Monday, the night before Cheltenham. I and my brother arrived early and recreated Alistair Downs Cotswolds drive to Cheltenham racecourse including a stop at the Plough Inn for lunch across from Jackdaws Castle. A very impressive part of the world. On the track, at Stratford, there were doubles for Alan King and Wayne Hutchinson with Timoteo and Dino Velvet. At Plumpton, the feature race went to Steel Bob. At Taunton, there was a winner for Philip Hobbs with Smarty Wild.
Tuesday, the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. The weather was dire lots of rain falling in the hours before racing. The Supreme got the show started. Al Dancer and Fakir D'oudairies went off joint favorites both would not be a factor in the finish. The race went to Klassical Dream for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh who bolted up by four and a half lengths from Thomas Darby and Itchy Feet a great effort from Olly Murphy to have second and third. It was the best possible start for our members as Klassical Dream was advised 1pt each way 6/1. The Arkle was up next Hardline went off favorite however could never get competitive. Glen Forsa crashed out early as did Ornua. The race was taken apart by Duc Des Genievres for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend winning by thirteen lengths. Us And Them ran well in second with Articulum in third. The Ultima was up next, it was run at a strong gallop Beware The Bear was kept out wide. Beware The Bear took it up turning into the straight it was never in doubt after that moment. The places were filled out by Vintage Clouds, Lake View Lad, Big River, and Flying Angel. It was a great result for our members as Beware The Bear was advised to our members 1pt each way at 16/1. This race brought a key stat forward again. Beware The Bear and Vintage Clouds placed in this race in 2018. The placed horses in 2019 are the starting point for 2020!!
The Feature race on day one was the Champion hurdle it was eagerly anticipated. The favorite was Apples Jade at 7/4, Laurina was the second fav at 5/2 with Buveur D'air weak at 11/4. The race changed early on as Buveur D'air crashed out at the third hurdle bringing down Sharjah in the process. Apples Jade checked out at the third last hurdle having never gone a yard. Laurina moved up at the third last but couldn't go through with a faded into fourth. Melon made a lot of the running doing brilliantly for a long way. Espoir D'allen surged into it at the second last powering away to a fifteen length win. This was a remarkable performance a brilliant moment for Gavin Cromwell and Mark Walsh. Melon and Silver Streak filled out the places both ran brilliant races. The winner Espoir D'allen has it all in front of him now only five years of age the sky is the limit if this run is to be believed. I personally think Espoir D'allen is a very good horse, however, I would like to see him do it again at Grade 1 level.
The Mares hurdle was up next, history would repeat itself and not in a good way. Benie Des Dieux went off odds on the second shortest fav of the week. It was all going to plan until the last hurdle. Benie Des Dieux was powering three lengths. Ruby Walsh for some reason asked the horse for a big jump. Benie Des Dieux crashed to the floor in the exact same manner as Annie Power had in this very race in 2015. Thankfully Benie Des Dieux got up fine. The race went to Roksana for Dan Skelton who saw off Stormy Ireland and Good Thyne Tara. The Close brothers' novice handicap chase went in breathtaking fashion to A Plus Tard winning by sixteen lengths giving Rachael Blackmore a first Cheltenham Festival winner. The places were filled out by Tower Bridge, Ben Dundee, The Russian Doyen, and Springtown Lake. In truth, this was a one-horse race A Plus Tard could be very smart. The National hunt chase concluded the card. This was a rough race no getting away from that. It featured a great finish between Le Breuil and Discorama. The verdict went to Le Breuil by a half-length. Of the fancied horses OK Corral could never get competitive. Ballyward fell and sadly lost his life. It was a good result for our members as Le Breuil was advised 1pt each way at 14/1. The race featured a number of bans for riders. In my view, this is the BHA once again pandering to the agenda of people who want racing abolished.
Wednesday, day two of the Cheltenham Festival. The Ballymore was the first race on the card. Battleoverdoyen went off a well-backed favorite (9/2 - 3/1). In truth, he ran a shocker and was pulled up. The finish was fought out by Champ and City Island. The race went to City Island who was well on top at the line by two lengths. Bright Forecast finished third. This was a great success for Martin Brassil. Sams Profile was running well until making a mistake at a second last which ended his chances. Sams Profile might be one for Punchestown. The RSA looked liked it would be a cracker beforehand and so it proved. The three big guns Topofthegame, Santini and Delta Work came to the fore. This was a brilliant horse race. Delta Work loomed up on the turn for home but couldn't go with Santini and Topofthegame. The size of Topofthegame is really something a lovely looking horse. The finish saw Topofthegame see off Santini by a half-length with Delta Work one and three parts of a length back in third. Topofthegame will surely come back for the Gold Cup and will have a massive chance. The Coral Cup was up next the finish was fought out by two veterans Wicklow Brave launched a brilliant run under Patrick Mullins, however, William Henry came with a surge running down Wicklow Brave late on. The two horses carried 11 Stone 12 Pounds and 11 Stone 10 Pounds and are ten and nine years of age respectively. The three other placed horses were Ballyandy, Brio Conti and Canardier.
The Champion chase was the feature race. Altior went off 4/11 bidding to retain his unbeaten record over obstacles. Min was sent off the second favorite he never got into it at all trailing home fifth. Altior had to fight for it tackled by Politologue and Sceau Royal. Altior jumped the last in second place however he picked up and the further they went the better Altior went. Altior won by one and three-quarters of a length. In my view, Altior is the best two-miler I have ever seen. Long may he reign, I do not really understand the clammer to move Altior from doing what he is brilliant at. I have seen all Altior's wins at the festival and enjoyed them all. I hope to see his fifth festival win next year. Altior was a 3pts win for our members at 4/9.
The Cross Country saw Tiger Roll step in the ring and duly hose up by twenty-two lengths. This Tiger Roll is a remarkable horse and has now won at four Cheltenham Festivals. Josies Orders ran on for the second. Tiger Roll was a 4 pts win for our members at 5/4. The Boodles Fred Winter saw one of the most impressive performances of the week. Band Of Outlaws gave Joseph O'Brien a first Cheltenham winner. Band Of Outlaws was really impressive showing a spectacular turn of foot. Coko Beach, Ciel De Niege, King D'Argent, and Fanfan Du Seuil filled out the places. The bumper went to Envoi Allen who saw Blue Sari off in a great finish. The late money for Envoi Allen was very significant and well justified. I am told Envoi Allen is an excellent jumper and will be back here next year if the reports are to believed.
Thursday, day 3 of the Cheltenham Festival. The JLT Novice Chase was the first race up. The race went to Defi Du Seuil who put up a very impressive performance to see off Lostintranslation and Mengli Khan (who I thought ran very well). Defi Du Seuil can go forward from here with the Ryanair an obvious target for 2020. Defi Du Seuil was advised to our members 3pts win at 3/1. The Pertemps final went to Sire Du Berlais seeing of Tobefair by a neck. The places were filled by Not Many Left, Cuneo, and A Toi Phil. My long term fancy Thermistocles ran well to finish seventh, however in my view, he just did not get home. The interesting stat is that four of the first seven home ran in the Leopardstown Christmas qualifier. The Ryanair was up next this produced the race of the week in my opinion. Frodon and Byrony Frost made every yard of the running jumping brilliant. At some point in the race, all the contenders came and had a shot. Those horses for the record, Aso, Road To Respect, Monalee, Un De Sceaux, and Footpad. The performance of Frodon was superb with Aso and Road To Respect filling the places. For Monalee and Footpad, the jury is out now they will have to find another way. Byrony Frost ended up on the front page of The Times the next day it can only help racing, Frost is top class.
The feature race was the Stayers hurdle. It went to Paisley Park which was the result everyone wanted. Paisley Park had the form in the book and duly delivered. Paisley Park is also owned by Andrew Gemmell who is blind since birth a story which has captured hearts all over racing. Paisley Park ran out a two and three quarter length winner over Sam Spinner. Faugheen was third, he was carried out on his shield. The roar of the crowd when Faugheen hit the front will live with me for a long time. It showed the best of the Cheltenham Crowd they cannot be beaten for getting behind a champion.
The Brown Advisory & Merrieable Stable Plate. The race was as always run at a frantic gallop. Siruh Du Lac made all the running under Lizzie Kelly to win. The places were filled up by Janika, Spiritofthegames, Eamon An Cnoic, and Didero Vallis. It was a good race for our members. Siruh Du Lac was advised 1pt each way at 8/1 as was Spiritofthegames and Didero Vallis at 10/1 and 25/1 both who placed. The Dawn Run Novice hurdle produced my best result of the week it went to Eglatine De Seuil who charged home late to beat Concertista. It was an incredible result for myself and the members Eglatine De Seuil was advised 1pt each way at 50/1. Many of our members were on at 80/1. It was one of those moments which makes the effort worthwhile it was great to share it with friends as well. The Kim Muir saw long term project horse Any Second Now deliver for Ted Walsh and JP McManus. The places were filled out by Kilfilum Cross, The Young Master, Crievehill and No Comment. The interview Ted Walsh gave afterward on Racing TV will certainly live long in the memory.
Friday, day 4 of the Cheltenham Festival. The day would see the high drama with dreams coming through while other dreams were destroyed. The Triumph Hurdle set the tone for the day as Sir Erec lost a shoe on the way to post. It took six minutes to reapply the shoe during that period Sir Erec was on the big screens a model of a racehorse standing quietly allowing the farrier to do his job. Much of the comment was about how nice a horse Sir Erec was. Sir Erec was tracking the pace until after the fourth hurdle when he broke down sustaining a broken leg. It was a dreadful site. Sir Erec sadly lost his life. The fine lines in the sport are just unbelievable. The race continued it went to Pentland Hills who saw off Coeur Sublime and Gardens Of Babylon. A terrible start for racing and a 20/1 skinner for the bookies. The County Hurdle was up next. The love affair of the Skelton family with the race continued as Ch'tibello ran out a ready winner from We Have A Dream, Countister and Whiskey Sour. The Albert Bartlett saw Rachael Blackmore capture a first Grade one as Minella Indo led home an Irish 1-2-3. Minella Indo never settled at all he still was well worth his two-length win over Commander Of The Fleet and Allaho. Minella Indo returned 50/1 for Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup was the feature of the week. It saw Presenting Percy head to post unbeaten at the festival and 100/30 favorite. Presenting Percy was never a factor, he was actually the second horse beaten after Bellshill who ran another Cheltenham shocker. Presenting Percy was in trouble after two fences he could not get competitive, his jumping was sloppy. Presenting Percy came back lame. In the cold light of day given the preparation, there must have been some sort of underlying issue in my view all season. Clan Des Obeaux came into this on the crest of a wave, however, could not get competitive either. Native River could not dominate from the front but stuck on well for fourth. Might Bite give it a great crack from the front but was pulled up two out. The race was shaping up to be a disaster for Willie Mullins early Willie ran four horses on the first circuit he lost three of them. Kemboy fell at the first, Bellshill pulled up at the ninth, Invitation Only fell at the 10th (sadly lost his life). As the race developed Al Boum Photo traveled strongly into it. On the run to the last Al Boum Photo surged clear. Bristol De Mai gave gallant chase losing third in the last 100 yards to Anibale Fly who placed in the Gold Cup again.
It was a first Cheltenham Gold Cup for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. After the horrendous incident for Paul Townend at Punchestown last year when Townend made a massive error taking Al Boum Photo around the last jump instead of jumping it to win. This was wonderful for all involved. Willie Mullins has given so much to Irish Racing. It is right and proper his name goes on the Gold Cup winners board.
The rest of the races saw the Foxhunters up after the Gold Cup. Its a race I am not mad on. It went to Hazel Hill who landed some nice bets (6/1 -7/2). The placed horses were Shantou Flyer and Top Wood. The Grand Annual saw a 66/1 skinner for the bookies as Crocco Bay who had run well in this before got the job done. Bun Doran gave chase and was up for the second, Brelan D'As, Forest Bihan and Not Another Muddle filled out the places. The Martin Pipe saw the two best-backed horses fight out the finish Early Doors got the better of Dallas Des Pictons with Defi Bleu, Champagne Court and Collanly filling out the places. Dallas Des Pictons was advised 2pts each way to our members at 5/1. Willie Mullins was the top trainer and Nico De Boinville the top jockey. The Friday of the meeting was a tough one punting wise for ourselves, however, a profit of 57.3 Points was achieved over the whole week. There were plenty of great memories made on the week roll on 2020.
Saturday, we start at Uttoxeter. Potters Corner gave Christian Williams the biggest win of his fledgling training career with a dour staying performance in the Marston’s 61 Deep Midlands Grand National. Ms. Parfois ran a cracker in second. Ms. Parfois was advised to our members (1pt each way) at 8/1. De Rasher Counter took the Novice Handicap chase in great style for Emma Lavelle. At Kempton, Forth Bridge took the feature race for Nico De Boinville And Nicky Henderson. The duo completed a double with Shishkin. At Down Royal, Jury Duty took the feature race. There were also wins for Cheltenham heroes Gavin Cromwell and Paul Townend with Biddy The Boss and Roll Again. At Limerick, Young Dev was on target for Denis Hogan. At Newcastle, there was a treble for Brian Hughes with Minella Charmer, Sam's Adventure and Marown.
Sunday, we start at Wexford. There was a double for Paul Nolan with Fine Theatre and Crazyheart. At Limerick, there was a double for Willie Mullins with Robin De Carlow and Carefully Selected. At Carlisle, the feature race went to Takingrisks.