Right - that's it from me, I'm calling this a wrap. You've been a splendid audience, and let see if Kauto Star can make it three Gold Cups tomorrow.
Kate Doyle was the rider just beaten into second, with Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth and Paul Nicholls' partner Georgie Brown running out of steam.
Well what do we have here? It's a photo-finish... But Prince Picasso
is the winner for Orna Madden.
They're off, a bit late.
Our man at the course, Frank Keogh, tells us: "Georgie Browne, partner of champion trainer Paul Nicholls, fave for Cheltenham ladies' race. On Watergate. One for the conspiracy theorists."
So, just waiting for the charity ladies race - which is raising money for Cancer Research UK. And while we do, David Williams of Ladbrokes looks pretty chipper. He says Big Buck's was only a "small losing result" as not many people were prepared to back him at the price. The worst result for Ladbrokes, surprisingly, was Ballabriggs just now, despite drifting from its 7-1 market price this morning. The other results were "fine", particularly Albertas Run, the "highlight" for the bookies.
Placings remain unaltered following the stewards' enquiry.
Winning trainer Donald McCain: "He's a big, genuine horse but Richard's done the right thing, he's kicked on and had to win his race. He's treading water over the last 100 yards but we got away with it."
It appears the enquiry concerns the riding of Faasel, who may have deprived Galant Nuit of a fair run at the end. Josh Guerriero is the jockey who the stewards will haul in.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase1. Ballabriggs 9-12. Faasel 20-13. Galant Nuit 11-2F4. Ma Yahab 14-1
Stewards' enquiry but it won't affect the winner. Ballabriggs wins for trainer Donald McCain, it's his second of the Festival, and owner Trevor Hemmings picks up a double today.
Wowee... That was one of the closest finishes of the week. Ballabriggs looked as though he would win by 10 lengths after popping over the last but Faasel almost caught him on the line as there was nothing left in the tank for Richard Harding on the top weight.
Fred's Benefit makes a big error and is out of the reckoning. Ballabriggs is motoring into the lead as they head to the second last.
Fred's Benefit in very good shape, Heathcliff a faller, No Strings Attached makes a big error.
Parson's Legacy is among two early fallers. Finger Onthe Pulse is, we think, the other one.
They're off in the final race of the day.
Thanks for the messages about the obvious error with the last result. It's been a long day... Corrected now.
An e-mail from Liam:
"I'm coming up for the Gold Cup tomorrow from Romford Essex which takes just over 2 hours without traffic. What time shall I leave so that I don't miss any action? I have no clue." I once spent an hour getting to the course from the centre of Cheltenham so why not leave at 7am? I think they open the gates at about 10.30am.
Here's a text from Groaty:
"Pipe has done that twice today! He has put in a top weight with not much hope to take weight off his other horse! I got Buena Yista but picked the wrong Pipe runner in the 1600." (Well I guess he's as canny as his Dad, Martin, used to be)
Nina Carberry will be on the favourite, Galant Nuit.
But how about the Irish ending a day of blanks with a winner? Finger onthe Pulse
is the best of their hopes, I believe.
It's just as well for Tony McCoy
that he doesn't have another ride today because he has been in the wars. He may need to pass the doctor tomorrow morning. We now have an amateur riders' handicap chase with 24 runners (off at 1640) before the ladies' charity event.
I have some overdue reaction from Danny Cook, riding his first Festival winner. He said: "It's brilliant. It's what it's all about, not just winning here but riding here. He's a really good traveller on the bridle. David said the trip might be a bit on the sharp side so to ride him handy but don't be in front too long. The good ground has probably been the making of him."
A reminder that there is an addition to the normal six-race Thursday card with a Ladies Charity Sweepstake at 1715, no jumps. There are 12 entries, with Rupert Murdoch's daughter Elisabeth getting a ride and Paul Nicholl's other half Georgie Browne also involved. I am told "some High Street bookmakers" will take bets on the race, and you can bet at the course.
A shower passes over Cheltenham, providing some juice to bring some cut into the ground.
Byrne Group Plate Handicap Chase1. Great Endeavour 18-12. Sunnyhillboy 6-1F3. From Dawn to Dusk 20-14. Mister McGoldrick 33-15. Gwanako 20-1 1605:
And it's a win for the six-year-old grey from the David Pipe yard, Great Endeavour
, providing three-pound claimer Danny Cook with a memorable maiden Festival win. Tony McCoy has had his second fall of the day. He looks a bit sore.
But suddenly Great Endeavour looks much the strongest. Song of Songs falls.
The Sawyer and Mister McGoldrick are disputing this one.
Great Endeavour, from the David Pipe yard, is among those in a good position. Chapoturgeon is making ground from the back of the field. Atouchbetweenacara makes a mistake.
Sunnyhillboy is at 6-1 to give trainer Jonjo O'Neill a double today - and they're off.
They're getting ready for the 1600 Byrne Group Plate Handicap Chase, in which Sunnyhillboy
will start as a favourite.
Connections are delighted with the horses who occupied the places behind Big Buck's in the World Hurdle. Time for Rupert picks up more than £17,000 for coming second and is now likely to be sent to Aintree, while Powerstation, from Eamon O'Connell's tiny yard in Ireland, may be sent to the French Champion Hurdle, the suspicion being that a slightly shorter trip may suit.
1550: Paul Nicholls on Big Buck's:
"He's a hugely talented horse. It's unbelievable. I worked the horses on Saturday morning - Poquelin, Master Minded, Kauto Star, the lot. They all worked well but he worked like a hairy goat. That's just him and I lost confidence a bit and I was sweating beforehand. He never hit a flat spot today. We were keen to get him fresh and you have to get into his head a bit more than anything. He's very good."
Paul Carberry is unable to do 10st 0lb on the bottom weight in the next race, and will put up one pound overweight on Aigle d'Or
for trainer Nicky Henderson. Connections won't be happy if he is beaten by a head!
So that result suddenly vaults Ruby Walsh to three winners for the week, Paul Nicholls has two, sharing the leading trainer league table with Nicky Henderson and Philip Hobbs. Finally, the bookies take a hit, although overall they remain in excellent shape. But will it stay that way if the nation gets stuck into Kauto Star tomorrow?
1540: Ruby Walsh
"He's a special horse. He's absolutely bolted in. He's a horse that doesn't want to be in front too long. He's got a terrific engine and that was a good round of jumping, he jumped better today than he ever has done."
So what happened there? Walsh's mount was never put to any work as Time For Rupert tried to lay down a challenge. War Of Attrition
made most of the early running but Time For Rupert
took over turning into the straight, although Walsh could be already seen travelling ominously well. He never actually led until soon after landing after the last, but it was obvious he Big Buck's was the winner barring a mishap some time before. Powerstation
was back in third, the same position he filled 12 months ago.
World Hurdle1. Big Buck's 5-6F2. Time for Rupert 16-13. Powerstation 33-1 1527:
Order is restored at last as a quality horse wins a quality race, and that truly was awesome. Ruby Walsh never had to shake him up, his engine took him to the leaders almost inevitably and he was the one with the last bit of juice to take him on after the last.
Big Buck's wins and the Cheltenham cheer is heard at last!
Big Buck's moves into third position approaching the second last.
The field are really tightening up now, about 10 horses within four of five lengths of each other.
Their seem to be few problems for Big Buck's after the first lap in this three-miler.
Big Buck's is settled in seventh of the 14 runners. War of Attrition makes the running with Fair Along second and Ebadiyan third.
They're off in the World Hurdle.
They are all at the start. Big Buck's is just about odds-on, War of Attrition gets lots of each-way money.
It has to be said that Big Buck's
is not being as heavily backed as you might expect. I get the impression that the ground has gone wrong for the Paul Nicholls runners. Jockey Robert Thornton said this morning it was a bit "dead" - neither fast to suit horses who like good ground, nor with the cut and give to suit the galloping types like Master Minded. Still, someone's got to win on it, and if not Big Buck's then who? Tidal Bay
are the obvious alternatives. The first is a former top two-mile chaser, while Karabak has occasionally been let down by his jumping but is otherwise fairly consistent.
Here's an e-mail from David Tingle:
"On the flip side, this year's festival is great for students across the land spending their afternoon watching the racing, and only being able to rustle up a few quid on an each-way outsider!"
Now this next race could conceivably have bookmakers flicking through brochures on Ferraris and undiscovered Pacific islands. If Big Buck's gets beat in the 1520, thrown onto the bonfire of well-backed favourites, some punters will be hitch-hiking back from the course.
And here's someone who's always cheerful,
Our very own Honest Frank on Twitter:
"Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary tells me his War of Attrition should run well at a good price but may struggle to win World Hurdle". (I think Frank may have been on Albertas Run, the cheeky so-and-so).
Though not quite as downcast as Neil Meadows,
I can sort of understand the sentiment expressed in his e-mail here: "Am I alone in thinking that this festival is now getting rather dull? Outsider after outsider coming in, the bookies grinning like Cheshire cats - all rather boring now. At this rate a donkey from Blackpool will beat Kauto and Denman but i don't think I'll last that long."
This is what Tony McCoy has to say: "That was nice. He's a good horse, he won the Sun Alliance a few years ago and I'm just delighted for Trevor [Hemmings, the owner]. He's not here as he's not well, he is having some problems with his foot. "Myself and Jonjo [O'Neill, trainer] kind of asked Trevor if we could run him in the Ryanair instead of the Gold Cup as we thought he had a good chance and Trevor, being the man he is, was all on for it. I'm delighted for him and I hope his foot is sore from jumping up and down!"
The result remains unaltered despite the stewards' enquiry, but there is a thought Davy Condon may pick up a short ban for impeding Walsh, though there is no way Walsh could have beaten Albertas Run.
Ryanair Chase1. Albertas Run 14-12. Poquelin 11-4F3. J'y Vole 28-1 1453:
An e-mail flies in from John Griffin:
"This could be another horrendous day for backers. People are now chasing their money. Expect all but the kitchen sink to be thrown on Big Buck's now!"
We have a stewards' enquiry. That'll be into the riding of Ruby Walsh on the second-placed horse and Davy Condon on the horse that finished third by a nose, J'y Vole.
Jonjo O'Neill's horse was expertly ridden by Tony McCoy
who seemed to struggle a bit at the top of the hill but found a fresh lease of life to deliver this 14-1 shot, handing Poquelin (11-4f) a sound beating.
1445: Albertas Run
is the winner.
Voy Por Ustedes has quietly come into the reckoning. Schindlers Hunt unseats rider Paddy Flood.
Tranquil Sea is right on Ruby's shoulder behind the leading two.
A great jump from Poquelin almost puts him into the lead, but Ruby doesn't want him there and draws him back.
After three fences Deep Purple and Albertas Run are the ones in front, Poquelin travelling on the inside in third.
They're off in the Ryanair.
Plenty of cash for Poquelin
now. He could start at about 11-4 by the looks of things so if you got 3-1 or better you've done well. (Still needs to win, though)
They're all parading now for the 13-runner Ryanair Chase. Petit Robin,
third in last year's Champion Chase, looks in good nick.
Well it frankly all boils down to Poquelin
and Big Buck's
now. A lot of you seem to be holding out for Poquelin in particular. One texter says Big Buck's was sick in the paddock last night. It's a wind-up - that's not been mentioned anywhere else.
Here's a challenge for Clare Balding from John Inverdale
on BBC Radio 5 Live: "You failed to get hold of Liz Hurley but today I can assure you that today we know that Cheryl Cole is here. Your challenge is to get Cheryl Cole for an interview."
Actually I am not certain Alfie Sherrin did come fifth after all. That's why I don't like to get involved in the minor minor placings!
Irish raider Tranquil Sea,
perhaps the main challenger to Poquelin
in the 1440 (Ryanair Chase) is just sweating up a little as he comes out of his box at the course.
Confirmation that Alfie Sherrin
came fifth in the 1405.
1422: Winning jockey Hadden Frost:
"It's his sixth attempt but he's always gone close. He's so gallant and gutsy. David and connections have done well to get him here today and I just thank them for the opportunity. You spend your whole childhood dreaming of a Cheltenham winner and then it comes true. Words can't express it really."
Remember I can't always give you fifth places, the horse who finished last etc... At the end of the day I'll put up a link to the full official results, but here's a quick link to our own
which is pretty good.
Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle1. Buena Vista 16-12. Prince Erik 16-13. Chamirey 28-14. Cross Kennon 16-1
The text messages are outweighing the e-mails today. Here's one from Dave
(in an office in London, far from the action): "Why have u posted instead of Paul Nicholls, a picture of Alec Baldwin in 30 rock?" Haha. I'll tell you what, he'll be getting very nervous again. His first two beaten this afternoon, two huge hopes to follow.
1412: Buena Vista
shows that you can win a three-mile hurdle by making all the running as Hadden Frost, a conditional jockey with a three-pound claim, is wreathed in smiles after his first Festival win on a horse who has won at his sixth attempt at the Festival. First-time blinkers made the difference, says Frost, riding for trainer David Pipe.
Buena Vista has a big lead over the last.
Ballyfitz losing ground all of a sudden but Buena Vista is still there, College Daisy among other front-runners at the top of the hill. Chamirey looks good.
Young Sam Twiston-Davies is giving a wonderfully confident ride on Ballyfitz as they enter the final circuit. Kayf Aramis among plenty in with a chance.
Alfie Sherrin is settled in about eighth position, that's fine. Buena Vista and Ballyfitz are setting the pace.
And they're off in the Pertemps Final.
They're circling at the start for the second race, off at 1405.
Here's an uplifting text message from SINICOLL:
"No winners on first two days. Changed my bookie to change my luck, and put the £20 free bet on Copper Bleu. Punter fightback is on people"
So, with the first of today's four Paul Nicholls favourites beaten, how will his next fare? It is Alfie Sherrin,
running in Denman's colours, "a lightly-raced sort who won with authority at Newbury", according to the Racing Post. JP McManus has three horses to take him on, the best of those perhaps Smoking Aces,
racing with cheekpieces for the first time.
We are exactly 10 minutes away from the next race, a three-mile handicap hurdle. And the audio stream switches to 5 Live proper. You need to refresh your browser to pick up the link.
1350: Winning jockey Richard Johnson:
"He ran well here last year [fourth in the Supreme] and I always felt on that form he had a good chance today. The tongue-tie helped and I think the extra trip has also helped today. He was having a look around on the run-in but it's just fantastic to have a winner. It's a funny place when you are on your own. He wasn't stopping, he was just looking around."
This may help nobody, but Bob's Legend is rated doubtful for the first race tomorrow.
A few fallers in the first race, but all the jockeys are reported to be fine. McCoy was kicked by another horse on the turf, but as he doesn't play football for Argentina he will be back in action immediately on Ainama in the next.
tells us on 606:
"As it seems impossible to predict any winners using sensible methods, I'm resorting to my name now, so it's Dave's Dream and Jayo for me today!" (Sorry to say, but Dave's Dream did not produce a dream performance in the first race for the Henderson team. Finished somewhere down the field...)
Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase1. Copper Bleu 12-12. Othermix 50-13. The Midnight Club 16-14. China Rock 9-1
Trainer Philip Hobbs has been in form recently and here's a second Festival winner for him, as Copper Bleu proved stronger in the finish than the grey trained by Tom George, the disregarded outside Othermix. Best of the Irish was the Willie Mullins entry, The Midnight Club, finishing third.
1336: Copper Bleu
wins under Richard Johnson at 12-1, his second winner of the week.
Copper Bleu and Othermix fight out the finish.
Hey Big Spender unseats Joe Tizzard as Fiendish Flame leads.
Rivaliste is running in third with Gansey setting the pace. Paddy Flood, the other jockey who fell, is also alright.
It looks like Tony McCoy took a really nasty fall there. He's on his feet and seems OK. Lenabane
is another faller.
They're off in the first race with Jered
a faller at the first.
1328: Jockey Sam Thomas on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra:
"You want to be looking at horses who have jumped well and have reasonably good form. Rivaliste is on the back of a win last time, and is a horse that has been saved for this. They've kept him nice and fresh and he's come here fit and well."
There are a few horses getting a bit warm in the parade ring. It could just be that the weather has turned surprisingly mild, with no sign of that rain that some of the horses prefer.
Now here's something. I have two e-mails from two different Alasdairs in Scotland tipping up Lie Forrit
in the World Hurdle. He is 50-1 I think and I also have a funny feeling he could do something special but the vibes from his jockey this morning were not good. They needed a bit of rain.
For those of you who like to back an Irish-trained horse, look out for China Rock
from the Mouse Morris yard, easy to spot with red chevrons on a yellow background. He has solid claims.
We are 15 minutes away from the first race of the day, and the 14th of the meeting. Rivaliste
is the favourite, with Ruby Walsh seeking his third winner of the week if this one can outgun 19 rivals in the Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase. It's over two and a half miles.
And the first few text messages are drifting in. Thanks to Scotdrog
for this one: "Poquelin is the bet of the meeting, laid out for this and will inflict some much-needed pain on the bookies!"
Here's an e-mail from Turkey in Edinburgh
. "Can you please post a picture of Paul Nicholls on the live text, so all the BBC punters can pray upon him for a good day today? Similar to the British public praying on Wayne Rooney's foot healing in time for the last World Cup." Your wish, Turkey, has been granted.
It's been pointed out that I posted the wrong link for the Camilla Henderson feature. It is fixed now, and for good measure I'll
add another one here.
In the Ryanair, the ground appears to favour Poquelin, with the Nicholls team extemely bullish about his prospects. But don't rule out the Irish horse Tranquil Sea, last November's winner of the Paddy Power. Poquelin is being well backed this morning. In the World Hurdle, Big Buck's appears to be drifting towards something like even money. That's interesting.
Today's two big races are the Ryanair and, of course, the race that follows it at 1520, the World Hurdle. They are sandwiched by four handicaps which frankly take more de-cyphering than the Enigma code.
This will send a shiver down the spine of those spending their family holiday money on Big Buck's. Gresgow
tells us on 606:
"Fancy Sentry Duty in the World Hurdle - drying ground should mean a better chance to get that extra distance."
Our very own Honest Frank on Twitter:
"There is a pharmacy at #Cheltenham Racecourse. It is doing a steady trade in headache tablets #CheltFest #racing" (Apologies to those of you not familiar with the # convention in canary-speak)
A note about the going: as opposed to yesterday, which was good (good to soft in places), we have now moved to the watered "New" course, which is officially good to soft (good in places).
That should suit a number of the fancied horses, such as Poquelin
in the Ryanair Chase (1440). Ruby Walsh felt it was a bit too quick for Master Minded yesterday.
Saying that, we've already seen two odds-on chances, in Dunguib
and Master Minded
, soundly beaten. And that's why I've had to keep on serving up the "happy bookmaker" graphic which I now wish I had never commissioned from the design department.
1234: Big Buck's,
the World Hurdle champ and an odds-on favourite to retain that crown, has two quirks. Like many long-distance hurdlers he has a tendency to hit a "flat spot" in a race. And there's also the suspicion that he doesn't particularly enjoy racing, and might just decide to pull up one day. But his brilliant jockey Ruby Walsh
always manages to coax him home - and in theory he should win easily again.
Good afternoon. Did anyone find a bookmaker to buy them a drink last night? The layers have been crowing ungraciously after two bruising days for punters. Totesport's George Primarolo
said: "The festival has been a feast. Tuesday's results were merely a snack compared to Wednesday's main course - it's been a bloodbath for punters." Today it is down to the Paul Nicholls stable to repair the damage as, remarkably, he saddles the favourites in the first four races.