DIARY – CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2012

DAY 4 – FRIDAY 16 MARCH 2012

 

 

synchronised r diary.jpg

 

Winner of the Gold Cup:

The Jonjo O’Neill trained,

AP McCoy ridden, Synchronised

 

 

The alarm sounded at 04:30; just like Wednesday the alarm woke me from sleep ... causing panic and a racing pulse.  I hate it when that happens.  The fourth and final day of the Festival; fingers crossed that Choc would ride a winner today, otherwise it would be another blank year.  I’ve attended each day of the Cheltenham Festival for the past four years but, so far, I’ve only seen Choc ride one winner; that was last year when he rode Bensalem to win the Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase on Day One.  I know Choc had ridden 15 Festival winners before I attended my first Cheltenham but, since then, it’s been a desert, with just one oasis.  Very disappointing for me, but much more so for Choc. 

 

I showered, washed and dried my hair, before applying my make-up; ate a breakfast of Weetabix, drank a cup of black coffee and was ready to depart at 06:15.  Today’s outfit was 2 thermal vests, a cerise cardigan, black frilled-edged cardigan, neon blue fleece, grey tweed knee-length skirt, black patterned tights, heavyweight green Cotton Traders fleece, plus black Faux sheepskin coat (as opposed to jacket), plus my Tutti-Fruitti Snowball scarf. 

 

Today there were no weather related hazards like the dense fog of yesterday.  Instead of travelling via the local ring-road, I went directly through the town centre; then headed to Hemel Hempstead to join the A41 to Aylesbury.  Traffic on a Friday morning is often sparser than on other days of the week, probably because people tend to take long weekends and choose Friday as their day off.  There were no problems on the road to Bicester, or on the southbound carriageway of the A34 to Oxford. 

 

I exited at the Peartree Interchange; it was actually a little more difficult to negotiate the roundabout than on previous days, as traffic was flowing freely on the A44.  My journey had gone so well that I actually left Oxford at 07:35; however I was delayed a little by a slow moving lorry travelling at 40 mph along the single lane section of the A40.  Upon reaching the dual carriageway of the Witney bypass I was able to overtake and there were no further hold-ups on my route to Cheltenham.  I arrived on the outskirts of the town at 08:35; taking my usual route to the racecourse.

 

This year, the lower field of the car park has been filled up starting from the middle row and working up the hill; once this area is filled, the lower level moving back towards the road is utilised.  I had arrived early, but not early enough to park on the slope, so was directed to park on the flat area of the field, towards the middle of the second row.  It transpired that spaces at the far end of this row were reserved for specific vehicles; they arrived in convoy shortly after myself and filled up the remaining spaces in the row.

 

Expecting Gold Cup day to attract the largest crowd of the Festival, I set off early for the turnstiles.  My bag was searched whilst I waited near to the head of the queue.  Today, I had a chat with the couple standing in front of me, and with a guy from Taunton (I believe) who had noticed me in the queue on Tuesday.  It’s nice to have people to speak with, as time passes more quickly and it can get lonely when spending the day on my own.  The gates opened at 10:20.

 

As always I headed to the loo first, I have to get my priorities right, before purchasing a race-card from the kiosk located on the concourse.  I then set off through the passageway under the grandstand to reach the course-side rails.  Despite my lack of luck this Festival in catching a glimpse of Choc either heading out on or returning from a course-walk I  still insisted on walking down to the course-side rails, hoping for a change of fortune! 

 

When I returned to the Parade Ring area I was greeted with a recorded interview shown via the screen above the concourse; Choc had been interviewed by RUK once again, this time he’d been standing on the area outside the Weighing Room.  I’d missed him again.  Damn.  He was wearing his black coat today, with a pale pink shirt and darker pink tie.

 

At 10:55, Wayne Hutchinson returned from walking the course, he was accompanied by Aidan Coleman.  There was an announcement that Sir Peter O’Sullivan and Lester Piggott would be carrying out book signings at the Cheltenham Book Shop located on the concourse. 

 

On each day of the Festival, at 12:15, a ‘Preview’ is held in the Winners’ Enclosure.  This is presented by Ian Carnaby and Jonathan Powell, and they interview the day’s leading contenders and other celebrities.

 

Their first guest today was ex-jockey and ATR presenter Richard Pitman.  Richard had recently donated one of his kidneys to someone requiring a transplant; and he hoped to encourage others to join the donation scheme.  He was also intending to ride in this year’s charity race on Grand National day at Aintree.  Richard had lost weight in preparation for the operation and, having now recovered, feels so much better in himself.

 

The next guest was Irish singer, teenager Mark Boylan, following up his appearance of yesterday.  Today he sang a song about Kauto Star which he’d composed himself.  Owner Clive Smith was next to be interviewed, and he had appeared quite emotional listening to the words of the song.  Even I confess that the song was quite moving! 

 

It was then David Pipe’s turn to be interviewed; he said he was pleased that the stable’s best chance of the week, Salut Flo, had obliged by winning the Byrne Group Plate yesterday.  In explanation to Grand Crus’ disappointing run in the RSA chase, David thought perhaps the horse had settled too well; the horse was now finished for the season.  He then spoke about his four representatives in the race named after his father, Martin Pipe, later in the afternoon – I’msingingtheblues, Dan Breen, Arab League, and Street Entertainer – the latter he thought had the best chance.  When asked about his pick for the Gold Cup, David replied Kauto Star.

 

Their next guest was Alan King.  The stable had fielded 11 runners so far this week, with 5 horses in the prize money – Montbazon (4th in the Supreme Novices’); Vendor (3rd in the Fred Winter); Medermit (3rd in the Ryanair); Smad Place (3rd in the World Hurdle) and Walkon (5th in the RSA).  Alan said that Smad Place was fine following yesterday’s effort and may go to Liverpool before turning his attention to fences next season.  Medermit may go to Aintree, stepping up in trip for the Bowl. 

 

Alan couldn’t split Grumeti and Balder Succes; he thought both horses had a very good chance and it was a very tricky decision for  Choc to make regarding which one to ride in the Triumph Hurdle.  Alan said he stayed out of it, allowing Choc to make up his own mind.  Choc choose Grumeti.  Raya Star, his entry in the County Hurdle, was ‘exposed’ but would be suited by a strong gallop in this ‘impossible’ handicap.  Lovcen (which Alan confirmed was pronounced Lovchen having been named after a mountain in Montenego) was progressive and stepping up in trip today, which should suit.  The horse has won point-to-points previously.  Alan’s choice for the Gold Cup was Long Run; due to Kauto Star’s race preparation not being ideal following the schooling fall.  Most of all he wanted to see a good race.

 

Nicky Henderson was then interviewed; although his voice was croaky due to the celebrations this week.  He confessed to being worried about Riverside Theatre’s chances after 3 fences had been negotiated in yesterday’s Ryanair Chase; Barry Geraghty never being happy with the way the horse was travelling.  Barry had done an amazing job to win aboard the horse; appointing Barry as his first jockey was the best move he’d ever made.  There’s no-one better than Barry he said.  Nicky stated that his Gold Cup hope, Long Run, was well in himself; better than last year in fact.  He felt that Kauto Star had improved from last year, rather than Long Run having deteriorated. 

 

Today’s punters’ pal was George Primorolo; he ran through this afternoon’s fancied runners.  However, I’d now left the Winners’ Enclosure area to take up a vantage point beside the course-side rails, so missed his tips. 

 

It was soon time for the first race of the day, the JCB Triumph Hurdle, in which Choc would be riding Grumeti.  The horse was sent off as the 5-1 favourite.  Wayne Hutchinson, the stable’s second jockey, took the ride aboard stablemate, Balder Succes.

 

The starting gate for this event 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 entering the lower section of track to reach the start. 

 

Soon it was time for the off.  The runners were very keen to exit onto the course; bunching up as they did so.  Unfortunately Grumeti was squeezed between horses and had to take a back seat as the others surged forward.  Upon losing his pitch, Choc was having no part of this; as a result his mount was some distance behind the others as they approached the tape.  It was therefore impossible for the starter to let them go first time; and those who had soon gone beyond the tape were pulled up and walked slowly back. 

 

The second attempt was half-hearted too, as Saddler’s Risk and Hollow Tree were positioned broadside on.  The delay enabled Choc to now take up his intended position amongst the runners.  He chatted to colleague Wayne Hutchinson before the jockeys turned their horses to approach the tape once more. 

 

Race 1

JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1)

Distance

2 miles 1 furlong (8 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

20

 

Then they were off.  The field was led away by Hollow Tree, from Darroun, Baby Mix and Saddler’s Risk.  In rear were Dysios, Ut De Sivola and the held up Hisaabaat. 

 

Heading up the home straight on the first occasion, the order was Saddler’s Risk, Hollow Tree, Baby Mix, West Brit, Darroun, Grumeti, Asaid, Arctic Reach, Urbain De Sivola, Mattoral, Ut De Sivola, Hisaabat, Balder Succes, Pearl Swan; Shadow Catcher now in rear.  Ruby’s mount dropped towards the rear at the 2nd flight; he received reminders after the next and soon appeared to be struggling.

 

Balder Succes, who was travelling on the outside of the field in mid-division, fell at the 4th flight.  Saddler’s Risk and Darroun led over the 5th flight; Grumeti hit this one and Choc had to urge him on. 

 

Over the 6th, heading towards the far corner of the track, the order was Saddler’s Risk, Darroun, West Brit, Baby Mix, Hollow Tree, Asaid, Grumeti, Hisaabaat, Countrywide Flame, Urbain De Sivola, Dodging Bullets, Ut De Sivola, Arctic Reach, Dysios, Wingtips, Shadow Catcher, Pearl Swan, His Excellency and Mattoral.  

 

There was no change at the head of affairs clearing 2 out, Baby Mix now in second, and Hollow Tree a close third as Darroun dropped out.  Urbain De Sivola, on the outside of the field, made a bad error at this flight and weakened. 

 

Richard Johnson’s mount was soon being ridden, Hollow Tree joining him to the inside, Baby Mix to the outer.  Grumeti was a close 4th, Dodging Bullets soon upsides him.  Choc drove his mount up the inside of the three leaders to take a narrow advantage before the last.  Dodging Bullets heading up the stand-side rails, became his nearest challenger. 

 

However, on the far side, the diminutive 15.1 hands Countrywide Flame, under a very strong drive from Dougie Costello, arrived on the scene as a danger.  Grumeti hit the last; Countrywide Flame hit it too but was less inconvenienced by the error, staying on strongly on the run-in to win by 3 lengths from Hisaabaat, who took 2nd from Grumeti close home.  Choc’s mount just held Dodging Bullets by a head at the line. 

 

Pearl Swan, having struggled mid-race, had made headway into 7th between the last two but fell at the final flight.  Jockey and horse were okay following the mishap; Ruby walking away, the horse struggling to his feet and trotting off. 

 

In his Horse and Hound column, Choc later admitted it would have been easier to stomach his third place in the Triumph Hurdle aboard Grumeti had his mount been beaten by one of the fancied horses, such as Baby Mix or Saddler’s Risk.  But Countrywide Flame was a 33-1 shot who had been beaten by the Alan King trained lower rated Secret Edge last October!

 

Balder Succes appeared none the worse following his fall; having suffered the mishap near the beginning of the back straight, Wayne Hutchinson led him back in a clockwise direction; the stable lad going to collect the horse as they neared the home straight.  

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Countrywide Flame

Dougie Costello

JJ Quinn

2nd

Hisaabaat

Andrew Lynch

Dermot Weld

3rd

Grumeti

Choc Thornton

Alan King

4th

Dodging Bullets

Daryl Jacobs

Paul Nicholls

 

Choc having finished third, I was a little torn as to whether to return to the Winners’ Enclosure to see him arrive back but, if I had done so, would I be able to regain a good vantage point on the rails ahead of the next race?  I stayed put. 

 

The report from the Stewards’ Room:

 

The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Bryan Cooper, the rider of WINGTIPS, placed fifth, from the second last flight. 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 Cooper for 2 days as follows: Friday 30 and Saturday 31 March 2012.

Choc’s mount in the next race was Raya Star. 

 

As for the previous race, the starting gate for this event 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 entering the lower section of track to reach the start. 

 

Once again the first attempt at a successful start was a non-goer.  Alain Cawley aboard the Martin Keighley trained Court In Session had remained in the ‘holding pen’ as the others exited with gusto onto the course. Alain rode his mount onto the course to join the others once they had been recalled.

 

The next attempt encountered problems too, with Desert Cry broadside on to the tape; Plan A then resting his hindquarters on the tape and Alarazi also too close. 

 

Race 2

Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (Class 1)

Distance

2 miles 1 furlong (8 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

26

 

Court In Session was caught napping when the horses finally set off, from a standing start.  Plan A and Moon Dice led initially, blinkered Dee Ee Williams going into the lead after the first flight. 

 

The order heading up the home straight on the first occasion was Dee Ee Williams, from Plan A, Moon Dice, Ubi Ace, The Bull Hayes, Alarazi, Hell’s Bay, Ifyouletmefinish, Local Hero, Ted Spread, Magnifique Etoile, Lifestyle, Clerk’s Choice, Olofi, Alderwood, Via Galilei, Starluck, Dirar, Citizenship, Raya Star, Redera, Ingleby Spirit, Edgardo Sol, Court In Session, Sailors Warn and Desert Cry. 

 

Heading away from the stands, Dee Ee Williams held a clear advantage, and continued to lead as the runners headed down the back straight; Court In Session making ground on the outside of the field.  Raya Star was being pushed along as the field approached the top of the hill.  Still no change at the head of affairs, Ubi Ace in 2nd, from Plan A, Hell’s Bay, Ifyouletmefinish, The Bull Hayes, Alderwood, Citizenship and Magnifique Etoile; Moon Dice had lost ground noticeably

 

Heading down the hill towards the second last, were Dee Ee Williams, Ubi Ace, Ifyouletmefinish, Plan A, Magnifique Etoile, Lifestyle, Raya Star, Alderwood, Local Hero, Citizenship, Ted Spread, Olofi, Via Galilei, Sailors Warn and Redera.  

 

There were so many horses still in contention after 2 out and heading around the final bend that AP McCoy’s mount Alderwood was short of space.  Once clear of the restricting rail, the Champion Jockey drove his mount up the inside to lead narrowly over the last, from Plan A, Sailors Warn, and Edgardo Sol; the latter having come from a long way back to launch a challenge.  However, Alderwood was driven out to win by ¾ a length from Edgardo Sol, Sailors Warn was a head away in 3rd, Plan A 4th.  Raya Star completed in 13th.

 

It had been a true handicap, with only half a dozen horses not in the main ‘scrum’ at the last.  In fact, all 26 runners completed.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Alderwood

AP McCoy

Thomas Mullins

2nd

Edgardo Sol

Harry Derham

Paul Nicholls

3rd

Sailors Warn

Andrew Lynch

Edward O’Grady

4th

Plan A

Paul Carberry

Gordon Elliott

 

With Choc having finished unplaced, I remained beside the course-side rails. 

 

The report from the Stewards’ Room:

 

The Stewards held an enquiry into possible interference on the final bend. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the race they found that PLAN A, placed fourth, ridden by Paul Carberry had interfered with the winner, ALDERWOOD, ridden by A.P. McCoy. They found the interference was accidental.

The Stewards held an enquiry following a report from the Starter that Alain Cawley, the rider of COURT IN SESSION, had deliberately faced his horse backwards when approaching the tape. They interviewed the rider and the Starter. Having heard their evidence and viewed recordings of the start the Stewards found the rider in breach of Rule (D)44.4 and suspended him for 2 days as follows: Friday 30 and Saturday 31 March 2012.

 

BHA: Why they ran badly:

 

E.J. O’Grady, the rider of SAILORS WARN (IRE), placed third, reported that the gelding lost a shoe.

It was now time for Choc’s third ride of the day, aboard the Alan King trained Lovcen.  With almost two full circuits to complete, the starting gate for this race was at the beginning of the back straight; the horses cantering across the home straight and up around the top bend via the all-weather strip to reach it. 

 

Race 3

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (Class 1)

Distance

3 miles (12 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

20

 

Then they were off; first time.  The field was led away by the Tom Scudamore ridden Big Occasion, from Brindisi Breeze and Meister Eckhart; Fox Appeal was held up in rear.

 

Heading around the far turn on the first occasion the order was Big Occasion, Brindisi Breeze, Dawn Commander, Mister Eckhart, Fill The Power, Grand Vision, Benheir, Sea Of Thunder, Boston Bob, Lovcen, Rocky Creek, Hard To Swallow, American Spin, Mount Benbulben, Sivola De Sivola, Ipsos Du Berlais, The Druids Nephew, Tour Des Champs, The Bosses Cousin, and Fox Appeal. 

 

Big Occasion continued to hold a narrow advantage over Brindisi Breeze as the runners galloped up the home straight with just over one circuit to travel, near the head of affairs were Dawn Commander, Meister Eckhart, Hard To Swallow, Fill The Power, Grand Vision and Benheir. 

 

Tom Scudamore’s mount remained in the lead until headed at the 9th by Brindisi Breeze; Boston Bob was being niggled along by Ruby Walsh as the runners approached the far turn.

 

Brindisi Breeze continued to lead as they began to descend the hill, from Mister Eckhart, Grand Vision, Big Occasion, Mount Benbulben, Sea Of Thunder, Lovcen, Boston Bob, The Druids Nephew and Benheir; Hard To Swallow was losing ground, in contrast, Tour Des Champs made ground.

 

Race favourite Boston Bob had improved his position by two out; Lovcen jumped it in his slipstream.  Campbell Gillies pushed his mount to a three length advantage exiting the final bend, but Ruby was in pursuit, overtaking Grand Vision approaching the last.  However, the Lucinda Russell trained runner refused to be caught and went on to win by 2 lengths from Boston Bob and Grand Vision.  Lovcen stayed on up the home straight to take 4th ahead of AP McCoy aboard Mister Eckhart.

 

Choc was the first to congratulate Campbell, offering a handshake and a few kind words to his colleague.  It was the jockey’s first Festival winner; he later revealed that Tom Scudamore had offered advice to him in running, telling him exactly how to ride the final part of the race.  It had obviously stood him in good stead!

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Brindisi Breeze

Campbell Gillies

Lucinda Russell

2nd

Boston Bob

Ruby Walsh

Willie Mullins

3rd

Grand Vision

Tom O’Brien

Colin Tizzard

4th

Lovcen

Choc Thornton

Alan King

 

Although Choc had finished in the placed horses, once again I did not return to the Winners’ Enclosure, frightened that I would lose my place beside the rails ahead of the feature race.  Sorry Choc. 

 

BHA: Why they ran badly:

 

The Veterinary Officer reported that SIVOLA DE SIVOLA (FR), unplaced, trained by Tom George, was distressed.

It was now time for the feature race of the day, and the Festival for that matter, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.  There was one non-runner, Quel Esprit, his absence being due to lameness.  Diamond Harry had undergone a breathing operation since his last run, in the hope of improving his form. 


As happens with every main feature race on the card, there was a parade beforehand.  The runners exiting onto the course and sorting themselves into number order whilst circling; they were then led up beside the course-side rails in front of the stands.  Once again, security guards and police officers had been deployed along the all-weather strip to deter anyone from climbing over the rails to cause a disturbance on the course. 

 

Upon glancing down towards the final fence, I noticed that Choc had joined a number of his colleagues to the nearside of the course (his red boot tops gave him away; surprisingly even more so than his hair); he would get a very good view of the action from there.  He had done the same in 2010 when he had no ride in the race, so I was on the lookout for him today!  

 

Having reached the top of the course, the lads and lasses released their charges; Kauto Star was permitted to lead the procession as the runners cantered down the course to the starting gate, which is located on the far side of the penultimate fence; with over two full circuits to complete, two fences being jumped on three occasions. 

 

Race 4

Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) (Class 1)

Distance

3 miles 2 furlongs 110 yards (22 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

14

 

Then they were off; being experienced jockeys and chasers, it was at the first time of asking.  The field was led away by the Dougie Costello ridden Midnight Chase, from Kauto Star, Time For Rupert and Knockara Beau; in rear was The Midnight Club.  What A Friend fell at the second fence when in mid-division, hampering both Carruthers in mid-field and The Midnight Club in rear.

 

Heading down the back straight on the first occasion the order was Midnight Chase, from Kauto Star, Time For Rupert, Knockara Beau, The Giant Bolster, Long Run, Burton Port, China Rock, Carruthers, Synchronised, Weird Al, Diamond Harry and The Midnight Club.

 

Midnight Chase continued to lead as the runners headed towards the top of the hill.  Kauto Star had noticeably lost his place clearing the 7th fence.  He began to drift back through the field and was eased and pulled up before the 9th fence.  There was spontaneous applause from the spectators in the stands; the hero of previous Cheltenham Festivals had probably run in his last Gold Cup, but at least he was safe and sound, Ruby cantering him back to the enclosures, where further applause was offered. 

 

Meanwhile, the feature race continued.  Heading up the home straight with just over one circuit to go, the order was Midnight Chase, Time For Rupert, Long Run, China Rock, Knockara Beau, The Giant Bolster, Burton Port, Carruthers, Diamond Harry, Synchronised, Weird Al and The Midnight Club.  Long Run hit the first fence in the back straight. 

 

Heading down the back straight for the final time, Time For Rupert and Midnight Chase disputed the lead, from Long Run, China Rock and The Giant Bolster.  Dougie Costello’s mount hit the fence at the top of the hill, 5 out; Time For Rupert then going on.  Midnight Chase also made an error at the next, this time he lost his place. 

 

Heading down the hill the order was Time For Rupert, Long Run, The Giant Bolster, China Rock, Burton Port and Synchronised.  No change at the head of affairs as the field entered the home straight; The Giant Bolster now in second and taking the lead as they cleared two out.  Long Run was in third, Synchronised and Burton Port in fourth and fifth.

 

The Giant Bolster and Long Run cleared the last in unison, but Synchronised had been switched to the outside to deliver a challenge and took the lead on the run-in to win by 2¼ lengths.  The Giant Bolster completed in 2nd, last year’s winner Long Run finished 3rd, Burton Port 4th and Time For Rupert 5th.   

 

It was owner JP McManus’ first Cheltenham Gold Cup winner and Jonjo O’Neill’s first as a trainer; although, of course, he won it twice as a jockey, aboard Alverton in 1979 and Dawn Run in 1986.  It was AP McCoy’s second victory in the race, having won it 15 years ago, in 1997, aboard Mr Mulligan.  

 

Interestingly, Synchronised is the son of Mayasta, who gave AP his first winner in the famous green, gold and white McManus colours at Punchestown over hurdles in 1996.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Synchronised

AP McCoy

Jonjo O’Neill

2nd

The Giant Bolster

Tom Scudamore

David Bridgewater

3rd

Long Run

Mr Sam Waley-Cohen

Nicky Henderson

4th

Burton Port

Barry Geraghty

Nicky Henderson

 

Time For Rupert, having run his heart out to finish 5th, needed to be hosed down having shown signs of stress; this took place close to the walkway entrance.  However, he was fine following this intervention.

 

AP later revealed that he had spoken with Ruby as Kauto Star had dropped back to be within earshot; advising his colleague to pull the horse up. 

 

I stayed beside the course-side rails; I never fancy the post Gold Cup scrum on the steppings around the Winners’ Enclosure!  Although, for Choc, I’d make an exception if the opportunity arose!!!

 

The report from the Stewards’ Room:

 

The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Mr Sam Waley Cohen, the rider of LONG RUN (FR), placed third, from approaching the last fence. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip above the permitted level. The Stewards suspended Mr Waley Cohen for 2 days as follows: Friday 30 march and Sunday 1 April 2012.

 

BHA: Why they ran badly:

Donald McCain, the trainer of WEIRD AL (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding bled from the nose.

The Veterinary Officer reported that TIME FOR RUPERT (IRE), unplaced, trained by Paul Webber, was distressed.

Ruby Walsh, the rider of KAUTO STAR (FR), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding was not stretching out as normal. The Stewards ordered KAUTO STAR (FR) to be routine tested.

It was now time for the Amateurs’ Gold Cup, run over the same course and distance as the feature event.  The horses having cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the stands, then cantered down the course, to re-enter the track located below the walkway entrance, exiting onto the course again part way down the home straight to reach the ‘holding pen’ located on the inside of the track.

Then they were off ... but it was a false start.  One of the greys, Turko, had been left within the holding pen.  A number of the runners passed to the outside of the first fence as their jockeys attempted to apply the brakes.  Picaroon went the farthest distance, having been angled out onto the Old Course.  One of the Irish runners, Merchant Royal, had to be led back the final few yards, having been unwilling to rejoin the others.

 

The runners were ordered to take another turn; still no success, Merchant Royal being led back once again.  It was now the turn of Picaroon to be stubborn, the starter’s assistant attempted to lead him back, but the horse dug in his toes.  His jockey, Mrs Alex Dunn, dismounted and he then consented to move. 

 

The tape could now be lowered once more ...

 

Race 5

Christie’s Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (Class 2)

Distance

3 miles 2 furlongs 110 yards (22 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

22

 

Then they were off; Chapoturgeon in rear, along with Not Before Eight and Salsify.  At the head of affairs were Eleazar, Rowdy Rampage, Roulez Cool, Oscar Delta, Picaroon, Herons Well, Enter Paradise, Turko, Count Salazar, Barbers Shop, Surenaga, Boxer Georg, Keenan’s Future, Bradley, Just Amazing, My Flora, Merchant Royal, Cloudy Lane, and Blackstaff; Enter Paradise unseated at the third.

 

Picaroon assumed the lead crossing the water-jump; Bradley’s rider ‘hailed a cab’ when jumping the first open-ditch.  Roulez Cool hit the next fence, the 6th.  Then, having moved into second position over the 8th fence, he blundered and unseated Sam Waley-Cohen at the 9th.  Just Amazing, in mid-field, also unseated here; Blackstaff was hampered. 

 

Picaroon retained the lead jumping the fence at the bottom of the hill, although he collided with one of the loose horses on landing.  But it was the loose horse which lost his footing and stumbled badly!  Heading away from the stands Picaroon still led, from Herons Well, Count Salazar, Turko, Surenaga, My Flora, Keenan’s Future, Oscar Delta, Eleazar, Barbers Shop, Bradley, Blackstaff, Boxer Georg, Chapoturgeon, Rowdy Rampage, Not Before Eight, Cloudy Lane, Salsify and Merchant Royal.

 

Picaroon made an error at the water-jump and began to jump out to his right as he got tired.  Eleazar unseated his jockey at the 16th; the long-time leader blundered at the next, the second open-ditch.  Turko, Herons Well, Oscar Delta and My Flora now close on his tail.  Heading for the far corner, and having cleared the 18th fence, it appeared that the leaders were initially unaware that a chequered warning flag was being waved to the inside of the track; one of the jockeys who had fallen on the first circuit, Mr D Collins, was being attended to on the far side of the next fence.

 

There was a sudden bunching of the horses, with My Flora and Oscar Delta taking advantage of this and going on; Turko was baulked and initially squeezed out.  They continued to lead over 3 out, from Cloudy Lane, Turko, Picaroon, Salsify and Chapoturgeon.

 

Oscar Delta led over 2 out, with Salsify driven upsides over the last; Chapoturgeon just behind these two.  However, despite a strong challenge, that latter was unable to get closer than Salsify’s quarters; Salsify going on to win by one length at the line.  Oscar Delta finished 3rd; My Flora 4th.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Salsify

Mr CJ Sweeney

R Sweeney

2nd

Chapoturgeon

Mr J Barber

R Barber

3rd

Oscar Delta

Mr D Murphy

JJ Mangan

4th

My Flora

Mr Tom David

Mrs Edward Crow

 

The runner-up, Chapoturgeon, didn’t return to the Winners’ Enclosure, having finished distressed.  He was hosed down near the top of the home straight and then taken directly to the stables.   

 

Yet again I remained beside the course-side rails ahead of the next race.  

 

The report from the Stewards’ Room:

 

The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Mr C.J. Sweeney, the rider of the winner, SALSIFY (IRE), 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 above the permitted level and without giving his horse time to respond. The Stewards suspended Mr Sweeney for 4 days as follows: Friday 30 March, Sunday 1, Monday 2 and Wednesday 4 April 2012

The Stewards held an enquiry into the use of the whip by Mr W. Kinsey, the rider of SURENAGA (IRE), unplaced, from the second last fence. Having heard his evidence and viewed recordings of the race, they found him in breach of Schedule (B)6 Part 2 in that he had used his whip when out of contention. The Stewards suspended Mr Kinsey for 5 days as follows: Friday 30 March, Sunday 1, Monday 2, Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 April 2012.

The Stewards noted that BARBERS SHOP lost its right cheek piece during the race. They were satisfied that it came loose accidentally.

BHA: Why they ran badly:

 

The Veterinary Officer reported that ROWDY RAMPAGE (IRE), unplaced, trained by Paul Nicholls, had bled from the nose.

The next event was the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle; not surprisingly, son David had 4 representatives competing in this race. 

 

The starting gate for the next race was located within the centre course chute; the horses cantering around the top bend via the all-weather track to reach it. 

 

Race 6

Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

(Class 2)

Distance

2 miles 4 furlongs 110 yards (10 flights to negotiate)

No. of Runners

24

 

Then they were off; first time.  They were led away by Changing Times, ridden by Willie Twiston-Davies; in rear were the grey Empire Levant and Gormanstown Cuckoo. 

 

Around the far turn the order was Changing Times, from Street Entertainer, Tornado Bob, Molotof, Wolf Moon, Attaglance, Open Hearted, Arab League, Dan Breen, Bocciani, Make A Track and Toner D’Oudairies. In rear, Ski Sunday, who has only one eye, stumbled and unseated his rider when crossing the path after the 3rd flight.  Rigidity blundered at the 4th flight, losing his hind legs on landing.   

 

Changing Times still held the lead but having hung to his right at the 4th he did so again at the first in the back straight, blundering at the next when close to the outside wing.  Willie Twiston-Davies had no option but to pull him up.  Arab League and Tornado Bob now led from Bourne, Molotof, Toner D’Oudairies, Street Entertainer, Dan Breen, Make A Track, Grandads Horse, Bocciani, Attaglance, Oscar Nominee, Open Hearted, and Like Minded. 

 

Tornado Bob and Arab League continued to dispute the lead heading down the hill; Street Entertainer fell two out, hampering Empire Levant; the Paul Nicholls trained runner hurdling the fallen horse. 

 

Toner D’Oudairies led into the home straight, closely pursued by Grandads Horse, Attaglance, Bourne, Molotof, Like Minded and Pateese.  The former was 3 lengths clear approaching the last, but made a mistake and lost momentum.  This enabled Attaglance and Make A Track to catch up with him but the latter became the ‘meat in the sandwich’; Attaglance won by a neck from Toner D’Oudairies, with Oscar Nominee taking third on the far side and the squeezed out Make A Track in 4th. 

 

It was the first Festival winner for jockey Harry Haynes; and second of this Festival for northern-based trainer Malcolm Jefferson.

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Attaglance

Harry Haynes

Malcolm Jefferson

2nd

Toner D’Oudairies

KM Donoghue

Gordon Elliott

3rd

Oscar Nominee

David Bass

Nicky Henderson

4th

Make A Track

BR Dalton

Charlie Swan

 

Following the race, the vet attended to one of the runners; the horse having injured its off-side hind leg.  I couldn’t get a view of the number, as the horse was standing beside the walkway entrance, head on to me.  However, I did have feeling it was one of the David Pipe runners, as the lad holding the nose-banded horse was dressed in red and therefore quite likely to be sponsored by Bathwick Tyres.  There was also an announcement for David Pipe or his representative to report to the Weighing Room.  

 

Looking at the BHA notes below, I deduce it was I’msingingtheblues, who does sport a nose-band during his races.  The horse ambulance came to collect him and, despite the injury, he was able to walk up the ramp of the vehicle. Once the horse was secure within, the ambulance trundled up the course, heading for the adjacent veterinary facility. 

 

The report from the Stewards’ Room:

 

The Stewards held an enquiry into the fall of SKI SUNDAY, ridden by Robert Kirk, approaching the fourth flight of hurdles. Having viewed recordings of the incident the Stewards found that the fall was caused by the gelding clipping the heels of TONER D’OUDAIRIES (FR). Being satisfied that the incident was accidental, the Stewards took no further action.

The Stewards noted that the winner, ATTAGLANCE, had interfered with GRANDADS HORSE, unplaced, who in turn interfered with MAKE A TRACK (IRE), unplaced, on the run in but after viewing a recording of the incident they were satisfied that it neither involved a riding offence nor improved ATTAGLANCE’s placing.

 

BHA: Why they ran badly:

 

The Veterinary Officer reported that I’MSINGINGTHEBLUES (IRE), unplaced, was lame right hind.

William Twiston Davies, the rider of CHANGING TIMES (IRE), which was pulled up, reported that the gelding hung badly right handed.

 

It was now time for the final race of the 2012 Festival; and Choc’s last opportunity to ride a winner this year. 

 

Choc’s mount in this race was Kumbeshwar, one of my favourite horses; he was sporting first time blinkers today ... the horse that is, not Choc! 

 

The start of this event was at the far end of the home straight, with that and one full circuit to travel.  This being the case, the horses cantered up the all-weather strip in front of the stands before heading down the course and re-entering the all-weather gallop to continue their journey to the starting gate. 

 

There was a slight delay, as Kumbeshwar needed his saddle adjusted; Choc holding his mount whilst a member of the starter’s team carried out this task.

 

Race 7

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Challenge Cup Handicap (Grade 3) (Class 1)

Distance

2 miles 110 yards (14 fences to negotiate)

No. of Runners

21

 

Then they were off; first time.  The field was led away by Ultimate, from Tanks For That and Oiseau De Nuit.  Kumbeshwar came through to almost join the leader after the second fence.  Bellvano was held up in rear.

 

Heading away from the stands the order was Ultimate, from Kumbeshwar, Tanks For That, Anquetta, Cornas, Oiseau De Nuit, Idarah, King Edmund, Tara Royal, Renard, Kid Cassidy, De Boitron, Free World and Eradicate; Bellvano, Norther Bay and Slieveardagh were in rear. 

 

Having disputed the lead with Ultimate, Kumbeshwar went on at the 6th obstacle.  As always, this race was being run at a frenetic pace; the first casualty being Lucky William, who unseated at the 8th; French Opera also made an error at this fence.  The next to depart was early leader Ultimate, who fell at the fence before the far turn, 5 out.  He brought down last year’s winner, Oiseau De Nuit.

 

Kumbeshwar continued to lead, from Tanks For That.  At the top of the hill, 4 out, French Opera and Free World departed, independently; Ruby’s mount, Toubab, was tripped up by the flailing legs of the latter and crashed out too.  Renard blundered badly when in rear 3 out and was pulled up.

 

Choc led narrowly into the home straight but Kumbeshwar hit two out when under pressure, handing the advantage to Tanks For That; in third was Anquetta, from King Edmund and Tara Royal, with Bellvano staying on.  Barry Geraghty’s mount led over the last fence but Bellvano launched his challenge, overtaking Kumbeshwar and then Tanks For That on the run in.  He won by 2¼ lengths.  Anquetta finished 4th. 

 

Yet another winner for the Nicky Henderson yard, their 7th of the week; although, admittedly, he trained 5 of the 21 runners in this race named in honour of his late father. 

 

Result

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1st

Bellvano

Paul Carberry

Nicky Henderson

2nd

Tanks For That

Barry Geraghty

Nicky Henderson

3rd

Kumbeshwar

Choc Thornton

Alan King

4th

Anquetta

Andrew Tinkler

Nicky Henderson

 

Finally an opportunity to see Choc return to the Winners’ Enclosure, albeit in third position once more.  His fifth 3rd place of the week in fact.  It was very disappointing, especially for Choc, to draw a blank again this year. 

 

Choc’s parents, Sally and Martin, were on hand to see their son arrive back aboard Kumbeshwar too. I waited to see Choc return to the Weighing Room and for the prizes to be presented.  It was then time for me to go home.

 

Having paid a visit to the loo, I set off for the car park to collect my car.  There had been over 70,000 attendees today, so there would be quite a wait to leave the car park and escape from the town of Cheltenham.  Whilst waiting for the traffic to disperse, I decided to tuck into a packet of cheese straws and a tub of chocolate covered biscuits.  I also changed my skirt for a pair of tracksuit trousers which I’d brought with me.  Well I might as well be warm whilst waiting to set off on my journey.  Besides, there was no rush to leave, it being the final day of the Festival, with no racing scheduled for me tomorrow ... or so I thought!

 

The queue of cars waiting to exit finally eased to a trickle at 19:05.  It was now time for me to leave.  Traffic was moving fairly freely on the roads immediately outside the course, although I was still instructed to turn right, initially travelling in a westerly direction.  I took a left turn to travel down Tommy Taylors Lane/Folly Lane and then another left to drive along St Paul’s Road, although navigating this particular thoroughfare in sometimes difficult due to the number of vehicles parked along its length.  I then drove through Clarence Square and, after waiting at the traffic lights moved forward into Clarence Road.  I then turned left ... traffic coming to a halt. 

 

It took a number of minutes to reach the roundabout, stop start stop start.  Ah, that would explain the delay; the traffic police were just withdrawing.  Why can’t they just leave everyone to their own devices?  As soon as they interfere, then traffic jams arise ... along with angry motorists!  At the roundabout I turned right, negotiated Pittville Circus, and took a left turn along Pittville Circus Road to reach Hewlett Road.  A further left turn permitted me to reach the longabout at the end of Hales Road.  I turned left, then immediately right to head up Harp Hill.  As I turned right into Greenway Lane a fox standing on the verge was illuminated in my headlights.

 

After negotiating the two traffic calming chicanes, I arrived at the Six Ways junction.  Following a short wait at the traffic lights, I was on my way.  Being after 19:00 it was now dark, but the journey across the Cotswolds went well.  And there was to be one more Cheltenham related occurrence on my way home ...   

 

Having reached the eastern end of the Witney bypass, the road narrows to become a single lane again. Upon this stretch of road there is a set of traffic lights, then a roundabout on the outskirts of Eynsham, followed by a second set of traffic lights where one can turn left to reach Cassington.  The first set of lights were showing green and there was no delay at the roundabout; however the second set were red, so I pulled up behind an Audi.  Emblazoned across the rear of the car, and illuminated in my headlights, was written Dougie Costello NH Jockey’ plus his sponsor’s logo, Maxilead Metals.  How weird is that?

 

He’d obviously set off from Cheltenham long after me and had been the last car to whizz by mine as the dual carriageway of the Witney bypass terminated.  I have to say that he did drive a little too close to the car in front of him ... but that is probably because he’s accustomed to riding in tightly-packed races!!!  I followed his vehicle to the outskirts of Oxford, whereupon he turned left to join the A44 and headed northwards; he was booked to ride at Uttoxeter the next day.

 

In contrast, I headed along the Oxford bypass.  It always amazes me the amount of traffic in the Oxford area despite it no longer being what I would consider the evening rush hour.  However, today it was worse than usual, as I was brought to a standstill on the second section of dual carriageway; there has been an accident.  The affected vehicles were blocking the inside lane, so there was a delay whilst everyone merged into the outside to avoid them.  And then I was on my way again. 

 

My route then took me onto the M40 eastbound carriageway to join the M25.  No further delays.  I decided not to leave the latter motorway at junction 21A, but proceeded to the next junction, London Colney.  It wasn’t particularly late, being 21:15, so I popped into the adjacent petrol station to fill up my car’s tank before continuing the final leg of my journey.  I arrived home at 21:30. 

 

I had been worried that I’d be exhausted when I got home following 4 tiring days, during which I’d driven around 800 miles.  But fortunately again this year I didn’t feel too bad and decided to log onto my laptop before turning in for the night.  Besides, I like to know where Choc will be riding the next day, so that I can follow his progress. 

 

However, I then discovered he would be riding at my nearest racecourse, Kempton Park, where he was due to have 6 rides.  My plans for a quiet Saturday at home went straight out the window; I had intended to recuperate, update my website and, perhaps begin to draft my diaries.  But now Kempton Park here I come!  Besides, in the words of Willie Mullins, ‘It would be rude not to’!

 

Before I finish this particular diary, I will write a summary of the week:

 

It was very disappointing that Choc rode no winners at this year’s Festival.  He must have been gutted; in fact I know he was.  Especially after fighting back from serious injury, having broken his upper right arm during a fall at Hereford last December.  The actual fall hadn’t injured him; it was the horse his mount had brought down that trod on his arm and broke it. 

 

Choc had been in the prize money though, riding a number of third placed horses – Medermit (Ryanair Chase), Smad Place (World Hurdle), Vendor (Fred Winter), Grumeti (Triumph Hurdle), Kumbeshwar (Grand Annual) and fourth places too – Montbazon (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle) and Lovcen (Albert Bartlett), plus a fifth place aboard Walkon (RSA Chase).

 

The human stars of this year’s Festival were trainer Nicky Henderson, with 7 winners – Sprinter Sacre, (Arkle Novices’ Chase – Grade 1); Simonsig (Neptune Investments Novices’ Hurdle – Grade 1); Bobs Worth (RSA Novices; Chase – Grade 1); Finian’s Rainbow (Queen Mother Champion Chase – Grade 1); Une Artiste (Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Grade 3); Riverside Theatre (Ryanair Chase – Grade 1) and Bellvano (Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase – Grade 3); and his stable jockey, Barry Geraghty having ridden 5 of those winners (all five Grade 1 winners in fact). 

 

They won the awards for top trainer and top jockey respectively.  In addition, Nicky Henderson not only broke but smashed Fulke Walwyn’s long-standing record of having trained 40 Festival winners; Nicky has now trained 46.  It was also a record number for a single Festival.

 

Jonjo O’Neill had an excellent Festival too, training 3 winners, including the winner of the Gold Cup, Synchronised.

 

It was also a good year for northern trainer Malcolm Jefferson, who trained two winners – Cape Tribulation and Attaglance ... and he’d sent only 3 runners to the Festival.  The third being The Panama Kid who had finished 16th in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Chase.

 

Not such a good Festival for Paul Nicholls, but he did train the winner of the Champion Hurdle, Rock On Ruby; his first Champion Hurdle win in fact.  But it was good for Noel Fehily, the winning jockey, who had lost the opportunity to be Paul’s second jockey following injury last season.

 

Big Buck’s was the only horse to retain a crown; winning his 4th consecutive World Hurdle.

 

It was classed as a bad week for Irish trainers ... with just 5 winners.  Willie Mullins having trained three of these – Quevega, Champagne Fever, Sir Des Champs; Thomas Mullins one winner - Alderwood; Roger Sweeney one winner – Salsify.

 

JP McManus owned five of this year’s winners – Alderwood, Alfie Sherrin, Bellvano, Sunnyhillboy and, of course, Synchronised.  It was his first Cheltenham Cup win too.  He’d had no winners at the 2011 Festival.

 

For AP McCoy, it was his second career Gold Cup win, having first won it in 1997 aboard Mr Mulligan. 

 

The most celebrated win of the week must have been that of Hunt Ball in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Chase on Tuesday, by extravert owner Anthony Knott ... closely followed by that in the Charity race when Tina Cook won aboard Pascha Bere trained by her brother Nick Gifford!  

 

Betting coos of the week – Conor Murphy, Nicky Henderson’s Head Lad, had won over a million pounds having just before Christmas placed a £50 accumulator on Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig, Bobs Worth, Finian’s Rainbow and Riverside Theatre!  Phil Williams, owner of the Donald McCain trained Son Of Flicka, won £933,000 having backed his horse down from 66-1 to 16-1 to win the Coral Cup. 

 

Five jockeys rode their first ever Cheltenham Festival winner – Richie McLernon (Alfie Sherrin – JLT Specialty Chase); Nick Scholfield (Hunt Ball – Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Chase); Jerry McGrath (Une Artiste – Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle); Campbell Gillies (Brindisi Breeze – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle); Harry Haynes (Attaglance – Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle). 

 

On the downside, eleven jockeys received bans for whip abuse, ranging between 2 to 7 days.  The offenders on Day 1 were (1) Jamie Moore (Fruity O’Rooney) – 7 days (2) Nick Scholfield (Hunt Ball) – 6 days; Day 2 (3) Andrew Lynch (Sizing Europe) – 6 days (4) Mr PW Mullins (Champagne Fever) – 2 days (5) Mr D Lavery (Moscow Mannon) – 7 days; Day 3 (6) Denis O’Regan (Cape Tribulation) – 2 days (7) Robert Thornton (Medermit) – 2 days; Day 4 (8) Bryan Cooper (Wingtips) – 2 days (9) Mr Sam Waley-Cohen (Long Run) – 2 days (10) Mr CJ Sweeney (Salsify) – 4 days (11) Mr Will Kinsey (Surenaga) – 5 days.

 

It was very sad that five horses lost their lives this year.  Firstly, Irish stalwarts 11-year-old Scotsirish (Willie Mullins) and 13-year-old Garde Champetre (Enda Bolger) both broke limbs during the Cross Country Chase, they had been good servants to their respective yards, and it would have been nice to enjoy happy retirements at the end of their long careers, but it was not to be. 

 

The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained 7-year-old Educated Evans was put to sleep having been seriously injured when crashing through the penultimate fence during Tuesday’s Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Chase.   The final two casualties had occurred during the Wednesdays’ Coral Cup; the Brian Ellison trained 5-year-old Abergavenny lost his life as a result of falling at the third flight, and the Philip Hobbs trained 7-year-old Featherbed Lane broke a hind-leg when galloping on the flat prior to the fifth flight.  RIP beautiful horses.

Click here for photos

 

 

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