DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2011
DAY 3 – THURSDAY 17 MARCH 2011
Once again the alarm on my clock was set to go off at 04:30; after which I showered, washed and dressed and applied my warpaint.
Having got partially dressed, I put on a coat and went outside to sponge down my car under cover of darkness, as I was rather embarrassed by its dirtiness; caused yesterday by having parked too close to the dusty entrance track in the Swindon Lane car park, the airborne dust particles adhering to the paintwork throughout the day.
felt extremely cold on day two of the Festival, I decided to wear my navy
blue cords today ... with a pair of 40 denier tights underneath! I also wore my cold-weather mainstay, a
black longer length faux sheepskin coat.
My neon blue Snowball scarf, two thermal vests, turquoise knitted
tunic, navy blue cardigan, burgundy cardigan, purple fleece and grey faux fur
body-warmer! Plus my black leather ‘engineer’ boots.
Notably, there were an unusually high number of magpies seen during my journey today – perhaps 9 or 10.
As on the previous two days, I remained in my car until around 09:50 before setting off to join the queue at the turnstiles. My handbag was searched by security staff in advance of the gates opening. Once inside, I popped to the loo, and then went to purchase a race-card from the kiosk on the concourse above the Parade Ring. Following that I went to sit on one of the benches on the front lawn. Cleeve Hill was visible through the early mist today; unlike yesterday when low cloud had shrouded it completely.
As Choc had only one ride today, the mare Call Me A Legend in the Byrne Group Plate at 16:00, I presumed he wouldn’t arrive early to walk the course; I therefore had plenty of time to relax and ‘people watch’. The first person of note to set off for a jog around the course, at 10:50, was Barry Geraghty. Shortly afterwards Andrew Thornton did the same. Andrew must have caught up with Barry, as they jogged back together 15 minutes later! Wayne Hutchinson set off to walk the course, alone today, and he was suited and booted. The competitors, of course, would be competing over the new course today and tomorrow.
I watched as the course-builders dismantled the portable second last steeplechase fence on the old course; two vehicles were employed to do it, one of a forklift nature. The ground where it had been located was raked over afterwards.
Choc arrived at 12:05 to walk the course; he was accompanied by a lady and a gentleman. Today Choc wore a tan coloured suit and green Hunter wellies. The walk took 30 minutes, and he stopped briefly to speak with Racing UK presenter Lorna Fowler before he returned through the gate and headed back to the Weighing Room.
Despite my many layers of clothing, and the sun appearing and shining for much of the afternoon, I can’t actually say I was too warm!
I remained on the front lawn to watch the Pre-race Preview on the big screen. The first interviewee today was Richard Johnson; he spoke about his rides today – Wishfull Thinking and Duke of Lucca. Richard also mentioned that Choc had told him that Medermit had become flustered due to the strong pace during yesterday’s Arkle Chase. Richard had won that race aboard Captain Chris.
Jonathan Powell then interviewed special guest racehorse trainer Henry Cecil. Henry was an ‘old hand’ at using the microphone and eventually commandeered it! He spoke about Twice Over, who would be running in Dubai; also about his 2,000 Guineas hope, Frankel, and about his admiration for last year’s Gold Cup winner Imperial Commander.
The next guest was Barry Geraghty, who had 5 riding engagements today. His first ride would be Mr Gardner, who had finished behind Medermit and Captain Chris at Sandown on his last outing. Then he spoke about Lush Life, who would be running in the ‘wide-open’ Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle. His third ride of the day would be the ex-Alan King trained Voy Por Ustedes, who had been going well at home, having been schooled over jumps. Barry’s mount in the World Hurdle was Zaynar, who’d had a breathing operation; his final ride of the day was You’re The Top in the Byrne Group Plate.
Next onto the podium was Jules Tate from Cancer Research UK; speaking about the fundraising activities of the amateur jockeys taking part in the final race of the day, a flat race, the St Patrick’s Day Derby. In order to take part in the race, each jockey had to raise at least £5,000 in sponsorship; therefore with 12 participants, a minimum of £60,000 would be raised. Alice Plunkett of Channel 4 Racing had raised in excess of £27,000. Alan King had loaned 2 horses for the race, Devil To Pay, to be ridden by the aforementioned Alice Plunkett, and Kings Troop to be ridden by Liz Ampairee.
Rodger Sargent, who was due to ride the Tim Vaughan trained Nemo Spirit, had been taught to ride at Gary Moore’s yard, and had lost a staggering amount of weight to ride in the race as he originally weighed 17½ stone! An amusing comment was made that he’d lost the equivalent of ‘Ryan Moore’ in weight.
The next interviewee was David Pipe. He spoke about Grands Crus who would be running in the World Hurdle; then about Buena Vista, who was having his seventh annual visit to the Festival, seeking to repeat his win last year in the Pertemps Final. Chartreux, who would also be running in the race, had improved, but David was concerned that more rain might be needed to enhance his chance; Tom Scudamore had chosen to ride the grey. Mr Thriller, who would run in the Jewson Novices’ Chase had better form on softer ground. The stable had two runners in the Kim Muir; Faasal off the same mark as last year but he was difficult to ‘predict’; his number one string in this race, Junior, held his best chance of winning today, and the better ground would suit him greatly.
Then Chloe Bowkett was interviewed; she works as an Events Manager at Cheltenham Racecourse (not on the racing side of the organisation) and would also be taking part in the Charity Race, her mount being Ambrose Princess.
Finally, David Williams of Ladbrokes was interviewed, his employer being the sponsors of today’s World Hurdle. He mentioned that Ruby Walsh was favourite to win the Festival’s Top Jockey award; especially after ‘Ruby Tuesday’ (day one) when he had won 3 races. Irish winners and AP McCoy were fancied to win today (the Irish having won 6 of the 7 races yesterday!). Hey Big Spender was a very popular choice in the Ryanair Chase; and so was Galant Nuit who was due to run in the Kim Muir later in the afternoon.
It was soon time for the first race of the day; ahead of which I found myself a good vantage point beside the course-side rails.
The start of this race was in the mid-course chute; on this occasion only two fences being jumped before heading around the far turn and into the home straight, instead of the usual three. Therefore upon exiting the walkway from the Parade Ring, the horses cantered across the home straight and up the all-weather track around the top bend to reach it.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the Barry Geraghty ridden Mr Gardner, almost upsides was Bouggler; Robinson Collonges, with Ruby Walsh aboard, was at the back of the field.
Around the far bend the order was Mr Gardner, Bouggler, Wishfull Thinking ridden by Richard Johnson, Loosen My Load, Mr Thriller, Mr Cracker (that’s a lot of ‘Mr’ horses in one race), Noble Prince ridden by AP McCoy, Radium, Cootehill, Blazing Tempo and Robinson Collonges.
Into the home straight with four fences to jump on this stretch of the track, Barry Geraghty’s mount got a little close to the 4th and 5th fences; then a blunder at the 6th resulted in him being headed by Wishfull Thinking. Heading away from the stands, Richard Johnson’s mount retained the advantage over Mr Gardner, Loosen My Load, Noble Prince to the inside of Mr Thriller, followed by Radium, Bouggler, Mr Cracker, Blazing Tempo, Robinson Collonges and Cootehill.
Wishfull Thinking remained at the head of affairs, jumping well as the runners galloped down the back straight. Mr Gardner was a little awkward at the water-jump and was pulled up not long afterwards. Cootehill hit the 10th; Robinson Collonges, having made an error at the first of the open-ditches, was pulled up before the 12th.
Over the final open-ditch Wishfull Thinking still led, with Noble Prince and Loosen My Load in close order; however, AP’s mount made a mistake 4 from home and lost a little ground. Downhill, Loosen My Load came to join Wishfull Thinking at the head of affairs, Radium now to the outside of Noble Prince, the pair tracking the two leaders. Loosen My Load hit 3 out and lost momentum, allowing Wishfull Thinking to regain the advantage around the final turn. He retained the lead over the penultimate fence, although still closely pressed by Loosen My Load, Noble Prince and Radium.
It was Noble Prince who came to join Wishfull Thinking as they cleared the last, which the former jumped more fluently and AP drove him on to win by 4 lengths. Wishfull Thinking finished 2nd, Loosen My Load 3rd and Radium 4th.
The ‘record equalling’ tenth winner at this year’s Festival for the Irish, there having been 3 winners on Tuesday, and an almost whitewash of 6 yesterday; the first winner at this year’s Festival for AP, and the 200th winner of the season for him too.
I remained beside the course-side rails to retain a good vantage point ahead of the next race.
The start of this event was at the beginning of the back straight, with almost two complete circuits to race. Therefore upon exiting the walkway from the Parade Ring, the horses cantered across the home straight and up along the all-weather track around the top bend to reach it.
Then they were off. The initial order was Knockara Beau, Viking Blond, Buena Vista, Alfie Spinner, Pause and Clause, Barafundle, Lush Life; last year’s Grand National winner, Don’t Push It was in midfield. Buena Vista, last year’s victor in this race and a confirmed front runner, came through to take the lead as the field cleared the first flight.
Heading for the far turn the order was Buena Vista, Knockara Beau, Lush Life, Kayf Aramis, Gwanako, Barafundle, Viking Blond, Chartreux, Alfie Spinner, Pause and Clause, Tarablaze, Mr Moonshine, Don’t Push It, Rivage D’Or, Essex, Duke of Lucca, Mobaasher, Sivota, Barwell Bridge, Micheal Flips, Son Amix, Heavenly Blues and Queiros Bleu.
Heading downhill for the first time, Buena Vista still held the advantage from Barafundle, Kayf Aramis, Lush Life, Knockara Beau and Viking Blond. Into the home straight with one circuit to go, Sivota, Heavenly Blues and Queiros Bleu were at the rear of the field.
Heading away from the stands, having held a good early position, Lush Life had dropped out and was now being pushed along. Into the back straight it soon became apparent that the horse was lame and jockey Barry Geraghty pulled him up.
Buena Vista still ahead; in mid-field rider Daryl Jacob’s foot slipped out of the iron when his mount Alfie Spinner cleared the 9th, the jockey reaching down to regain it but having lost ground. Into the dog-leg section of the track, no change at the sharp end with Buena Vista retaining the lead from Knockara Beau, the grey Chartreux, Barafundle, Viking Blond and Tarablaze.
The leader had opened up a 4 lengths advantage as the field travelled downhill for the final time; Chartreux hit 2 out. Buena Vista led from Tarablaze around the final turn; the iron grey Son Amix soon becoming the long time leader’s nearest pursuer as Tarablaze began to fade, Knockara Beau plugging on in 3rd, with Ruby Walsh driving his mount, Sivota, up the far side to mount his challenge.
However, Buena Vista was not to be denied and, having cleared the last flight, he galloped on strongly up the hill to win by 4 lengths from Son Amix; the latter just holding off the fast finishing Sivota by a head. Knockara Beau completed in 4th.
It was young conditional jockey Conor O’Farrell’s first ride and win at the Festival, having taken 5 lbs off the horse’s back. And, of course, a second win for last year’s victor Buena Vista. The 10-year-old has appeared at 7 Festivals – he finished 6th in the Bumper in 2005; 3rd in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2006; 6th in the Arkle in 2007; and 5th, 2nd, 1st and 1st in the Pertemps in subsequent years. Buena Vista is the first horse to retain this race since Willie Wumpkins in 1979/1980 in its previous re-incarnation as the Coral Golden Hurdle; the latter also returned to win it in 1981 as a 13-year-old, his final race before retirement.
Conor O’Farrell followed up by winning the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter the following Saturday, aboard ex-Alan King trained (but subsequently ill-fated) Minella Four Star, who was then trained by David Pipe.
Once more I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race.
There was one Stewards’ Enquiry associated with race 2:
The Stewards considered the apparent improvement in form of the
winner, BUENA VISTA (IRE), ridden by Conor
O’Farrell, and trained by David Pipe, compared with its previous run at Kempton
on January 15, where it finished last of fifteen, beaten 144 lengths over 2
miles 5 furlongs, but having received a report of the trainer’s explanation
that the gelding was better suited by the better ground, they decided not to
hold an enquiry. The Stewards ordered BUENA VISTA (IRE) to be routine tested.
It was now time for the first Grade 1 race of the day, the Ryanair Chase. The start of this race was in the mid-course chute. Upon exiting the walkway from the Parade Ring, the horses cantered across the home straight and up along the all-weather track around the top bend to reach it.
The Sir Robert Ogden owned Voy Por Ustedes, having left the Alan King yard to join Nicky Henderson’s stable, was making his seasonal reappearance and first appearance since the transfer; today he was ridden by stable jockey Barry Geraghty.
Then they were off. The field was led away by last year’s winner Albertas Run under AP McCoy. Almost upsides were Rubi Light, Gauvain and Tartak, then Poquelin, Voy Por Ustedes, Hey Big Spender, Roberto Goldback, J’y Vole, Breedsbreeze and Kalahari King. Both Gauvain and Roberto Goldback made slight errors at the second fence.
Into the home straight on the first occasion, line across the course approaching the next fence, the lead was disputed by Rubi Light, Gauvain and Albertas Run. Roberto Goldback blundered at the 5th fence; Voy Por Ustedes was prominent on the outside of the field. Rubi Light was a little awkward at the 7th obstable.
Heading out into the country the order was Rubi Light, Poquelin, Albertas Run, Tartak, Voy Por Ustedes, J’y Vole, Gauvain, Hey Big Spender, Kalahari King, Roberto Goldback and Breedsbreeze. Hey Big Spender hit the first in the back straight, as did Breedsbreeze.
Rubi Light and Albertas Run led over the water-jump, Breedsbreeze hit the next, the first open-ditch. Tartak made a bad error at the second open-ditch. Hey Big Spender made a mistake at the 13th. Rubi Light led the field downhill but hit 3 out and was headed by Albertas Run. Around the final turn the order was Albertas Run, Rubi Light, J’y Vole, Voy Por Ustedes, Poquelin, Kalahari King and Tartak.
There were a number of runners in close contention between the final two fences but the only horse gaining on the leader at this stage was Kalahari King; but Albertas Run had a bit left in the tank and stayed on to win by a length from Graham Lee’s mount. Rubi Light completed in 3rd and Poquelin finished 4th, Voy Por Ustedes was a neck behind in 5th.
On viewing the replay it was soon apparent that a protestor had breached security and run onto the course 100 yards before the winning post; the ‘idiot’ had been close to being knocked down by any one of the horses as they galloped to the line. Having completed the race, the jockeys seemed incredulous that someone had put lives at risk by straying into the path of the runners. It transpired that it was a protest against race sponsors Ryanair.
Once more I stayed beside the course-side rails in preparation for viewing the next race.
There was one Stewards’ Enquiry associated with race 3:
considered the apparent improvement in form of the winner, ALBERTAS RUN
(IRE), ridden by A.P. McCoy, and trained by Jonjo
O’Neill, compared with its previous run at Kempton on January 15, where it
was tailed off and pulled up over 3 miles, but having received a report of
the trainer’s explanation that the gelding was better suited by
Notably, 4 of the 13 runners were greys – Grands Crus, Any Given Day, Zaynar and Fiveforthree.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Cross Kennon, from Berties Dream, the keen running Restless Harry, Ashkazar, Zaynar, Powerstation, Big Buck’s, Mourad, Rigour Back Bob, Fiveforthree, Souffleur, and Any Given Day; Grands Crus was nicely settled at the back of the field.
Downhill on the first occasion, Cross Kennon still led from Berties Dream, Big Buck’s and Restless Harry. The leader was 1½ lengths clear up the straight, Big Buck’s, Restless Harry and Berties Dream disputing second. Grands Crus travelled at the back of the main group, with Any Given Day slightly detached.
Away from the stands the order was Cross Kennon, Berties Dream, Big Buck’s, Restless Harry, Ashkazar, Powerstation, Mourad, Zaynar, Rigour Back Bob, Fiveforthree, Grands Crus; two from the rear, Souffleur blundered at the first flight in the back straight, Any Given Day remained at the back of the field.
Ashkazar got squeezed up on the inside as the runners galloped around the dogleg turn, dropping back as a result. Rigour Back Bob was then short of room at the far corner. Cross Kennon led the runners downhill on the final occasion; Big Buck’s and Restless Harry were tracking him.
Grands Crus had progressed into contention, stealthily up the inside, taking the shortest route. Restless Harry lost his place having been bumped and hampered shortly after two out. Big Buck’s cruised up alongside Cross Kennon as they turned into the final straight; Mourad, Fiveforthree and Grands Crus in a line across the course behind them.
Ruby sent his mount on soon afterwards, giving his mount two or three reminders approaching the last ... although he lost his whip in the process! Clearing the final flight, Big Buck’s was one length up on Grands Crus but the latter couldn’t close the gap and Ruby’s mount went on to win by 1¾ lengths. Mourad finished 3rd, with long time leader Cross Kennon in 4th. A third consecutive win for the Paul Nicholls’ trained superstar.
After the race I remained beside the course-side rails once more.
Big Buck’s, having returned to the Winners’ Enclosure, was given three cheers by the spectators surrounding it. It was mentioned that the World Hurdle trophy was to be retained in perpetuity by owner Andy Stewart, the horse having now won the race in three consecutive years.
There was one Stewards’ Enquiry associated with race 4:
The Stewards held an enquiry into possible interference at the top of
the hill. They found that POWERSTATION (IRE) unplaced, ridden by Davy
Russell, had interfered with MOURAD (IRE) placed third, ridden by Paul Townend, who in turn interfered with BERTIES DREAM (IRE)
placed sixth, ridden by A.E. Lynch, who in turn interfered with RIGOUR BACK
BOB (IRE) placed fifth, ridden by Andrew McNamara,. They found Russell in
breach of Rule (B)54.1 and guilty of careless riding
in that he allowed his horse to drift left handed. They suspended Russell for
3 days as follows: Saturday 2, Sunday 3 and Monday 4 April 2011.
The starting gate for this event was in the mid-course chute. Therefore upon exiting the walkway from the Parade Ring, the horses cantered across the home straight and up the all-weather track around the top bend to reach it.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Aimigayle; prominent were Bible Lord and Just Smudge; Bible Lord clipped the top of the first, Just Smudge got a little close to the second and soon began to lose ground. At the rear of the field were Beautiful Sound and Storymaker.
Into the home straight on the first occasion, the order was Aimigayle, Bible Lord, Edgbriar, Plein Pouvoir, Holmwood Legend, Gansey, Quartz De Thaix, You’re The Top, Peplum, I’m A Legend, Aigle D’Or, Tatenen, Just Smudge, Consigliere, Choc aboard Call Me A Legend, Matuhi, Hollo Ladies, Storymaker, Piraya and Beautiful Sound (that’s all 20 runners name-checked!).
Heading away from the stands with one circuit to go, Aimigayle continued to lead; with Bible Lord just to her outside. At this stage the favourite, Beautiful Sound, appeared to be in danger of becoming detached from the rear of the field; Piraya was struggling and soon pulled up.
Aimigayle and Bible Lord disputed the lead down the back straight, Peplum was being driven along. Call Me A Legend was on the outside of the field and well in touch. The field had begun to string out by the time they reached the dogleg turn; the order at the head of affairs was Aimigayle, Bible Lord, Gansey, Edgbriar and Holmwood Legend; Plein Pouvoir made an error at the second open-ditch.
By the far turn, Gansey now disputed the lead with Aimigayle; Choc was in 7th position. You’re The Top when in 6th, fell 4 out; as did Just Smudge further back in the field. Gansey held a narrow advantage 3 out; from Holmwood Legend, Bible Lord, Aimigayle, and Consigliere. Around the final bend, jockey Keiran Burke sent his mount into the lead; Aimigayle and Call Me A Legend taking the shortest route up the inside. Gansey fading quickly; Consigliere still in with a chance.
Holmwood Legend led over the final two, although he did put in a short extra stride at the last. He went on to win by 3½ lengths from the game Aimigayle, Beautiful Sound had made late progress to claim 3rd, with Consigliere in 4th. Choc’s mount had got in a little close to the 2nd last and hit the last but claimed 5th. Matuhi was 6th.
The jockeys were keen to congratulate Keiran Burke on his winning ride; Choc was one of those, and he shook the winning rider’s hand as they pulled up at the top of the course.
A deserved victory for Pat Rodford’s small stable; his charge, Sparky May, having finished as runner-up to Quevega on Day One of this year’s Festival. When interviewed, Pat mentioned that he’d had just one runner at the Festival prior to this year ... and that the horse had fallen at the first fence!
Pat, having turned 70, was due to retire later in the summer, with Keiran then taking over the trainer’s licence; however, this had to be postponed for a few months, the jockey having subsequently suffered a ruptured spleen when kicked by a horse at home.
Notably, the sire Midnight Legend had 5 representatives in this race – Holmwood Legend, Aimigayle, Call Me A Legend, Storymaker (10th) and I’m A Legend (15th).
For the first time today, I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back; before returning to view the following race. Choc, having been placed 5th, unsaddled his mount in the paddock reserved for unplaced horses, which is situated to the side of the Weighing Room.
Upon exiting the walkway from the Parade Ring, the competitors for the next race cantered up the all-weather track in front of the stands before returning down the course to the starting gate, which was situated between the two nearest steeplechase fences in the home straight. Thus the race took place over two circuits of the track; with one fence to be jumped three times.
Then they were off. The field was initially led away by Burren Legend; Massini Man taking over after the first, where Galaxy Rock pecked on landing. Heading out into the country for the first time, the order at the head of affairs was Massini Man, Deal Done, Burren Legend, Alderley Rover, Palypso De Creek, Faasel, Junior, Khachaturian, Cornish Sett, Sherriff Hutton, Galaxy Rock, Den of Iniquity, in rear were Can’t Buy Time, Minella Theatre and Dance Island.
Massini Man made an error at the water-jump and lost the lead to Deal Done; Saddlers Storm and Faasel hit the 8th fence. Downhill on the first occasion, Deal Done led from Palypso De Creek, Burren Legend, Junior, Massini Man and Alderley Rover; Minella Theatre was in rear. Up the home straight and heading away from the stands with one circuit to go, Deal Done led from Junior, Palypso De Creek, Alderley Rover and Burren Legend. Palypso De Creek and Burren Legend were soon ridden along.
Deal Done led from Junior as the runners headed down the back straight for the second time, the former setting up a 6 lengths advantage as the runners cleared the penultimate open-ditch. Junior hit 5 out; Richard’s Sundance made a mistake at the 4th last when in 6th place and unseated his jockey. Deal Done having also hit 4 out, began to lose his advantage and was subsequently headed by Junior after 3 out.
As they turned into the home straight for the final time, Junior held a 4 lengths lead over his nearest pursuer. Stable companion Faasel took 2nd position before 2 out. Having established an advantage over his rivals, Junior stayed on well to win by a ‘huge’ margin of 24 lengths. Faasel completed in 2nd place, ahead of long time leader Deal Done, with Galaxy Rock in 4th.
Junior, although described as a quirky character, has proved to be extremely versatile, having won at Royal Ascot last year and now at the Cheltenham Festival over fences. Trainer David Pipe envisaged that his charge might run in the Aintree Grand National at a future date. Junior was the favourite for this race at 10-3.
Once again I returned to the Winners’ Enclosure to see the placed horses arrive back, before returning to the course-side rails once more.
There was one Stewards’ Enquiry associated with race 6:
The Stewards called before them Mr R. Mahon, the rider of FAASEL (IRE), placed second, and enquired into his use of the whip from the top of the hill. Having heard his evidence and viewed the video recording of the race, the Stewards found the rider in breach of Schedule (B) 6 Part 2, in that he had used his whip with excessive frequency. They cautioned him as to the future use of his whip.
It was now time for the seventh and final race of the day – the St Patrick’s Day Derby – a charity flat race over a distance of approximately 1 mile and 5 furlongs; the start of the race being in front of the grandstand with one circuit to travel.
There was a rumour that trainer Gordon Elliott was originally supposed to be a competitor in this race ... but he couldn’t lose enough weight to do so!
Then they were off. The field got off to a slightly ‘ragged’ start, the runners led away by Sounds Of Jupiter, from Fool’s Wildcat, Plato, Ambrose Princess, Dormouse, Nemo Spirit, Warcraft, Silent Jo, Kings Troop, Super Collider, Devil To Pay and Paramount.
Having raced keenly, the grey Nemo Spirit took up the running after two furlongs. By the far turn Fool’s Wildcat had taken the lead and by the home turn he was 3 or 4 lengths clear of the field. Henry Cecil’s runner, Plato, tracked the leading horses. Upon entering the home straight Fool’s Wildcat begun to hang left and faded entering the final furlong; Plato came through to win by 1¼ lengths from Nemo Spirit who had regained 2nd inside the final furlong, Super Collider ran on to take a close 3rd, with Alan King’s Devil To Pay under Channel 4 presenter, Alice Plunkett, in 4th. Alan’s other runner, Kings Troop, completed in 8th.
A win for Racing UK presenter, Lorna Fowler, and trainer Henry Cecil (Sir Henry Cecil as he now is, having been awarded the title in the birthday honours list in June 2011).
I returned to the steps above the Winners’ Enclosure for the final time today. Then, having watched the presentation, I set off to collect my car from the Swindon Lane car park.
However, I was to have a nightmare journey home on this evening. I knew I’d left Cheltenham earlier than on Tuesday, although later than yesterday, so envisaged my ETA to be 20:40. But disaster must have struck for someone, as traffic came to a complete standstill on the A40 when I was around 3 miles west of Burford. After waiting in line for around 10 minutes and there being few vehicles coming from the other direction, and perhaps these could have been drivers who had already turned around, I did the same and headed back towards Cheltenham; as I did so, a police car with blue light flashing light sped eastwards. I had actually noticed that, in hindsight, the traffic on the westbound carriageway had been noticeably sparser than on the previous two evenings.
As I don’t know the area well, I couldn’t leave the main road; so I headed back to the Cirencester to Stow On The Wold road and turned northwards towards the latter town. It was like being on a ‘roller-coaster’, as the road traversed many hills and valleys, but I soon reached Stow. At the traffic lights situated at the top of the town I turned eastwards, heading past the lane to the village of Adlestrop where Richard Phillips trains.
Having reached the A44 Evesham to Oxford road, I drove through Chipping Norton, and then headed in a south-easterly direction towards Oxford before setting off ‘across country’ at Enstone to reach Bicester. And I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this latter part of the route if I didn’t already know the road from previous excursions to the area! The B4030 took me through Middle Barton and across the A4260 beside the ‘haunted’ Hopcrofts Holt. I had to stop for a red traffic light at the western end of the causeway across the River Cherwell near Rousham House; before travelling through Lower Heyford, and the crossroads at Middleton Stoney. My route then took me over the M40 and to a new roundabout on the outskirts of Bicester where a housing estate is being constructed.
After Bicester I headed eastwards along the A41, which took me through Waddesdon to Aylesbury. However, I was to suffer another delay on the western outskirts of the town; the road was being re-surfaced, and I had to wait for around 10 minutes before the queue of traffic was given the green light to proceed. I suppose I should have known there might be a delay, as I had noticed on my outward journey yesterday, that the white road markings had been painted in on the westbound carriageway, having been absent on Tuesday!
After travelling around the northern section of the town’s ring-road at a sedate 30 mph, there being speed cameras in operation, I rejoined the A41; and subsequently the A41 bypass road, and journeyed onwards to Hemel Hempstead. I headed for the ‘magic roundabout’ and up the steep hill, passing the lane to the infamous Buncefield Terminal and onwards to Junction 8 of the M1. It must be years since I drove on the slip road to this junction, as the carriageway has now been constructed in an anti-clockwise direction as opposed to a clockwise direction! However, I didn’t join the motorway and instead took the A414 (which used to be designated as the M10) before heading for the Park Street and London Colney roundabouts respectively.
Instead of entering St Albans, I drove down the dual carriageway towards Junction 22 of the M25 in order to top up the fuel in my car at the petrol station situated on the nearby Retail Park. I am paranoid about the petrol stations I use, and have been so ever since one of my credit cards was ‘skimmed’ a few years ago; so, when at home, I always use the same retailer.
Having topped up in preparation for the final day of the Festival, I headed for home, arriving back at 21:30. That’s 50 minutes later than I’d expected when I’d left the racecourse! However, after eating a micro-waved meal, I still found time to upload the photographs I’d taken today onto my laptop and write a blog before turning in for the night.
It may have been a quiet day on the ‘Choc’ front, but it was definitely a day for stories associated with the winners; in recap:
Race 1 – Jewson Novices’ Chase – AP’s 200th winner of the season and first of this year’s Festival; and a record equalling 10th winner at any one Festival for the Irish representatives.
Race 2 – Pertemps Final – Buena Vista won the Pertemps Hurdle for the second year running; the seventh consecutive year he had competed at the Festival.
Race 3 – Ryanair Chase – Albertas Run won the Ryanair Chase for the second year running; and the third Festival win for the horse.
Race 4 – Ladbrokes World Hurdle – Big Buck’s retained his crown, having won the event for the past two years; this is a better record than Inglis Drever who also won the race 3 times but his sequence was broken by Choc aboard My Way De Solzen. And I must mention that the latter won a Hunter Chase at Hereford on 23 March!
Race 5 – Byrne Group Plate – A triumph for trainer Pat Rodford and Holmwood Legend, after a slight disappointment on Tuesday when Sparky May finished 2nd to Quevega in the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle; a dream realised as Pat was due to retire in a few months’ time.
Race 6 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup – A victory for the David Pipe trained Junior; the horse having also won at Royal Ascot in 2010, prior to which he’d been trained by Alan King.
Race 7 – St Patrick’s Day Derby – Won by Plato, trained by possibly the most popular current trainer (Sir) Henry Cecil.
And I still had the Cheltenham Gold Cup to look forward to on the fourth and final day of the Festival!