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2017 Cheltenham Festival Review

- 15:03, 17th March 2017
Might Bite

“It takes me a good three weeks to get over the Cheltenham Festival, luckily that coincides perfectly with Aintree and then we have the flat season, so about so don’t worry too much about me crying all over my custom made Labaik scarf every night for too long. This may not have been a vintage festival in terms of quality - probably due to the enormous number of big name casualties – but as with every festival, it wasn’t short on talking points.” JJ

“Willie Mullins is out of form, there’s a virus in his yard… oh no actually he’s brilliant again”

In racing, more than any other sport, fans and punters latch onto anything to explain a loss – almost definitely because there is money involved. But the real story is nearly always something totally different. Willie Mullins’ stable weren’t running terribly at all, Melon ran a cracker in the Supreme on day one, as did Vroum Vroum Mag and Limini when second and third in the Mares. Douvan still managed to beat one horse in the Champion Chase despite running the majority of the race with a fractured pelvis for god’s sake. So when two lads came running up to me on the Thursday morning asking if I still fancied Yorkhill even with the Mullins form, it had to be a resounding yes. The rest is history of course, Ruby rode a four-timer on the day and Willie added a couple more on Friday – balderdash!

Labaik wins the Supreme at 25/1, I win £2000 from £2 and Jack Kennedy is the biggest talent this sport has to offer

I bloody told you lads! In all honesty I was close to certain the stubborn Labaik wouldn’t even start on Tuesday, and there I would be, looking like an idiot tipping him for the third race in a row having not moved a yard. But low and behold, he is in fact a serious animal with buckets of ability. Jack Kennedy is one of the best race riding jockey’s going already at the age of 17, so it scares me to think how good he’ll be after he hits puberty - the lad judges pace like a jockey who’s been riding for 20 years. He and Gordon Elliott must have turned this horse inside out to get him going and I owe them every penny of the £2000 I won when backing him at 1000 on Betfair in February…Well I’ll buy them a pint if I ever get to meet them, hopefully Jack will be 18 by then, if not I’ll get him some Lego or whatever kids like these days.

JJ Codd gets Fayonagh home from an unpromising position somewhere in Gloucester

I started to get properly excited about my Labaik bet when Jamie Codd, or ‘The Codfather’ as he hates to be called, stated Labaik was the “best workhorse I have ever seen”. But not only is he an excellent judge, he is a ludicrously talented jockey. My selection had been frustratingly withdrawn from the Bumper but no matter, I’ll get an equal thrill from Jamie Codd giving Fauonagh an inch perfect ride. The mare completely blew the start after they were forced to go from standing, but Mr Codd never lost his cool, scraping paint at the back of the field before pulling her out on the straight. She came from last to first, and after the last showed a turn of foot Shane Williams would be happy with. Not only was it a ‘cool as a cucumber’ ride it revealed something special to us - this mare is a monster. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see her in the J P McManus colours next season either.


It annoys me that my hand is forced to write about this but to ignore it would be erroneous, as when people think back to Cheltenham 2017 in 10 years’ time they’re most likely going to remember that Douvan lost at odds of 2/9. He was later found to have a stress fracture to his pelvis, which in a weird way is the best news possible, a minor injury that can easily be treated and a reason for such a poor showing in the Champion Chase. He was the shortest price horse ever to lose at the Festival and the best result for the bookies this century.

Jessica Harrington is the queen of Cheltenham

I always thought Sizing John would get two and a half miles but when rumours started to emerge on social media he would be going for the Irish Gold Cup, I’ll admit I had my doubts. Even after he won the race I was still dead against him, the race was run at a dead pace and they finished in a bunch, if he was ever going to win over three miles he was just given the perfect set of circumstances. He was the first winner of the Irish Gold Cup for Jessica Harrington and her first ENTRY in the Cheltenham Gold Cup! I’m never going to knock a horse that keeps winning, but the cynics out there will look at the time and the way they finished in a bunch and think, was this a true Gold Cup? The Foxhunters was run at a faster pace up until the fifth fence… all I’m saying.

Might Bite goes full lunatic in the RSA

My number one take out from the Cheltenham Festival 2017 has to be the lovable yet totally insane Might Bite. This horse is an absolute freak of nature. To be that far clear in a grade one at Kempton and fall at the last; it was just madness to call him the lay of the festival – just. He took apart that RSA field before the dreaded final fence, 20 lengths clear once more coming to the last. It can’t be possible for a horse to know that he’s at the last fence can it because he fluffs it every time? He then decided “actually I want to go back home now” and start pulling Nico’s arms out towards the enclosure. Subsequently the loose horse gallops past and he elects instead to have a little chase. The claims he didn’t get up the hill are totally false, he basically got past whisper from a standing start within the final half furlong when whisper was in full flow. This is the horse to watch in the future; in fact I’d go as far to say that he would beat Thistlecrack if both went for the King George next season. When all is said and done we as sport fans love a lunatic, he could be our very own Mike Tyson, pulverising opponents into submission with the world at his feet, but then he’ll do something mad like run after a dog in the crowd, or buy a tiger and claim he’ll eat your children.

2017 Cheltenham Festival Winners

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle - LABAIK @ 50/1

RSA Chase - MIGHT BITE @ 12/1

JLT Novices’ Chase - YORKHILL @ 6/4

Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle - LET’S DANCE @ 3/1

Triumph Hurdle – DEFI DU SEUIL @ 6/1

County Hurdle – ARCTIC FIRE @ 25/1

Browns Advisory Plate - BOUVREUIL E/W @ 12/1 (3rd)

                                    - THOMAS CRAPPER E/W @ 33/1 (4th)

Gold Cup - MINELLA ROCCO E/W @ 40/1 (2nd)