With the Cheltenham Festival over for another year, we look back at some of the success stories of the Festival and where it went wrong for some of the fancied runners.
This year’s Festival kicked off with an outstanding renewal of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Summerville Boy confirmed the Sandown form with Kalashnikov, who was just reeled in coming up the hill.
Getabird was the disappointment of the race. Rich Ricci’s gelding came to the Festival with a big reputation but the fears about him going left handed were confirmed when he tried to duck out on the first circuit. Having been too keen throughout, the pre-race favourite could only finish 11th but he’s not one to give up on just yet and will be of interest when going back right-handed, potentially at this year’s Punchestown Festival.
Barring a brief scare down the back, Footpad was foot perfect in this year’s Arkle, but the race was somewhat let down by Petit Mouchoir and Saint Calvados taking each other on for the lead throughout the first mile of the race. Both finished out of the places and may be seen to better effect at Aintree.
We move on to day two and Presenting Percy will be many people’s highlight of the Festival. Pat Kelly’s charge has been installed as the 2019 Gold Cup favourite after defeating Monalee by seven lengths and the seven-year-old will be a force to be reckoned with in the staying division next season.
However, there was a massive disappointment for Ruby Walsh whose Festival was cut short after breaking his leg in a fall on Al Boum Photo at the final fence.
Altior produced a fine jumping display to win this year’s Champion Chase. His participation was thrown in to doubt on Monday when it was revealed by trainer Nicky Henderson that the son of High Chaparral was found to be lame in his box. However, the Seven Barrows medical team were quick off the mark and he was declared fit to run 24 hours later.
Douvan was in the process of running a big race before falling as the race was beginning to unfold. It would have been fascinating to see how he would have fared against Altior and stablemate Min had he put in a clear round of jumping.
Sam Spinner was disappointing in Thursday Championship race. Having gone off favourite for the Stayers’ Hurdle, he failed to dominate from the front, probably setting too much of a sedate gallop and that was borne out by former Flat horse Penhill producing a useful turn of foot in the sprint for home.
Gordon Elliot enjoyed eight winners at the Festival including a double on the final day, but the big race went to the Colin Tizzard yard.
Native River was relentless from the front in this year’s Gold Cup. Third in last year’s blue riband event, conditions came more in his favour this time around and he outbattled pre-race favourite Might Bite up the hill.
Definitly Red and Our Duke were both fancied for the race but neither jumped well enough to ever land a blow.
Nicky Henderson got many of the headlines, having won two of the Championship races but Gordon Elliot’s eight winners underlined Ireland’s domination of the Festival while Davy Russell and Jack Kennedy were the main beneficiaries with four winning rides each.
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