Another spectacular Cheltenham Festival, even without the crowds.
Tuesday, Day One:
Supreme Novice Hurdle,
Won in impressive style by Appreciate It, who coming into the race set a high standard, but on quicker ground that he’d been racing on through the winter put in a stunning display, to pull clear and win by 24 lengths. That winning margin perhaps greater than it would have been had Blue Lord not taken a tumble at the last, but that doesn’t take anything from a top class performance from the winner. He beat the rest so easily, it’s hard to really put up a case for any of the others, and it’ll be fascinating to see if connections tick to hurdles or go chasing next season; he’s a hugely exciting horse.
Shishkin put in what can only be described as a “monster performance” in the Arkle. Whilst it was only a small field, they went off at a really strong pace and he simply breezed through the race, picking up the two front runners at his leisure. When asked to put a little daylight between himself and the opposition, he picked up immediately and then when clear was ease down to win as he liked. The time was good, especially when you consider the early fractions and having been compared to the previous great Nicky Henderson 2 mile chasers, in Sprinter Sacre and Altior, he proved those plaudits to be very much justified. He’s understandably a short price for the Champion Chase at next years Festival already.
Won by Vintage Clouds who was running in the race for the 5th time. Perhaps close to a career best performance at the age of 11, is quite remarkable. It also points to the fact this years renewal was below average, lacking in any particularly well handicapped runners. But take nothing away from the winners performance.
The 3rd impressive performance of the day saw Honeysuckle extend her unbeaten record to 11 races with her best two performances coming last time at Leopardstown and here. She still seems to be improving and travelled much the best here for most of the race, jumping quickly and economically and when asked to win her race by Rachael Blackmore, she quickened impressively. Perhaps not the greatest opposition on the day with Epatante not running to the level she did when winning this last year & Goshen hanging badly right, ruining any chance he might have had, but still a very good performance.
With Roksana picking the pace up quite early on, this perhaps turned into more of a stamina test than expected. As a result, the classy Concertista was just outstayed by Black Tears, a 12 length turn around from December. The winner had run well in the Coral Cup last year, but this was a step forward from that and a really strong staying performance. Just wonder if connections of Roksana regret running here rather than the Stayers Hurdle, as she’s certainly better over 3 miles.
A shock 80/1 victory with Jeff Kidder causing somewhat of an upset, but no fluke about the success as he stayed on really strongly to hold off the challenge from Saint Sam, who travelled very well throughout the contest and has the size and scope for chasing next year. Houx Gris the eventually 4th perhaps travelled best of all, on just his 2nd start for the Paul Nicholls yard, he’s sure to progress into a nice horse, whilst Zoffanien can also be marked up for his effort, as he didn’t settle early on and made a mistake at the 1st hurdle, which put him on the back foot early on. He did well to stay on into a respectable 8th place. Hell Red was another who travelled well, stepping up on his recent efforts and he’s likely to be seen to best effect when sent chasing.
National Hunt Chase,
A race run at a sedate gallop, which suited the superior finishing kick of Galvin, as did the drying ground. In the end he had too much pace for Next Destination who looked a thorough stayer, whilst Escaria Ten, Remastered and Snow Leopardess all ran with credit.
Wednesday, Day Two:
A really impressive performance from Bob Olinger, who travelled superbly well and was cantering over his opposition as they turned for home, and as soon as Rachael Blackmore asked for an effort, he quickly put daylight between himself and his rivals and storming up the hill to win by 7 lengths. He has the stamp of a chaser and the sky is the limit. Gaillard Du Mesnil couldn’t match the pace of the winner, but still ran really well and looks like a staying chaser in the making himself. Bravemansgame was ultimately a little disappointing, but he again, is sure to benefit from being sent over fences next season. Bear Ghylls ran a career best and can continue his progression next season, as he still looks a work in progress.
Brown Advisory Novices Chase,
Perhaps not the most competitive race of the Festival, but Monkfish confirmed himself as an extremely high class chaser, winning well despite putting in a very indifferent round of jumping. He’s got some engine and is an obvious candidate for the likes of the Gold Cup next season, but he’d want to be jumping better than he did here, if he were to return in 12 months time for the Blue Riband. The Big Breakaway ran well, having served it up to Monkfish early on, and he perhaps paid for those exertions, whilst Fiddlerontheroof ran another very good race and looks to have benefitted from stepping up in trip. He could well be the type for the Ladbrokes Trophy, formerly the Hennessy at Newbury, next season.
A pillar to post victory for Heaven Help Us, who off a low weight was given a soft lead and simply dictated the race at her own pace. Kicking away from the home turn, she sprinted away in a race where the other jockeys might wish the race was run again. No taking away from the winners performance, as she was excellent on the day. Blue Sari was the only one to come out of the pack to chase the winner, but he took a tumble at the last; he’s certainly capable of winning off his mark, if none the worse for that fall. Craigneiche stayed on well into 2nd place, with a bunched pack in behind. An unlucky horse from the race was Monte Cristo, who was hampered by the fall of Blue Sari, when in the process of running a big race.
Put The Kettle On showed her liking for Cheltenham making it 4 wins from 4 runs and a real battling performance. Headed by Chacun Pour Soi over the last, she wouldn’t take no for an answer and stayed on up the hill for a great victory. Chacun Pour Soi didn’t get up the hill, whilst the supposed speed horse Nube Negra stayed on strongly to be the winners final challenge, but just couldn’t get there. The unlucky horse of the race was most certainly Sceau Royal, who was badly hampered and almost brought down as he tried to squeeze through a gap on the inside rail. He did remarkably well to get remotely back into the race, finishing 5th only beaten 3 ¾ lengths.
Cross Country Chase,
A wonderful sight to see Tiger Roll bounce back to win this for the 3rd time and a remarkable 5th Cheltenham Festival victory. He travelled well throughout, whereas Easysland the favourite and his main rival always looked to be struggling. “Tiger” went clear from 3 out and won as impressively as he did back in 2019. One of those fairytale stories, and a horse of a lifetime.
Grand Annual Chase,
Sky Pirate put in a cracking performance to win, considering he started his winning streak when dropped to 2 miles off a mark of 134 at Cheltenham back in December, and won here off 152. He jumped superbly and that might have just been the difference, as Entoucas who was flying at the finish and just failed to catch the winner, didn’t jump the 2nd last flight with as much fluency. Ibleo ran a remarkable race having been held up off the pace, doing extremely well to finish strongly into 3rd place; he’d perhaps have preferred slightly softer ground.
Another brilliant ride by Rachael Blackmore, dictating the pace on Sir Gerhard and quickening away around the home turn, stealing a few valuable lengths which may have been the difference between winning and not, as the 2nd Kilcruit was closing all the way to the line. They both look exciting horses for hurdles campaigns next season, whilst Elle Est Belle and Three Stripe Life both look fine prospects as well.
Thursday, Day Three:
Marsh Novices Chase,
The headline act of Envoi Allen taking a tumble took away the expected wow factor, and thankfully reports suggest he’s fine after his uncharacteristic fall. The race itself saw Shan Blue take up the running and push for home very early on, exertions for which he paid for later on. Chantry House always travelled well and outclassed the rest of the field, staying on well in the closing stages and looking like 3 miles would suit at some stage in the future.
Pertemps Handicap Hurdle,
Won in really good style by Mrs Milner who seemed to really appreciate the better ground, quickening well to pull clear and win by 5 lengths. The Bosses Oscar ran a very good race under the excellent Jordan Gainford, whilst Everglow ran a promising race for a relatively inexperienced 6yo. He has a good attitude and could be one to keep an eye on for next season, where he could well be sent chasing.
An incredible front running performance from Allaho and Rachael Blackmore, where they literally ran a high class field into the ground. A superb display of jumping from pillar to post, Allaho clearly appreciated the combination of trip and better ground, putting in one of the most impressive performances of the Festival. Fakir D’Oudairies ran well in 2nd and looked a potential danger as he crept into the race around 4 out, but the winner was not for catching. Mister Fisher is one that can be marked up, as he left his hind legs in the water jump and did well to still be in contention as long as he did, Nico De Boinville probably did the right thing in pulling up when well beaten 2 out. Allaho will be hard to beat if asked to defend this crown at next years Festival.
A great front running performance from Flooring Porter, who has improved no end since adopting those tactics. He never really looked likely to be caught and will surely be a force to reckon with in the stayers hurdle division for a while. Beacon Edge ran a career best and looked the only one that might close on the winner, but he just got tired up the hill and faded into 4th. He’s a nice progressive hurdler with more to come.
Paddy Power Plate,
A brilliant ride by Jordan Gainford on The Shunter, who’s proven himself to be such a tough and adaptable horse, winning over hurdles and fences on all sorts of differing ground conditions. Farclas ran really well and was a little unlucky not to finish closer as he didn’t have the clearest of runs from the home turn, he deserves to win a big handicap this season. It was great to see Top Notch ran a cracker in 3rd place, with stablemate Caribbean Boy one to take from the race. He got shuffled back at a crucial point in the race, was then forced wide and stayed on best of all; he looked to really appreciate the better ground and could perhaps step up to 3 miles.
Mares Novice Hurdle,
Telmesomethinggirl showed a really nice turn of foot to sprint away up the hill, having travelled really well throughout the race. Plenty of credit to the runner up Magic Daze, who pulled hard early on when forcing Robbie Power to make the running, she did well to battle on after those exertions for a 1-2 for the Henry De Bromhead yard and could make up into a nice chaser next year. Martello Sky stayed on well up the hill and can be more competitive back in a lower grade.
Kim Muir Chase,
Quite how Mount Ida won this, is still baffling. She jumped violently right at pretty much every fence on the first circuit and looked likely to be pulled up at halfway. She then straightened her jumping, crept onto the race and came there cruising to win well. Huge credit to Jack Kennedy for not giving up. Cloudy Glen who is usually a very free going sort showed the benefit of racing in a big field and decent pace, whilst Shantou Flyer as ever ran really well at the Festival for the umpteenth time.
Friday, Day Four:
In a tactical race, Quilixios was best positioned throughout and showed a better turn off foot than his opponents, whilst staying well up the hill. His main market rivals disappointed, with the first time tongue tie a concern pre-race for Zanahiyr, whilst Tritonic didn’t seem to run his race. An excellent run and 2nd by Adagio and plenty of credit for Haut En Couleurs who finished a close up 3rd on his UL debut and his first run since October at Auteuil. He’s clearly got a lot of ability and can only improve for this experience, putting him up with the best of the 4yo crop.
Given a patient ride, Belfast Banter seemed well suited by the big field and the better ground. He’s always travelled well in his races, and this time when it really mattered he had the finish to go with it. An excellent battling run from Petit Mouchoir dropping into handicap company, in a race where two of the novices, Milkwood and Third Time Lucki could perhaps have been held onto for a bit longer. They committed very early on and it could well have been a different story for both, with slightly more patient rides. Thyme White stayed on nicely having never got involved, and again prompted at a future over fences.
Mark Walsh kicked on early and made this a real stamina test, which clearly suited Vanillier who stayed on powerfully up the hill to pull away by an ever increasing margin. Oscar Elite seemed to relish the test of stamina staying on into 2nd place, whilst N’golo travelled best of all but didn’t get home. This was a big step up in trip, and a drop to 2m4f would see him to better effect.
A great display of jumping from Minella Indo who clearly loves the Cheltenham test having now won twice and finished runner up in the last 3 Festivals. He travelled best, jumped best and stayed on well up the hill for a deserved victory. A Plus Tard just wasn’t as fluent over his fences as the winner, and that might have been the difference, whilst Al Boum Photo ran a gallant race in third, with the rest of the field beaten a long way.
A ding dong battle up the home straight with Porlock Bay just getting the better of Billaway, who’s now been runner up in this for the last two years.
A Mullins 1-2 with Colreevy just getting the better of Elimay. The winner benefitted from having the runner up alongside for much of the closing stages as she looked to jump right, and used the other horse to help stay straight. They both showed too much pace for the rest of the field, despite giving weight away to the other mares.
Martin Pipe Hurdle,
Won by a classy winner in Galopin Des Champs, who travelled very well throughout, jumped well and quickened up the hill really well, just having too many guns for the patiently ridden Langer Dan. The front two were well clear of the field and were by far the best handicapped of the finishers.