It's basically been a week for the bookmaker. But I'd prefer to remember it for this stunning day for the likeable Nigel T-D, for Big Buck's imperious performance yesterday, and Binocular's Lazarus-like victory on Tuesday. Let's get our money back at Aintree! You've been a great crowd. Cheerio.
Honest Frank on Twitter:
"Trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies completes a 747-1 treble with Pigeon Island claiming the last race of a memorable Cheltenham Gold Cup day."
Text message from Andy in Bolton:
"Well it's been an unbelievable week of racing (Especially if you're a bookmaker). In a desperate attempt to make my money back that I lost this week, put £50 each way on Imperial Commander, so just about broke even." [Crikey - that means you must have been about £500 down before the Gold Cup!]
And today's winner of a rare treble, trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies:
"Bring on another five or six races and we might win those as well."
Here's winning jockey Paddy Brennan:
"I wish today could last forever. Nigel's horses are always overpriced but that's good news for Nigel because he makes money for punters."
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
1. Pigeon Island 16-1
2. French Opera 10-1
3. Consigliere 16-1
4. Cornas 16-1
Honest Frank on Twitter:
"Cheltenham Gold Cup faller Kauto Star could be aimed at 5th King George win in December if he comes out of exertions in decent shape."
But many people will remember this Festival as Twiston-Davies's... He also got the second in the Champion Hurdle, remember.
LEADING JOCKEY - RUBY WALSH, LEADING TRAINER - NICKY HENDERSON
Well would you believe it! It's another Nigel Twiston-Davies winner. Pigeon Island,
on bottom weight of 10st 1lb, wins with a lovely late-finishing ride from that man Paddy Brennan again.
Free World is being ridden very patiently by Ruby Walsh, big mistake by You're The Top.
The final race of Cheltenham 2010 is under way.
So I think if Free World
wins, Nicholls will still successfully defend his leading trainer's award, provided Nicky Henderson doesn't get the second. But with three wins already, Henderson's a huge favourite to win his first leading trainer's award since 2000.
Richard Johnson is putting up three pounds overweight on Lord Henry, I hear. Is that possible? The horse is only listed to be on 11st 3lbs.
With five horses having pulled out at various stages of the day, the final race, off at 1715, will feature 19 runners. A couple of those who came out of the frame were potential favourites, so it's left to You're The Top
to head the market (not that that's a good omen this week). The going is officially soft,
such is the amount of rain we've had over the past two hours.
1701: Winning trainer Emma Lavelle
, I think the first woman to train a winner this week: "He hasn't had his ground all winter and when I saw it was raining I thought 'please stop' but he's got through it. He ran such a great race here last year in the Coral Cup. Today, he's galloped and he's jumped Johnny has given him a fantastic ride. He just kept the momentum bringing him forward, the horse is so willing."
Here's the story of that last race. Pause And Clause defied a welter burden to win. Third in the Coral Cup 12 months ago, he travelled strongly throughout the contest and held the lead heading into the straight. Nicky Henderson's Radium travelled as though he might pick him up but he blundered at the final flight and Pause And Clause stayed on well up the hill to score by three and a quarter lengths, with Clova Island third and Peveril fourth.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
1. Pause And Clause 14-1
2. Radium 14-1
3. Clova Island 14-1
4. Peveril 5-1
E-mail from Michael in Kent:
"Paul Nicholls won't snatch the leading trainer award in the last as Tataniano
is a non runner!" Good spot, that came through pretty late in the day.
I thought you may like to see some prices for the Gold Cup next year. These from William Hill
- 4-1 Imperial Commander, Kauto Star, 8-1 Denman, Weapon's Amnesty, 12-1 Big Buck's, 16-1 Diamond Harry, Long Run, Punchestowns, Somersby, 20-1 bar.
Johnny Farrelly, who had a Cheltenham winner a couple of years ago, sent this one to the head of affairs with half the race to go and was handsomely rewarded as he outpaced the field to win by a couple of lengths for trainer Emma Lavelle.
1645: Pause and Clause
wins at 14-1.
We're off in the Martin Pipe, our penultimate race of the week.
Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh are both on three wins each.
Sorry, we've had a publishing glitch. If you're still hanging on grimly please refresh your web browser now to pick up latest updates.
On the other hand, David Pipe will have a third winner of the week should Ashkazar,
the favourite, collect this upcoming handicap. And Nicky Henderson will top them all on four if Peveril
is too fast for the others.
It's been a pretty miserable Festival for the Paul Nicholls team but strangely I think he might still snatch the leading trainer award on countback if Tataniano wins the final race. Before that, it's the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle (off at 1640).
Winning rider Sam Twiston-Davies
says: "It's been a brilliant day and I couldn't have asked any more of this horse. He's been special to me and looked after me. He was tired coming to the last but was also pricking his ears, the cheeky thing. When something comes to him he goes again, I'm just thrilled to bits to be here riding him. It'll be interesting to compare it to the Gold Cup time!"
Honest Frank on Twitter:
"Nigel Twiston-Davies watched son's success while at Cheltenham Gold Cup press conference. Even did a running commentary on microphone."
On a day when the FTSE is more or less flat, William Hill shares are up 1% and Ladbrokes are up 1.2%. I wonder if it would have been the same story if Kauto had won.
Christie's Foxhunter Chase
1. Baby Run 9-2JF
2. Kilty Storm 16-1
3. Reach For The Top 66-1
4. Gentle George 10-1
Well that's a stunning hour for the Twiston-Davies family. Baby Run wins with Sam Twiston-Davies making all for his Dad as little brother Willie hugs the winning jockey. I think we know where the biggest party in the Cotswolds will be tonight.
The crowd are really alive now as Baby Run looks set to win.
Baby Run is four fences from home as Take The Stand falls along with Roulez Cool.
The mare Sericina is down but seems alright. Reach For The Top is second but it's still Sam Twiston-D out in front.
Baby Run is bowling along in front, for the Twiston-Davies team again.
Here's Johnny falls at the same fence that claimed Kauto Star.
We're off in the Christie's Foxhunter Chase.
An e-mail from Sophie in Liverpool:
"I just wanted to add massive congratulations to Imperial Commander's groom Jo Collinson and the rest of Nigel's team for whom this will be the most amazing day of celebrations!" (Thanks Sophie - the stable staff often don't get enough credit. I am sure Jo will be accepting many glasses of champagne tonight)
Picking up one or two replays now. Walsh was sending out distress signals at various stages after Kauto Star's early mistake. He knew how well other horses were travelling compared to him. The fall looked awful, but luckily he got up very quickly afterwards.
We haven't really recovered from that extraordinary race here, and this text from Toni
sums it all up: "That was possibly the most stressful radio broadcast I ever listened to! Don't even care that I've won nothing all day, and got absolutely no work done, that was the most exciting thing ever."
Aidan Coleman is the jockey of Mon Mome,
whose price for the Aintree marathon will surely tumble now. How about a successful defence of his crown there? Coleman says: "As you expect from a Grand National winner he got outpaced at one stage, but he stayed on great and he has run a super race. Roll on Aintree."
Winning trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies:
"I thought Kauto was in trouble some way out before he fell. All the hacks [journalists] were saying Imperial Commander didn't stay. It's just absolutely brilliant. It's been very hard for us sat there with the third-favourite when all the talk was about Kauto and Denman but we always knew we were going to win."
[It should be added that Twisters had been oozing bullish comments about this horse for a fortnight. He was proved right and if has surely shed his reputation as an early-season specialist now.]
Winning jockey Paddy Brennan:
"It's by far the best day of my life. I'm speechless. It was a dream the whole way. I've just got to take time to thank my boss [Twiston-Davies]. He's the best boss ever - he's produced two horses this week [Imperial Commander and Champion Hurdle runner-up Khyber Kim] and I just had had to steer them."
Here's a nice e-mail from Alison Evans:
"As someone who used to teach Nigel T-D in the Ross Harriers Pony Club in the early 1970s I am delighted with this result - congratulations to all concerned!"
Ruby Walsh: "I was fighting a lost cause when Kauto Star fell." McCoy: "He ran a little bit in snatches but he ran his heart out and didn't do anything wrong." Part-owner Harry Findlay wants to enter the horse in next year's Grand National now. It's always been a potential target.
The official winning distance for the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained winner (the Gloucestershire man can add this prize to two past Grand Nationals) is seven lengths.
A quick word too for the horse who came third. Mon Mome won last year's Grand National at 100-1, and though that will remain the pinnacle of his achievements there are not many horses who can win the Aintree classic and come back here to pick up place money in the Gold Cup.
Imperial Commander is a year younger than Kauto Star and Denman, who at 10 are coming towards the final stages of what have been glittering careers. You have to say the Haydock race in November proved key to this race. Imperial Commander lost by the smallest possible margin in that race to Kauto Star, and when the favourite fell today, there was only one winner, despite McCoy's excellent ride on Denman.
Cheltenham Gold Cup
1. Imperial Commander 7-1
2. Denman 4-1
3. Mon Mome 50-1
4. Carruthers 33-1
1527: Winning jockey Paddy Brennan:
"Best day of my life. I'll never ever forget this. Whatever I talk now could be absolute rubbish."
And Imperial Commander wins the Gold Cup!
The finish is being fought out between Imperial Commander and Denman.
AP McCoy is going for home now, but Imperial Commander goes with him. And Kauto Star FALLS, but he's OK.
Denman looks really good, so too does Imperial Commander. Fascinating finish in prospect.
Kauto Star is back in sixth now, but could still feature in the finish as he is pulled to the outside. Long way to go.
Kauto Star is now up to second, but Denman is right with him. Kauto Star then makes a BIG ERROR, and loses a few lengths.
Carruthers is setting the pace with Denman almost alongside him. Kauto Star is running along the inside, close to the rail, in mid-division.
All safely over the first two fences.
Nick Child, Kauto Star's groom, says "it's a huge day - hopefully as long as they all come back in one piece we're happy." He's a very nervous lad. More rain.
Paul Nicholls' assistant trainer Dan Skelton is down at the start, just keeping an eye on Denman, but everything's fine.
Latest price for Kauto Star
is 8-11. A number of bookies face serious liabilities if he hacks up today, like so many think he will. A bit of rain, but hey, who cares?
Denman's rapidly shortening price is because he is looking sharp, interested and tuned in. He doesn't always look like that.
Good stuff on 5 Live: Sam Thomas
on his winning ride in 2008: "I just kicked on, fence to fence and didn't worry about anyone else." John Inverdale: "I have never seen anyone so relaxed as Ruby Walsh at a big sporting occasion." Nigel Twiston-Davies
on his horse Imperial Commander:
"We haven't done anything wrong, so come on. He's a lot fitter than when he was just beaten by Kauto at Haydock. I think this is our time."
Late money coming in for Denman
now, in from about 5-1 to 4-1. The value is being snapped up by enthusiastic punters.
The eagle-eyed may spot that I neglected to mention Tricky Trickster
, a 14-1 chance who is currently the Grand National favourite. Back him for that race if he runs into the top three today.
And they are - Irish raider Cooldine,
last season's leading staying novice, He's likely to stay, but needs to improve some more. Imperial Commander,
who loves the course, and aims to give Nigel Twiston-Davies his first Cheltenham success. Then there's Denman,
the big Irish-bred, moody sort of horse who won so brilliantly in 2008. And Kauto Star,
going for his hat-trick. Paul Nicholls says Denman doesn't mind nice ground, he won't worry about the ground for either of his horse. It is raining a bit, off and on, but the ground will be no worse than good to soft.
It is worth pointing out that there are one or two real no-hopers, on paper anyway, in the Gold Cup, which is ONLY FIFTEEN MINUTES AWAY! Cerium and Mr Pointment are 200-1, My Will is 100-1 and there are three others at about 50-1. So it's all about the top four in the betting, or should be.
A very quick bit of reaction on the last race, from the winning trainer Paul Gilligan:
"This is my first runner at the Festival and it's unbelievable. People totally ignored his form as he ran a great race against War Of Attrition last time. He's a super horse and it was a super ride by Andrew as well."
I am getting very excited now about the Gold Cup. And so is my on-course colleague Frank Keogh
. He reports: "Have been chatting with champion trainer Paul Nicholls, who is reasonably relaxed bearing in mind his stars Kauto Star
are about to contest the Cheltenham Gold Cup, along with stablemates Tricky Trickster and My Will. 'There is not much more I can do now. Hopefully, they will run well.' "
I forgot that Willie Mullins had had a winner on Tuesday - Quevega under Ruby Walsh. So he's got two for the week now. Sorry about that.
Restless Harry is OK. They put some screens up around him, but both the horse and jockey Henry Oliver are reported to be fine.
Is it to be a great day for Ireland at the Festival? Willie Mullins enters Cooldine in the big one in just over half an hour. Who knows?
After a barren run on Thursday, the Irish land another winner with a big shock for the seven-year-old trained by Paul Gilligan, giving Andrew Lynch his second success of the week.
Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
1. Berties Dream 33-1
2. Najaf 25-1
3. Kennel Hill 66-1
4. Arvika Ligeonniere 28-1
Berties Dream beats Najaf by a few lengths. Kennel Hill is third after Restless Harry fell at the last.
Najaf arrives on the scene now.
Premier Victory and Restless Harry both look very good at the head of affairs.
Luke Harvey says Tell Massini is running at a nice even keel. The turf is cutting up a bit now. Premier Victory is the leader.
They're off in the Albert Bartlett.
On radio, Sam Thomas and Mick Fitzgerald are both very sweet on Tell Massini
in the next race.
Some betting news ahead of the Gold Cup (off at 1520). Kauto Star is pretty solid at about 4-5, Denman is 5-1 which is a nice price as you can back him each-way and still be in profit if he comes second or third. Imperial Commander is 8-1 (but only with Ladbrokes), Cooldine 10-1 and Tricky Trickster 14-1.
There are more than 65,000 people at Cheltenham, that's not too far off the capacity at Wembley you know.
I hope you've got your betting-slips primed for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle
(off at 1440). Is it time for Willie Mullins to go from zero to two in two? He saddles Quel Esprit,
the mount of Ruby Walsh in his last ride before getting the leg-up on Kauto.
Winning trainer Willie Mullins:
"I'm delighted and Katie is so cool and a fantastic rider. Even though she rides as an amateur, she's got the brain of a professional and is fit and well. I love putting her up so it's fantastic for her, fantastic for me and everyone."
It's high time to pick up winning jockey Katie Walsh:
"I can't believe it, this is unbelievable, you cannot write this stuff. I must say a big thank you to Willie Mullins. He has been fantastic to me, he didn't have to leave me on this horse but he did. I was unlucky in the Pierse (MCR Hurdle) and when I got to the front he pricked his ears."
And here's James Speight on e-mail: "Le Lion D'Angers in France is actually twinned with where my parent live in Somerset in a small town called Wiveliscombe near Taunton, the Brits have a link to the Mighty Kauto Star!" (Indeed - and isn't it a nice touch that Kauto Star is also trained in Somerset!)
Somebody called Confused in Scotland
wants to know why Katie Walsh was riding despite picking up a four-day ban on Wednesday. Simple - the ban has not come into effect yet.
tells us on 606:
"Want to know why to back Kauto? Even at his best in '08 Denman only beat Kauto by a few lengths, the following year Kauto put him to the sword. In their most recent runs even with AP on board Denman badly blundered four out then shipped McCoy out of the saddle, while Kauto beat Albertas Run by over 60 lengths & he [Albertas Run] won yesterdays RyanAir! Simply put, lump on the Star.. because he is one."
Just added a couple more places - Noble Prince was fifth, Gloucester was sixth. A huge roar for Katie as she comes into the winners' enclosure. Trainer Willie Mullins opens his account at last, and that's a first Irish winner since half way through Wednesday's card.
Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle
1. Thousand Stars 20-1
2. Arcalis 33-1
3. Dee Ee Williams 20-1
4. Zanir 50-1
5. Noble Prince 11-1
6. Gloucester 50-1
And that's a double for Katie Walsh, Ruby's sister, as Channel 4 switch immediately to a joyous dad, Ted. Katie had her first winner on Wednesday and now produces the grey Thousand Stars
at just the right time.
Tito Bustillo has a huge amount to work to do after being sent off a 7-1 favourite.
Dee Eee Williams is one of those making good progress.
They're off in the Vincent O'Brien and it's raining.
Wide open race it is with, at the moment, a 17-2 favourite in Tito Bustillo, from the Nicholls-Walsh team.
Right, we build up now to the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle
, off at 1405. Still only Ruby Walsh has managed to win on a favourite this week. Remarkable stat.
Prompted by Wassim on e-mail, I can now reveal that Barry Geraghty
has joined Ruby Walsh on three winners each at the top of the leading jockey table, while Nicky Henderson
is clear on his own in the trainers table on three, one ahead of Messrs Pipe, Nicholls, Hobbs and McCain Jnr. Sounds like the cast of a low-budget Western.
What my carefully assembled notes from Cheltenham Racecourse fail to do is spell that place properly: Le Lion-d'Angers. Somewhere in the Loire valley I do believe. Looks pretty on wikipedia.
An anonymous reader sends me a text message:
"I have just been informed that it is Kauto Star's 10th birthday today. Third Gold Cup on 10th birthday? Wonder if he even realises?" No, Anon, I don't think he does know. But consulting my paperwork you're spot on. Foaled 19 March, 2000, in Le Lions d'Angers, France. Most famous celebrity from that town, I wonder?
1350: Winning trainer Nicky Henderson:
"I'm thrilled for the horse, he's only a baby, they all are, but he's very inexperienced. You worry that he is only a baby and it was a long way to have to go on your own and catch the other horse because the gap was huge, but he does stay. He's an exciting horse."
Here's Frank again,
"Nicky Henderson clocks up 37th Cheltenham Festival winner with Soldatino. Three off all-time great Fulke Walwyn".
1345: Winning jockey Barry Geraghty:
"It was a good performance. The leader set off very quick, I had to drop in and switch off. The leader went off that quick he had to stop. I gave mine a couple of slaps before the last to keep him going forward. I knew I would get there well enough."
It looked for a while as though the rest of the field had given themselves just too much to do after Tom O'Brien on Barizan had tried to make all the running, but a slight error at the last gave Barizan the opportunity to catch the Welsh raider on the line - and even winning trainer Nicky Henderson feels sympathetic to the runner-up.
JCB Triumph Hurdle
1. Soldatino 6-1
2. Barizan 14-1
3. Alaivan 9-2
4. Carlito Brigante 7-2F
Barizan is finally tying up approaching the finish. Soldatino
takes him on the line - a third winner of the week for both jockey Barry Geraghty and trainer Nicky Henderson.
Ruby Walsh on Advisor is keeping Barizan in his sights. The horse is still 20 lengths in front of everything else.
won't win this. He's gone off too quickly. Olofi has made an error.
We are under way in the Triumph Hurdle.
The challenge today for Clare Balding is to interview Jeremy Clarkson. She is being gently goaded by John Inverdale having already failed to get hold of Ashley Cole, Cheryl Cole and Katie Price on previous days. I presume Ashley and Cheryl were not in the same party of racegoers.
It's not been the easiest of Festivals for punters in general, but Steve from Southend
has done OK: "Hi Oliver, I put a £15 lucky 15 on yesterday and got the first three winners! Had Katchit won I would have won over £40,000 and would have proceeded to be violently sick. As it was I won £2,300 and was just mildly sick. Nice to get one over the bookies."
There are two non-runners in our opener, off at 1330. They are Secant Star and Bob's Legend, reducing the field to 17. We also have a non-runner in the 1440, Wayward Prince, and three are withdrawn from the 1715 - Green Belt Elite, Sunnyhillboy and Leo's Lucky Star.
A famously tough race to pick a winner in is our opener today, the JCB Triumph Hurdle. It is a two-mile hurdle for four-year-olds and Irish-trained Carlito Brigante
looks like starting favourite.
Another former jockey Mick Fitzgerald.
: "You can get lucky sometimes in a Grand National but if you win this you win with a great racehorse."
Denman's jockey in 2008 (when he won the Gold Cup) was Sam Thomas.
He tells BBC Radio 5 Live: "You do see different jockeys reacting differently to different races. I flick through the paper to check through all the opposition, check form and figures, go a little bit quiet if anything."
OK, refresh again, because we are not on 5 Live Sports Extra today. It's exclusively on 5 Live itself.
Of course it's not all about Denman and Kauto Star. I personally like the credentials of Imperial Commander,
the challenger from Nigel Twiston-Davies's yard which is only a short drive from the course. He's a horse that loves this course and gave Kauto Star an almighty scare in his last race but one. He's also being pretty well backed this morning, into 7-1. It's not inconceivable Imperial Commander may start as second favourite if punters continue to shy away from Denman. Kauto Star is generally about 8-11.
Please refresh your browser to pick up the link to commentary from John Inverdale, Clare Balding, Luke Harvey and co on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra
- on air from 1300.
You can do better than Kauto v Denman III, and perhaps even better than "War of the Wolds"
. So please send in your ideas for the best way to describe the huge match-up this afternoon. You can use 606, e-mail, text messaging, or even
send me a tweet.
Just make sure you come back and join me for live text commentary of all seven races this afternoon.
And without further ado we switch straight to our man on the course, Honest Frank,
who has been busy posting
a scene-setting thread
on the 606 message-boards. Among the highlights are his observation that there are already upwards of 200 ticket touts at Prestbury Park, that there was a drop of rain last night and the going is rated as good. You can also read Frank's
feature on today's big race at 1520,
plus an in-depth
runners and riders guide,
which includes his 1-2-3 for the big race.
So here we are. The Decider. Kauto v Denman III.
Current champ Kauto Star
bidding to join Golden Miller, Arkle, Cottage Rake, Best Mate as a three-time winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and the only one to regain his crown having lost it to a rival. Denman,
his next-door neighbour in Paul Nicholls' Ditcheat yard and imperious here in beating Kauto in 2008, less consistent since but still capable of brilliance as when carrying top weight to victory in the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury last November.