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Cheltenham Festival
Cheltenham, 11-14 March, 2008

By Oliver Brett

Denman maintained his unbeaten record to give his stablemate Kauto Star a seven-length beating in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

R Walsh
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Kauto Star's jockey Ruby Walsh

The final day of the 2008 Festival saw Ruby Walsh enjoy a terrific start to proceedings, picking up the two big hurdles races with Fiveforthree and Celestial Halo.

But with the going on the soft side of good, Kauto Star - with Walsh on board - always struggled to keep Denman in his sights, and was off-colour with his jumping.

Winning jockey Sam Thomas saw his mount tire slightly on the run-in, but Denman had done enough to take the landmark prize in British jump racing.

Early indications suggest that Denman and Master Minded, the brilliant winner of Thursday's Queen Mother Champion Chase, will be the highest rated chasers when the handicaps are next revised.


1748: Thank you for all your comments. It's been an extraordinary Festival, with the weather knocking out Wednesday, that remarkable Thursday with 10 races including fine wins for Master Minded and Inglis Drever, and today Denman completely upstaging his stablemate, and last year's Gold Cup champ, Kauto Star.

1742: Ruby Walsh is confirmed as winner of the Racing Post Leading Rider Award for the third time in five years. Paul Nicholls wins the leading trainer prize. Robert Thornton and Alan King just miss out on those accolades.

1735: It's been a tremendous day for Denman's connections, and for the bookmakers who could barely give him away. Either side of his victory there were some big-priced winners - so all in all there will be some fairly heavy satchels departing Prestbury Park and some pretty empty pockets.

1729: The Cheltenham Festival comes to an end with a big-priced Irish winner, ridden by Noel Fehily and trained by Tom Hogan. Paul Carberry gave the Tony Martin-trained favourite, Psycho, an enormous amount to do. Perhaps if he had produced his run a little earlier he might have run down the winner, but then again perhaps not.

1720 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f)
1. Silver Jaro (N Fehily) 50-1
2. Psycho (P Carberry) 5-1 Fav
3. French Saulaie (R Johnson) 40-1
4. Rio De Janeiro (Paul Moloney) 66-1
22 ran. Dist: 3, 2,

1721: They're under way in the final race of the Festival, the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle.

"Mght be wrong here but it looks like Thornton needs a winner in the last to take the top jockey title."
ruthere909 on 606

It's complicated, but "Choc" Thornton and Ruby Walsh both have three winners I think. So it goes down to the places now if neither snap up another winner in the last race.

1653: The big gamble on My Petra didn't quite come off. The only mare in the race ran bravely but she just didn't stay on as well as the winner.

"We were a shade worried about the easing ground but he had great preparation for the prace. Davy [Russell, winning jockey] has had a great week."
Winning trainer Arthur Moore

1640 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase (2m 110y)
1. Tiger Cry (D Russell) 15-2
2. My Petra (M Fitzgerald) 3-1 Fav
3. Calatagan (T Dreaper) 50-1
4. Andreas (R Walsh) 10-1
17 ran. Dist: 3, Hd, 2

"Who came last in the Gold Cup? I need to know for our office sweepstake - last place gets their quid back!"
Claire Hilton, by text
That honour would go to Afistfullofdollars, the Irish entry supplemented at great expense.

1644: The Grand Annual is under way.

1639: The Festival is coming towards its conclusion now, but there's still plenty of money flying about the place. My Petra, trained by Nicky Henderson, is favourite for the 1640 Grand Annual Chase, a race named after Nicky's father Johnny. He's taking all the cash in the ring.

1625: Paddy Power make Denman 7-4 favourite to retain his crown in 2009, with Kauto Star a 4-1 chance.

"He's had such a fantastic run in his point-to-pointing. He's really strengthened up and gave the horse a fantastic ride."
Lord Daresbury, owner of Amicelli, on the performance of his son, jockey Oliver Greenall

1605 Christie's Foxhunter Chase (3m 2f 110y)
1. Amicelli (Mr O Greenall) 33-1
2. Bon Accord (Mr J Tudor) 15-2
3. Arctic Times (Mr D Murphy) 40-1
23 ran. Dist: 6, 1, 4

"I mentioned that the ground will be like the Battle of the Somme, Denman will power through that like the Panzer division. He eats ground for breakfast and it wouldn't matter if Gordon Brown was on his back, he'd still win."
anubisrich on 606

"It would be amazing if racing could donate to Sport Relief. Maybe a painting of Denman?"
Elizabeth May Pink, by text
Elizabeth - I believe there have been some charity bets to raise money for Sport Relief, though nothing like the amazing quantites raised by "Sport Relief does the Apprentice".

1607: They're going to be a little late with the start of the Christie's Foxhunters Chase. It's the same course and distance as with the Gold Cup, only for hunter chasers and amateur riders.

1601: It's presentation time. Always a nice moment for the lass involved with the winner, in this case Jess Allen who's expecting a baby in July.

"We sometimes get caught up in the hyperbole, but this has been a really great Cheltenham Festival. To have lost the day in the middle in a way added to it. Sam Thomas will be very much in the headlines in the months and seasons ahead."
BBC Sport racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght

1555: Ruby Walsh reveals he always knew his horse was beat from early in the race. It just wasn't Kauto Star's day. If it had been, it would have been an unbelievable finish but it was still pretty memorable.

"I'm very pleased for the Denman connections. We didn't quite live up to our best and Ruby [Walsh] said the ground was a bit tacky. He just said he was never quite going. I think we'll have Denman on the re-match."
Kauto Star's owner Clive Smith

"You can't say any more. I let him do his thing early on. I got a cracking ride off the horse and he's such a good horse. He travels so well."
Denman's jockey Sam Thomas

1539: Denman destroys his stablemate with an awesome performance. Sam Thomas had very little to do because his horse was so good. Kauto Star made several mistakes with his jumping and never mounted a serious challenge until the last fence. But another error took the wind out of his sails once and for all, and he only just captured second place from Neptune Collonges, the early front-runner.

1530 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup (3m 2f 110y)
1. Denman (S Thomas) 9-4
2. Kauto Star (R Walsh) 10-11 Fav
3. Neptune Collonges (M Fitzgerald) 25-1
Dist: 7, Sht Hd, 9

1532: They're off. Denman settles in second place, Kauto third. Kauto Star went off at 10-11.

1529: Clare Balding on BBC Radio 5 Live is calling Denman as her tip to win. They're at the start now.

"You could almost hear a pin drop in the parade ring as the runners went around."
BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson

1525: They're parading now in front of the stands. Denman, out to 9-4 again, has that tough look about him for which he is famous, like a middleweight boxer. Kauto Star has the confident swagger and strut of an equine Kevin Pietersen.

"We know how good Kauto Star is, today is about finding out how good Denman is. My view is have faith in the one that has proved it."
AC2118, by text

"I watched the last race beside Zara Phillips in an elegant cream and black ensemble. Judging by the look on her face she wasn't on the winner."
BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson

1519: "I'm sure the English riders on the outsiders will be conscious of not spoiling the party too much."
BBC Sport pundit Peter Scudamore
Not so sure the owners of those outsiders would take such a charitable view, however!

"I'm loving it 'cos now it's on. I was about to take 9-4 as that's a bit too big. Evan Williams [winning trainer of Thursday's Bumper race] says it's genuinely soft ground out there."
Denman's co-owner Harry Findlay

"I've been thumped on the back and had my hand shaken more times than I can remember. Denman's coat looks absolutely radiant. Any young lady around would love to be wearing a coat like that."
Denman's co-owner Paul Barber

1509: Kauto Star and Denman, who live in next-door stables at their yard in Somerset, have also been neighbours during the Festival. They are about to be led out of their Cheltenham stables, with their bridles going on now.

1506: And suddenly we're there. Less than 25 minutes to go until the start of the biggest horse-racing duel in living memory. Exotic Dancer is 10-1 and a lot of people are suggesting he's going to run a big race. But we all know it's basically about last year's winner Kauto Star and his unbeaten stablemate Denman. At the moment Kauto is even money, Denman 2-1.

1500: Another exciting finish, but a strange one as The Tother One was weaving this way and that after leading over the last flight. The seven-year-old was clearly a bit freaked out by the crowd and if he had been able to run straight he may have given Sam Thomas his first Festival winner. But instead Robert Thornton collects his third winner of the meeting following his double on Tuesday.

1450 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (3m)*
1. Nenuphar Collonges (R Thornton) 9-1
2. Liskennett (N P Madden) 16-1
3. The Tother One (S Thomas) 9-2 Jt Fav
18 ran. Dist: 2,

1450: The Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle starts bang on time.

"There's a lot of jealousy amongst trainers. There used to be a lot of animosity towards Martin Pipe because he was so successful and a lot of people now would say 'I could manage to do what Paul Nicholls does if I had his horses.' "
BBC racing pundit Peter Scudamore on BBC Radio 5 Live

1446: News reaches me that the hacks on the Daily Star have thrown a big chunk of their monthly pay-packet at the Festival - and lost most of it. "So far this Cheltenham has been an absolute blood bath for everyone in this office," says one.

1439: The Festival cards have got a bit disjointed since the postponement of Wednesday's six races. A fourth hurdles race in a row will swiftly be upon us (at 1450). The favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle will probably be The Tother One, who's ridden by Sam Thomas (Denman's jockey).

"I had a dream Contraband won the Gold Cup at 500-1. Worth a couple of quid surely?"
Shearer: A Warrior, An Idol... A Legend on 606

"It's been absolutely terrific. Sir Alex Ferguson just said well done to me. Well done to Franchoek as well - that's a gutsy horse. I've had glasses of champagne and jellybeans all over the place."
Winning owner Andy Stewart, celebrating his first winner at the Festival

1424: Ruby Walsh collects his second winner in three races - remember he's on Kauto Star in the big one - in a ding-dong battle for the line with Tony McCoy, who has to settle for another second place. Paul Nicholls is the trainer of the winner.

1415 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 1f)
1. Celestial Halo (R Walsh) 5-1
2. Franchoek (AP McCoy) Evens Fav
3. Won In The Dark (A J McNamara) 16-1
14 ran. Dist: 2, 1,

1417: They're off in the Triumph Hurdle.

"We've had some light drizzle here for a while but it seems to be getting a bit heavier. Maybe this is an omen for Denman?"
BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson
Interesting, even though the markets would suggest otherwise...

1411: We're four minutes away from the scheduled start of the last big hurdle race of the Festival, the Triumph Hurdle. Franchoek is the hot favourite, Tony McCoy bidding for his second favourite of the meeting.

1409: Another non-runner in the 1720, Pigeon Island, which would have started at about 20-1. The field for that is really dwindling.

1407: Sad news coming through that the David Pipe-trained Whispered Promises, a heavy faller in the last, has had to be put down.

1404: I have a strong suspicion Kauto Star is going to start at odds-on. All bookies across the board, apart from the sponsor Totesport, are laying it at even money.

1358: "News flash to BBC. There are other horses running in the Gold Cup. Those pictures of Kauto Star and Denman's owners holding the Cup together is very arrogant indeed."
Anon, by text
To be honest, the Gold Cup has been billed as a duel for weeks, and most people connected with it are pleased for the extra publicity it gives racing. For what it's worth, I've had a small bet on Halcon Generlardais for a place. There's some money coming in, apparently, for AFistfullofdollars.

1351: We've had three races today, and three very tight finishes. This one went to a photo, with a relieved Davy Russell on Naiad du Misselot just holding off Ruby Walsh's mount, Kicks for Free. Russell, criticised in some quarters after Mossbank was beaten by Our Vic in Thursday's Ryanair Chase, didn't think he had won it.

1340 Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) (2m 5f)
1. Naiad du Misselot (D Russell) 7-1
2. Kicks for Free (R Walsh) 11-1
3. Junior (R Thornton) 12-1
4. Mendo (T Siddall ) 14-1
24 ran. Dist: Sht Hd, 1

"In between races I've had a chance to browse in the plethora of shops that are selling their wares. There are plenty of clothes and I almost bought one of the t-shirts bearing logos including Well Bred Filly, Firm Favourite and Hot to Trot! But my favourite item was the stick with a toy horse's head on top so you can run around and ride your own 'horse'. Cheaper than owning the real thing!"
BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson

1341: They're off in the Coral Cup, a race somewhat devalued in my opinion by the late withdrawal of long-time ante-post favourite Leg Spinner.

1332: I just had a look at the latest photos from Cheltenham on our special in-house BBC feed, to be greeted by a deluge of Kate Middleton piccies. She doesn't own Kauto Star, Denman or anyone else racing today but I can guarantee there'll be a few snaps of her in the papers tomorrow.

1329: Apart from the betting exchanges, the last bookie to offer "a shade of the odds" for Kauto Star backers is Coral, who have 11-10 available. By the time you read this it will probably go. Paddy Power are now joining Ladbrokes in offering 9-4 about Denman.

"Why are the last races from Cheltenham not on live commentary on 5Live? I thought you were the home of live sport! It doesn't end with the Gold Cup you know - why not at least put it on Sports Extra?"
Anon, by text
A question for somebody in a different position to me

BBC Radio 5 Live have caught up with Denman's shall-we-say "colourful" part-owner Harry Findlay, arguably the most fearless British punter. John Inverdale coolly asks him what it's like to lose 2.5m - as he did when the All Blacks failed to win the Rugby World Cup. He replies that the worst bit was taking the train home afterwards (from Cardiff to Bristol). "It's all relative, I've been skint a million times," he says.

1316: Now is that an indicator for the big race? Ruby Walsh, who partners Kauto Star in the Gold Cup, picks up his first winner of the day, and second of the festival, with the fast-finishing Fiveforthree. Willie Mullins is the successful trainer, following up his success late on Thursday.

1305 Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle (2m 5f)
1. Fiveforthree (R Walsh) 7-1
2. Venalmar (P Flood) 11-1
3. Trafford Lad (T Doyle) 9-1
15 ran. Dist: Nk, 4, 1

1306: They're off in the Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle.

1303: BBC Radio 5 Live Sport are cranking up their coverage: "These are the two outstanding horses of the time. It would be a damp squib if it went horribly wrong," says racing correspondent Cornelius Lysaght.

Peter Scudamore adds: "Obviously things can go wrong but I think you have great faith in these horses. They are great horses, undoubtedly, and let's hope they perform to their best and come home safe and sound."

I think one can assume they're talking about Kauto Star and Denman.

1301: Best Mate's owner Jim Lewis is at Cheltenham today, immaculately dressed in a tie and scarf bearing the claret-and-blue colours of the three-times Gold Cup winner. He's a part owner of Breedsbreeze, who goes in the next race.

1259: "In the parade ring ahead of the second race there's a group all wearing red and white striped Sunderland scarves. They form the Goat Racing Syndicate who own Forpadydeplasterer in the next race. They are already bursting into loud choruses and that's before the race has even started. The horse is well fancied so goodness knows what it will be like if it wins."
BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson

"I would be lying if I said I wasn't extremely disappointed at the removal of Leg Spinner for the Coral Cup. Been tracking him for so long and he was my big bet of the festival."
Nobody_Does_It_Berra on 606

1254: Next up is the valuable Ballymore Properties Novices' Hurdle, probably the third most important race of the day, and a pretty valuable one. Aigle D'Or, Forpadydeplasterer and Group Captain are all vying for favouritism.

"Absolutely thrilled. We've always though a lot about her and wer're absolutely delighted. Jason said if he'd had the balls he'd have sat a bit longer. The doubt was the trip, we knew she would travel. She probably shouldn't have been beaten all year if I'd done my job properly."
Winning trainer Donald McCain (son of Ginger)

1239: Well what an amazing opening race. Tony McCoy seemed to have timed his run perfectly on the Jonjo O'Neill-trained nine-year-old, but the outsider, under Jason Maguire, came back to pip him by a nose on the line. Whiteoak looked the winner coming up the hill, McCoy came through on Refinement to take the lead on the run-in, but the Donald McCain-trained horse took the honours.

1230 David Nicholson Mares Only Hurdle (2m 4f 110y)
1. Whiteoak (J Maguire) 20-1
2. Refinement (AP McCoy) 10-1
3. Chomba Womba (M Fitzgerald) 100-30 Fav
13 ran. Dist: Sht hd, 2

1232: They're off in the Mares Only Hurdle.

1224: Some more non-runners to tell you about: Logans Run (1305), Liberate, Shazand, Warne's Way (1340), Diego Velasquez (1415), Battlecry (1450), Ollie Magern, Racing Demon and Star De Mohaison (1530), Tinarana Lord (1605), Crozan and Gwanako (1640), Heathcote, Palomar, Foreman, Robin Du Bois and Poquelin (1720).

1223: There's going to be some serious disappointment for those of you who backed Leg Spinner in the Coral Cup - the ante-post favourite has been declared a non-runner.

1219: Just 11 minutes to go until the off in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle. It would be lovely if Theatre Girl, going under the in-form Alan King/Robert Thornton banner, could win as Nicholson was King's mentor. However, one of Chomba Womba or Sweet Kiln could be too fast for her.

1208: Another update on the market for you. Of the 30m expected to be traded on the Gold Cup, not too much of it is for Denman at the moment. He is now a bigger price than 2-1 in some quarters. Ladbrokes are the first bookies to stretch his price out to 9-4. Is that tempting you at all?

"Michael Dickinson, who trained the first five home in the 1983 Gold Cup, is being interviewed in the parade ring about his achievement. He is in the Kauto Star camp today, but is impressed by Denman who he thinks will win a Gold Cup one day."
BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson

1203: Believe it or not, there are some other races today, and we start with the inaugural running of the Grade Two David Nicholson Mares Hurdle, named in memory of the legendary Cotswold-based jockey and trainer, who died two years ago. "The Duke" enjoyed 17 victories as a trainer at the festival, and three in a day in 1995. The race is due off at 1230.

1156: Having previously suggested that none of the newspaper tipsters were going for Denman, I have unearthed one in the Daily Telegraph. Hotspur writes: "If it is riding on the soft side, powerful Denman will get his chance to beat Kauto Star. He was as good a winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury as you will see. Jockey Sam Thomas can be expected to sit handy to the pace, ready to go on at any stage should the tempo slacken."

1145: With the first race due off at 1230, now might be the time to settle down with a cup of tea and indulge in one the magnificent 360-degree views of the racecourse, courtesy of our good friends at BBC Gloucestershire.

1140: I've just been checking the markets for the big race. It looks like all the money is for Kauto Star. The 5-4 has gone, so too the 6-5, and there are just a few online bookies taking 11-10. Denman is still 2-1.

1135: Here's the latest from our on-course reporter:

"When I arrived at 0915 there was a real buzz about the place and the excitement has been gradually building since then. People are wearing either Kauto Star or Denman rosettes, nailing their colours to the mast for the Gold Cup. Plenty of people are already trying to get a good vantage point even though the big race is still several hours away."
BBC Sport's Elizabeth Hudson

"Outside of the top two I like Knowhere, what are people's thoughts on this epic race?"
graffic on 606

Knowhere was tipped by his own trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies last night... Personally, I think the horse to back each-way is Halcon Genelardais, based on an outstanding run in the Welsh National under a massive weight.

1130: A very good morning to all of you. So who's your money on? The proven champion Kauto Star or the unbeaten bruiser Denman? Or will Azulejo (Portuguese for "tile") come from knowhere to beat all of them at 2000-1? Some interesting tips in the morning papers, where Denman is friendless. They all go for the reigning champion, bar the Sun which is tipping up Exotic Dancer (a best price 12-1).

Master Minded powers to Chase win
13 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Inglis Drever claims historic win
13 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham day 3 as it happened
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Katchit takes thrilling victory
11 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham day 1 as it happened
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