That’s it for another year. The Cheltenham Festival has come and gone, but what a Festival it was. The Cheltenham Festival delivered on the hype which seemed almost impossible at the outset of the four day extravaganza . I will take you through my defining moments of the Festival 2016. They are in no particular order.
1 Douvan what a wonderful horse Douvan is . Douvan delivered on his already massive promise in the Arkle slamming the field by 7 lengths without looking out of second gear. Douvan for me could be the horse of my lifetime. I can't wait to see where the journey of Douvan takes him next. I would love too see Douvan try to win the Gold Cup.
2 Annie Power twelve months after the earth shattering fall in the mares hurdle, it was redemption for the brilliant mare. Annie Power bounced out , made all the running winning by a really impressive 4.5 lengths. I did not back Annie Power but I really enjoyed her work, Annie Power deserved her win at the festival, great stuff.
3 Altior going into the Supreme I really liked Altior. The Min hype train had Altior cast in the roll of underdog, Altior was anything but. Altior powered away to win by 7 lengths , it was a breathtaking performance. Altior in my view is the real deal , Altior will surely with average luck have a great chance of winning the Champion hurdle in 2017.
4 Limini the dogs in the streets were barking about Limini , the dogs were correct. Limini bolted up , a performance that really impressed me .Limini is a horse with a massive future.
5 Davey Russell a jockey who is a master of his craft. The ride on Diamond King was ice cool as Russell brilliantly produced Diamond King up the inside in the ultra competitive Coral cup. Davey Russell was at it again on Mall Dini winning the pertemps final using all his strength and experience in a rough race to get Mall Dini up to win.
6 Yorkhill who disposed of the red hot Yanworth in impressive style. Yorkhill I felt got an average ride at best from Ruby Walsh . Yorkhill got Ruby out of trouble , winning in impressive style. Yorkhill to my eyes looks a future Arkle winner in waiting. Yorkhill a horse with massive potential.
7 Cause Of Causes a proper plot job in the Kim Muir. Cause Of Causes was in trouble at one point but hit the after burners turning the Kim Muir into a cakewalk. A very good training performance by Gordon Elliott. Cause Of Causes now has a 211 record at the last three festivals.
8 Vautour, brilliant Vautour despite all the negativity Vautour destroyed the field in the Ryanair. Vautour is my favourite racehorse in training. Vautour has so much ability it's actually frightening. The Cheltenham Festival record of Vautour is 3 runs 3 wins. The world looks Vautours oyster. I would love to see Vautour try and win the Queen Mother next season with Douvan trying the Gold cup would be my preference.
9 Don Poli . I still find it hard to put into words how disappointing I found the Gold Cup from the point of view of Don Poli. I do not like criticizing jockeys , however I do feel Davey Russell (rightly praised earlier in this piece) gave Don Poli too much to do. I must admit that maybe Don Poli just could not go with a frenetic early pace on quick ground. The positive is Don Poli jumped immaculate, if there was a soft ground Gold cup in the future. I still think Don Poli can win a Gold cup in softer ground.
10 Ruby Walsh the man continues to rule the festival where he was leading rider yet again.Ruby gave two superb rides in my view . The ride on Annie Power was tactically superb and brilliantly executed. The second ride of high class was the ride on Black Hercules, Ruby filled Black Hercules with confidence and motivated him brilliantly to win. It was not all easy for Ruby a troubled passage on Yorkhill which would ultimately lead to victory. Ruby had a very rough Friday with two nasty falls. Ruby Walsh continues to divide opinion among racegoers, what is not in doubt is he is a brilliant jockey, the greatest of his era. We should enjoy Ruby while he is still riding at this level.
11 Ivanovich Gorbatov may have fired the first warning shot to Willie Mullins. Joseph O'Brien off the mark as a festival trainer, this maybe the moment when a new dynasty announced itself. Ivanovich Gorbatov left a very poor display at Leopardstown behind to win The Triumph Hurdle in a very taking manner. The significant thing here maybe with Joseph O'Brien showing his ability as a trainer, it is not hard to see JP McManus arming Joseph heavily in an attempt to take on Ricci and Willie Mullins.
12 Bryan Cooper the young man went into the week under unfair and huge scrutiny. Bryan Cooper gave Empire of Dirt a great ride to win . The big call of the week was to pick Don Poli or Don Cossack this could have gone badly wrong for Cooper with the wrong pick . Bryan Cooper picked Don Cossack won the Gold Cup , fully vindicating his decision while silencing his critics. I was very pleased for Bryan Cooper who hopefully now will be left to get on with his life and job now.
13 Unowhatimeanharry made it 6 wins from 6 runs this season. Unowhatimeanharry was a real tough winner of Albert Bartlett. It was great to see Harry Fry get a festival winner. Superb Story won the county for Dan Skelton, executing a excellent plan. I really rate these two trainers it was a fitting end to the festival.
14 Don Cossack. I must admit I thought there was a cult of Don Cossack, however Don Cossack delivered on all expectations and hype . The Gold cup was very competitive , Don Cossack was a superb winner on the day. The money arrived for Don Cossack in the morning 7/2 to 2/1. Don Cossack rewarded his connections faith. I was very pleased for Gordon Elliott and Bryan Cooper.
15 Thistlecrack produced the best hurdling performance on figures for a hurdler for 30 years at the Festival. Thistlecrack destroyed the field looking a machine , it was 7 lengths to the second horse Alpha Des Obeaux with 22 lengths back to the third horse Bobs worth. This was a superb performance.It is the Gold Cup next year for Thistlecrack , it will be very exciting to see what happens with Thistlecrack in the future.
16 Sprinter Sacre. " They don't comeback" " His times are not good" "Cheltenham is not Disneyland". I said all those things in the run up to the race. I am delighted to have been totally and utterly wrong. Sprinter Sacre turned back the clock beating Un De Sceaux in convincing manner chasing a frenetic gallop. The training performance of Nicky Henderson to get him back was superb. Sprinter Sacre has been one of the greatest horses I have ever seen. The sight of people crying as he won in the Club Enclosure , The atmosphere in the Parade ring as Sprinter Sacre came back in was incredible. I was delighted I was in Cheltenham to see it, I will take the memory of it to my grave even though I had done my dough. Well done to Sprinter Sacre and his supporters who never lost the faith. The Black Aeroplane soared again on a non stop flight to Disneyland!!