Cheltenham Festival anti-social behaviour ‘substantially decreased’

 

Cheltenham Borough Council has reported a decrease in anti-social behaviour during this year’s Cheltenham Festival, with complaints substantially lower than last year. Despite this, officials have emphasised that continued efforts will be needed to reduce disturbances in the town during jump racing’s biggest meeting.

Gloucestershire police recorded 547 incidents over the four-day event, with reports indicating that the town had a better handle on its anti-social behaviour problem following a collective effort by police, the local council, and the racecourse. Additional toilets and police patrols led to a drop in public urination incidents, one of the more common offences last year. The number of incidents at the racecourse was also lower, although ten arrests were made, including two staff members suspected of stealing money. Several altercations were reported, with one man arrested for knocking another’s tooth out.

Chris Nelson, Gloucestershire’s police and crime commissioner, expressed satisfaction with the overall decrease in incidents. Nevertheless, instances of violence and intimidation against women and girls remained a significant concern.

Nelson, Gloucestershire’s police and crime commissioner, said: “After the disgusting anti-social behaviour that marred last year’s festival, and the years of disruption faced by local residents, I was very clear that enough was enough and that we needed a real focus to crack down on this sort of unacceptable behaviour. That’s why I called together all of those involved and asked for a new focus on the impact on the community caused by the festival, and that has led to the joined-up action and better grip on the situation that we saw this year.

“Unfortunately some clearly still haven’t got the message but we have a good foundation from which to learn for next year, and show continued commitment to making sure the festival is a safe and enjoyable event for everyone.”

A police statement issued this week said that evidence would be reviewed to identify any patterns. While fewer complaints have been registered with the council, incident numbers during the festival remained higher than during a typical week in Cheltenham, where there were 245 fewer incidents in the week before the event.

Finally, attendance was down during this year’s Cheltenham Festival, with almost 40,000 fewer people in attendance than during previous years. The reasons for this decline are unclear, and it remains to be seen how the festival’s organisers will respond to the challenge of attracting visitors in the coming years.

 

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Officials ‘not worried’ despite alarming drop in Cheltenham crowd numbers, which are attributed to the cost of living crisis.

According to Racecourse Association chief executive David Armstrong, it is too early to draw firm conclusions from the dramatic drop in attendance over the first three days of the Cheltenham Festival. However, he does believe that the ongoing strain of the cost of living crisis and disruptions to transportation have both contributed to the decline.

In order to reduce congestion and enhance the customer experience, Jockey Club Racecourses decided to limit the meeting’s capacity to 68,500 participants per day. However, attendance numbers on Tuesday and Wednesday were significantly lower than that, and Thursday’s 62,429 participants – the largest gate of the week prior to Friday’s sold-out Boodles Gold Cup card – marked a 15% decrease from last year and was more than 6,000 below capacity.

Energumene’s back-to-back victories in the Champion Chase were witnessed by only 50,387 people, a 21% decrease from his first victory in the race a year ago. Wednesday was the quietest day in a number of years.

Tuesday: 60,284 (68,567)
Wednesday: 50,387 (64,431)
Thursday: 62,429 (73,754)

“I think the industrial action has had an effect through the week and it’s hard to quantify the difference that makes,” said Armstrong. “Certainly making it that bit harder to get here doesn’t help. It’s a little bit early to tell overall. There’s a lot of noise in the numbers because of the strike action. Thursday was quite a good crowd and today [Friday] is sold out.”

Armstrong added: “It will be interesting to unpick that and understand which people were here, how the different types of crowd differ and where they’re coming from between this year and last. That will be part of the work the Jockey Club do after the event.”

In the year 2022, the year before the Covid pandemic, attendance at racetracks decreased by 14% compared to 2019, but Cheltenham’s numbers remained strong.

High level deals during the current year’s gathering were accounted for to be solid, with the sold-out finishes paperwork for the marginally decreased limit on Gold Cup day going up toward the finish of January interestingly.

Armstrong said of the figures for the first three days at Cheltenham: “I’m not particularly worried about it. I think Aintree is selling well but we’re going to continue to see the effects of the cost of living crisis. This time last year we’d only just had the invasion of Ukraine and it hadn’t yet come through and started to affect people in their pocket. Now you’ve got the full effect of cost of living crisis, fuel costs, all the things we know all about that are affecting disposable income.”

Narrative reports are that the Rider Club’s expressed point of making the experience more agreeable for racegoers has been supported by the fall in numbers, particularly in the vitally open regions.

What you see is that the numbers in the lower cost enclosures are the ones that are under threat, whereas hospitality is absolutely packed out, with every space gone,” he said: “What you’re probably seeing is those people with pressure on their disposable income are just finding it that little bit harder. People might now only go one or two days, they will change their patterns of behaviour if they’re under personal financial pressure.

“We’ve had some encouraging signs earlier on in the year with other meetings that have gone well. It is right that Cheltenham is a bellwether to some extent as to what we might see later on.”

 

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At the Cheltenham Festival, the police detain two Guinness Village bar staff members on suspicion of fraud.

On the first day of the Cheltenham Festival, three people were arrested, including two bartenders at the racetrack who were arrested on suspicion of fraud.

Two men in their 20s, according to the local police, have since been granted bail by the police. It is understood that they had robbed money while employed at the Guinness Village. The Racing Post contacted the Jockey Club, which operates Cheltenham as a cashless venue and declined to comment due to ongoing police inquiries.

In the mean time, a 31-year-elderly person from Birmingham was captured for attacking an individual from staff and hurting a cop. He has been delivered yet stays being scrutinised.

A statement from Gloucestershire Police read: “Police responded to a report of an assault near to the Centaur building at Cheltenham Racecourse on Tuesday afternoon. It was reported that a man had assaulted a member of staff and a police officer. A 31-year-old man from Birmingham was subsequently arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and assault causing actual bodily harm. He has since been released under investigation pending further enquiries.

“Two men aged in their 20s who were working in a bar were arrested on suspicion of fraud offences. They have since been released on police bail pending further enquiries.”

A flare that had been set off in the final moments of Constitution Hill’s victory in the Champion Hurdle was also dealt with by police. Pyrotechnics are prohibited from all British racecourses, but they are more common at football games. According to a statement released by the FA in May, there has been an increase in the use of smoke devices, flares, and pyrotechnics brought into stadiums.

After the incident on Tuesday, no one was hurt or arrested. White was the colour of the flare, which Nico de Boinville, the jockey for Constitution Hill, wore.

The incidents occurred on the same day that the Jockey Club launched a campaign to prevent racegoers from engaging in antisocial behaviour on the main exit routes from the racetrack after the race. When the Racing Post inquired, the police did not report any incidents, but local residents posted images on social media of racegoers peeing. After numerous complaints of racegoers urinating in front gardens and Pittville Park last year, the Love Our Turf campaign was established.

 

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“A very good result” surprise as Paddy Power boosted by Galopin Des Champs win.

An all-too-predictable Willie Mullins big-race double ought to have turned the tide firmly against the layers on the final day of the meeting if an unpredictable Thursday had allowed bookmakers to draw back to about the same level as Cheltenham Festival punters.

However, established businesses’ responses were somewhat more mixed. Paddy Power depicted the triumph of Galopin Des Champions in the Boodles Gold Cup as “an excellent outcome,” while William Slope portrayed the 7-5 victor as “not unreasonably solid.” Coral described the festival as “one to remember for many punters” at the conclusion of the final day.

In the betting for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, Mullins had the first three horses, and earlier in the week, Blood Destiny had overtaken Lossiemouth as the market leader. Lossiemouth went into the day as a 13-8 favorite, and the crowd barely wavered in their support for Paul Townend’s horse, who was roared home at 11-8.

Before Mullins and Townend made no mistake with the classy Galopin Des Champs, bookmakers received some respite with 33-1 winners of the County Hurdle and 18-1 winners of the Albert Bartlett, respectively.

Coral’s David Stevens: “Lossiemouth gave favourite backers the perfect start to the busiest betting day of the festival and while the next two winners, Faivoir and Stay Away Fay, were much harder to find, Galopin Des Champs’ many backers had plenty of time to cheer the seven-year-old home as he went clear up the famous hill.

“A winning favourite in the second biggest betting race of the entire year is never going to be a good result for the bookmakers and the Lossiemouth-Galopin Des Champs double was also extremely popular, ensuring this year’s festival will be one to remember for many punters.”

Constitution Hill, the shortest-priced winner in the history of the Champion Hurdle, won the National Hunt Chase and the championship races on Tuesday and Wednesday, while El Fabiolo, trained by Mullins, justified his 11-10 odds in the Arkle.

The losses of Powerful Potter and Shishkin on Thursday provided the challenge with some similarity to value, before Friday by and by turned reasonably definitively for supporters.

Given that the well-backed 15-8 second favorite Impervious defeated the Mullins and Townend favorite Allegorie De Vassy in the Mrs. Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, even the defeat of Allegorie De Vassy provided little comfort to bookmakers. However, William Hill and Paddy Power reported surprising victories on the day.

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “Irish eyes must have been smiling on the bookies all right in the Gold Cup as despite the winner being favourite, amazingly it was a very good result for us, although some shrewd punters did have some ante-post run-ups on him.”

William Hill’s Lee Phelps was of a similar sentiment, saying: “Favourite Galopin Des Champs winning the Gold Cup wasn’t a bad result at all. He was wrapped up in a few costly multiples, but in the race itself he wasn’t overly strong.

“It was a tricky day for punters, with turn-ups in the Albert Bartlett, County and Hunter Chase, and we’ve ended the festival in front. The costliest thing for us this year has been long-standing ante-post multiples. We’ve seen a number of punters pocketing tens and even hundreds of thousands of pounds thanks to some well-judged accumulators and that has taken the gloss off what has been a solid week.”

Among the organisations costlier liabilities was a six-figure payout thanks to two long-range wagers that happened as expected on Friday for a similar foresighted client.

The client received £26,520 from a £10 each-way double placed on Christmas Eve 2021 with Constitution Hill at 25-1 and Galopin Des Champs at 33-1. The client also received £74,722 from a £10 four-fold placed in March on the same two horses and Desert Crown to win the Derby and Tuesday in the Oaks.

 

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Iroko stays on in style to make history in the Martin Pipe for Greenall and Guerriero, saying, “I can’t describe the feeling.”

With Iroko’s strong staying victory in the final race of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, two trainers got their first taste of victory.

No Ordinary Joe defeated 28-1 shot Buddy One for second, handing owner JP McManus a 1-2, as Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero celebrated as their horse speared between two rivals on the run in.

Since joining forces, the two trainers have had an excellent season. They share the license at their base in Cheshire. At the meeting, it was a first success for the pair in their current roles and rider Aidan Kelly.

“I can’t describe the feeling, really – amazing,” Greenall said. “We always knew the horse was nice, but we just felt maybe he’d be tapped for toe a little here but he managed to hold his position. He’s such an easy horse, so straightforward, just tough, honest.

“He shows nothing at home, he’s not a good work horse, but he’s so straightforward, he doesn’t take much work. He toughed it out and winged the last, and it’s just great.”

Iroko was prominently positioned inside throughout, but as the field accelerated down the hill, she came under pressure. However, he generously reacted to Kelly’s suggestions and powered to a length and a half advantage at the finish, overcoming a 10lb increase from his win at Wetherby the previous time.

Greenall had won the meeting as a rider in 2008, so he was familiar with the festival, but he described his current success as a different kind of buzz.

“I rode the winner of the Foxhunters here in 2008 on Amicelli so to train one here is amazing,” he said. “Josh mainly works on the horse side and is there every day, and I do more with the owners. We’ve got 70 in training, with 50 running at any one time, mainly over jumps but some on the Flat too.”

With Ireland eight wins ahead, the outcome increased Britain’s festival lead for the meeting to 10 points. It was a slight improvement over the 20-8 defeat of the previous year.

The Martin Pipe is frequently won by outstanding staying prospects, as the 2021 hero Galopin Des Champs demonstrated in the Gold Cup just two hours earlier.

 

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After the Gold Cup masterclass, McCoy lavishes praise on Townend, describing his ride as “as brilliant as I’ve ever seen in any horserace.”

After leading the hot favourite Galopin Des Champs to victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday, Paul Townend was praised by multiple champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy for providing “as brilliant a ride as I have ever seen in a horserace.”

Galopin Des Champs, who was at the back of the field, picked off his rivals one by one to get through and challenge Bravemansgame at the last fence before soaring up the hill to win the race for Townend for the third time.

The skill and patience shown by Townend was extolled by McCoy. Asked what he made of the performance, he said: “As brilliant a ride as I have ever seen in a horserace – talk about riding a horse with bottle. Oh my god.

“Talk about pressure – the privilege of pressure – and oh my god he’s coped with it better than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Townend has been criticised at various points throughout the week for his rides on the likes of Facile Vega in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Appreciate It in the Turners Novices’ Chase, while Galopin Des Champs was a faller at the final fence when clear in the Turners Novices’ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival last year.

Ruby Walsh praised Townend’s ability to ignore criticism and ride like he did on Galopin Des Champs, the Cheltenham Gold Cup’s market leader.

“I echo AP’s words completely,” he said. “You come to Cheltenham with all the pressure and to drop him in and ride him the way he rode him [was brilliant].

“He’s probably been listening to people like me giving out all week when he does something wrong, so to be able to put that all away and go and do what he’s just done I’m delighted for him. He deserves every plaudit he gets.”

He added: “There was brilliant race riding in there too. Harry Cobden [on Bravemansgame] kept it all tight off the home turn – it was a compelling race to watch. You wanted Bravemansgame and Galopin Des Champs going at it to the last – that’s what horseracing’s about. I thought it was magic.”

Winning trainer Willie Mullins said: “Paul is so good under pressure and I’ve been putting him under some fair pressure this week. It was a huge ride from Paul I thought – ride of the week anyway.”

 

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“A Plus Tard is back”: De Bromhead takes positives from the defending champion’s unlucky Gold Cup run.

Despite being pulled up in the Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup, Henry de Bromhead insists that A Plus Tard demonstrated that he was “back” and blames the interference from two fallers for costing him a better chance to defend his crown.

The winner from last year was a 4-1 shot when he was sent off. He was in the back and seemed to be going well until he was severely hampered in a fight at the 17th fence. Ahoy Senor tumbled, bringing down Sounds Russian in A Plus Tard’s path. Having lost his situation, the nine-year-old was pulled up by Rachael Blackmore before the third-last.

However, De Bromhead benefited from the performance. An Or more Tard had not been seen since floundering in the Betfair Pursue at Haydock in November and could now go to Aintree in about a month to challenge the Bowl.

The trainer said: “I thought he was very unlucky. He had to jump two horses sadly and that was it. Rachael said she was really happy with him at the time, tracking Paul [Townend on Galopin Des Champs], and all was good. But it’s the luck of the draw.

“I’m happy. He looks back now and it was just unlucky. He needs to go left-handed, so I suppose maybe Aintree [is an option]. Rachael did the right thing. She pulled him up as she knew he wouldn’t win.”

The coach’s other previous champ Minella Indo was pulled up with a circuit to go and De Bromhead faulted the race start for demolishing his opportunity. Nico de Boinville, a late replacement for Mark Walsh, was reportedly furious when the ten-year-old had to be pushed along when trailing at the start.

“Nico was livid with the start. He said it shouldn’t [have started],” De Bromhead said. “We’re really annoyed by that. I think his chance was gone then. We’ll get him home and see [what to do next].”

After the Gold Cup, all six of the horses that didn’t finish were fine, including Hewick, who fell hard at the second turn. The Galway Plate and American Terrific Public champ was becoming dull of dispute while descending.

Jockey Jordan Gainford said: “It was unbelievable. He’s a tough horse. Even when Derek [Fox, jockey of Ahoy Senor] fell, I was safe away. He was just unlucky on his landing at the second-last. He ran a cracker and I’m delighted with him.”

Before coming down six from home, Ahoy Senor jockey Derek Fox was pleased with how his mount was traveling ahead.

Fox said: “He was travelling nicely until it happened but hopefully he’ll be okay for another day.”

Sean Quinlan, who was brought down on Sounds Russian, said: “I was probably in top gear the whole way. His jumping was keeping him in it, but he was probably getting a little bit tired when he got brought down.”

 

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Stay Away Fay provides Albert Bartlett with a pleasant surprise as a result of Harry Cobden’s self-assurance.

At preview nights, Paul Nicholls informed everyone who listened that Stay Away Fay had a chance, but the market completely missed him.

In all honesty, we should have all known better. The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle has a well-deserved reputation for surprising winners, and prior to Stay Away Fay’s power up the hill and 18-1 victory, this race had only had one winner at odds of just one figure in the previous nine years.

By doing so, the seven-year-old horse prevented the favourite Corbetts Cross, who was purchased by JP McManus prior to the festival and appeared to be coming with a strong challenge before crashing through the last hurdle’s wing, from winning.

“He didn’t have the same profile as the others coming into this but you often need an improving horse,” said Nicholls after winning his second Grade 1 in as many days. “I thought a lot of him. He’s just been a bit backwards but I was sure he’d run well.

“I felt he would win turning in because he’s a very strong stayer. I knew he wouldn’t stop. He’s a smart young horse who probably should have won last time. He’s taken a real step forward and looked fantastic. We rode him very positively. He jumped really well and it’s only his third run under rules so we hope there’s plenty of improvement.”

Stay Away Fay finished second at Doncaster in January under Lorcan Williams, but that performance was not enough to shake jockey Harry Cobden’s confidence, as he stated: “I really fancied him. I thought he had a massive chance coming into this race.

“First time out he was green but stayed on and beat a nice horse of Dan Skelton’s. Lorcan was a bit unlucky on him last time. Paul has then put him away and trained him for one day. The thing that made me fancy him even more was when Kilbricken Storm won the race I thought this horse was a lot better than he was, which gave me more confidence in him today.”

Stay Away Fay’s perseverance paid off when he finished a length ahead of Affordale Fury, a 150-1 shot, with Sandor Clegane, who was disqualified at 28-1, taking third.

“They went a good even gallop but he sits a little bit high in the bridle,” added Cobden. “He travelled well and jumped brilliantly. Turning in I thought I had a nice bit left and he was going to stay all the way to the line. He got a good jump at the last but he idled a bit in front. He’s very tough and is obviously a good horse. It’s a long way to be in front from turning into the last, especially for an inexperienced horse, but he did well.”

Stay Away Fay, a three-mile point-to-point winner, will be sent chasing next season and was cut to 10-1 (from 50) for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase by Paddy Power. “He should improve for a summer off,” added Nicholls. “We’ll see how he comes out of this but I suspect we’ll give him a run at Aintree next month before sending him chasing.”

Affordale Fury’s display came as no surprise to Noel Meade, who said: “He was only 150-1 because he was pulled up last time. We ran him too soon after he fell at Navan. He’s a brilliant jumper and I think he’ll be a very good chaser.

“When you come here you’re always hoping to run into the money. I think the third horse might have been a bit unlucky but we’ve had a good run and Sam Ewing gave him a great ride. We might wait for the three-mile novice hurdle at Punchestown.”

 

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Brilliant Townend leads Galopin Des Champs to epic Gold Cup triumph.

Incredible Gold Cup lives up to expectations with Galopin Des Champs galloping to glory under the brilliant Paul Townend.

A Gold Cup that was supposed to be epic lived up to that and more as Galopin Des Champs overcame his doubts about his stamina to win gloriously for the indomitable team of Willie Mullins and Paul Townend.

The handsome seven-year-old justified 7-5 favouritism by an emphatic seven lengths twelve months after his cruel final-fence exit with the Turners Novices’ Chase at his mercy. Those are the facts, and they appear to be unambiguous. However, in order to reach this magnificent location, Townend had to dodge obstacles that could have destroyed the script.

Galopin Des Champs was further behind than he had intended after a sluggish start, and the returning champion A Plus Tard, whom he had located inside at the back, frequently jumped across him. Townend narrowly avoided being knocked down when Ahoy Senor crashed while still in front six out, and stablemate Stattler also got in the way a little when retreating at pace before a circuit had been completed.

However, Townend had a partner with whom he could collaborate, and the improved Galopin Des Champs is a much more approachable model than she was last season. They were able to avoid the Ahoy Senor incident, in which Sounds Russian was brought down and A Plus Tard was severely hampered, by maneuvering a little wider with a circuit to go.

That put Hewick ahead, and Shark Hanlon’s rival was leading a gallant race when he crashed out two fences short of the finish line. Townend had just emerged from the final bend on Galopin Des Champs, avoiding the melee, having once more retreated behind horses for cover. This time, Lady Luck, who had left him on the horse a year ago, was riding shotgun.

“It was very close,” Townend said afterwards of the Ahoy Senor incident at the final ditch at the top of the hill. “We were landing on the back of horses early, horses going right and left in front of me, but he always found a leg. You need that luck. We didn’t have it last year but we got it this year. It was very messy early on and he did well to get back into a rhythm.”

The Gold Cup was a huge hit with fans because of how good the lineup was. Prestbury Park put on a race that satisfied the appetite of a Cotswolds community looking for something special. It was truly a delicious meal.

Bravemansgame had his impact in that, coming there to challenge close by Protektorat at the second-last wall. However, Galopin Des Champs had the move covered, and Townend had him in his sights. Rachael Blackmore’s strategies on A Plus Tard a year ago were mirrored in the course of the race, and Ireland’s champion jockey was still perched motionless before they crossed that fence. Galopin Des Champs lengthened as soon as Townend squeezed his legs when they landed half a length down. Before the winner turned the screw up the hill, he and Bravemansgame crossed the final fence in perfect harmony. Although it took a few steps to put daylight between them, his superiority at the line was undeniable.

After Al Boum Photo’s victories in 2019 and 2020, this was the trainer and jockey’s third victory, and it was a fitting end to the Closutton master’s week.

“I think we put ourselves under pressure by saying he has enough stamina to win a Gold Cup,” admitted a relieved Mullins. “I thought he had enough class to win a Gold Cup, but when Al Boum Photo won a Gold Cup there wasn’t a huge weight of expectation.

“But there was behind this guy. I didn’t realise how much pressure until about the third-last. He flew through it and then he came back on the bridle and I said, ‘It’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen’.”

He added: “Through the race you’re wondering, is he too far back? But I’d asked Paul to settle him, that they will try to sap his stamina and I said, ‘You’ve got the best horse, you’ve got the fastest horse, you just ride him like you’re on the fastest horse from the second-last home’. And that’s what he’s done. Paul is so good under pressure. And I’ve been putting him under fair pressure this week.”

Townend has long demonstrated his defiant ability to deliver when the going gets tough, as is the case with Mullins. His back was against the wall here after a mishmash of seven days, yet he arises with the main rider grant and his standing improved again, also the differentiation that main Pat Taaffe has ridden more Gold Cup champs than him.

“This race,” he said with that trademark cool disposition of his. “It’s just different. It brings winning to a different level.”

Of the route they had to endure, he added: “It wasn’t clean sailing anyway, that’s for sure. Everywhere I went I was running into a bit of trouble. His jumping got a little bit careful on the first circuit but going out I had full faith in him that he was going to get me out of trouble. And he did. He is a proper, proper horse because he’s run about three different races and still won a Gold Cup.”

Galopin Des Champs, a son of Timos, is owned by Audrey Turley and her businessman husband Greg, who lives in Dublin.

“It’s like a dream come true,” gushed Audrey Turley. “It’s like something I’ve never dreamed of. We never thought we’d be here with such a wonderful horse as Galopin Des Champs, winning the Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival. I don’t know what to say, what to think. It’s just so unbelievable and wonderful.”

Minella Indo did not start the game and never got going before Blackmore pulled her up. Blackmore also pulled up A Plus Tard after he was hampered and lost his chance. After Sam Ewing was drafted late to replace a “sore” Davy Russell, Conflated ran a blinder to finish third, but Protektorat’s challenge faded up the hill. Noble Yeats kept going like a lion after being nearly slowed down at the top of the hill to somehow finish fourth, six and a half lengths behind.

The Grand National winner’s effort in a captivating Gold Cup confirmed that the balance of power remains firmly held across the Irish Sea. The majority of it appears to be in Closutton, County Carlow. a destination for champions.

 

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‘I’ve no excuses but it was unlike him’ – Nicky Henderson perplexed by Shishkin’s defeat.

After the even-money favorite was defeated by Envoi Allen in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, jockey Nico de Boinville said the race “never really went right” for Shishkin. Trainer Nicky Henderson said “he never looked comfortable” during the 2m412f Grade 1 race on Thursday.

Shishkin, who had been highly anticipated to win the festival for a third time and bounced back with a 16-length victory in the Ascot Chase last month, surged to the top of the Ryanair market in the absence of Allaho, the two-time winner.

At Cheltenham, however, he was unable to settle into a rhythm and made a costly error at the third fence, but he rallied to finish second despite having difficulty finding racing room.

De Boinville said: “It never really went right from when the tapes went up. Even down at the start, he was just curling up on me a bit and sitting back on his haunches a bit. Then over the first two, he just wasn’t taking me anywhere.

“At Ascot I was able to jump and travel and dictate where I wanted to be. Whereas this time I was pushed here, there and everywhere. Davy [Russell] was trying to push me out into the car park and I had to switch inside him and try to get a run up there.

“He was just hanging a bit left and just wasn’t the same horse we saw at Ascot, but we know what he can do. We’ll get him home, check him over, get him absolutely spot on and I’m sure we’ll be going three miles at Aintree.

“All credit to the horse – he’s very genuine. He made an error down the hill and managed to get back into second. He had every right to be pulled up or tailed off – he’s a very genuine horse and we know what he can do on his good days. There will be plenty more days to come.”

Before being pulled up in the Champion Chase the previous year and having a wind op after finishing third in the Tingle Creek in December, Shishkin had never lost a fences race.

Nicky Henderson conceded Shishkin was never truly in conflict yet was satisfied with the manner in which he got done and is as of now looking forward to Aintree.

The trainer said: “He wasn’t really travelling like you hoped he would have been, even early on he just didn’t look as though he was that happy about it. He’s done really well to finish where he has – maybe I should have listened to all those people who said go three and a quarter miles, as he looked as though he wants it!

“He was going markedly left and that’s not like him. His last run was at Ascot and if you go left around there you end up in Windsor Castle, so he was fine there.

“He never looked comfortable, but look where he’s finished and how he’s finished. He’s finished really strong. He did make one bad mistake coming down the hill. He got back into it though, so he’s determined if nothing else. They’ve done very well to finish second.”

Henderson pinpointed the Betway Bowl over three miles at Aintree next month as Shishkin’s next target, and added: “You could say it came too soon after Ascot as it was a bit of a rush, but I certainly want to run him in four weeks’ time. Going over three miles in the Bowl is the obvious thing. At least it’s left-handed!

“We’ve got to sort out why he was going left-handed. It’s not like him to do that. He schooled on Monday and you’ve never seen a horse jump five fences straighter, quicker and more narrow. I’ve no excuses but it was unlike him to do that.

“He’s back and he’s all right and he’s finished his race really well, which was the encouraging thing. If he was going backwards you’d be very worried but he was flying home and he wanted to finish his race. We’ll take him to pieces and tighten a few bolts and then we’ll go to Aintree and look forward to him.”

 

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