Cheltenham 2019: aracingfirst, A Racing Fan…

Below is the first of 3 Cheltenham reviews, with this being from our perspective as a racing fan. This will be followed by a review of the bets advised by aracingfirst and finally a few notebook horses to take from the meeting…

It’s all over for another year, but the build up, the hype, the anticipation….
Cheltenham never fails to deliver, the downs, the lows, the highs, the euphoria it’s a place like no else and we’re already looking forward to the 2020 edition.

From a racing front it’s always extremely sad to see fatalities, with Ballyward, Sir Erec and Invitation Only all racing for the last time and our thoughts extend to all those involved with the horses in question and to all the viewing public who witnessed such events.

From the lows to the highs and this year seemed to have more than the normal extraordinary story.

From the very first race and the recent passing of Klassical Dreams owner John Coleman, unable to witness what would have been his first Cheltenham winner and his widow Joanne ensuring that dream came part true by having his ashes with her to see their horse win the opener of the Festival in impressive style.

The falling of a Champion in the Champion Hurdle, with Buveur D’air such a slick hurdler clipping the 3rd flight and taking a tumble. With Apple’s Jade and Laurina not performing the gate was left open for a new kid on the block, which Espoir D’allen grabbed to become only one of a handful of five year olds to win the hurdling crown and a first Cheltenham Festival win for his trainer Gavin Cromwell.

The Mares Hurdle saw a dramatic repeat of Annie Power’s final flight fall from 2015 when the same connections saw Benie Des Dieux under Ruby Walsh crumple on landing with the race at her mercy… Thankfully horse and rider were fine, but for a bruised ego perhaps.

Perhaps the most impressive performance of Day One and maybe of the entire Festival.. well Tiger Roll apart was from A Plus Tard who made mincemeat of the opposition in the Novices Handicap Chase winning by 16 lengths and delivering a Festival victory for Cheveley Park Stud who are more know for their exploits on the flat as well as for leading Irish rider Rachael Blackmore, who I’m sure would agree had a Festival to remember.

Day 2 very much saw the limelight taken by two extraordinary horses that deserve the right to be called Champions.
Altior defended his crown in the Champion Chase, but boy did he have to work for it; looking in trouble in the home straight and perhaps for the first time over fences headed over the last, but to go with his undoubted brilliance he showed the heart of a lion to battle back and claim victory. Undefeated in 18 Hurdles and Chase starts.

This might make you laugh. My first venture into race horse ownership saw our little horse go to Market Rasen for a NH Flat race back in May 2014, we quietly fancied our chances but came across a bit of a MONSTER that day… Yep Altior.. Little did we know!!

Not to be outdone by Altior, the little but MIGHTY Tiger Roll stepped up to the plate in the Cross Country Chase, and delivered in stunning style… Never has the race been won with such a dominant performance. He tanked through the race showing his natural athleticism over the variety of fences. Taking up the running 4 fences from home and from that moment he simply cruised away from the field to win by 22 lengths in effortless fashion.
A four-time Festival winner, he’s literally one in a million.

How could Day 3 possible match up to Altior and Tiger Roll…. Well easy… Cue Bryony Frost and Frodon… The relationship they seem to have built is amazing and her emotional interview in the immediate aftermath captured the hearts of many a viewer…
It’s the first thing the wife mentioned when walking through the door after work!!

We’re not done with Day 3 yet.. Roll on The Andrew Gemmell story and Paisley Park.
Blind from birth, that’s not stopped Andrew attending some of the biggest sporting events across the globe and having won the Stayers Hurdle with the Emma Lavelle trained Paisley Park, you could not wipe the smile off his face.

Not to be outdone by Bryony Frost earlier in the day, or indeed by Rachael Blackmore earlier in the week it was Lizzie Kelly’s turn to land another race for the girls, with a superb front running ride on Siruh Du Lac.

Add to that a victory in the Mares Novice Hurdle on Eglantine Du Seuil for the brilliant Noel Fehily who when interviewed after the race, emotionally announced his pending retirement in what he called a youngster games these days. Aged 43 and with a quite brilliant career behind him, he was one of the smoothest jockeys on the circuit and it’ll be a pleasure to see him ride for the final time at Newbury this Saturday.

Gold Cup Day… always a little sad in the knowledge it’s the last day of the Festival.
It’s such an emotionally draining 4 days, I can’t imagine coping with a 5th day, if they ever do replicate the 5 days of Royal Ascot; but I guess we’ll all cope pretty well if it does indeed happen

A real sad start to the day with Sir Erec, he had the potential to be an absolute superstar over hurdles; being maybe the best flat horse to translate that ability over hurdles, even after just a couple of starts.

Then along came the Skeltons… How does a team dominate one of the most competitive handicaps of the entire year… Time after time.
2016 Superb Story, 2018 Mohaayed and this year Ch’tibello…
Quite remarkable and with last years winning jockey Bridget Andrews due to marry this years winning jockey Harry Skelton later this year, with Harrys brother Dan doing the training.. A pretty decent family team!

Gold Cup time, Jump Racings Blue Riband and a cracking line up with the One-Two from the previous year in Native River and Might Bite, the King George winner in Clan Des Obeaux and the big Irish hope in Presenting Percy. A superb race and a superb winner in Al Boum Photo who travelled through the race brilliantly and held off the challenges of Anibale Fly and Bristol De Mai to give Willie Mullins his first and much deserved Gold Cup success.

Just to finish of a Cheltenham full of stories, a 12 year old, on only his 2nd run in 2 years, 66/1 Croco Bay makes all in the Grand Annual. Then the final race of the meeting a fitting end to a remarkable Festival for JP McManus with 5 winners and 5 2nd places.

Cheltenham you were wonderful… see you again on Tuesday the 10th March 2020.


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