DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2011
DAY 4 – FRIDAY 18 MARCH 2011
The Cheltenham Gold Cup – with one circuit to go
I set my alarm for 04:30; so another very early start. Having showered, washed and dried my hair, applied make-up and eaten breakfast, I was ready to leave.
Today’s outfit was two thermal vests, my dark purple sweater, black frilly edged cardigan, burgundy cardigan, purple fleece, and turquoise fleece gillet. I wore my long black handkerchief skirt ... with black treggings underneath ... and tights underneath that too! Outerwear was my long black faux sheepskin coat and suede coloured ‘Wow’ scarf. Plus my black leather ‘engineer’ boots. I was taking no chances with the weather again, as I didn’t wish to suffer from the cold as I’d done on Wednesday; morning rain was forecast for the Cheltenham area, clearing in time for the start of racing.
Coincidently, I left home at 06:28 today, as I’d done for the past two days! My journey took me via my local City Centre, and on to Hemel Hempstead, where I joined the A41 bypass. I reached Aylesbury at 07:03 and Bicester by 07:25; en route red kites were taking a risk just the other side of Waddesdon, diving onto the A41 to pick up road-kill carrion. As usual my route then took me southwards along the A34, to leave at the Peartree Interchange. The quietest day yet at this bottle-neck in my journey; there always seems to be less traffic on the roads on a Friday morning – which I attribute to workers taking a long weekend!
This meant that I’d reached Burford by 08:03; and the outskirts of Cheltenham at 08:25. I was thus the fourth car in the queue at the ‘Six Ways’ junction. After a damp start at home, rain had cleared as I approached the Buckinghamshire border and, having become wet again as I drove across the Cotswolds, Cheltenham was dry at present. As usual each morning, my route through Cheltenham took me via Hales Road and Bouncers Lane to the racecourse car park in Swindon Lane.
However, I arrived at just the wrong moment, as I was directed to park at the end of one of the rows, immediately next to the dusty gravel driveway through the car park. Damn. I now expected that my car would be even dirtier at the end of today than it had been following racing on Wednesday.
It started to spit with rain at 09:30, whilst I was sitting in my car listening to Cheltenham Festival Radio. Clerk of the Course, Simon Claisse reported that it was tipping it down in Bristol but was likely to mainly miss Cheltenham. He said that sun was forecast for later ... so don’t wear too much. However, it has to be remembered that women feel the cold far more than men!!!
As it was bound to be the busiest day of the Festival, at 09:45 I decided to set off to join the queue at the turnstiles; I always queue at the first public entrance down the hill from the Centaur building, just across from the stable area. The gates opened at 10:30; security staff set up their checking stations early, examining the contents of handbags and bags some time prior to letting the punters enter the course. Once through the turnstiles, I needed to spend a penny – I’d started my drive to the course at 06:28, so it wasn’t surprising really! I then purchased a race-card from the kiosk on the concourse beside the Parade Ring.
I was lucky enough to see Choc return from his course-walk again today; he arrived back at 10:40 having walked the course with his dad. As I feel most comfortable either waiting beside the course-side rails or the Parade Ring when I’m alone at the races, I returned to the latter in preparation for the Friday preview.
However, as I was walking down the steps surrounding the Winners’ Enclosure, the shoulder strap on my handbag gave way. I know that I always carry too much with me ... the kitchen sink syndrome ... so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the swivel hook should pull apart. It was a ‘bowling’ bag, so had two handles in addition to the strap, but I found I could improvise by unbuckling the handbag end strap detail and looping the base of the swivel hook through the strap detail before refastening it. My ‘fix’ worked brilliantly for the remainder of the day. But, I have to confess that when I got home I attempted to fix the broken connection using a pair of pliers and promptly broke it! What a pity, as I loved my handbag ... so I ordered an identical one from ASOS (As Seen On Screen) and now have two handbags but just a single shoulder strap.
Soon it was time for the Friday preview, as usual presented by Ian Carnaby and Jonathan Powell. The first interviewee was 13-year old Mark Boylan, a precocious Irish lad who had written a song about the Festival. He played the guitar and performed his song for the people watching from the steps around the Winners’ Enclosure. In his post-Festival Racing Post column, Choc mentioned that Mark visited the Weighing Room and seemed to be a genuinely nice kid. Mark received a pair of signed breeches from the guys and, in return, climbed on a table and sang his song to them.
The next ‘guest’ was totesport’s George Primarolo; totesport being the sponsors of today’s Cheltenham Gold Cup. George mentioned that last year’s winner, Imperial Commander, was drifting in the betting. He also spoke about today’s fancies – Long Run, Dirar and Shoreacres.
Jonathan Powell then interviewed Nigel Twiston-Davies; they talked about Imperial Commander and his sons, Sam and Willie. Paul Nicholls was next up, and he mentioned the fact that Ruby Walsh had dropped his whip during the final stages of yesterday’s World Hurdle; but of course Big Buck’s won the race regardless. Long Run’s amateur jockey, Sam Waley-Cohen was interviewed about his hopes for today’s Gold Cup. It was also mentioned that Sam’s father, Robert, would shortly be taking over as the Chairman of Cheltenham Racecourse.
It was then Martin Pipe’s turn to be interviewed. He spoke about it being 30 years since he trained 50-1 shot Baron Blakeney to beat the hot favourite Broadsword in the Triumph Hurdle. Evidently Martin’s Assistant Chester Barnes had backed Baron Blakeney that day. Martin then talked about Conor O’Farrell’s winning ride aboard Buena Vista the previous day. It was Conor’s first ride at the Festival; he’d been recommended by ex-jockey Charlie Swan; and had carried out David Pipe’s instructions to the letter. He also spoke about yesterday’s winning ride aboard Junior by Jamie Codd. Martin Pipe’s tip today was Unaccompanied in the Triumph Hurdle. He mentioned David’s runners today – Notus De La Tour, Hunterview, Shoegazer, Leo’s Lucky Star and I’msingingtheblues. Martin said he can enjoy himself at the Festival now, as son David has all the pressure!
The final interviewee was Lorna Fowler (née Bradburne); she’d won the Charity Race run at the end of the card the previous afternoon.
At 13:00 I set off to find a vantage point beside the course-side rails. As expected, the sun put in an appearance before racing began ... but I wasn’t overly warm despite my many layers of clothing!
After a very quiet day yesterday, when he had just a single riding engagement, Choc had 5 rides today – Smad Place, Salden Licht, Jetnova, Neptune Collonges and Oh Crick. Smad Place being his first ride of the day, in the first race, the JCB Triumph Hurdle for juvenile 4-year olds.
The starting gate for this race was at the far end of the home straight with one circuit and a straight to travel; so upon leaving the Parade Ring the competitors cantered up the all-weather track in front of the stands before heading down the course and entering the lower section of the track to reach the start.
When talking about the runners before the race commenced, Racing UK presenter Nick Luck mentioned that both Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson each had 3 runners in the race; all 6 horses had been brought in France by renouned bloodstock agent Anthony Bromley.
The jockeys were keen to get underway, with the horses quickly out onto the track; Sailors Warn cantering across to the wide outside of the hurdles track, leading the ‘charge’. The race commentator, Mark Johnson, was convinced the Starter would not let them go first time ... but he did and they were off.
The aforementioned Sailors Warn took the lead with, to his inside Architrave and Houblon Des Obeaux. Just behind was the lighter grey in the race, being Choc’s mount Smad Place, then First Fandango. On the inside in mid division, Third Intention hit and flattened the first flight. To the outside, in rear, Trop Fort, blundered over this obstacle. Heading up the straight on the long run to the second flight, Houblon Des Obeaux held a narrow advantage. In rear New Den hit the second and began to lose touch; the 25-1 shot out of its depth in this company.
Heading away from the stands and heading out into the country the order was Houblon Des Obeaux, from Architrave, Smad Place, First Fandango, Sailors Warn, Molotof, Grandouet, Brampour, Local Hero, Zarkandar, A Media Luz very keen (as usual) under AP McCoy, Tillahow, Third Intention, Unaccompanied, Sir Pitt, Mister Carter, Sam Winner, Aikideau, Kuilsriver and Trop Fort; in rear were Walter De La Mare and High Ransom. Having lost touch, New Den was pulled up after the third.
A Media Luz had now pulled her way up through the field; in contrast, Ruby Walsh’s mount, the favourite Sam Winner, had lost his place and was being pushed along and by three out (which is located on the dogleg stretch of the track before the far turn) he appeared to be struggling, there now being just two horses behind him.
Turning downhill, Sailors Warn led from Molotof, Grandouet, A Media Luz, both Architrave and Smad Place were being driven, these were followed by Sir Pitt and Third Intention. Over two out, Sailors Warn still held the advantage, from the iron grey Molotof, Grandouet and Brampour; on the wide outside Mr Carter unseated here.
Around the final bend, Grandouet appeared to be going the best, with Molotof and Sailors Warn to his inside. Just in behind were Unaccompanied, Brampour, Smad Place and Zarkandar. Heading for the last, Grandouet to the stand side was soon being challenged by the filly Unaccompanied, with Zarkandar wandering across the track to join them, the latter taking the lead just before the flight. Zarkandar ran on to win by 2¼ lengths from the white-faced Unaccompanied, then Grandouet and, surprisingly, Sam Winner.
Ruby had encouraged his mount into seventh place approaching the last and was then a fast closing fourth at the line, where he was a mere neck behind Grandouet. Smad Place on ground which was too fast for him, finished 10th and not too far behind, as the early finishers were quite closely packed.
It was Daryl Jacob’s first ever Festival winner, following a few near misses in recent years, including Rock On Ruby’s narrow defeat on Wednesday.
As Choc had been unplaced in this race, I remained beside the course-side rails in preparation for the next one. Choc’s ride in this event was the Alan King trained top weight, Salden Licht.
As with the previous race, again the starting gate for this event was at the far end of the home straight; so the runners cantered up the all-weather track in front of the stands before heading down to the start.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Ellerslie Tom, from Hunterview and Ski Sunday. In rear were Alarazi and Gloucester. In mid-field Ruby Walsh’s mount, Final Approach, flattened the first; later Ruby said the horse hit the top bar and crashed through the flight; they were lucky to survive he thought!
Heading up the straight, the order was Ellerslie Tom, Hunterview, Ski Sunday, Notus De La Tour, Premier Dane, Cockney Trucker, Dee Ee Williams, Salden Licht, Alaivan, Nearby, Ciceron, Zanir, Bellvano, Praxiteles, Grey Soldier, Inventor, Get Me Out Of Here, Secret Dancer, and Alarazi. Choc’s mount, to the outside, made a slight error at the second flight.
Heading away from the stands, the closely packed field was led by Hunterview from Ellerslie Tom, Ski Sunday, Premier Dane and Dee Ee Williams. Both Zanir and Grey Soldier made errors at the third flight. Travelling down the back straight, Hunterview and Ellerslie Tom continued at the head of affairs, from Premier Dane, Ski Sunday and Dee Ee Williams. Near the rear, Grey Soldier made an error at the fourth, as did Praxiteles. Cockney Trucker blundered at the 5th. Hunterview was still marginally ahead as the field jumped 3 out.
Downhill they headed; Hunterview, from Ellerslie Tom, Dee Ee Williams, Ski Sunday, Alaivan, Cockney Trucker, Notus De La Tour, Salden Licht, Ciceron, Alarazi, Zanir, Bellvano, and Blackstairmountain; the well-fancied Dirar was going okay near the rear of the field. Over two out, in the front line were Hunterview, Alaivan, Ski Sunday, Cockney Trucker, Salden Licht, Soldatino and Get Me Out Of Here.
Approaching the last there were five in line across the course; Ski Sunday, Hunterview, Alaivan, Get Me Out of Here and Cockney Trucker, the latter slight ahead. Salden Licht was just in behind these. AP aboard Get Me Out Of Here then took over the lead, but he’d not taken Final Approach into account, who having appeared to have far too much to do to catch the leaders two out, was now driven up the inside by Ruby (who else!) and was closing fast as they approached the line. A photograph!
No-one knew who had won, it was very close; even AP and Ruby had no idea ... both jockeys began the long ride back down the all-weather strip in front of the stands, Ruby looked disconsolate. Then the result was announced; Ruby covering his ears, he didn’t want to hear – Final Approach had prevailed by a nose; Ruby punched the air, keen to show his delight. Ruby’s 5th winner of the week. Mind you, I didn’t think the photograph was conclusive ... it certainly wasn’t a nose ... more like a pixel!
Nearby had threaded his way through to claim third. Cockney Trucker finished fourth and Salden Licht in 5th. Ciceron, near the rear, fell at the last; hampering Praxiteles who unseated Sam Twiston-Davies.
A report from the Stewards’ Room following this race:
The Stewards held an
enquiry into possible interference on the final bend. They found that
BLACKSTAIRMOUNTAIN (IRE), ridden by Paul Townend,
had interfered with GREY SOLDIER (IRE), ridden by Davy Russell, who in turn
interfered with BELLVANO (GER), ridden by D.J. Casey, all unplaced. They
found Townend in breach of Rule (B)54.1 and guilty of careless riding in that he manoeuvred
left handed. They suspended Townend for 3 days as
follows: Friday 1, Saturday 2, and Sunday 3 April 2011.
The start of this race was at the beginning of the back straight so, upon leaving the walkway from the Parade Ring, the runners cantered across the course and up around the all-weather track in front of the Dawn Run/Desert Orchid stands to reach it. The race covered almost two full circuits of the track.
Then they were off. The field was led away by the Wayne Hutchinson ridden No Secrets together with Fiulin, then Radetsky March and Teaforthree; in rear Court In Motion took a keen hold; Allee Garde made a mistake at the second flight.
Downhill on the first occasion the order was No Secrets disputing the lead with Fiulin, from Radetsky March, Teaforthree, Sybarite, Our Island, Kilcrea Kim, Court In Motion, Ackertac, Gagewell Flyer, Bobs Worth to the outside of the field, Join Together, Start Me Up, Jetnova on the outside too. Gagewell Flyer made an error at the flight at the bottom of the hill, the 5th; as did Court In Motion. The Martin Keighley trained Champion Court was pulling hard in rear.
To the home straight, with one circuit to go, the order at the head of affairs was No Secrets, Radetsky March, Fiulin, Teaforthree, Kilcrea Kim, Bobs Worth still to the outside, Sybarite, Court In Motion, Join Together, Ackertac, Mossley, Jetnova, Gagewell Flyer and Start Me Up. Jetnova received a slap down the neck as the field headed around the top turn and set off into the country once more.
Our Island had gradually lost his place due to sketchy jumping. No Secrets continued to lead, however, Fiulin weakened and was pulled up. Ruby’s mount, Join Together started to struggle and also lost his place, eventually being pulled up. Bobs Worth hit 3 out. At the far turn, Wayne Hutchinson’s mount still held the advantage, from Radetsky March, Teaforthree, Court In Motion, Bobs Worth, Mossley, Kilcrea Kim, Champion Court and Start Me Up.
Jetnova wasn’t far behind when clearing 2 out, but he stumbled on landing and fell, hampering Our Island and Start Me Up. Teaforthree also blundered here independently, flattening the flight. Off the turn and heading for the last, at the head of affairs were 3 runners line across the course, Bobs Worth, Court In Motion and Mossley, with Champion Court just in behind these.
Barry Geraghty’s mount cleared the last in front, on the run-in wandering out towards the centre of the track then back to the stand-side rails again, but never looked like being caught by stable-mate Mossley. Court In Motion completed in 3rd, with Champion Court in 4th, Kilcrea Kim in 5th. The first winner of this year’s Festival for trainer Nicky Henderson, with Barry Geraghty also very pleased as he and his brother had purchased the horse as a yearling before selling the horse as a 4-year-old to Nicky at the Doncaster sales! Celebrations all round then!
Jetnova got to his feet after the fall and cantered away but, having cornered wide, he then bumped into the stand-side plastic rails before he headed up the home straight via the ‘old’ course. People further up the track then waved their arms as he approached, hoping to deter him from continuing up the course, but he spooked and slipped over on the (plastic/metal?) pontoons which are used the protect the turf from pedestrian footfall. He then panicked, taking several attempts to regain his feet, before cantering back down the course, where he was caught by the jockey aboard one of the pulled up horses. Alan King came out onto the course to check the horse over; as did the vet. He was fine (apart from a few cuts) and was led back up the course to the stables.
Choc was fine to ride in the next race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, although the green screens had been erected around him for a short while, with medics in attendance. Fortunately, having recovered from the initial impact, he was able to walk away unaided, his whip being handed back to him by one of the stewards. Describing his fall in his Racing Post column, Choc said he received a bump on the head and a few bruises.
His ride in this race was trainer Paul Nicholls’ fourth string, the grey Neptune Collonges.
As the Gold Cup was the feature race of the day ... and the Festival ... the horses were led out onto the course, where they circled whilst being sorted into number order ahead of the pre-race parade. The runners were then led up the course beside the stand-side rail before being released to canter to the start, which was part way down the home straight.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Midnight Chase, Weird Al, Imperial Commander, Kauto Star, Pandorama, China Rock, Neptune Collonges, Long Run, Tidal Bay, What A Friend, Denman, Kempes, with Carruthers bringing up the rear.
It had appeared that Choc wanted to ride Neptune Collonges up with the pace having circled at the head of affairs just before the off. However, his mount seemed to have other ideas and looked a little reluctant as they trotted out onto the course and he wasn’t the quickest away.
Neptune Collonges made an error at the first in the back straight (the third fence) his nose almost touching the turf! Over the water-jump the order was Midnight Chase, China Rock, Kauto Star, Weird Al, Imperial Commander, Denman, Long Run, Pandorama, Tidal Bay, Neptune Collonges, What A Friend, Carruthers and Kempes. By the time the runners had reached the far turn, Weird Al had lost his position and dropped to the rear of the field.
Travelling downhill for the first time, the confirmed front-runner Midnight Chase still led. Long Run made a slight error at the fence before turning into the home straight; Pandorama, to the inside of Long Run, was squeezed for room around the bend. Over the fences in the straight, the order was Midnight Chase, China Rock, Kauto Star, Imperial Commander, Long Run, Pandorama, Denman, What A Friend, Neptune Collonges, Kempes, Tidal Bay, Carruthers and Weird Al.
Kauto Star took over the lead as the runners headed out into the country for the final time, from China Rock and Midnight Chase; Imperial Commander to their outside. Weird Al began to tail off and was soon pulled up. The field headed down the back straight for the last time; by the far turn the order at the head of affairs was Kauto Star, China Rock, Imperial Commander, Long Run, Denman, and What A Friend.
Imperial Commander challenged Kauto Star 4 out, but he blundered away his chance, soon came under pressure and lost his place. Ruby’s mount led until 3 out, when Denman took the slight advantage; Long Run was ridden along to close on them. Denman and Kauto Star were neck and neck as they turned into the home straight, with Long Run a close third; the three were almost in a line across the course 2 out. Sam Waley-Cohen drove Long Run to lead over the last and galloped on to win by 7 lengths from Denman. Kauto Star faded and just held on to third from What A Friend by a nose.
Midnight Chase completed in 5th, the enigmatic Tidal Bay 6th. Pandorama completed in 7th, with Choc and Neptune Collonges 8th, Carruthers last of the finishers in 9th. The remainder had pulled up. Paul Nicholls runners finished 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 8th; but another victory for trainer Nicky Henderson with the young pretender Long Run at the age of just 6.
I stayed beside the course-side rails to see the victor and the other gallant runners return down the walkway in front of the stands; as I knew there would be little hope of obtaining a good vantage point on the steps above the Winners’ Enclosure.
All the participants seemed pleased to have taken part in this ‘special’ Gold Cup; both Ruby Walsh and Sam Thomas were smiling, despite having been beaten; and they waited in the Enclosure to see Sam Waley-Cohen arrive back aboard the victor. Both Denman and Kauto Star had received very warm applause when they came back in; and the crowd gave three cheers for them and for Long Run – nine cheers in total!
The BSA’s ‘Why They Ran Badly’ reported on the Gold Cup as follows:
The Veterinary Officer reported that
IMPERIAL COMMANDER (IRE), which was pulled up, trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies, was lame left fore. He subsequently
reported that during routine testing he found that the gelding was
It was now time for the fifth event of the afternoon, the Foxhunters race ... in other words the amateur riders’ Gold Cup. The start of this race was part way down the home straight and takes place over the same course and distance. Upon exiting the Parade Ring, the riders cantered their mounts up the all-weather strip in front of the stands before heading to the start.
Then they were off. The field was led away by Baby Run (who else?), from Herons Well, Noakarad De Versee, Joaaci hit the first as did Mount Benger; Zemsky landed a little steeply over the second fence.
Heading away from the stands for the first time the order was Baby Run, Herons Well, Description, Noakarad De Versee, Mid Div and Creep, the flashy Just Amazing, Reach For The Top, Joaaci, Templer and Dante’s Storm. On The Fringe jumped a little awkwardly at the third. Distant Thunder was soon detached in rear.
Description hit the 6th fence; leader Baby Run made a bad mistake at the 8th; Oscatello also blundered here, and Theatre Diva unseated her rider. Description fell at the 9th, hampering On The Fringe. Five horses were clear of the pack as they rounded the bend into the home straight on the first occasion, namely Baby Run, Herons Well, Dante’s Storm, Reach For The Top and Just Amazing; the latter soon beginning to drop off the back of this group. The leaders headed out into the country for the final time; Baby Run still at the head of affairs.
The next casualty was Herons Well, who unseated at the first in the back straight. Dante’s Storm, now in second, hit the open-ditch, fence 15. Heading towards the far turn, the order was Baby Run, Dante’s Storm, Reach For The Top, and Zemski; the latter gaining on the leaders and taking third position 4 out.
Eight horses were now well clear of the ‘no hopers’; these were Baby Run, Dante’s Storm, Zemsky, Reach For The Top, On The Fringe, Oscar Delta, Turthen and Mid Div and Creep. Baby Run continued to lead as they cleared three out, hopes high that last year’s win would be repeated; Zemsky taking second as a loose horse hampered Dante’s Storm.
Baby Run led them into the home straight, but he put in a short stride before the second last, breasted the fence and unseated Willie Twiston-Davies. This left Zemsky, who had been 2 lengths down, well clear of his pursuers and he jumped the last and went on to win by 17 lengths unchallenged. Mid Div and Creep stayed on to finish 2nd, Oscar Delta completed in 3rd, with On The Fringe 4th.
A second victory of the week for Mr Derek O’Connor, who had ridden the winner of the National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup for Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase on Wednesday aboard Chicago Grey. Nick Luck pointed out that it was rare for an amateur to ride a double at the Festival ... but he did say it had been done before ... mentioning none other than Mr Robert Thornton (aka Choc) winning aboard Pharanear and King Lucifer in 1997!
Not surprisingly, young Willie Twiston-Davies was inconsolable following his mishap at the second last fence. It was a victory for Northern Irish trainer Ian Ferguson. The first three horses were at big prices 33-1; 100-1; 25-1; the joint favourite with Baby Run was the 4th placed On The Fringe at 3-1.
Again I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next event, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. Alan King saddled two runners in this race, Shalone ridden by Charlie Huxley and Prince Du Seuil piloted by Peter Hatton.
The start of the next race was in the mid-course chute so, upon exiting the Parade Ring, the runners cantered across the course and up around the all-weather strip in front of the Dawn Run/Desert Orchid stands to reach it.
Then they were off. The field was led away by confirmed front-runner Barizan, from another keen running horse Riptide, and Rose Of The Moon. Barizan stepped through and flattened the second flight, however it didn’t affect his momentum and he continued to lead from Riptide, Rose Of The Moon, Mister Hyde, Indian Daudaie, Astracad, King Of The Night, Son of Flicka, Karesenir, Shalone, Kauto Relko, Hollins, Palomar and Monetary Fund; the later and King Of The Night making an error at the third hurdle. Karesenir, losing ground, blundered at the 5th.
In the back straight, there were three departures at the 7th flight, King Of The Night falling and bringing down Mister Hyde and Siberian Tiger. Barizan continued to lead from Indian Daudaie, Astracad, Shalone, First Point, Shoegazer, Prince Du Seuil, Son Of Flicka, Rose Of The Moon and Kauto Relko; Struggling were Palomar and Qaspal.
The runners galloped downhill, Barizan finally being headed after 2 out, by Indian Daudaie, First Point, Astracad and Son of Flicka who were now disputing the lead. Shalone was a close 5th when disaster struck and he crashed out on the flat as the runners headed towards the last. He had been squeezed between Shoegazer and First Point on the turn, and may have clipped the heals of the former as they began the dash for home.
Son Of Flicka took the lead before the final flight and stayed on under pressure until collared by Irish runner, Sir Des Champs just before the line, the latter winning by half a length. First Point completed in 3rd, with Indian Daudaie 4th.
Although it initially appeared that Shalone’s unfortunate fall may have been a fatal one, the horse appearing to ‘flop’ to the ground, amazingly he was fine; although shaken and quivering initially, he was sound. Jockey Charlie Huxley was uninjured too. I watched as Shalone was led back up the course to the stables.
On viewing the video replay, it was clear that although the prostrate Shalone lay in his path, Qaspal had jumped over him; and Monetary Fund had successfully jumped over the jockey!
This is the report from the Stewards’ Room following this race:
Stewards enquired into the fall of SHALONE, ridden by Charlie Huxley,
approaching the final flight of hurdles. Having viewed the video recording of
the race they were satisfied that the fall was caused by SHALONE clipping the
heels of SHOEGAZER (IRE). Being satisfied that no other horse or jockey was
involved, they took no further action.
It was now time for the final event of this year’s Cheltenham Festival. Choc’s mount in this race was the Alan King trained Oh Crick, winner of this race in 2009 when ridden by Wayne Hutchinson; as Choc was unable to do the weight that day. Today, Wayne would be riding Alan’s other representative in the race, Mister Stickler.
The start of this race was at the far end of the home straight, the horses cantering up the all-weather strip in front of the stands before returning down the course and continuing their journey down the lower stretch of the track to reach the starting gate.
Then they were off ... apart from Chaninbar who decided not to; and this did become a bit of a habit this Spring! The field was led away by Tanks For That under Barry Geraghty, until he blundered at the first, handing the advantage to Fiendish Flame; Grand Lahou made a mistake here too, as did last year’s winner, Pigeon Island. The latter made an error at the second and so did Quito Du Tresor.
Heading towards the third and over it the order was Fiendish Flame, Tanks For That, Santa’s Son, Grand Lahou, Askthemaster and Oiseau De Nuit. Pepe Simo hit the third quite hard. Heading out into the country for the one and only time, the order was Fiendish Flame, Tanks For That, Grand Lahou, Santa’s Son, Askthemaster, Anquetta, Oiseau De Nuit, Film Festival, Beggars Cap, I’msingingtheblues, Shoreacres, Oh Crick and Mister Stickler. Keki Buku, Quito De Tresor, Pigeon Island, Riguez Dancer and Nomecheki were in rear.
The race was being run at such a frenetic pace that the runners were soon well strung out; hence not everyone gets a name check as a number of them weren’t in TV camera shot!
Tanks For That took over after the first in the back straight, Grand Lahou soon became his closest pursuer as Fiendish Flame retreated through the field. Beggars Cap blundered and unseated 5 out, badly hampering Keki Buku. Heading downhill, Barry Geraghty’s mount still led, from Anquetta and Askthemaster, who made an error 4 out; then came Oiseau De Nuit, Grand Lahou, Quito Du Tresor, De Boitron, Leo’s Lucky Star, I’msingingtheblues, Shoreacres and Mister Stickler.
Anquetta had assumed the lead turning in, from Askthemaster, Oiseau De Nuit, De Boitron and Quito De Tresor. Oiseau De Nuit hit the front 2 out, cleared the last and galloped on to win by 3¼ lengths from Irish runner, Askthemaster. A winner for trainer Colin Tizzard. Leo’s Lucky Star completed in 3rd, with De Boitron in 4th. Mister Stickler finished in 11th; Oh Crick was a very disappointing 13th.
Winning jockey Steven Clements was very emotional, tearful in fact, after the race; he couldn’t believe he’d actually won a Festival race.
Steven’s father had trained Call Collect to win the Foxhunters in 1990; his father had attended the meeting today, but his mother had stayed at home. Her reason? Steven said it was because whenever she attends the races to watch him ride, she always has to accompany him to hospital because he’d sustained an injury!
In a post-race interview, Colin Tizzard revealed that Oiseau De Nuit had been lame in a hind-leg on Monday. It was also the first winner of the season for owner Terry Warner; it had been his worst season ever he said. However, he did say he’d won this particular event before, with Kibreet in 1996 under AP McCoy; it had been AP’s first ever Festival winner. The following year AP had gone on to have a brilliant Festival, winning the Gold Cup aboard Mr Mulligan, the Champion Hurdle aboard Make A Stand, and the Arkle Chase aboard Or Royal.
The final presentations of the Festival were the awards for the winning-most jockey and trainer ... not surprisingly Ruby Walsh was top jockey with 5 winners, 3 thirds and 2 fourths; runner-up jockey was AP McCoy with 2 winners, 3 seconds and 3 thirds. Top trainer was Willie Mullins with 4 winners, 3 thirds and 2 fourths; runner-up was Paul Nicholls with 3 winners, 2 seconds, 1 third and 4 fourths.
A good Festival for Choc, after two lean years. It may not have been the multiple winners of 2005 through to 2008, but he had recorded his 16th victory; which must have been very sweet after the trials and tribulations of a season interrupted by serious injury. And the first time I’d seen him ride a Festival winner ‘live’ too.
And the 2011 Festival spoils were ‘even’ – 13 winners for the British and 13 winners for the Irish; with one northern Irish victory.
When I set off up the concourse, walking ahead of me was Victoria Schlesinger who ‘looked after’ Choc at Kempton Park when he was their ‘Face of National Hunt Racing’ this winter.
I left the racecourse car park at 19:05; coincidently the same time as last year on the final day! However, the weather was totally different to last year, as it was a dry evening with a full moon, which aided my trip home.
I left the decision as to which route I’d choose from Oxford to home until I reached the roundabout on the western outskirts of the City, as it depended on how tired I felt at that stage of the journey. As I felt okay, I took the M40 option. Being a clear night, both the M40 and M25 were being gritted; there was expected to be a frost overnight.
As my route took me close to my usual petrol station, I decided to fill up the tank before proceeding home. However, I was extremely embarrassed upon getting out of my car at the pumps, when I realised just how dirty my car was ... it was an absolute disgrace!!!
I arrived home at 21:15.
Despite four long days, I actually felt okay by the end of Friday; and definitely better than I’d felt at the end of Cheltenham week last year. This being the case, I logged onto my laptop to check on Choc’s rides for Saturday, which transpired to be 4 at Uttoxeter. I also wrote a blog entry, which included the overview of Thursday’s racing which I’d been too tired to do the previous evening. After the final day of the Festival last year I hadn’t had the energy to log on when I got home; I’d been operating on ‘empty’ since I’d reached Aylesbury that evening!