Cheltenham 2016 Top 5 MomentsJake Johns - 15:03, 21st March 2016
The dust has settled, the results are in, every bookie and punter in existence is sobbing uncontrollably - for very different reasons – the festival is over. After the months on months of build-up the ride is finally over – oh but what a ride it was. Our man Jake Johns is on hand to take you ON a nostalgia trip through his Top 5 moments of the Cheltenham Festival 2016!
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5. Altior Beating Min And In The Supreme And Us Brits Showing Those Irish What’s What!
I’ll go on record in saying I never thought this would happen in a million years. Absolutely everyone was tipping up Altior before the off – Spotlight had it as their nap of the day and I’d heard many a shrewd judge name him their best bet of the festival!
I, unfortunately, stayed strong with the much hyped Min – maybe because I couldn’t allow my brain to imagine a different colour silks to Pink and green cantering round the turn on the way to Supreme glory due to the total dominance of Ricci and Mullins here in recent years.
However it was Altior who quickened up the better before the last, outjumped Min and then totally powered away up the hill to glory. It was one of the best Supreme performances in recent memory and now we have a serious horse for the future on our hands here.
4. Thistlecrack Destroying The Field In The World Hurdle
I’m not sure Colin Tizzard has ever sounded or seemed anything but calm and upbeat. But on a beautiful Thursday morning in The Cotswolds deep down he must have been sweating, as hot favourite and English banker of the week Thistlecrack was to line up in this year’s World Hurdle.
On form he was a shoe in but we had a few decent looking Irish types to consider first as well as Cole Harden back on good ground. But why did we worry! It made no difference, he cantered all over the grade one field before being told to go and win the race between the last two hurdles. They came home exhausted behind and at huge margins. Did we witness another novice Gold Cup winner of the future? I think so.
3. Don Cossack Winning The Gold Cup Under Bryan Cooper
No one would have liked to be in young jockey Bryan Cooper’s shoes when the time came where he had to make a decision on whether to ride one of the two Dons – Don Cossack or Don Poli. It was announced on Wednesday morning that he would take reigns over the former – and what a decision it turned out to be!
The withdrawal of Vautour as well, as some serious support, decimated his price into 9/4 before the off – just to increase the pressure on the lad that little bit more. He rode a patient and expertly timed ride behind in the second group behind front running Smad Place.
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Cue Card came down at the business end of the race when travelling strongly but they still finished spread out with Djakadam four lengths back in second and Don Poli 10 lengths further behind in a distant third. It was another win for Giggistown and Gordon Elliot became one of one a few trainers to have trained a Grand National and Gold Cup winner!
2. Victoria “Pendo” Pendleton Finishes Fifth In The Foxhunters
Only weeks before Victoria Pendleton was set to ride at the festival she fell of her supposed Cheltenham ride Pacha Du Polder at Fakenham – it drew widespread criticism from industry experts. The discussion that followed involved arguments for and against her participation in such a big field and important race at the festival.
It got everybody red faced with anger: some despised the amount of coverage she was getting; others though it was great for the sport. I for one am firmly in the belief that the reach and buzz around her taking on this project can only be good for our sport during these tough times.
She then won at Wincanton from the front and it was decided she would in fact line up at the greatest show on turf. She unbelievably took an inside line deep within the rear of the pack. I - along with a fair few others I assume - was shouting at the TV “WHAT ARE YOU DOING PENDO, ARE YOU MENTAL!”
It turns out she wasn’t mental at all, she rode an almost perfect ride to finish with a flourish through beaten horses into fifth. Anyone that backed it with five places – fair play. For someone who had never been on a horse a year ago to finish fifth in the Foxhunters Chase at the Cheltenham Festival is one of the great sporting achievements of any athlete in the modern era.
1. Sprinter Sacre Regaining His Crown
I had completely written off this former ridiculous unthinkable monster – and to my peril. I had stated for months that he wasn’t the animal he once was, in fact it was almost a widespread belief amongst industry top dogs that he could under no circumstances beat the never-been-headed Un De Sceaux.
I was hoping beyond hope that we could witness this majestic beast effortlessly glide to the front once again, but it was difficult to imagine it actually happening. Nevertheless somehow, that’s exactly what occurred.
I remember, and always will remember, the exact moment that the entire crowd collectively knew that Sprinter was back. He had just accelerated past odds on favourite Un De Sceux and put two lengths between them both – “OH MY! SPRINTER HAS A CHANCE HERE”. The roar was deafening as he came to the last. A former champion riddled with heart and wind issues, absolutely gone last year, regaining his crown in the next. It was without a doubt one of the greatest training performances in National Hunt history from Nicky Henderson and an outstanding ride from soon-to-be superstar Nico De Boiville.
It’s hard to put into words such as the magnitude of the sporting moment. Poetry in motion – “a gazelle in equine form”.
It might be all over for this year but there are already prices trickling through for next year’s festival! Click here to see all the best odds!