LAMBOURN-BASED Jamie Snowden’s dreams hung in the balance after the last race on day one of the Cheltenham Festival yesterday, as the stewards took an agonising length of time deliberating over the result.
Despite his faithful chaser Present View crossing the line first, an enquiry was underway as to whether his line in the run-in had hampered second-placed finisher Attaglance.
As the minutes ticked by, the heart monitor Snowden had in his pocket recorded 170 beats per minute, and the nerves were escalating.
All victories at the Cheltenham Festival mean a lot, but when a trainer has just 34 horses in training, has only trained for six years and has just one runner over the four days, to have a winner is near on miraculous.To then face the prospect of that being taken away is heart-wrenching.
So, when it was finally announced that Present View was indeed the winner, it was no surprise to see an outpouring of emotion from Snowden and everyone connected to him. He was quick to praise the ride of young jockey Brendan Powell, and admitted he had let himself hope for this result.
“It’s what dreams are made of,” he told the Swindon Advertiser.
“You dream about it every day, in my wildest dreams that’s exactly what would have happened.
“We were in the right place at the right time, and it all happened as it was meant to. [Brendan] is a brilliant, brilliant jockey. I could not have asked for a better jockey, he rides with supreme confidence.
“It’s just fantastic! Cheltenham is where it all is, and words can’t express it. There’s been a lot of hard work from a lot of people. It’s credit to all the staff.
“He’s always been a smashing horse, who we’ve thought the world of.
“He was an untamed horse over hurdles, but we’ve had to grab hold of him, and really teach him how to race. I remember working for Nicky [Henderson] and Paul [Nicholls] who would bring battalions of horses here, and if they had one winner they would be pleased. So for us to win, it’s great.”
There was another local win late in the afternoon, when Alan King-trained Midnight Prayer won gamely for amateur jockey Joshua Newman.
There had been earlier disappointment for the Barbury Castle Stables trainer, when his hopes of a third Arkle triumph did not materialise, as Valdez finished fifth. King’s Assistant Trainer Oliver Wardle said of the win: “Josh has given it some ride. He ticked all the boxes to win the race, he jumps, he stays, he’s honest and he tries hard.
“It was an unknown trip but he matched all the criteria needed to win this race.
“I’m delighted for Josh, he has been riding for the boss for a good long while now, so this is spot on.”
For the rest of the local contingent of trainers and jockeys, it was a more frustrating day.
Nicky Henderson finished second and third in the first race, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, with Josses Hill and Vaniteux. However, the Champion Trainer looked beyond the disappointment of not winning, recounting that many of his top horses had never won this race.
“They are both horses for the future but it was a bit agonising to have run so well yet be thumped like that by the winner”, he said.
“All my good novices have finished [there] in the places. The likes of Sprinter Sacre, Binocular, Darlan and My Tent Or Yours were placed in this.”
The feature race of the day, the Champion Hurdle, had been billed as one of the best editions of the race in years, with over £30 million gambled on it.
However, when the race finally came, the victory of Jessica Harrington-trained Jezki was tainted by the fatal fall of one of the favourites, Our Conor.
Furthermore, last year’s winner Hurricane Fly, who had been heavily backed, could not replicate his form in recent years, and finished down in fifth.
Champion Jockey AP McCoy will have been kicking himself, despite finishing second on the Nicky Henderson-trained My Tent Or Yours, as he passed up the opportunity to ride Jezki.
Nico de Boinville tasted what riding a winner at the Cheltenham Festival would be like, but the reality was snatched away from him in the closing stages of the Festival Handicap Chase.
Having given Ma Filleule a brilliant ride, a slight error at the third last fence caused him to lose his stirrup, and he was overtaken by the eventual winner Holywell.
“Without a doubt, that’s my best spin at the Festival,” he said. “She’s very gutsy and genuine to run on from that mistake at the third last.”
History was made on day one, as Quevega won a sixth consecutive Mares’ Hurdle. It was not easy viewing for those who had backed the 10-year-old as she was made to work by Glens Melody, who finished second while King’s L’Unique was third.
Day two promises to be another brilliant day of racing, with the feature race being the Queen Mother Champion Chase.