With a history dating back almost two centuries, Cheltenham has become synonymous with world class National Hunt horse racing. Encompassing the Champion Day, Ladies Day, St Patrick’s Thursday and the internationally-renowned Cheltenham Gold Cup Day, the four-day event witnessed more than 25 races, with almost £600 million being bet on some of the world’s finest race horses.
Key highlights from the festival:
- For the pure unadulterated drama of it, the RSA won and lost and won again by Might Bite. Nicky Henderson’s chaser is by Scorpion, whose progeny have a reputation for quirks and, my goodness, has this one has got a few of those up his sleeve. Having tried to duck out back up the chute to the paddock, he surrendered a 12-length lead to stable companion, Whisper, but got going again to get back up in the shadow of the post. Extremely talented, watching Might Bite next season will be exciting – riding him even more so.
- There were some scintillating performances but few better than Un de Sceaux winning the Ryanair Chase. He is full on. If you have Ruby Walsh, the best jockey of all time in my book, riding for you, most horses would be inclined to let him be the boss, but not Un de Sceaux. He carted Walsh to the front after half a mile and did it his way. The sight of him, ears back, head down and doing it with terrier-like etermination winging his fences was a joy.
- The Champion Chase was meant to be the coronation of Douvan and as much as it provided one of the lows of the meeting when he capitulated with an injury, it also provided one of the highs when Special Tiara just hung on from Fox Norton to give Henry de Bromhead a second win in the race. On Special Tiara’s fourth attempt, it all came together for him and will partly assuage the disappointment Irishman De Bromhead will have felt having bought and trained Sizing John until last September when he was switched to Jessica Harrington’s yard.
- The Gold Cup proved a better race than people were giving it credit for beforehand and was won by the one unexposed horse in the field, Sizing John, trained by the most successful female trainer Ireland has ever known, Jessica Harrington, and ridden by a consummate horseman, Robbie Power. With three winners apiece this week, the dynamic Irish duo have hardly put a foot wrong.
- The big battalions naturally dominated with Irish heavyweights Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins winning a dozen of the 28 races between them. However, the small man with not many horses and owners without the resources of Rich Ricci, Michael O’Leary or JP McManus, still pops up. That was no better demonstrated than on Thursday when Stuart Edmunds, who has worked in the Newton Pagnell yard he now trains from since he left school at 17, won the Kim Muir with Domesday Book.