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Cheltenham, 10-13 March, 2009

Cheltenham Festival 2009
Date: 10-13 March Racing starts: 1330 GMT each day
Coverage: Daily coverage on BBC Radio Five Live from 1300-1600, BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Channel Four and live updates on the BBC Sport website


By Oliver Brett


Text 81111 (with "RACING" as the first word), e-mail with "for Oliver Brett" in subject field or use 606. (Not all contributions can be used)

1701: Thanks for the e-mails and I'm going to sign off with this one from Iain in Southampton:

"The Gold Cup field looks very enticing tomorrow. Unfortunately, I work in a convent school, and therefore the headmistress is surprisingly immune to my requests to shut the library early so I can go and watch it. Do any of your readers have any solutions?"

Let me know by tomorrow morning! See you at 1245 on Friday when we start all over again.

1657: Here's Codd talking us through his first Festival winner: "When you're on a horse that's travelling so well it's easy to run a race like that. It was a case of just biding my time. He might have a nice weight in the the National." Just to confirm, a winner for John Quinn, from north Yorkshire, completing a clean sweep for English-trained horses today. The other five winners were trained pretty close to Cheltenham.

1651: Fascinating and quite brilliant ride by Jamie Codd, who had the stunning presence of mind to take a pull on Character Building at the bottom of the hill, and in the end won with a little bit to spare.

1640 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase (3m 1f)
1. Character Building (Jamie Codd) 16-1
2. Pretty Star (Danny Cook) 16-1
3. Newbay (Kevin Power) Prop 20-1
4. Bowleaze (Sam Allwood) 16-1

1640: Without a Doubt and a couple of others force a false start. Let's have another go shall we? Actually on replay there was not a lot wrong with that. A bit silly really. Anyway they're off now.

1633: Well Ross (1623), you're a lucky bunny because my admirable colleague Rob Hodgetts has found out that Finger onthe Pulse finished sixth and Oslot did not finish at all.

1630: So can we end on a winner in the last, another huge field for a handicap chase, and with amateur riders to boot. I'll pass despite my soft spot for Irish Raptor. Ed from London Bridge has had five winners already at the Festival and wants to know what I think about Poker de Sivola in the last.

Well, Ed, looks likely to start at 7-2 following a flood of cash all day for Nina Carberry's mount. Fell in his last race, but if he avoids mistakes I am sure he will run a big race...

1623: Not long to go now before the final race today, but remember there are another seven on Gold Cup day tomorrow.

"Can you please tell me where Oslot and Finger onthe pulse finished?" Office bet reasons. Thanks."
Ross (by text)

[What am I? A results service? (Only joking. Don't know. Sorry!)]

1616: Perhaps I ought to explain why we are not publishing all four places for all the races - following Kevin's query by e-mail. Traditionally, bookmakers only pay a fourth place in handicaps with big fields. However a number of bookies are doing special offers this week. If you really need to know, Tidal Bay and Kasbah Bliss each finished fourth in the two races "missing" fourth placings.

1610: It's been a bleak day for the Irish-trained horses, summed up when Clarified fell early on just now. England now lead 10-8 with one race to go today.

1606: A bit of a brutal race with a number of fallers, and the Venetia Williams pair were left to fight out the finish. Ping Pong Sivola looked the likeliest winner, particularly given her position in the market, but the less favoured stablemate Something Wells stayed on stronger.

1600 Freddie Williams Festival Plate (2m 5f)
1. Something Wells (Will Biddick) 33-1
2. Ping Pong Sivola (Liam Treadwell) 13-2 favourite
3. Notable d'Estruval (Davy Russell) 8-1
4. Three Mirrors (Graham Lee) 9-1

1559: Well I backed Silverburn each-way at a big price this morning and it's been nibbled at by a few others. Thanks to Wazza on e-mail for his tip for Ping Pong Sivola, but it's just greedy backing two horses!

1552: Well, by way of introducing the Freddie Williams Festival Plate at 1600 here's a nice e-mail from David in Cumnock. [I had to look up Cumnock, it's in East Ayrshire]:

"Cheltenham legend Freddie Williams passed away last June. I'm sure there will be a bus load or two down from his local shop in Cumnock for the 1600. We're all on Finger on the Pulse, here's hoping for a fine pay day. My family's lack of punting skills bought Freddie too many new tyres for his Jaguar over the years!! Rest in Peace 'Fearless'."

1550: A couple of people want to know who's riding Clarified in the 1600 following Paul Carberry's injury. The answer is Paul Townend. And by the way, Robert Thornton has also been stood down for the rest of the day. His ride on Turkish Surprise in that race goes to Wayne Hutchinson.

1545: Here's what the winning trainer has to say, Paul Nicholls: "He's a very good horse. He just keeps plenty for himself and has won with his ears pricked. I was very confident we had him at his peak and he looked fantastic.

"Probably making a mistake at the last didn't do him any harm. We bought him to be a Gold Cup horse, and he just might be one day, but it could be in two years' time now.

"Thank God for live text and Oliver Brett. It's very hard to keep track of the racing when you are on a building site where radios are not allowed!"
Big Jon, hungry on a dumper in Scarborough, via iPhone.

[First up, I love the fact people use iPhones on a dumper. But I'm sorry Punchestowns didn't quite do it for you, Jon!]

1532: So Paul Nicholls' decision to bring his horse back to hurdles after plenty of chasing promise is well rewarded, though it helps when Ruby's on board. The Irish jockey is on five winners for the meeting, while Nicholls joins Willie Mullins on three apiece.

1528: Kasbah Bliss was held in the rear until halfway through the final circuit, made progress going the long way round, but could not challenge going up the hill. Ruby Walsh's horse Big Buck's looked the strongest, and recovered well from a slight error at the last to just see off Punchestowns at the finish, while each-way backers who piled into Powerstation just before the off were well rewarded.

1520 Ladbrokes World Hurdle (3m)
1. Big Buck's (Ruby Walsh) 6-1
2. Punchestowns (Barry Geraghty) 100-30
3. Powerstation (Andrew McNamara) 25-1

1516: Big Buck's looks good going down to the start. They look like getting there in very good time. Kasbah Bliss is likely to start odds-on. Some late each-way support for Powerstation. The favourite and Punchestowns are the two main eyecatchers on Channel 4.

1508: Punchestowns has to be the horse to fear if you've put money on Kasbah Bliss. He has some very solid form this season.

1506: BBC Radio 5 Live are discussing the peculiar riding style of Kasbah Bliss's jockey, Christophe Pieux. He's 41 years old and is a multiple champion jockey in France so he can't be that bad. Trainer Francois Doumen tells the BBC: "He's been given tips by me; he knows what he did wrong last year. A jockey of that experience picks up very quickly the tricks to win a race."

1501:Kasbah Bliss is currently odds-on on Betfair. That's weird, given that Ladbrokes were doing everything they could to lay him this morning. Actually that will mean the "Magic Sign" will be licking its wounds if the French-trained gelding wins this one. Francois Doumen knows how to prepare horses for this race better than anyone. I think he'll win tidily.

1456: Is another favourite going to get beaten in the World Hurdle? Dayyul thinks so. Here's what he/she says on 606: "Best horse in the race but my gut tells me Kasbah'll get beat... same feeling I had with Binocular and VPU. I've been ante-post on Punchestowns all year and hope he wins 'cos I love the little horse..."
Discuss the day's racing on 606

"I'd say Voy Por Ustedes means "I'm coming for you (as in you plural) similar to the football chant "a por ellos, ole" meaning something similar to let's get 'em!"
Dan, in Bristol, by e-mail

[Cheers Dan. Bristol is actually where I studied Spanish - handy that it's close to Cheltenham!]

1451: Just a thought - the winner was SIXTH to Kauto Star on Boxing Day. What does that do to the favourite's chances for the big race tomorrow?

1447: That enormous sigh of relief you can hear is the sound of 1,000 bookmakers. A number of layers would have been virtually sunk if Voy Por had won, but it was a superb front-running performance by Paddy Brennan on Imperial Commander. He's one of the best jockeys in the business. Voy Por made a critical error four out and his bid to recover seemed to drain him for the finishing effort. Schindlers Hunt looked very handy at the bottom of the hill, but in the end had to settle for third.

1440 Ryanair Chase (2m 5f)
1. Imperial Commander (P J Brennan) 6-1
2. Voy Por Ustedes (Robert Thornton) 4-5 favourite
3. Schindlers Hunt (Paddy Flood) 22-1

1440: Anyway, Voy Por is the big favourite. Time to see if he can do it and make the bookies suffer again.

1436: As a former Hispanic Studies graduate, I do like the name of the favourite, though oddly I don't think I've ever backed him. I think you would translate Voy Por Ustedes as something like "I'm coming via your place" though it could mean "I am going because of you". I would love to know the real provenance.

1436: Time to focus on the next race. A big one - the Ryanair Chase. Nigel Twiston-Davies, trainer of Imperial Commander, does not usually reveal much, but says he might need to "draw the sting" out of the hot favourite, Voy Por Ustedes.

1434: The winner of the best-dressed lady racegoer award - probably has a different official title - seems to have purchased her entire wardrobe from TK Maxx. Loving that.

An e-mail from Tony - "Good stat on the spread of the winning jockeys. An interesting point would be how many of this weeks races have been won by Irish Jockeys?"
[Many Irish-born jockeys are based and live in England, Tony, so sometimes it's hard to differentiate. But I can confirm that Irish TRAINERS are beating their English counterparts 8-7]

1430: More news on Paul Carberry. He broke a rib as well as puncturing his lung and is receiving attention at Cheltenham Hospital.

"Kayf Aramis I love you!! Got on at 28s last night and stuck free £1 bet from the Sun on it too and added my own £2, delighted with that."
robyngeesdad on 606
Discuss the day's racing on 606

1426: Right, it's statto time. According to my figures, we've had 11 different winning jockeys and 12 successful trainers already this week. So despite Ruby Walsh's quartet of wins, the joy has been fairly evenly spread this week!

1422: A little more on the 1405. Venetia Williams had arrived at the Festival in great form so no surprise that she should get off the mark here. Pretty confident ride from the jockey, Buena Vista got to within two lengths at the end while Pennek was the fastest finisher, nabbing third.

1419: Here's winning jockey Aidan Coleman reflecting on that race on Radio 5 Live: "That was awesome and my 50th winner of the season. It couldn't have gone any better. He's got the hang of winning now. I don't think I'll be able to tell you how this feels for another week."

[I need to add here that our very own Clare Balding had predicted he would break his Cheltenham duck this week!]

1416: Kayf Aramis proved disappointing in the middle of the season, but had a low weight here despite reversing poor earlier form with wins in each of his last two races. How did anyone miss him as the winner?

1413: A solid staying performance by the winner, Aidan Coleman giving Venetia Williams her first success at this festival. The winner had been priced as long as 33-1 this morning so not necessarily an ideal result for the bookies.

1405 Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (3m)
1. Kayf Aramis (Aidan Coleman) 16-1
2. Buena Vista (Tom Scudamore) 10-1
3. Pennek (Robert Thornton) 9-1
4. The Sliotar (Mr D R Cook) 33-1

Don't Push It seeks to give the AP McCoy-Jonjo O'Neill team their first winner since Tuesday, but David Pipe's highly rated Buena Vista is well handicapped and is also quietly fancied.

1403: A man grabbed Clare Balding's arm, looked her in the eye and said the word Ballydub, twice, this morning. I've followed Matthew's advice [see 1356] and had a small bit of each-way on Pennek.

1401: Confirmation that after a fluctuating market in the first, which ended up with a number of horses vying for favouritism, Ballydub will start the next one as favourite. The Philip Hobbs-trained horse has been heavily backed in the last 15 minutes.

1356: Breaking news - Paul Carberry took a bad fall on Jaamid in the first and is in the ambulance with a suspected punctured lung. That sounds like the end of his Festival and let's hope he recovers soon. Richie McGrath picks up the subsequent spare ride on Foreman in the next.

"I fancy an outsider may squeak it in the next - a very opposable favourite in Don't Push It. Come on Pennek! Loving the commentary."
Matthew on e-mail
[I think Ballydub will actually start as favourite, Matthew, but I agree - Pennek looks to be a contender]

1349: As it happens, Green Mile is a generous price on the betting exchanges for the 1405 right now - about 13-1. Don't Push It and Ballydub are the two leading fancies.

"I'm all over Green Mile, like a RASH!"
Ciaran, on e-mail (see 1323)
[Are we masterminding a gamble here?]

1343: So Nicholls stands on two winners for the week, still one short of Willie Mullins, but with plenty left in his arsenal. England narrow the gap with Ireland overall, with the score 8-6 to the Irish.

"This was one of my strong fancies for the week. We looked after him and kept him fresh and we knew we had a big chance."
Winning trainer Paul Nicholls on BBC Radio Five Live

1336: With few horses able to put in a big finish, it was left to the Nigel Twiston-Davies horse, Crescent Island, to make the first bid for glory. But Chapoturgeon, under Timmy Murphy, timed his run to perfection and despite a slight error at the second last, stayed on up the hill to win it.

1330 Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase (2m 5f)
1. Chapoturgeon (Timmy Murphy) 8-1
2. Isn't That Lucky (Richie McGrath) 11-1
3. Crescent Island (Paddy Brennan) 25-1
4. Northern Alliance (Ruby Walsh) 8-1

1329: The market is pretty volatile with the horses down at the start for the opener. Tranquil Sea for Ireland is the new favourite.

"I'm following the tipster in my local paper, he's already come up with Dunguib, Cooldine and Punjabi this week. He fancies Isn't That Lucky in the first race."
Peter, on e-mail

[There's a bit of value about that one, Peter, so get on!]

1323: Kia Kaha is the on-course favourite for the first race, off in seven minutes. It's current price is 7-1.

"Have a friend who mentioned Green Mile in the 2:05 at Cheltenham. Anyone else hear anything?"
Paul, on e-mail

Well, Paul. Not on my shortlist as it happens. BUT - It's ridden by a jockey you might have heard of (a certain R Walsh), carries the lightest weight in the race, and Victor Chandler have trimmed its odds from 10-1 to 17-2.

1317: Fact for the day. A certain popular brand of Irish black stout has been dispensed for the one millionth time at the Festival.

"Today's the day that decides my week/month/possibly year, actually. All confidence has drained away, and my festival strategy is now starting to look like a monumental mug-punt, BUT... Wins for TIDAL BAY and PUNCHESTOWNS will have me heading for the Jaguar show room."
Orizaba on 606 [...Not everyone's been fleecing the bookies!]
Discuss the day's racing on 606

1313: Former Brookside actress Claire Sweeney has been talking fashion with BBC Points West. She says frocks and hemlines take a bit of a backseat at Cheltenham where staying warm and the racing is more of a priority. Good call, Clare
Watch: Actress Sweeney talks Festival fashion

1311: Any parents of a budding Ruby Walsh should listen to these words from the great jockey with three winners yesterday: "Mum and Dad made me finish school. They were great - they shipped me in and out of school to go racing."

More from Walsh's interview on BBC Radio 5 Live: "You have to give respect to all the other horses [in Friday's Gold Cup in which he rides favourite Kauto Star]. He [Kauto] got beaten last year fair and square on the day but I wouldn't swap him for anything else in the race. If Denman is the same horse as last year he's going to beat me and Neptune Collonges has done nothing wrong."

1304: Slash and Burn and The Vicar are the two horses being well backed for the first race. I quite like Kia Kaha and a previous Festival winner Naiad du Misselot - but haven't backed either. Tricky race this one.

1259: Congratulations to Nina Carberry, the winner of Cheltenham's annual award for "outstanding contribution made by a lady to jump-racing." The 24-year-old, born into a veritable racing dynasty, had already ridden three winners at the Festival, before collecting another on Garde Champetre on Tuesday.

1251: Ladbrokes have a feeling that Kasbah Bliss can be beaten in the World Hurdle and are offering almost generous odds of 11-8 about the French-trained favourite.

1249: It's always important to flag up the non-runners, and there are just three: the 1405 will feature neither Maucaillou nor Hills of Aran, and in the 1600 Borora does not run.

1245: Good afternoon folks. The big development today is that you can get involved by e-mailing me at - as well as through text and 606. Please type "for Oliver Brett" in the subject field.

The bookies took a right old caning yesterday, in case you hadn't heard. Ladbrokes, who sponsor today's big race at 1520, will be hoping Kasbah Bliss gets beaten in that one. Here's what the "Magic Sign's" David Williams had to say about Wednesday's blood-letting:

"Ruby Walsh has cost us millions. He's the Pied Piper of the punters - in Cheltenham week they dance to Ruby's tune. Mikael D'Haguenet was bad, Cooldine was awful and Master Minded was unspeakable. Results were filthy and the industry has taken a £25million body-blow."

There's more: "If we have a similar day three of the Festival, there's not much chance of us coming back for the Gold Cup on Friday. We'll be in the nearest pub drowning our sorrows until Easter."

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see also
World Hurdle joy for Big Buck's
12 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham day two photos
11 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Denman & Kauto top Gold Cup field
11 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
On the gallops with Kauto Star
06 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Denman dismissed as Gold Cup hope
07 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded romps to Chase win
11 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
Punjabi storms to Hurdle victory
10 Mar 09 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing

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