Well, that’s that then. After all the build-up and hype, the Cheltenham Festival threw up the usual thrills and spills, although not enough short-priced winners for some punters’ liking.
Let’s take a quick look back at some of the highs and lows of last week’s four-day bonanza.
Defi Du Seuil brought a five-race winning streak to the Festival and he delivered one of the most authoritative displays of the week to land the Triumph Hurdle. Trainer Philip Hobbs has a seriously good horse on his hands.
There was a palpable sense of shock around the racecourse after the defeat of Douvan in the Champion Chase. We had all turned up to see the most majestic horse in training strut his stuff in the glorious Cotswolds sunshine, but it wasn’t to be. He jumped erratically from an early stage and was subsequently found to have suffered a hairline fracture of the pelvis. Thankfully, he’ll be back.
A lengthy short list but the prize goes to Cause Of Causes, who won for a third time at the Festival. His victory in the Cross Country Chase came after wins in the NH Chase and the Kim Muir, in which he was also second four years ago. At just nine, he looks set to become a Cheltenham legend.
Yanworth let his supporters down for the second year in succession as he faded into seventh place in the Champion Hurdle, never looking like giving trainer Alan King a second win in the race.
The OLBG Mares Hurdle can be one of the most uncompetitive races of the week but this year threw up a classic, with the front running Apple’s Jade battling back to repel the challenges of Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag in a three-way thriller.
This has to go to amateur Jamie Codd, who brought Fayonagh through with a devastating late challenge to win the Champion Bumper. After losing 10 lengths at the start, the partnership didn’t appear stand any chance, but Codd didn’t panic, took his time to latch on to the back of the pack and saved every inch of ground on the inside. After switching outside off the home turn, the mare cut down her rivals to win convincingly.
Willie Mullins may still be the master of Cheltenham but Gordon Elliott has been hot on his heels in recent years and he announced himself at this year’s Festival with a treble on the opening day. Mullins eventually hit back with a four-timer of his own on the third day, but it Elliott had got five on the board by then and the week belonged to him.
…Charbel had not fallen when upsides Altior at the second last in the Arkle. Like Douvan, Altior was considered a certainty but favourite backers must have been twitchy as things were by no means cut and dried when the long-time leader departed in unfortunate circumstances.