Cheltenham Festival 2009
LATEST ACTION (ALL TIMES GMT)
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1727: That wraps it all up from us. Just to confirm Ruby Walsh has seven winners from the four days, the best haul ever by a jockey, while the man he rides so many of the big ones for, Paul Nicholls, was the leading trainer with five.
Ireland had eight winners by Wednesday night, but just one more from the last two days to narrowly miss a new record for them.
1724: Trainer Charlie Mann has never had a Festival winner, but he so nearly broke his duck here after Noel Fehily sent a lively-looking Moon Over Miami to the front just after the bend. But instead the tenacious Alan King, with Oh Crick on a low weight, had his long overdue first winner of the week. Good effort from jockey Wayne Hutchinson in one of the closest finishes of the week.
1715 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (2m)
1. Oh Crick (Wayne Hutchinson) 7-1
2. Moon Over Miami (Noel Fehily) 20-1
3. French Opera (Marcus Foley) 10-1
4. Tramantano (Paddy Brennan) 33-1
"Thinking outside the box for the last race and backed Tramantano each way in the 5.15. Any thoughts?"
Chris in London, by e-mail
OK Chris. Put it this way. I like the Twiston-Davies stable, but they've had two winners already this week and I think that's what they'll have to settle for. How about David Pipe's I'm So Lucky? His yard hasn't been at all lucky.
1700: There's a lovely weighing-room shot from the only broadcaster left at Cheltenham, Racing UK, of Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty. They look no more knackered than two men sitting in their local pub and yet they have had 10 winners behind them this week.
1656: We're winding things down a bit now at TV towers, but have a look at our report of the big race and today's photo gallery, both supplied by my very busy colleague Elizabeth Hudson:
Historic Gold Cup win for Kauto
Cheltenham day four photos
"Thank goodness for your live text and cheeky comments this week Oliver. It's been a slow week at work for me but a very prosperous one! I've had four winners, and eight placed! It means I have a healthy £60 profit at the end of this week!"
Kirsten in Somerset, by e-mail
Guess who's getting the ciders in tonight then, Kirsten!
1649: Nicky Henderson picks up his second winner of the day, and third of the Festival, while anyone who backed the second-placed horse each-way, Midnight Chase (100-1), is looking at a very nice pay day.
1640 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (2m 4f)
1. Andytown (Felix de Giles) 25-1
2. Midnight Chase (Matt O'Connor) 100-1
3. Big Eared Fran (Jonny Farrelly) 7-2 favourite
4. Font (Harry Skelton) 14-1
"Oliver, I have had the best betting EVER on Cheltenham
a nice healthy take on the first three races, followed by Kauto Star's superb race, then Cappa Bleu as part of a cheeky double. It is going to be a nice weekend! (haven't done much work today must admit
Lasse in Northampton - via e-mail
Well done Lasse. I'm down quite a bit actually, with only a winning match bet (at odds-on) on Exotic Dancer to beat Barbers Shop preventing a total washout today.
1640: We're not far away now from the start of the first ever running of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle. Martin's son David has loads of runners in this.
1636: I've spent ages trying to work out where the last winner was trained. The answer is Shropshire, so a big shout out to Sheila Crow's yard and their big winner in the amateur riders' version of the Gold Cup.
1631: Now - time to mention a very worthy cause, in the aid of which my four-year-old son turned up to school today with the most ridiculous-looking hair you could imagine.
Comic Relief is being "live blogged" tonight - and all the details and latest entries are here: Good luck with all your fund-raising efforts.
BBC Comedy - LIVE blog
1630: Thanks for all your e-mails by the way, and sorry I've missed some, There was a predictable deluge between 1500 and 1520 and I just couldn't cope!
1622: Aha. The e-mail I have been waiting for all day: "Just to let you know, I did manage to get out of the convent school to watch the race (a fictional meeting with a supplier did the trick). Well worth it, and I got a couple of pints in at the same time. All is well on the South coast."
1617: Roy. You wondered why you didn't get paid out on Starluck for a place in the first race. Simple - Betfair's terms were for three places, not four.
1615: OK - on the cruelly neglected Foxhunters' - Young Sam Twiston-Davies gave his horse Bay Run a stirring ride, but the more experienced Richard Burton took the inside rail and cajoled the winner, Cappa Bleu, up the hill. Baby Run ran out of gas and was pipped by Turthen for third, with Amicelli taking fourth.
1613: Correction - because it might be important for some of you. In the Gold Cup: Halcon Genelardais and Snoopy Loopy were pulled up, while Miko de Beauchene fell.
1600 Christie's Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup (3m 2f)
1. Cappa Bleu (Richard Burton) 11-2
2. Turthen (Charlotte Tizzard) 25-1
3. Baby Run (Sam Twiston-Davies) 14-1
4. Amicelli (Tom Grenall) 9-1
1558: And just think about this, while the rest of you kick off your office shoes and grab the slippers and the TV remote control tomorrow, Sir Ruby Walsh will be back in the mud in his native Ireland, racing at Naas.
1550: This is the full finishing order, as requested by some of you:
Kauto Star, Denman, Exotic Dancer, Neptune Collonges, My Will, Roll Along, Barbers Shop, Madison Du Berlais, Albertas Run, Knowhere, Cerium, Air Force One, Star De Mohaison.
Three horses were pulled up - Halcon Genelardais, Miko de Beauchene and Snoopy Loopy.
1548: The race has onve again eluded the Pipe team. Trainer David Pipe admitting it "just wasn't Madison du Berlais' day".
1547: And finally trainerPaul Nicholls: "He's fit, he's fresh, he was never going to get beat today, but what a race Denman ran - two weeks ago you'd have drawn stumps. It was a huge run from him and he'll be back next year.
"Kauto Star was fresh, very fit and the ground came right. He's a very good horse. My Will finished fifth as well, he ran a blinder. He will go to Aintree now with a massive chance. Neptune Collonges [fourth] ran a cracking race, the ground had just gone against him."
1545: More from Walsh, who now has SEVEN winners at this Festival. That's just greedy, isn't it?:
"When Sam [Thomas, on Denman] moved up alongside me I didn't know what was going to happen off the bend. But in all fairness to him he has picked up, winged the second-last and galloped all the way to the line.
"Denman has run an incredible race because two weeks ago it was 50-50 whether he was going to run or not and he has turned into the straight upsides in a Gold Cup, an incredible performance."
1542: Ruby Walsh: "He's the greatest horse I've ever ridden. Two miles, three miles, now two Gold Cups. He's magic, he's a wonder horse. He travelled super all the way. I planned to follow Christian [Williams on Neptune Collonges] over the second last, but he pinged four out, pinged three out and two out as well. I love him anyway."
1537: A few more reflections on the race. Denman and Kauto Star were ridden alongside each other, with Barbers Shop just in behind. But when Neptune Collonges was finally joined by his two stablemates it was pretty clear that Kauto would have his revenge over Denman and there would be no close finish.
Ruby Walsh was 13 lengths ahead when the winning post came. Barbers Shop finished weakly and outside the places but must have had the Queen really excited for much of the race.
"Denman to reclaim it next year. I think it would have been his race had it been in a few more weeks. Kauto ran a good race though."
Godsdrinkingpartner on 606
Discuss the day's racing on 606
1535: I will bring you a complete finishing order in due course, just as soon as we get it. I know it's important for some of you!
1531: He is not the first horse to win the Gold Cup twice, but he is the first to win it back having lost it to a rival. It is, if you like, the racing equivalent of Brian Lara regaining the highest score in Test cricket (which he did in 2004).
1530: Kauto Star was produced at the perfect time after his stablemate Neptune Collonges had made all the running under Christian Williams. The grey ran out of juice up the hill, leaving a third Paul Nicholls horse, Denman, to take second place. Exotic Dancer finished well to take third.
1527: A stirring performance from Ruby Walsh and Kauto Star, who travelled impeccably throughout and ended up winning by a very handy margin.
1520 totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup (3m 2f)
1. Kauto Star (Ruby Walsh) 7-4 favourite
2. Denman (Sam Thomas) 7-1
3. Exotic Dancer (Tony McCoy) 8-1
4. Neptune Collonges (Christian Williams) 15-2
1520: They're off on time!
1519: John McCririck reports some late money for Barbers Shop, but Kauto Star is still easily the most popular horse at Cheltenham.
1516: The TV team reckon Miko de Beauchene is the best-looking horse in the paddock. I can't see it winning, though, despite a pretty bullish interview from his jockey Robert Thornton the other day.
1514: A bit of money for one of the outsiders, Air Force One. Virtually neglected by most of the pundits, Noel Fehily's mount has bits of pretty useful form.
1510: Kauto Star remains a "warm" favourite says the BBC's Rob Nothman. Paul Nicholls has five runners in this, including the top three in the betting, and tells 5 Live: "I am going to have a cup of tea and watch the race somewhere quietly."
Cup of tea! That would be the last thing I would order if I could get to the front of a Cheltenham bar.
1508: Just 12 minutes remain until the tape goes up and 16 of the finest steeplechasers in the land gallop towards the first fence.
1505: There's an awful lot of bowing going on in the parade ring. The Queen is wreathed in smiles as she has a good look at her horse, Barbers Shop, who's still a tempting 11-1 or so for The Gold Cup.
1504: Her Maj is coming down to see her horse, says BBC Radio's John Inverdale. I am still waiting for someone to ask her if she is in red because it's Comic Relief Day! Just looking at Denman entering the parade ring now, and he doesn't look completely uninterested.
1501: All you Denman fans out there, and judging from the e-mails and texts there are rather a lot, I have to say he is drifting quite a lot on the online betting exchanges (where people bet against each other). Neptune Collonges, friendless all day, is suddenly being backed, on the other hand.
1459: Clare Balding is waxing lyrical about Kauto Star on BBC Radio 5 Live: "He looks absolutely terrific. He looks wonderful," she says.
1457: Kauto Star is rock solid at 15-8 on the course, but Exotic Dancer is one of the most keenly backed horses in the big race, right in to 17-2, and remember his jockey is none other than A P McCoy - looking for his first Gold Cup winner since 1997.
1454: Denman's coat is "not as forward" as it was this time last year, says TV's Alice Plunkett. What she means is that he is not necessarily in tip-top condition, though we'll just have to see about that.
"The buzz and excitement is unsettling the staff as we all huddle around one computer station refreshing live text on BBC for the hope that the real Denman will be back."
Mr Darcy, Leeds, e-mail
An office in Leeds is a most unbecoming environment for someone calling himself Mr Darcy!
1448: The Irish pick up their ninth winner of the meeting, but their first since Wednesday, with Charles Byrne's Weapon's Amnesty collecting a valuable prize. Ruby Walsh looked to have the winning mount on the heavily-backed Pride of Dulcote, but for once was beaten in a thrilling finish - Davy Russell refusing to give an inch even though the favourite inched up to within a neck at the finish.
1440 Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle (3m)
1. Weapon's Amnesty (Davy Russell) 8-1
2. Pride of Dulcote (Ruby Walsh) 3-1 favourite
3. The Midnight Club (Emmet Mullins) 14-1
"Kauto Star is now surely looking unbeatable with the form Ruby is in. If my work place allowed betting sites, I would be doubling my stake right now."
Tom, London, e-mail
1435: The Channel 4 team are trailing Paul Nicholls' three fancies for the Gold Cup, and attempting to glean some info from their grooms as the horses are led into the racecourse. Kauto Star, who looks bright and interested, is groomed by Nick Childs, who says it is "surreal" looking after the 2007 winner.
1433: Pride of Dulcote (backed by Mark in London, see below) is well fancied in the next race, a Novices' Hurdle. Cape Tribulation is the top-rated horse, but does not benefit from the almost inhumanly brilliant riding of Ruby Walsh - that alone probably taking Dulcote to the top of the market.
1427: (Thanks to my colleague Elizabeth Hudson for supplying that interesting regal snippit while I dashed to get a sandwich.) Mark Beasley in London texts in, saying: "If Pride of Dulcote doesn't win I think I'll give up on racing!"
Mark - don't be like that - what would fill the aching vacuum in your life without this beautiful sport?
1424: Speaking on BBC Radio Five Live, the Queen's granddaughter Zara Phillips(who is wearing a stylish cream coat, black beret and black boots) tells Clare Balding that she is trying to persuade her grandmother to move away from Flat racing and concentrate instead on National Hunt matters.
1412: Give Mr R Walsh the freedom of Cheltenham. That is the jockey's SIXTH winner of the Festival, and the fourth for trainer Paul Nicholls. But few had this one down on their shortlist. He officially won by 10 lengths, which in a tight handicap like this is a ridiculous amount.
"I tipped him in The Irish Examiner," Ruby Walsh tells Clare Balding on BBC Radio 5 Live. Well there you are, Irish Examiner readers. Assuming you backed it you'll have a good weekend with a 20-1 winner.
1405 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle (2m 1f)
1. American Trilogy (Ruby Walsh) 20-1
2. Stradbrook (Richard McLernon)
3. Cockney Trucker (Richard Johnson) 17-2
4. Nortonthorpe (Daryl Jacob) 50-1
1403: A horse called Cockney Trucker looks to be the big "steamer" in the next race, off at 1405. Hmm, Philip Hobbs and Richard Johnson after their first winner of the week. The in-form Barry Geraghty, on Barbers Shop in the big one, rides the favourite Dave's Dream.
"This is purgatory, no holidays to take due to the arrival of my beautiful daughter, no digital signal for the tranny, going to have to leave work early to watch in the local bookies, opposite Denman Park in Aberdeen. Could it be an omen?"
Kevin in Aberdeen, e-mail.
1402: I can help out Andrew in York [see below]: "Denman is named after Lady Denman who was the first something or other with the WRVI!"
Alan (waiting for Barbers Shop in the Gold Cup) in Glasgow (text)."
Can't confirm that, but did you mean the WRVS? Thanks to wikipedia for the following, anyway: "Gertrude Mary Denman, Baroness Denman, GBE (7 November 1884 - 2 June 1954) was a British woman active in women's rights issues including the promotion of Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom." So there.
1358: After no bets on Tuesday, a decent enough day on Wednesday but a less good one on Thursday, I am down to small bets now, given that I already have plenty of interest in the Gold Cup. I am on Raise Your Heart in the next, largely on the basis that we're well overdue an Irish winner.
1350: Yet more on Denman, a nice little Radio 5 Live interview with one of his two owners Harry Findlay: "In terms of how he ran at Kempton I wasn't sure whether he'd come to Cheltenham. But in terms of personality, he's certainly perked right up and he's back to his old animal self. He hadn't been like that for quite a while."
1348: The Denman obsession on the e-mails continues apace: "Can you tell me where the name Denman comes from? I only ask as it is my mother-in-law's maiden name and there seems to me a strong likeness between them."
Andrew Gell, York
Andrew - I don't know pal - but I hope your mother-in-law is no aficionado of BBC text commentaries!
1343: So Henderson moves up to two winners in the leading trainers' table - one behind Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins - while Geraghty is the second jockey to reach three winners, and is just two behind Ruby Walsh now.
1338: A really exciting finish, after Ebadiyan, who had chances, got spooked and was forced off the course just before the closing stages. The finish was a stirring contest between two greys, with Nicky Henderson's Zaynar, ridden by Barry Geraghty, just prevailing over the well-backed Walkon.
Here's Geraghty on BBC Radio 5 Live: "We knew he would stay. [Cheekpieces] helped him travel. He probably doesn't know much about racing but he's dead genuine."
1330 JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 1f)
1. Zaynar (Barry Geraghty) 11-2
2. Walkon (Robert Thornton) 4-1 favourite
3. Mourad (Ruby Walsh) 14-1
4. Starluck (Timmy Murphy) 5-1
1331: Delayed start, Jumbo Rio a little bit unsettled. But we're off now.
1329: Lots of greys in this race. Clare Balding is tipping the drifting Zaynar, but all the money is for Walkon and Starluck.
1327: They're going down to post for The Triumph Hurdle. John Inverdale on radio says there's drizzle in the air. If, like me, you are on Neptune Collonges in the big one, you might want that to develop into heavy rain.
1324: A text message from Jason in Belfast: "Oliver, what do you make of Denman's chances? I'm unconvinced that he's really past it, and tempted to have a flutter."
What do I reckon? Following his operation it's hard to believe he can be the dominator he was 12 months ago. I am sure he will run better than when being trounced by Madison du Berlais in his only prep race, but how much better? One of his owners Harry Findlay was on Racing UK this morning, and said Denman might "look after himself" a bit this time.
1321: The punters will get a good start if Walkon wins this first race. His trainer Alan King hasn't had a winner yet, but is too good a handler to come away from the Festival with nothing. The grey, a winner on the Flat in France, is being heavily backed as I type.
1317: There's been a right old tussle between the bookies and the punters this week. The layers were down on their knees after two days following a string of well-backed winners, but recovered yesterday when nothing really fancied won a race.
1311: A quick reminder that the BBC Radio 5 Live commentary is being streamed live on this website right now. Anyway, what's going to win The Triumph Hurdle, off at 1330? This race for four-year-olds is always a tempter for the punters, and I've had a nibble at Starluck, while a colleague who, like me, is a Liverpool fan, has lumped on Walkon.
1308: An e-mail from Paul Cook: "On pure value Denman is the steal of the day. I've picked him up at 13-2, a huge price for last year's winner. I think you can forget about his Kempton run. Paul Nicholls wouldn't put him in if he didn't have a squeak."
1302: Before we turn our attention to the second biggest prize of the day - the Triumph Hurdle due off at 1330 - a quick look at the current Gold Cup market. Kauto Star is being supported and is about 15-8, Denman is really being piled into at around 13-2, while Neptune Collonges has drifted to 8-1. The patriotic cash has not really arrived yet for Barbers Shop, who is a fascinatingly unknown quantity in this company, but it's early days yet.
1259: The BBC Points West team have been in their element at Cheltenham, with a Peter Scudamore fly-by course guide. Here is the guide:
Scudamore's Cheltenham course guide
And here is the Sir David Attenborough-style "how we made it footage", complete with remote-controlled aeroplane.
How the BBC team made it
1256: As ever I'll be keeping abreast of as many of your e-mails, texts and 606 entries as I can. Some of you may remember that Iain in Southampton was after some assistance. As someone who works in a convent school, following the races is banned for him.
Anyway, thanks to Peter Allred for sending in this bit of advice: "Borrow/steal a portable radio and go to the gents - the one place Reverend Mother can't follow you! Similar situation in past and it works."
1252: As someone who has not only backed Neptune Collonges for the big race, but also tipped him on this website, I am rather concerned that he is the big drifter on the betting exchanges. It's possible the drying ground is a concern for him. So it's time for some sort of rain dance, I guess.
1249: Champion trainer Paul Nicholls sends out the top three horses in the betting for the Gold Cup, due off at 1520. But it may not have passed your notice that The Queen has an entry in the big race. Barbers Shop will carry her exotic colours and Her Majesty is already at the course - wearing red, but we don't know if that's to do with Comic Relief.
1245: Well here we go - Gold Cup day at the Cheltenham Festival - the only place in the world where you'd see Robbie Fowler and Sir Clement Freud queuing for the same set of toilets. Before we wonder who can solve the riddle of who will win the big race today, here's some important news:
Non-runners are Take The Breeze (1405), Buena Vista (1640) and Chapoturgeon (1715), while Paul Carberry was in the wars yesterday and his ride in the Gold Cup, on Star De Mohaison, goes to Timmy Murphy. Carberry suffered a punctured lung and a torn liver and may miss the Grand National. Oliver Greenall is also in Cheltenham Hospital following a fall, his brother Tom taking over for the ride on Amicelli in the 1600.