CHELTENHAM 2015 FESTIVAL DIARY: DAY 1

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Updated: March 10, 2015

Beautiful weather helped welcome race fans to the start of the Cheltenham Festival where the going was officially Good to Soft (good in places).

1.30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1, Class 1): Distance 2m 0f 110y: Fences 8: 12R

Ruby Walsh aboard Douvan. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Ruby Walsh aboard Douvan. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Going into the first flight Some Plan and Sizing John took to the front with race favourite Douvan looking keen in the middle of the field. Some Plan had a three to four length lead at the third jump with Qewy taking the back marker role. Seedling unseated its rider after pitching badly on landing at the fourth obstacle. By the sixth flight the field had closed in on Some Plan now third with Sizing John and Tell Us More narrowly taking the front two spots. However, going into the turn with one jump remaining Douvan had travelled into second place with Sizing John just ahead and Shaneshill just behind. Leaping the final hurdle 2-1 f Douvan took pole position romping toward the line to win by 4 ½ lengths. Shaneshill at 9-1 odds took second place 2 ½ lengths ahead of Sizing John at 25-1.

2.05 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase (Grade 1, Class 1): Distance 2m: Fences 13: 11R

Un de Sceaux triumphs. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Un de Sceaux triumphs. Image credit @Channel4Racing

From start to finish Un de Sceaux the race favourite ridden by Ruby Walsh was at the front, an achievement not managed in the Arkle since Analogs Daughter in 1980. Over the course of the race the second horse changed from Dunraven Storm at the third flight to Vibrato Valtat with six to go. Three fences later Un de Sceaux maintained a three to four length lead ahead of Vibrato Valtat, God’s Own and Josses Hill. God’s Own began a challenge on the leader two from home but 4-6f Un de Sceaux going into the home straight extended his advantage to win by 6 lengths. God’s Own 33-1 took second place 2 lengths in front of Josses Hill at 12-1 odds.

2.40 Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase (Grade 3, Class 1): Distance 3m 1f: Fences 21: 24R

The Druids Nephew in full flight. Image credit @Channel4Racing

The Druids Nephew in full flight. Image credit @Channel4Racing

What a Warrior and Smart Freddy were two of the first away from the biggest field of the day. The early lead at the third flight was taken by Annacotty with Azure Fly in close second. Annacotty maintained pole position until the final turn before falling back. With 12 to go Ned Stark was travelling nicely on the rails in the middle of the field with Annacotty, Grand Jesture and Azure Fly the front three runners. Azure Fly with 8 to go and Grand Jesture at four to go both made mistakes. The race opened up just as Annacotty began to fade and The Druids Nephew had taken to the front two from home. With a two to three length advantage over Grand Jesture before the uphill run to the finish The Druids Nephew (8-1 2f) accelerated to win comfortably by 3 ¾ lengths. Grand Jesture at 25-1 odds took second place 1 ½ lengths ahead of Gallant Oscar 9-1 a head in front of 16-1 Indian Castle.
In the third race of five televised on Channel 4 TV this was the only one which did not feature a Wullie Mullins trained winning horse (Walsh 3 wins, Townend 1). Instead the accolades went to trainer Neil Mulholland and Barry Geraghty.

Neil Mulholland & Barry Geraghty. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Neil Mulholland & Barry Geraghty. Image credit @Channel4Racing

3.20 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy: (Grade 1, Class 1): Distance 2m ½ f: Fences 8: 8R

Looking a champion Faugheen before the race. Image credit @tdthurgood

Looking a champion Faugheen before the race. Image credit @tdthurgood

Straight from the off, race favourite Faugheen was at the front and the horse never seemed to be troubled by the competition. In the turn to the back straight with six to go jockey Ruby Walsh had a 2 ½ length advantage over Jezki followed by The New One and Vaniteux. With four fences remaining the field order was Faugheen, The New One, Jezki, Hurricane Fly, Vaniteux, Kitten Rock, Arctic Fire and Bertimont the back marker. The whole field were grouped tightly together at the top of the hill with only around seven to eight lengths between first and last. Two from home Arctic Fire was improving steadily and Faugheen jumped awkwardly making about the only error in his race. Despite this the horse went into the last hurdle around four lengths ahead of Arctic Fire in second place. Storming toward the finishing post Faugheen the 4-5 f took victory by 1 ½ lengths ahead of 20-1 Arctic Fire eating up the ground in a valiant attempt to catch the winner. Hurricane Fly at 8-1 odds came in five lengths behind for third place. This gave trainer Wullie Mullins a 1-2-3 in the Champion Hurdle.

Faugheen chased by Arctic Fly to the line. Image credit @Channel4Racing

Faugheen chased by Arctic Fire to the line. Image credit @Channel4Racing

4.00 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle: (Grade 1, Class 1): Distance 2m 4f: Fences 10: 15R NR The Govaness (lame)

Bitofapuzzle and Carole’s Spirit took the initiative at the start of the race. With seven to go the running order at the front read Bitofapuzzle, Carole’s Spirit, Centasia, Emily Gray and Polly Peachum with Annie Power looking switched off but travelling easily. The race favourite was in around fifth place with five to go. Three from home Glens Melody was improving and at the second last hurdle Annie Power had moved alongside Polly Peachum, only to take to the front turning in toward the final flight. At this point with a two length advantage Annie Power looked to have the race in the bag with every stride separating her further from the rest of the field. As the last obstacle came into view the horse’s ears pricked and she leapt just a fraction too soon thus clipping the top of the jump, resulting in a horrific looking headlong crash into the turf. L’ Unique was brought down as a consequence of this dramatic fall by Annie Power and thankfully both horses and jockeys seem to have come out of the incident unscathed. A battle ensued as three horses all bunched together charged for the finishing post, with Glens Melody at 6-1 odds taking victory by a head over 9-1 Polly Peachum with Bitofapuzzle just a neck behind in third at 16-1. The Pirate’s Queen came in fourth at 25-1.

4.40 Toby Balding National Hunt Chase: (Listed, Class 1): Distance 4m: Fences 25: 17R

At the start Vivaldi Collonges, Return Spring and I Need Gold took to the front. Before the sixth fence Cause Of Causes was the back marker of the field but began to get involved in the race by the thirteenth jump. Around this point the front runners were Perfect Gentleman, Return Spring, Perfect Candidate and Doing Fine with about ten lengths between first and last. At the second last hurdle Cause Of Causes had stealthily crept closer to contention with the leading group. With the final flight negotiated and a two furlong home straight run in Perfect Gentleman had nothing left to give and Broadway Buffalo was struggling. This gave 8-1 Cause Of Causes the perfect conditions to spring into the lead to win by 1 ½ lengths over Broadway Buffalo at 12-1 odds. Five lengths behind The Job Is Right took third and Perfect Gentleman fourth places both at 10-1 odds. Theatre Queen was a faller during the first circuit and screens remained around the horse on the second, resulting in that particular jump being missed on the return.

5.15 CHAPS Restaurant Barbados Novices’ Handicap Chase: (Listed, Class 1): Distance 2m 4f 110y: 20R

Golden Hoof fell at the first fence and as the horse ran loose it narrowly missed three spectators as it charged through the railings. Horizontal Speed went to the front at the third fence whilst Little John had made two jumping errors before the fifth hurdle. Rum and Butter pulled up shortly after and going downhill the leading group was Horizontal Speed, Little John, Knock House, Thomas Crapper and Keltus. Irish Cavalier was under pressure possibly around third last in the field, from what I could tell from the radio commentary, before the horse showed a tremendous acceleration going into the final two flights. Thomas Crapper, Little John and Horizontal Speed took the final hurdle together but Little John blundered again and suddenly Irish Cavalier having flown in the latter stages of the race was in contention. At the finish Irish Cavalier at 11-1 secured victory by 2 ½ lengths over Thomas Crapper 6-1f just half a length ahead of 8-1 Generous Ransom in third, a neck in front of 12-1 Horizontal Speed. In this race the water jump was eliminated due to it sustaining damage during the afternoon.

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