it was announced that Choc’s intended mount in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle, Batonnier, would be a non-runner. However, as expected, shortly afterwards there was another announcement, this time to inform everyone that Choc would ride the stable’s second string in this event, Secret Edge.
Whilst I was waiting I saw Aidan Coleman, current racecourse Chairman Robert Waley-Cohen and his son Sam set off to walk the course; also Tom Scudamore. The Old Course was being used again today; tomorrow and Friday it would be the turn of the New Course. Having waited until gone 11:00, I presumed that I’d probably missed Choc and decided to return to the Parade Ring area.
Having been stood by the Paddock for a few minutes, I then noticed Choc and Racing UK presenter Alex Steedman walking back between the white railings which lead to the Winners’ Enclosure. They chatted briefly, before Choc set off in the direction of the Owners and Trainers area. Had I missed something?
It soon became apparent that I had! As, shortly afterwards, broadcast on the big screen overlooking the concourse was an interview Alex had undertaken with Choc; they had been standing in the Winners’ Enclosure beside the statue of The Queen Mother. And in the background of the shot was me rearranging my scarf, totally unaware that Choc was just metres away. I felt such an idiot!!! And I’d actually thought about walking around the steppings to reach the area above the Winners’ Enclosure; if I had I could not have failed to notice him.
My Choc radar didn’t appear to be working very well this year. If I’d stayed beside the Parade Ring instead of heading down to the course-side rails I’d have seen him emerge from the Weighing Room prior to the interview. Perhaps I will need to rethink my strategy in 2013. But at least I was able to take a photo or two whilst he chatted to Alex afterwards.
Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, arrived by helicopter to watch the racing today. Her entourage driven up the track beside the racecourse and through the crowds to reach the area beside the Royal Box, where she alighted to go inside.
Each day of the Festival, at 12:15, the day’s Preview takes place in the Winners’ Enclosure. The first item today was the presentation of two cheques; one for £2,000 to the IJF and the second for £500 to Racing Welfare. The monies having been raised from the Cheltenham Festival preview held at the racecourse.
Following this, policeman Andy Seery (nicknamed Mad Cop) was introduced to the spectators. He was dressed as a knight and accompanied by a rocking horse in preparation for raising funds for the Army Benevolent Fund, the Injured Jockeys’ Fund and the Starlight Charity for terminally ill children. His task would be to travel from Scotland to Poland to raise money. When asked ‘Why Poland?’ he said because of the beautiful ladies and the vodka. It was to be his third major challenge. And, according to my notes, he’d once run 40 marathons in 31 days!
Jonathan Powell then interviewed three rugby referees; Chris White, Wayne Barnes and South African Craig Joubert, the latter having referred the Rugby World Cup Final. The next person to be interviewed, this time by Ian Carnaby, was the Irish Minister of Agriculture, Simon Coveney.
Trainer Paul Nicholls was their next guest; he spoke about Rock On Ruby’s victory in yesterday’s Champion Hurdle. He said he wouldn’t have been able to chose between Zarkandar and Rock On Ruby’s chances before the race. Overturn setting the pace had greatly suited the latter of his runners. Paul said he has around 120 horses in his main yard, with 20 or 30 more, including the victor, stabled at Richard Barber’s satellite yard under the safe custody of Assistant Pupil Trainer Harry Fry. Paul was also very happy with Kauto Star ahead of Friday’s Gold Cup; Ruby Walsh having worked the horse over 5 furlongs alongside Pearl Swan earlier today. He expected a sound race on Friday.
Colm Murphy, trainer of Champion Chase hopeful Big Zeb, was then interviewed by Ian Carnaby. He attributed his charge’s last defeat to soft ground. Colm said that Brave Inca was very much enjoying his retirement.
Today’s punters pal was Russ Wiseman of Sporting Bet; sponsors of today’s feature race, the Queen Mother Champion Chase. His pick for the big race was Sizing Europe. He then went through the other fancied runners today.
In the first these were Harry The Viking, Teaforthree, Soll was the Pricewise selection, Alfie Spinner also popular; Ruby Walsh’s tip for this Amateur riders’ race was Allee Garde. Russ said Simonsig was weak in the betting for the Neptune; popular now were Monksland, Cotton Mill and Benefficient. Fancied in the RSA Chase were Grands Crus, Bobs Worth, Join Together and First Lieutenant.
Recommendations for the Coral Cup were Balgarry, Poole Master, Get Me Out Of Here and Silverhand. In race 6, the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle, Vendor, Kazlian and Gorgeous Sixty were popular. Finally, in the bumper, money had been coming for New Year’s Eve, Sir Johnson, Royal Guardsman and Moscow Mannon. (I like to record these things so as to see how the results turn out.)
The Preview over, I set off to find a good vantage point ahead of the first race of the day. The sun came out and temperatures began to rise. In fact it would turn out to be the warmest day of this year’s Festival.
The starting gate for this long distance event over a 4-mile trip, was within the mid-course chute; the horses cantering across the home straight and up along the all weather strip around the top bend to reach it.
Then they were off; first time.
The runners were led away by Four Commanders, Lively Baron and Teaforthree; others prominent were Our Victoria, Alfie Spinner, Blenheim Brook, Caught Red Handed, Our Island, Allee Garde and State Benefit.
Turning into the home straight on the first of three occasions, the Nina Carberry ridden Four Commanders continued to cut out the running with Teaforthree and Lively Baron. In rear were Leggy Lad, Universal Soldier and Soll. A flock of birds flew up as the runners approached the third obstacle. Cottage Oak blundered at the 5th fence.
The runners headed past the stands and out into the country; Court Red Handed blundered at the first obstacle in the back straight, as did Daffern Seal. Teaforthree and Four Commanders remained at the head of affairs, Lively Baron and Our Victoria prominent.
The first two casualties were the Patrick Mullins ridden Allee Garde, who fell at the 12th; he brought down stable companion Soll. Down the hill, all the remaining runners were still well grouped. Up front were Teaforthree, Four Commanders, Our Victoria, State Benefit, Strongbows Legend, Lively Baron, Alfie Spinner, Harry The Viking, Iron Chancellor, Leggy Lad and Blenheim Brook.
The runners continued around the home turn; Universal Soldier made an error at the 15th fence, Leggy Lad hit the uphill fence, the 17th. The horses headed past the grandstands once more, up the hill and out into the country for the final time. State Benefit blundered very badly at the first in the back straight, almost falling; his jockey was unable to remain in the saddle. Iron Chancellor pecked and was hampered here too.
Strongbows Legend made an error at the next, the water. Both the former and Bob ‘N’ You hit the following obstacle, an open-ditch. Iron Chancellor was being niggled along when he blundered and unseated his rider at the 21st fence.
Teaforthree and Four Commanders still held the advantage heading towards the far turn, from Our Victoria, Harry The Viking, Alfie Spinner, Court Red Handed, Our Island and Daffern Seal. Four Commanders held a very narrow lead clearing 3 out. Heading around the final turn, there were five runners in the leading group; Four Commanders, Teaforthree, Our Victoria, Harry The Viking, and Alfie Spinner.
Nina Carberry’s mount led over the last two but was headed on the run-in by Teaforthree; the latter staying on well to win by 2 lengths. Harry The Viking, having been initially outpaced, ran on to claim 2nd by a neck from Four Commanders and the game Our Victoria in 4th. Caught Red Handed was well behind when he fell at the last fence.
It was the first Cheltenham Festival winner for trainer Rebecca Curtis.
There was a Stewards’ Enquiry associated with the first race:
The Stewards held an enquiry following a
report from the Clerk of the Scales that Mr W. Biddick,
the rider of HARRY THE VIKING, had changed his boots after weighing out. They
interviewed the rider and the Clerk of the Scales. Having heard their
evidence the Stewards found the rider in breach of Rule (D)43.1
and fined him £650.
remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race.
As mentioned earlier, Choc had originally been engaged to ride Batonnier in this event; however, the horse had sustained a swelling to one of his legs. Trainer Alan King wondered if the horse might have got cast in his box. Choc was now aboard Secret Edge.
The starting gate for this event was in the mid-course chute, the horses 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 Fiulin; Nelson’s Bridge, in rear, blundered at the first flight; Double Ross hit it too.
Fiulin led over the second obstacle, from Brass Tax, Sunny Ledgend, Cotton Mill, Secret Edge, Double Ross, Simonsig, Make Your Mark, Monksland, Natural High, Close House, Nelson’s Bridge and Benefficient. In rear, Sous Les Cieux bumped one of his rivals. The keen running Fiulin set up an 8 lengths gap between himself and the field as they headed around the far turn.
Heading up the home straight on the first occasion the order was Fiulin, Cotton Mill, Brass Tax, Sunny Ledgend, Secret Edge to the outside, Benefficient, Double Ross, Monksland, Simonsig, Make Your Mark, Nelson’s Bridge, Close House, Sous Les Cieux, Felix Yonger, Balderdash, Nagpur and Natural High.
The advantage held by Fiulin was closed by the time they reached the 4th flight, which is situated in front of the stands, but he continued to lead. Heading up the hill, Cotton Mill was in second position, with Choc and Secret Edge in third. Simonsig, the 2-1 favourite, hit the 6th flight; as did Secret Edge. However, the former was still travelling well, but Choc soon became animated aboard his mount.
Cotton Mill assumed the led after 4 out; as Fiulin faded, Simonsig and Felix Yonger began to close the gap between them and Denis O’Regan’s mount. Simonsig was one length down as they approached two out, when Cotton Mill jinked and tried to run out, unseating his jockey. This left Barry Geraghty with a four length lead over his nearest rival.
Simonsig quickened and extended his lead before the last, his jockey pushing him out to win easily; Felix Yonger stayed on under pressure to finish 7 lengths back in 2nd, Monksland completed in 3rd, Close House was 4th. The loose Cotton Mill tripped over the last flight and fell; but he was okay, despite his adventures!
Secret Edge, who was the only Juvenile in the field, finished 12th.
Nicky Henderson was now the winning most trainer in Festival history.
Once again I remained beside the course-side rails.
The next race was the RSA Chase. Choc’s mount in this event was one of my favourite horses, Walkon. It had originally been the plan to run Invictus as the yard’s first string, but he had sustained an injury.
The starting gate for this event was part way down the home straight, with one fence to negotiate before turning away from the stands and travelling two further circuits. This being the case, the horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the grandstand before returning down the home straight and re-entering the strip to travel a short distance before exiting back onto the racecourse.
Grand Crus arrived at the start some time after the other runners; presumably to keep the horse as calm as possible ahead of the race.
Then they were off; first time. The field was led away by the Ruby Walsh ridden Join Together, from Cannington Brook. In rear was Grands Crus. The order over the second fence was Join Together, followed by Cannington Brook, First Lieutenant, Mr Moonshine, Bobs Worth, Walkon, Call The Police, Lambro and Grands Crus.
Join Together flew the open-ditch; Mr Moonshine was not so good. Cannington Brook blundered at the second open-ditch, soon losing his place. First Lieutenant progressed to dispute the lead with Join Together. Bobs Worth now prominent too.
The runners were well grouped heading up the home straight with just over a circuit to go. Grands Crus made ground as they travelled down the back straight for the final time. The order was First Lieutenant, Join Together, Bobs Worth, Walkon, Grands Crus, Mr Moonshine, Lambro, Call The Police and Cannington Brook.
Join Together weakened before 4 out, Bobs Worth taking a narrow lead when reaching to clear this fence. Bobs Worth and First Lieutenant then disputed the lead, from Grands Crus, Walkon and Call The Police. Grands Crus came to join the duo as they headed for the final bend but could not sustain his challenge. First Lieutenant took the advantage turning in, with Barry Geraghty’s mount in close pursuit; the latter assuming the lead before the last fence. Bobs Worth was ridden out on the run-in, staying on to win by 2½ lengths at the line. First Lieutenant completed in 2nd.
Having come under pressure before two out, Grand Crus weakened after the last, losing 3rd to the staying on Call The Police. In fact he only just held on to 4th place by a neck from Walkon.
I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next event.
This was the feature race of the day; police and security staff were posted along the all weather strip to prevent any protestors from gaining access to the racecourse.
As there was a parade ahead of this race, the horses exited onto the course, their lads and lasses sorting the runners into number order before they paraded in front of the stands.
Once released, the runners cantered down the course and entered the all weather strip to continue to the starting gate; it being at the far end of the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel.
At this point I got chatting with a hat designer who was spending the day at the races. She’d been given a few tips by a friend and her selection in this event was Finian’s Rainbow.
Then they were off; first time. The field was led away by Wishfull Thinking, from Sizing Europe and Finian’s Rainbow. Realt Dubh hit the first fence; Kauto Stone fell and Gauvain was hampered as a result. Big Zeb jumped low over the second fence.
The order heading up towards the grandstands was Wishfull Thinking, from Sizing Europe, Finian’s Rainbow, Big Zeb, Realt Dubh, Gauvain and I’m So Lucky. Then, Wishfull Thinking crashed out at the fourth fence, he fell to his left, colliding with the plastic rails and ended up on the infield amongst a group of spectators and photographers. The horse was quickly to his feet and, fortunately, made no attempt to move so was caught immediately. However, his jockey Richard Johnson and a bystander were still down.
The incident had left Sizing Europe in the lead; he held this position as the runners headed down the back straight, from Finian’s Rainbow, Big Zeb, Gauvain, Realt Dubh and I’m So Lucky. By the time the field had reached the first open-ditch, both Realt Dubh and I’m So Lucky appeared to be struggling in rear. Gauvain began to show distress signals soon after that and Big Zeb was unable to make an impression on the two leaders either.
Sizing Europe held a one length advantage heading around the final bend and over the penultimate fence. However, the final obstacle had been dolled off; the three obligatory markers placed to the inside of the fence and a chequered flag was waved from behind the safety of the inside rail. Initially the jockeys Andrew Lynch and Barry Geraghty seemed unsure whether they should jump the final fence to the right of the markers. Fortunately they steered around the fence at the last moment, the horses bumping as they did so. Had either or both of them jumped the fence they would have been disqualified.
Sizing Europe did his best to hold off the challenge but Finian’s Rainbow proved too strong and asserted under pressure as they neared the line, winning by 1¼ lengths. The 2010 winner, Big Zeb, completed 15 lengths back in 3rd; Gauvain in 4th.
I remained beside the course-side rails and the ‘hat lady’, who had shouted encouragement to her selected horse, said goodbye and went to collect her winnings!
The injured spectator was French photographer, Jean-Charles Briens; he broke his nose and split his lip when Wishfull Thinking crashed through the rails. However, there were reports that he had been ‘warned off’ previously having got too close to the action in the past.
Fortunately Wishfull Thinking was uninjured. Richard Johnson was stood down for the remainder of the day having suffered a soft tissue injury to his leg. Kauto Stone’s jockey Ruby Walsh was okay too, as he could be seen jogging towards the perimeter rails as the runners galloped around the final turn.
There was a Stewards’ Enquiry associated with the fourth race:
The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by A.E Lynch, the rider of SIZING EUROPE, placed second, on the run in. 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 in an incorrect place. The Stewards suspended Lynch for 6 days as follows: Wednesday 28, Thursday 29, Friday 30, Saturday 31 March, Sunday 1 and Monday 2 April 2012.
The Duchess of Cornwall presented the prizes to the winning connections.
The starting gate for the next event was in the mid-field chute, the horses cantering across the home straight and up around the top bend via the all weather strip to reach it.
Tenor Nivernais was late arriving at the starting gate. Sam Twiston-Davies replaced the injured Richard Johnson aboard Dare Me.
Then they were off; first time. Son Of Flicka led to the first; prominent were Featherbed Lane, Balgarry, Spirit River, Shoreacres, Golan Way and Tenor Nivernais. Saphir River, at the rear of the field, blundered and unseated Sam Thomas at the second flight.
Balgarry and Golan Way took up the running around the far turn, from Featherbed Lane, Son Of Flicka, Tenor Nivernais, Shoreacres and Poole Master; in mid-division were Get Me Out Of Here, Third Intention, Consigliere, Carlito Brigante, Megastar, Abergavenny, Dare Me, Veiled and Silverhand. The field was very closely grouped as it approached the third flight; possibly unsighted, Abergavenny fell, bringing down Star Of Angels; Knight Pass was severely hampered.
Heading up the home straight towards the grandstands, Balgarry and Golan Way continued to lead, from Shoreacres, Poole Master, Featherbed Lane, Son of Flicka, Tenor Nivernais, Consigliere, First Fandango, Spirit River, Get Me Out Of Here, Act Of Kalanisi, Third Intention, Dare Me, Veiled, Cape Dutch, Megastar, Bally Legend and Silverhand. Cotillion was at the back of the main group; Knight Pass and Final Approach detached in rear.
Heading along the back straight, Shoreacres, Golan Way, Balgarry and Poole Master led the field. Tracking the leaders, Featherbed Lane sustained an injury prior to the 5th flight, which he jumped but blundered and was quickly pulled up. Balgarry continued to lead from Shoreacres and Poole Master; Golan Way now niggled along before dropping back through the field.
Balgarry continued to hold the advantage as the runners reached the top of the hill; Poole Master in second, then Son Of Flicka. Poole Master began to fade approaching 3 out, where he made an error. Son Of Flicka, Spirit River and Third Intention now close on the leader’s tail.
Under pressure, Balgarry bunny-hopped over the second last flight. Veiled and Get Me Out Of Here had joined the leading group as they swung into the home straight for the final time. As Tom Scudamore’s mount faded, Jason Maguire drove Son Of Flicka to lead before the last; Get Me Out Of Here, Veiled and Spirit River now his closest pursuers. The latter reached for and fell at the last.
Son Of Flicka stayed on well to win by 3½ lengths at the line. Get Me Out Of Here finished 2nd, Veiled 3rd, and Silverhand, never nearer, in 4th.
Spirit River was fine following his last flight mishap. But sadly having broken his near hind leg earlier in the race, Featherbed Lane was euthanized. The same fate befell Abergavenny, who was fatally injured as a result of his fall at the third flight.
There was a Stewards’ Enquiry associated with the fifth race:
BHA: Why they ran badly:
The Veterinary Officer reported that
CARLITO BRIGANTE (IRE), unplaced, trained by Gordon Elliot, had been struck
It was now time for Choc’s final ride today, aboard Vendor; the horse started as the 3-1 favourite. Alan King had a second runner in this race, Ardlui, ridden by Wayne Hutchinson.
The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight. The horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the stands before heading back down past the winning post and re-entering the strip to canter to the far end of it.
Then they were off ... or rather they weren’t; a number of runners had been left in the holding pen to the inside of the course. The jockeys regrouped their horses and tried again. But this time the starter had not climbed the rostrum! They were asked to take a turn and, finally, they were off.
The runners were led away by One Cool Shabra, from Moujit Bouget, Kie, Kazlian, Royal Bonsai, Blue Cannon, Kapga De Cerisy, Colebrooke, Ardlui, Sportsmaster, Vendor and Argocat. Near the rear were High Samana, Bat Masterson, Edeymi, Arnaud, Soliwery, Jackies Solitaire and Gorgeous Sixty. Soliwery made an error at the second flight, Jackies Solitaire hit it too.
Heading down the back straight One Cool Shabra led from Kazlian, Kie, Royal Bonsai, Lemon Drop Red, Moujik Borget, Blue Cannon, Sportsmaster, Dark and Dangerous and Ulck Du Lin. Bat Masterson, in rear, hit the 3rd flight. Kazlian went into the lead after this hurdle. Dark and Dangerous hit the 4th, where Soliwery was not fluent and Barry Geraghty pulled him up.
Tom Scudamore’s mount continued to lead as the runners headed for the far turn. One Cool Shabra hit 4 out and dropped back through the field. Kazlian was sent into an 8 length lead heading for 3 out, his jockey taking maximum advantage of the downhill section of the track. In second was Lemon Drop Red, from Ulck Du Lin, Arnaud and the driven Vendor visible on the outside of the field.
No change at the head of affairs over the second last and approaching the final bend, although the margin of advantage continued to reduce. Kazlian was just one length ahead of Arnaud jumping the last, also closing were Une Artiste, Edeymi and Vendor. Jerry McGrath steered Une Artiste between runners and went on to win by 1¾ lengths from Irish raider Edeymi; Vendor was half a length back in third, Kazlian completed in 4th. Arnaud faded into 5th.
BHA: Why they ran badly:
the rider of SOLIWERY (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding
was never travelling.
Tom O’Brien replaced the stood down Richard Johnson aboard Village Vic.
The starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight. The horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the stands before heading back down past the winning post and re-entering the strip to canter to the far end of it.
Then they were off; first time. The runners were led away by Champagne Fever, Moscow Mannon and Horatio Hornblower; the former going on as the other two were eased back. These were followed by Clonbanan Lad, Sir Johnson, The New One, Cool George, Virginia Ash, Royal Guardsman, Pique Sous, Jezki, New Year’s Eve, Village Vic, The Romford Pele, Circular Quay, Yes Way Hosay, Ifandbutwhynot, Many Clouds, Glenwood Present and Piano Concerto.
Heading up past the stands and out into the country, Champagne Fever held the advantage, with Moscow Mannon and Horatio Hornblower disputing second. These were followed by Clonbanan Lad, Cool George, The New One, Sir Johnson, Virginia Ash and New Year’s Eve. There was no change at the head of affairs as the runners reached the dogleg turn; Glenwood Present and Village Vic were already being ridden along in rear.
Royal Guardsman was shuffled back through the field where room was tight around the inside of the far turn. Pique Sous had made progress through the field; as had Many Clouds on the outside of the runners.
Patrick Mullins’ mount was still ahead as they reached the final turn; the favourite New Year’s Eve holding the inside rail position just behind, with Pique Sous to his outside. Behind these were Moscow Mannon, The New One and Royal Guardsman.
However, despite being in the front line since the start, Champagne Fever continued to find more under a very strong drive from his jockey; neither Barry Geraghty aboard New Year’s Eve or Ruby Walsh aboard Pique Sous able to pass him on the run to the line. He won by 1¼ lengths; New Year’s Eve completed in 2nd, Pique Sous was 3rd. Moscow Mannon stayed on to claim 4th.
There was a Stewards’ Enquiry associated with the final race:
The Stewards held an enquiry into the
use of the whip by Mr P.W. Mullins, the rider of the winner, CHAMPAGNE FEVER
(IRE), from the final bend. 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 Mr Mullins for 2 days as follows: Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29
BHA: Why they ran badly:
I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses return. It was then time for me to depart for home. This year I’d been leaving in good time having returned to my car and today was no exception. I joined the queue to leave the lower car park and, having turned right upon exiting the gate I was on my way ... or so I thought!
My preferred route takes me down Tommy Taylors Lane to join St Paul’s Road but, today, there was a policeman and his motorbike blocking that particular road. Damn! I was directed to continue along Swindon Lane in a westerly direction ... I wasn’t sure which left turn to take, so continued to the T-junction which was situated just after a level-crossing. I turned left, in the certainty that I’d be able to double-back on myself and return to my intended route. Oh no ... there was a further police road block, and I was directed to take a right-hand turn, this time through an industrial estate area which took me even further west.
I followed the queue of traffic and was able to find my way back to the A4019 Tewkesbury Road; I turned eastwards, went straight ahead at a large roundabout and then had to decide where to go next. I was under the impression that the town centre now lay ahead of me and I didn’t want to get caught in queues of traffic trying to reach the eastbound A40; ‘been there, done that’ on previous Festival visits! So I took a right turning at the next set of traffic lights. You have to bear in mind that I don’t have satnav in my car and have to go on instinct!
Anyway, it transpired I was now travelling in the direction of Gloucester so, given the first opportunity, I turned left at a set of traffic lights. Later research informed me I had driven through the Lansdown area of the town, before proceeding through the sought after location of Montpellier. Anyway, I eventually ended up in a slow moving queue of traffic heading northwards on the Old Bath Road to reach the traffic lights at the junction of London Road and Hales Road. I knew exactly where I was now!
Having finally got to the head of the queue, I turned right and joined the A40 to travel through Charlton Kings. Thanks to the traffic police, it had taken 40 minutes to escape from the town of Cheltenham instead of 15 to 20 minutes. Having left the racecourse at 18:00 I had hoped to reach Burford before it was dark; instead darkness was already falling as I drove up into the Cotswolds.
Fortunately my trip across the Cotswolds to Oxford passed without incident. As I’d done the previous day, I decided to take the Oxford bypass to reach the M40 motorway. I drove eastwards to the M25 before taking the clockwise carriageway to junction 22, London Colney. My fuel tank being under half full, I visited the nearby petrol station to top up before continuing the short journey home.
I arrived back at 20:45. Time to eat a small snack before uploading my photographs, writing my daily blog and turning in for the night. Two more days to go. And, fingers crossed, Choc would ride a winner tomorrow or Friday.