16:00 That's it from day one of Cheltenhams Christmas meeting. A reasonable crowd but still comfortable to move around. Tomorrow could be a different story however.
We will be back at Cheltenham tomorrow, until then it is good evening from the Cotswolds.
15:51 Last time Ruby Walsh was at Cheltenham, on Paddy Power Day, he finished up in hospital with a ruptured spleen.
This final race, a 2 mile hurdle, with “only” nine runners, was his comeback ride. His mount Mahonia was sent off the odds on favourite. Sadly it was not to be a fairytale return for Walsh as he was soundly beaten into second place by Karabak and the win was no fluke.
It has to be said the favourite was a false price and it was undoubtedly the Ruby Factor that made it go offat odds-on.
The race was notable for being unremarkable. Well it was until two out when Frontier Dancer came down, almost in slow motion, bringing down Dreamy Sweeny in the process. Both horses and riders returned in tact.
15:22 The last of our big fields was a 2m 1f handicap hurdle.
Gloucester was sent off the 4/1 favourite but was never sighted.
The race actually went to a 20/1 shot in the shape of Culcabock and I suppose it would be very un-British to boat that it was my nap of the day.
I have to admit it was a nervous finish to watch. The winner came from mid-division to lead as the field turned for home. Behind the field were bunching up, amongst them Stradbrook with McCoy on board.
Jumping the last Culcabock was still in the lead but Stradbrook still looked to have every chance. In addition both I Have Dreamed and Moon Star were running on.
Up the hill the leader was beginning to tire, however Stradbrook was tiring even more and I Have Dreamed ended up the main challenger. Luckily for the winner the line came in time to claim a diminishing two lengths.
Running-on Moon Star just denied Stradbrook third spot.
14:50 Another large field chase, this time a 16 runner conditionals handicap over 2m 5f.
This is the sort of event to avoid as a betting medium and it was a surprise to see the favourite, Very Cool, sent off as short as 2/1.
Tactically it was a very strange race with Junctiontwentyfour set off in front, a position he held until the top of the hill where he started dropping back through the field. You would have thought that would have been the last we saw of the gelding. However as they turned for home he was running on again, eventually finishing in second place.
The winner was Saunders Road, who wasn’t even mentioned in despatches in the early stages, however as they came down the hill he was picking off his rivals one by one jumping into the lead two out.
At this stage Cousin Nicky was looking booked for second only to fade dramatically and finish out of the places.
The winner was very tired on the run-in but had enough in hand to hold of the resurgent runner-up.
The judge had to sort out the minor honours, giving the call to Double Dizzy over Alexanderthegreat, another prominent early on, who dropped out and then ran on again.
The favourite came home fifth.
14:10 Well we had to wait until our fourth contest but we have finally been treated to a classic “Cheltenham finish”.
A 3m 1f handicap chase, our feature race of the day –sponsored by Boylepoker.
Old favourite Simon was the pacesetter but as we have already learned today front running is not paying dividends and Simon’s lead was lost as they jumped the final ditch at the top of the hill, when Fundamentalist took up the running.
As they came to the third last we were looking at a three horse race with Fundamentalist, Star De Mohaison (who had been tracking the leaders) and Mon Mome (who had also tracked the leaders) all jumping in unison.
Of the trio, ten-year-old Fundamentalist was the first to wave the white flag and we had a two way go.
At the last Star De Mohaison pit in the better jump, but Mon Mome was not going to be denied and a dour battle ensued along the hard, uphill, run-in. Full credit to the winners rider, 3lb conditional Aiden Coleman, who was recording the biggest win of his career.
Character Building, the favourite, ran on in the final stages but was denied third spot by the running on Possol.
13:39 First of all I need to begin with an apology, which I should have made earlier. Due to Cheltenham having somewhat unique press accreditation procedures, today’s coverage is without the benefit of access to replays in the press room. Therefore for the larger field contests the reports are based in initial reading of the race only. Therefore it is not possible to provide the normal level of detail in some of the race reports.
Now the parish notices are out of the way let’s turn to our third race, the cross country.
There are some so-called “purists” who claim these cross-country events are the spawn of Satan. I disagree, they are different, granted, but these races are a true test of jumping as they test the competitors over a range of different fences.
True cross-country events at Cheltenham have not been without controversy. Last time there was a debate about riders taking the “wrong” course when they had not. That particular problem was addressed today with the appearance of a new running rail.
There are few certainties in life, even fewer in racing. However when it comes to a cross country race at Cheltenham you can be pretty certain the prize will be crossing the Irish Sea. Add Nina Carberry into the equation and you are getting as near as you can to a racing certainty.
And so it was Nina’s mount Garde Champetre, a course and distance winner, was sent of a reasonably short priced favourite for a 16 runner handicap.
Nina, as she does settled her mount for most of the 3m 7 furlong contest.
Up front there was a very familiar name in the shape of L’Ami, stablemate of the favourite. Either leading or sharing the lead with Spare Change and Pass Me By for most of the contest, L’Ami was still in with a chance as they turned for home.
However by this time Nina was making her move and the feeling was when, not if, Garde Champetre would take the lead. The decisive move came as they approached the last and Nina took the lead and never looked to be in any danger.
L’Ami, to his credit plugged on to take the runners-up spot.
Nadover came from the clouds to take third and another stablemate of the front pair, Drombeag took fourth.
13:00 In contrast to our opener the second race was a sixteen runner handicap hurdle and it was a classy field to boot.
Pennek was sent off the 7/2 favourite and coming down the hill looked to be in with every chance, however the Alan King gelding struggled and faded in the final stages.
Being a test of stamina it is no surprise that those who contested the finish were the running on types.
Fair Along was settled behind the winners before running on to take the lead turning for home and approaching the last had a decent lead. His only serious challenger was Don’t Push It and with the champion jockey AP McCoy on board it must have been considered a serious challenge.
Fair Along jumped the last a couple of lengths in front of Don’t Push It but when McCoy asked his mount to challenge there was nothing there and he was treading water.
Maucaillou, who had also been held up was one paced in third and Cullahill was running-on to take fourth.
12:32 A non-runner in our next, Dan Buoy does not go and a jockey change with Jamie Moore taking the ride on Tora Bora.
12:23 A five runner 3m 1f Novice’s chase to get us underway and it saw Nigel Twiston-Davies Ballyfitz sent off the odds-on favourite.
Under Paddy Brennan he attempted to make it an all the way victory. Had Ballyfitz been fitted with rear view mirrors though Brennan would have seen both Tot O’Whisky and What A Friend tracking his every move as they turned for home.
It was What A Friend, ridden by under fire jockey Sam Thomas, who had most left in his locker, as between the last two horses he was soon on the favourites quarters.
A decisive leap by What A Friend at the last effectively ended the race as a contest and as the winner charged up the run-in, the favourite had nothing left to give.
Tot O’Whiskey finished third and the remaining pair, Rightway Star and Mr Parson finished a fence behind the others.
11:16 Good morning from Cheltenham, where after a couple of inspections we have a full card. The sun is trying to break through but the temperature is still hovering around zero.
The going is:-
Chase & Hurdle: Good to Soft, Soft in Places
Cross Country: Soft, Heavy in Places
We currently have no non-runners.
Return to race archive:
17 Dan Buoy (travel)
1st 4 What A Friend 15/8
2nd 1 Ballyfitz 5/6 fav
Place £1.30 £1.20
Time 7' 02.0''
1st 1 Fair Along 8/1
2nd 6 Don't Push It 12/1
3rd 14 Maucaillou 11/1
4th 12 Cullahill 16/1
Distances 6 , 2 & 5
Fav 15 Pennek 7/2 (Upl)
Place £2.00 £2.70 £2.90 £4.20
Time 6' 15.07"
1st 1 Garde Champetre 7/4 fav
2nd 2 L'Ami 8/1
3rd 5 Nadover 20/1
4th 8 Drombeag 7/1
Distances 1 1/4, 3/4 & 3 1/2
Place £1.30 £2.20 £4.60 £1.70
Time 9' 01.0"
1st 8 Mon Mome 11/2
2nd 1 Star de Mohaison 11/1
3rd 7 Possol 8/1
Distances 1/2 & 19
Fav 9 Character Building 7/2 (4th)
Place £2.30 £4.90 £3.50
Time 6' 49.93"
1st 9 Saunders Road 9/1
2nd 16 Junctiontwentyfour 33/1
3rd 1 Double Dizzy 16/1
4th 4 Alexanderthegreat 15/2
Distances 4 , 3 1/2 , short head
Fav 11 Very Cool 2/1 (5th)
Place £2.30 £8.10 £4.60 £1.70
Time 5' 38.1"
1st 6 Culcabock 20/1
2nd 11 I Have Dreamed 14/1
3rd 13 Moon Star 40/1
4th 7 Stradbrook 9/2
Distances 2, 4 1/2 & Sht Head
Fav 9 Gloucester 4/1 (upl)
Place £4.40 £3.40 £7.50 £1.80
Time no time recorded
1st 6 Karabak 11/4
2nd 1 Mahonia 8/11 fav
3rd 9 You're The Top 8/1
Distances 9 & 12
Place £1.20 £1.10 £2.20
Time 4' 20.19"