The greatest show on turf may have finished, but what a show it was.
The performance of the week for me is a tough one but Un De Sceaux just takes it. He was fighting Ruby from the get go but when he let him go he absolutely flew and took some outrageous leaps, it was so good to watch and he was far enough ahead at the last that there was no worry about if there was any fuel left in the tank. Sub Lieutenant closed all the way to the line but in reality was never going to get there despite me shouting at the TV.
Douvan was without a doubt the disappointment of the festival, in some way it’s nice to know that there was something amiss and it wasn’t his true running, he’ll be back for sure. Take nothing away from Special Tiara who took the bull by the horns and won the Champion Chase gallantly from a rallying Fox Norton.
Both of those winning horses I have mentioned above competed in the Champion Chase last year and were beaten by Sprinter Sacre. We knew that the Black Aeroplane was a horse of a lifetime but even after he has retired his form is being franked which is astonishing.
In my opinion there is no competition for race of the week, the RSA was simply extraordinary. By so many people Might Bite was considered the lay of the festival, how wrong they were. He got everything out of their comfort zone and simply galloped them into submission, but on the run in he thought he’d come and say hello to the crowd. The loose horse ran past him and that switched his brain back on and Nico de Boinville miraculously got him back up on the line to beat stablemate Whisper. If Might Bite gets to Kempton sound at Christmas I think he will be very hard to overcome in the King George.
I think it’s safe to say that the first two days were not particularly friendly to punters with two favourites going in in the first 14 races. Labaik was mightily impressive in the Supreme and it shows that when he does fancy racing, he’s quite good! The hype horse Melon certainly didn’t disgrace himself in second and we can expect to see more from him. As for Ballyandy, he didn’t get an ideal spin round by any stretch of the imagination but I don’t think he would have won the race anyway.
Altior wasn’t as impressive as some expected, but my view is that this is the Cheltenham Festival and it’s the best horses competing against each other so for an odds on shot to impressive is very difficult.
Buveur D’air stamped his authority in the Champion Hurdle and was by far the best on the day, would he have beaten Faugheen or Annie Power? I doubt it. However, it would have been closer than everyone would have expected. My Tent Or Yours ran a cracker in second but that leads you to questioning the form as he hasn’t exactly sparked this season. I assume Nicky Henderson will keep the former over hurdles from now on and he could be at the top of the two mile tree for years to come. Yanworth was severely outpaced and simply wasn’t good enough, a chasing campaign looks to be the target for next season so I’ll reserve my judgement on him until I see him jump a fence.
The Mares Hurdle was a race to saviour as Apple’s Jade outbattled the Mullins pair of Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag to gain a hard-fought success. I backed the latter and coming round the bend I was starting to count my winnings as Paul Townend still hadn’t moved, she jumped the last marginally in front but Gordon Elliott’s charge showed real guts to fight back and get up. Vroum Vroum didn’t have a great trip round and I won’t be giving up on her yet.
Willoughby Court broke favourite backers hearts in the first on day 2 by just getting the better of Neon Wolf. The latter stumbled after the last and that may have cost him, to be honest I think he had every chance to go past but Willoughby Court wanted it that bit more. Plus Ben Pauling’s celebration was the best of the week, so for that alone it was worth it.
Festival hero Cause Of Causes absolutely romped home in the Cross Country and there is no reason why he couldn’t boss this discipline in the future and maybe add to his three festival successes.
It was heartbreak again in the Fred Winter as Divin Bere was edged out of it by Flying Tiger and champion jockey Richard Johnson. Jamie Codd gave Fayonagh an inspired ride in the bumper and she could be something special.
I’ve got a feeling ‘Ruby Thursday’ is going to catch on for the third day of the festival after his record breaking day this year. Yorkhill kicked it off with a comfortable win, Walsh settled him beautifully and he coasted through the race to win a shade cosily. Un De Sceaux was number 2 then Nichols Canyon followed suit by springing a surprise to the odds on favourite Unowhatimeanharry in the Stayers’ Hurdle for owner Graham Wylie. Could he have another Inglis Drever on his hands? Let’s Dance completed the Mullins/Walsh four fold in emphatic style, she was ridden with such confidence and readily came clear after the last when Ruby pushed the button.
Defi Du Seuil destroyed the rest of the Juveniles in the Triumph to begin Friday with a bang and he firmly put the talking horse Charli Parcs in his place. Richard Johnson said afterwards that he was a passenger the whole way round which tells you all you need to know, he travelled with ease and quickened after the last, easy.
Death Duty failed to deliver as favourites often do in the Albert Bartlett as Penhill came from out the back to get the better of the promising Monalee and the consistent Wholestone.
The Gold Cup didn’t disappoint as Cue Card came to grief at the third last, the same stage as last year which really was a sad sight to see. He wasn’t really travelling though and I doubt he would have hit the frame. Sizing John jumped like a stag and really showed his class, he has come out of Douvans shadow and excelled in the staying chase division. Djakadam lost all chance when he ran through the second last but I think the winner had his measure regardless. Native River ran his race and stuck on well to regain third near the line. The runner up Minella Rocco ran on really well and we might have seen a new era of stayers this year as the front three are all 7 years old and could be competing in Gold Cups for seasons to come.
The team of Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power struck again in the last with Rock The World to end the festival on a high. This meant that Jessica ended the festival with 3 wins from 7 runners, not bad going!
I hope you all enjoyed Cheltenham as much as I did and I’m already excited for next year. For know though it only gets busier on the racing front with the Grand National and Punchestown festivals finishing off this rollercoaster of a National Hunt season. Following this we are straight onto the flat with the Guineas at the start of May and it all starts coming thick and fast, bring it on!