Cheltenham Festival Diary: Poole Master looks Honour-bound


Click to follow
The Independent Online

Good things come to those who wait, they say. Well, few jockeys have waited as long as Chris Honour to ride a winner at the Cheltenham Festival but well-backed Poole Master in today's Coral Cup could be the one to change all that.

So much so, that if Poole Master wins, it may well signal Honour's retirement from the saddle and a new career as an equine sports masseur. He will, with 75 wins over 15 years, finally ride out his claim and there would be no finer swansong.

So will Honour bow out in the grand manner if Poole Master does his bit? "I'll see how I feel. I've been thinking about it and it would be a great way to go out, wouldn't it?"

Cunningham's hurdler steams home

And then there are those who don't have to wait very long for good things to happen. Phil Cunningham, part-owner of yesterday's Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner, Cinders and Ashes, is a relative newcomer to jumps racing, having already reached highs on the Flat with Cockney Rebel, the winner of the English and Irish 2,000 Guineas five years ago and now a successful stallion.

So how does a Cheltenham Festival victory compare with a Classic triumph? "Definitely more nerve-racking," he admitted after Cinders And Ashes had held on in a thrilling finish.

Named after a curse in Thomas The Tank Engine, Cinders And Ashes was roared home by around two dozen of Cunningham's family and friends. As for Cunningham, his attention turns back to the Flat with Slim Shadey, fourth in last year's 2,000 Guineas, in action at Santa Anita this weekend.

PP's Sacre blues

Bookies Paddy Power have pulled some fine publicity stunts here in recent years – memorably when renting a farmer's field on Cleeve Hill and raising their name in letters 50 feet high, Hollywood-style. But they lose in style, too. Not only did they pay out £3m on Arkle winner, Sprinter Sacre, a special offer meant they had to refund a further £2.5m on all losing bets. Ouch.

BHA absolves the going for fatalities

What had already been a disappointing day for the Irish became a horrible one when both Garde Champetre and Scotsirish freakishly broke legs on the flat in yesterday's Cross-country Chase and were put down.

The 13-year-old Garde Champetre was a standing dish in this unique contest, winning in both 2008 and 2009, while Scotsirish, though 11, was a new kid on the block and a strong favourite.

With the ground on the cross-country track not as extensively watered as on the main course, the issue of safety was bound to be asked. But Tim Morris, the BHA's director of science and equine health, felt that the track was in an acceptable condition, although the circumstances will be carefully analysed.

"It was a terrible thing for the connections of two fine horses, but these things can happen any time," he said. "We do not think it was because of the ground."