The Racing Week That Was 2021 Cheltenham Festival Review


Monday, Altior has been ruled out of Wednesday's Grade 1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at the eleventh hour after Nicky Henderson reported he returned an unsatisfactory scope on Monday morning. The 11-year-old, who won in 2018 and 2019, was withdrawn on the morning of the race last year after failing to recover from a setback. Altior had been available at 6-1 generally for this year's running. Speaking to the Racing Post, Henderson said: "It's very upsetting. At least he told us, which is something. If we'd run him, well, it just doesn't bear thinking about. We've got the figures back from the laboratory and they tell their own tale.

"Fortunately he had enough sense to give a couple of coughs coming in from his exercise and we were here scoping. You could see it there and now we have the figures from the lab, which confirm he's got a bacterial infection. It shouldn't take long to clear up but I don't know whether he'll be back for Aintree or the Celebration Chase. "Two years running he's had to pull out at the last minute, which is cruel for anyone to bear but particularly for Pat and Christopher Pugh [owners]. But that's the way of the world if you deal with horses."


Day one of the Cheltenham Festival 2021. A festival like no other, as well as hopefully a festival we never have to face again. Appreciate It lived up to his pre-race billing as he powered to victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. The 8-11 favourite, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Paul Townend, outclassed his seven rivals with a dominant display in the Festival curtain-raiser. It was the start the Irish hoped for with Appreciate It coming home 24 lengths clear of the opposition to give Mullins a seventh success in the race. This was a spectacular performance Appreciate It looks to be an ideal type for The Arkle 2022.

Shishkin justified his prohibitive odds when taking his winning streak to seven with an easy victory in the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy. Winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on this card 12 months ago, Shishkin is now unbeaten in four races over fences as he gave trainer Nicky Henderson a seventh Arkle — a race the Seven Barrows trainer has taken with stars such as Sprinter Sacre and Altior. The 4-9 favourite was always travelling well in the hands of Nico de Boinville, as Allmankind and Captain Guinness made it a true-run race over the two miles. Shishkin joined the two leaders at the third-last fence, setting sail for home and going on to score by 12 lengths. Shishkin looks right out of the top draw, he gets from one side to the other very quickly. This race was run at a real end to end gallop. Shishkin looks all over a Champion chase winner for 2022. Although 6/4 is very short at this stage. 

Vintage Clouds finally won the Ultima Handicap Chase at the fifth attempt with a game display at Cheltenham. The Sue Smith-trained grey, owned by Trevor Hemmings, made a lot of the running before his stamina and determination kicked in as he improved on two placed efforts from his four previous efforts in this staying contest. Jockey Ryan Mania had the 11-year-old Vintage Clouds (28-1) at the front from the start with Pym and Alnadam also close up. There was little change in the order until the tempo increased with five fences left to jump. Pym soon weakened, but Vintage Clouds stuck to his guns and kept finding extra to win by five and a half lengths from Happygolucky with Aye Right a further two and a quarter lengths back in third and Cepage fourth. This was one of the results of the weeks horses like Vintage Clouds are the bedrock of our wonderful sport. This was magic I loved it.

Rachael Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle as she guided Honeysuckle to a brilliant victory. Blackmore produced the heavily-backed 11-10 favourite to lead between the final two flights and she bounded up the hill to go on and win in impressive fashion. Silver Streak, Not So Sleepy and Goshen were the expected pacesetters early on, with Abacadabras falling at the third flight. As the field went out into the country, it became apparent Jamie Moore was having steering problems on Goshen, whose chance soon went as a result. Honeysuckle moved forward with ease, leaving the opposition in her wake as the Henry de Bromhead-trained mare powered away to take her 100 per cent record over hurdles to 11. The pair crossed the line six and a half lengths clear of 2020 runner-up Sharjah, with last year’s winner Epatante another three lengths away in third place. Blackmore said: “I’m speechless, to be honest — she’s just so incredible. This was yet another electric performance from horse and rider. Rachael Blackmore did everything well here, always in the perfect position. Honeysuckle has improved so much in the last 12 months. Honeysuckle can surely come back next season with major prospects of defending her title.

Black Tears got up in the final strides to give trainer Denise Foster a first Cheltenham Festival winner in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle. Foster is currently in charge of Gordon Elliott’s string at Cullentra House Stables in County Meath while he is serving a suspension. Jack Kennedy produced Black Tears (11-1) with a perfectly-timed challenge to deny the Willie Mullins-trained 10-11 favourite Concertista in a thrilling finish to the two-and-a-half-mile contest. Great White Shark and Floressa made the early running, with Roksana and Indefatigable tracking them and Concertista held up at the rear. The complexion of the race changed coming down the hill when Roksana made her bid — but Concertista was hot on her heels. The latter looked the likely winner when she jumped the last in front, but she had no answer to Black Tears, who got up to win by a head with Roksana two and three-quarter lengths away in third and Indefatigable fourth. The Mares hurdle once again proved to be a kryptonite for multiple punters. With short price horses Shiskin, Appreciate It and Honeysuckle all obliging. The bookies were looking down the barrel of a big payout. Cocertista fluffed her lines, it was a great race to be fair.

Jeff Kidder produced an 80-1 shock for Noel Meade in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. The lightly-raced four-year-old made the most of his lightweight on his first run in a handicap to foil the 9-2 favourite Saint Sam. Sean Flanagan delivered Jeff Kidder with a strong challenge to lead on the run-in and beat Saint Sam, the 9-2 favourite, by two lengths. Elham Valley (66-1) was half a length back in third with Houx Gris (11-2) fourth, a further one and quarter lengths away. Flanagan, who was riding his first Festival winner, said: “He’s come here in a good vein of form. His form at home hadn’t been the most solid and his last run at Leopardstown was his first run after a bit of a lay-off and we kind of used it for experience more than anything else. Another great result for the layers. However, it did advertise the merit of following Irish graded novice hurdles form. Saint Sam remains of massive interest going forward. I do not think Paul Townend gave Saint Sam a very efficient ride, even allowing for the tricky nature of the horse.

Galvin (7-2) overcame a five-month absence to land the Sam Vestey National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase and complete a double for jockey Jack Kennedy after the victory of Black Tears. The seven-year-old was held up for most of the race as Remastered and Next Destination led the way, before creeping into contention coming down the hill. There were several in with a chance at the final fence, but it was Galvin who had the most left at the business end of the three-and-three-quarter-mile trip to beat Next Destination by a length and a half. Galvin had been saved for the race after winning over an extended three miles at this track in October. A plan brilliantly executed by the Gordon Elliott team. It's one they have used before. Although Elliott's name does not go down against Galvin for the win. Everyone knows.


Day two of The Cheltenham Festival, St Patrick's day. Only the UK trained Sky Pirate prevented a Greenwash with Ireland winning 6 of the 7 races on the day.

Rachael Blackmore’s dream Cheltenham Festival continued into the second day as Bob Olinger sprouted wings in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. With the Champion Hurdle already in the bag through Honeysuckle and a top-class book of rides to come through the rest of the week, Blackmore is proving unstoppable. Harry Cobden tried to dominate from the front at a steady tempo on Bravemansgame and in the early stages, the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger (6-4 favourite) was keen enough, pulling himself into the second position. As they went down the back straight Bear Ghylls attempted to inject some pace to the race and put pressure on the leader, as Blackmore sat in wait. Paul Townend was scraping the paint on Gaillard Du Mesnil and did get a little short of room at the second-last, as Blackmore forced her way between Bravemansgame and Bear Ghylls. But turning in there was only going to be one winner and it was a matter of ‘how far?’. The answer was seven and a half lengths back to Gaillard Du Mesnil. De Bromhead said: “I’m delighted with him. Rachael was brilliant on him again and he couldn’t have done it any better.“He’s a horse we’ve always liked. He’s done very little wrong and he’s very exciting.“I started the season aiming at the Supreme, but everyone persuaded me, quite rightly, to step up in trip.“We were very hopeful about coming here, but it was obviously a very good race and you never know on the day.”On future plans, he added: “We’ll get through his novice season and see. I was really impressed with Bob Olinger here he should make a lovely chaser.

Monkfish maintained his unbeaten record over fences with a comprehensive success in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. A narrow winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival, the Willie Mullins-trained chestnut was the 1-4 favourite to strike gold in the Cotswolds for a second time, having been faultless in three previous chase starts. It was not entirely plain sailing for odds-on backers, with The Big Breakaway more than matching Monkfish in the jumping department for much of the three-mile contest, before Paul Townend’s mount displayed his superior class to move clear before the home turn. The presence of the riderless Eklat De Rire, who unseated Rachael Blackmore earlier in the race, will have had Monkfish’s supporters sweating in the home straight, as would a mistake at the final fence. But it ultimately made no difference to the result, with the giant seven-year-old galloping up the hill to score by six and a half lengths from Fiddlerontheroof. I have no doubt the loose horse put Monkfish off in the latter stages. I think Monkfish looks like a King George horse.

Heaven Help Us turned what is usually a competitive handicap into a procession when making nearly every yard of the running in the Coral Cup at Cheltenham. Trained by Paul Hennessy, who until recently was better known as a greyhound handler, the 33-1 shot was left clear at the last when Blue Sari fell, but the winner had flown in any case. Witness Protection attempted to keep pace with Heaven Help Us throughout, but by the home turn, those exertions had taken a toll. While the field tried to reel in the long-time leader, Heaven Help Us kept finding for 7lb claimer Richard Condon, pulling nine lengths clear at the line. Nicky Henderson’s Craigneiche came out of the pack for second, with Tea Clipper and Sayo filling the places. This was a remarkable performance by the trainer and jockey. They stole this from the front. It also advertises how strong the Dublin Racing Festival actually is. The race Heaven Help Us won at the Dublin Racing Festival would produce three winners at Cheltenham 2021.

Last year’s Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On beat the boys again in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. A surprise winner at the Festival 12 months ago, Henry de Bromhead’s mare had stretched her unbeaten record at the track to three on her first start of the current campaign in November. But despite her excellent record in the Cotswolds, she looked to have her work cut out on her return, having proved no match for Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown over Christmas. Put The Kettle On was in front for much of the contest but looked booked for minor honours after 8-13 favourite Chacun Pour Soi hit the front approaching the final fence. However, Aidan Coleman’s mount fought back on the run-in — devouring the hill once again to get up and score by half a length, becoming the first mare to win the two-mile showpiece. Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra finished strongly to claim the runner-up spot from the Willie Mullins-trained Chacun Pour Soi. The race itself was an intriguing watch Put The Kettle On loves Cheltenham and she showed it again here. Chacun Pour Soi confirmed a lot of peoples underlying suspicions that he is not in fact as good as he looks. Chacun Pour Soi had every chance and could not do it. Put The Kettle On was a great story for syndicates fulfilling dreams again. Put The Kettle On will be hard to beat at Cheltenham whenever she turns up at Prestbury Park.

Tiger Roll was an incredible winner at the Cheltenham Festival for the fifth time when reclaiming his Glenfarclas Chase crown in scintillating fashion. Having hitherto disappointed this season, it seemed the form that had seen him win back-to-back Grand Nationals was in the past. But back at his favourite track and sent off the 9-2 second-favourite behind his conqueror from last season, Easysland, he looked a lot younger than his 11 years skipping round the cross-country course. The French challenger briefly closed up and looked threatening, but it soon became apparent that Keith Donoghue had only given Tiger Roll a breather. He quickly went clear again and rounding the home turn the race was over, with his only danger in front of him — but he skipped the last and powered home by 18 lengths from Easysland, with Some Neck third. This was incredible, Tiger Roll roared back for a fifth festival win. It was sad that in Tigers moment of triumph that Gordon Elliott did not get a passing mention. Everyone knows Elliott was wrong in his actions, however, he has done an incredible job with Tiger Roll. Our own John McConnell had a brilliant run with Some Neck. Totally wrong at the weights it's all roads lead to Aintree now for the team.

Sky Pirate restored some UK pride by taking the Grand Annual in a thrilling finish getting the better of Entoucas. It was a deserved victory for Sky Pirate who had been knocking around in top handicaps all season. Jonjo O'Neill is a great man for a big occasion. Sky Pirate had gone two and a half years without a win but has now landed three of his last four races and O'Neill said: "He's just come in a different horse this year. I can't give you an answer as to why but I'm delighted he did!"He stays further but he's much better with a fast gallop at two miles. You get a good gallop in a good handicap and it plays into his hands. He was probably there a little bit too early but when the gap comes there's no point in waiting."O'Neill was enjoying his 27th winner as a trainer at the meeting and said: "A winner at Cheltenham is what everybody comes here for. When it all comes right it's fantastic."Everybody works for this week. To have runners is fantastic and to have a winner is even better."  A personal highlight of the week for myself.

Willie Mullins won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper for the 11th time as Sir Gerhard held off stablemate Kilcruit to give Rachael Blackmore another winner. Blackmore was landing her third Grade One of the week, having already won the Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle and the Ballymore on Bob Olinger. Mullins was keeping up his recent trend of winning the race from outside of his apparent first string — although Sir Gerhard was sent off at only 85-40, having scored twice already for Gordon Elliott before switching stables. Kilcruit was backed into 10-11 favouritism on the back of a scintillating display at the Dublin Racing Festival — but when Blackmore kicked off the home bend, she stole an advantage she would not relinquish. Having only set what appeared a steady tempo, Sir Gerhard was soon in the clear as Paul Townend tried to close on Kilcruit. As the line approached, Kilcruit was gaining — but they flashed past the post with Sir Gerhard still half-a-length to the good. Mullins said: “I have to say well done to the Cullentra (Elliott) team. He came in great condition. “The first night he came, we didn’t have any of the feed he’d been eating at Cullentra, so we just gave him our usual feed — and he didn’t miss an oat. It was the third win in a row for the Cheveley Park Stud in the bumper. Sir Gerhard was a really impressive winner, with Rachael Blackmore outmanoeuvring the field coming down the hill. 


Day three of The Cheltenham Festival,

Chantry House won the Marsh Novices’ Chase as hot favourite Envoi Allen crashed out in the opening event on day three of the Cheltenham Festival. Envoi Allen was sent off the 4-9 favourite to extend his unbeaten record to 12, but he got no further than the fourth fence, where he appeared to clip the top of the obstacle before crumpling on landing. That left the Grade One heat wide open, and it was Nico de Boinville who seized the initiative aboard the Nicky Henderson-trained Chantry House (9-1). Shan Blue made a bold bid for glory kicking on down the back in the two-and-a-half-mile contest, but he had no answer as Chantry House and fellow Henderson inmate Fusil Raffles swept by at the top of the straight. The duo enjoyed a fine battle to the line, but Chantry House was just three lengths too good. Asterion Forlonge was third. It was a 70th Cheltenham Festival winner for Henderson. Henderson said: “He was very good. To be fair, when Dan’s horse quickened up down the back, it was a bit like last year. When he ran in the Supreme behind Shishkin he looked to need another half mile and it looked the same again. It was obviously disappointing Envoi Allen lost his unbeaten, however, its all part of the sport.  Envoi Allen will bounce back.

Mrs Milner continued the Irish domination at the Cheltenham Festival when winning the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. The six-year-old, trained in County Wexford by Paul Nolan, asserted on the run to the line to land the three-mile stamina test in a comfortable fashion. Redford Road and Potters Hedger were the pace-setters and there were plenty in with chances as the big field approached the penultimate flight. Mrs Milner was produced through the pack to lead before the last. Despite the attentions of a loose horse, the 12-1 chance kept on strongly to win by five lengths from The Bosses Oscar. Come On Teddy was half a length back in third, with another length and a half to Milliner in fourth. Nolan said: “That was brilliant — I can’t believe the ease with which she’s done it. “She got into a bit of bother at a few different stages of the race. It wasn’t Bryan’s fault, it was just the way things panned out. I was saying a few swear words here I can tell you! “It was unbelievable the way she ran up the hill. I can’t believe it, to be honest.” Mrs Milner was a very good winner, I was delighted for Bryan Cooper who has had a tough time. Cooper is still a brilliant jockey.

Allaho took apart a quality field to make virtually all in the Ryanair Chase. Partnered by Rachael Blackmore, Allaho was keen to assert from the off, going toe-to-toe with stablemate Min through the early part of the race before he eventually pushed on. Blackmore took no prisoners on proven stayer Allaho, keeping up the searching gallop and building up a healthy lead turning for home. The 3-1 favourite barely faltered up the straight, coasting home 12 lengths clear of Fakir D’oudairies, with another Mullins runner Tornado Flyer staying on for third. Mullins said: “That was an awesome performance. I thought Min would go with him every step of the way but his jumping wasn’t up to scratch, we might have to look at that. “Allaho did everything right. The first thing I did when Rachael came back was lift the number cloth to see if the lead was still in there as it looked like he was just carrying Rachael! “He was just awesome, his galloping and jumping, if he puts the two together — I was hoping he could do that over three miles, but if he’s only a two-and-a-half-miler that will do me. “I think aggressive tactics suit him, watching at home he just gallops and jumps. “I was as gobsmacked as anyone watching it, I fully expected the two of them to collapse at the third-last but that is their style, we just had to hope one would be good enough. “We might try three miles again, maybe the King George, we’ll see what connections think.” This was a brilliant performance from Allaho , absolutely breathtaking. 

Flooring Porter galloped his rivals into submission in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle. Winner of a Navan handicap in early December, Flooring Porter graduated to Grade One level with victory in Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle and he confirmed his position at the top of the staying ranks with a dominant display. Ridden by Danny Mullins after regular partner Jonathan Moore gave up the ride on the morning of the race, Gavin Cromwell’s charge assumed control from the moment the tapes went up and Flooring Porter kept pulling out more in front. Defending champion Lisnagar Oscar was an early faller, leaving Sire Du Berlais and gallant favourite Paisley Park to chase home the winner. However, they were no match, with Flooring Porter winning by three and a quarter lengths. Flooring Porter should have been ridden by Moore, but a recent fall left him facing a race against time to be fit. He had a sit on his proposed big-race mount, but declared himself unfit and recommended Mullins. Cromwell praised the selflessness of Moore and said: “It was a huge performance and a smashing ride. It was a big blow for Jonathan, he made the decision himself that he wouldn’t do the horse justice. “He suggested Danny would be suited to the horse and it was all down to Jonny’s instructions. “Hats off to Johnny, he’s so unselfish — he thought he wouldn’t do the horse justice, so I’m very grateful. He actually sat on him.” This was another fantastic syndicate story with Flooring Porter who has made his way up the ranks.

The Shunter won a £100,000 bonus for his connections when beating 20 rivals in the Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. The Emmet Mullins-trained eight-year-old scooped the windfall with a convincing display in the competitive two-and-a-half-mile affair. Mullins selected this race from five engagements for The Shunter, who qualified for a crack at the money after landing the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso. The County Carlow handler put faith in 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford to do the steering and he showed no pressure as he guided the well-backed 9-4 favourite to victory. Gainford had The Shunter with the leaders throughout before he went for glory at the second-last fence. He kept on strongly up the hill to win by three lengths from Farclas. Top Notch was three and a quarter lengths back in third, with Coole Cody a head away in fourth. Gainford said: “It’s unbelievable, something you can’t describe and it’s a feeling I’ve never had before.“Emmet said to jump off smart and if they weren’t going hard enough to be positive but we shouldn’t have that problem. “He thought the step up in trip would suit. He tends to do his own little thing so going to the last I let him pop then he battled hard from the last. The Shunter carried off a well-executed plan a really exceptional piece of placement and training.

Rachael Blackmore claimed winner number five at the Cheltenham Festival with a sublime ride aboard Telmesomethinggirl in the Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. After sitting towards the rear in the early stages, Telmesomethinggirl (5-1) made eye-catching progress on the run to the penultimate flight before accelerating past fellow Henry de Bromhead-trained runner Magic Daze, who had set out to make all. Telmesomethinggirl fairly flew up the Cheltenham hill to beat her stable companion by five and a half lengths. Mighty Blue was third with bargain-buy Skyace — who cost just £600 — finishing fourth. De Bromhead said: “It’s been an incredible week. The horses are flying, the jockey is flying and it’s been brilliant. “We’re very lucky to have good mares like these and good owners. “I thought this mare had a chance. I thought on ratings we might struggle a little bit, but I thought both of ours had a squeak. Telmesomethinggirl was a really excellent winner on the day, also advertising the Dublin Racing Festival again.

Mount Ida put up an amazing performance to come from last to first and claim the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase at the Cheltenham Festival. Leading two out in the hands of Jack Kennedy, the 3-1 favourite gradually went clear to give Denise Foster a second Festival winner after taking over the licence at Gordon Elliott’s Cullentra House Stables. Touching 999-1 in-running on the exchanges, Mount Ida was almost detached from the rest of the field in the early stages of the three-and-a-quarter-mile stamina test, but she got going on the final circuit. She made stealthy progress and was cantering turning for home. Kennedy made sure she finished off the job and his mount did it in style to win by six and a half lengths from Cloudy Glen. Shantou Flyer was three-quarters of a length away in third. Hold The Note was a further 13 lengths back in fourth. Rachael Blackmore came down on Plan Of Attack at the third-last fence when holding every chance. I have no doubt Jack Kennedy would have pulled up in a race that was not at Cheltenham. An incredible performance. 


Day four of The Cheltenham Festival,

Rachael Blackmore recorded a remarkable sixth winner of the week at the Cheltenham Festival as Quilixios claimed the JCB Triumph HurdleTrained by Henry de Bromhead, who is also enjoying an excellent week in the Cotswolds, Quilixios (2-1) was prominent throughout, settling on the heels of the pace-setting Talking About You before moving to the front two flights from home. Adagio, representing the home team for David Pipe, tried his best to reel in Quilixios up the hill, but Blackmore’s mount galloped all the way to the line, with 20-1 shot Haut En Couleurs in third. Favourite Zanahiyr and leading British hope Tritonic both failed to sparkle in the Grade One heat. This was a very good performance from Quilixios, I have a doubt about the race in my head. As Zanahiyr and  Tritonic performed well below expectations. Zanahiyr ran on strongly however it was over. Quilixios is surely a Champion hurdle player.

Belfast Banter was yet another winner for Ireland when springing a 33-1 surprise for County Kildare trainer Peter Fahey in the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle. Ridden by Kevin Sexton, who has had his first Festival winner, the six-year-old came with a terrific run after jumping the last in fourth place to hit the front in the last 100 yards and claim the prize. Global Citizen, Mengli Khan, Gowel Road and Fifty Ball were among the leaders in the early stages, but there was all to play coming to the second-last where Third Time Lucki made his bid. That was covered by Milkwood with Petit Mouchoir, Eclat De Beaufeu, Edwardstone and Ganapathi also in the mix. Belfast Banter made his challenge in the centre of track to land the spoils by one and a quarter lengths from Petit Mouchoir with Milkwood a length away third and Eclair De Beaufeu a head back in fourth. This was a winner that got away from me I had liked Belfast Banter all season. I was pleased for the horse.

Vanillier made all the running to give Irish trainer Gavin Cromwell his second winner of the meeting in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Flooring Porter led all the way to take the Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday and Vanillier (14-1) repeated the trick in the Grade One over three miles. Both horses should have been ridden by Jonathan Moore, but he declared himself not enough to ride after a fall earlier in the month. Danny Mullins was the beneficiary in the Stayers’ and it was Mark Walsh who deputised this time. Moore led in both winners. Vanillier proved an able partner as he travelled beautifully throughout the race before scooting up the hill to seal the victory by 11 lengths from Oscar Elite. Streets Of Doyen was a length and a half back in third, with Stattler fourth. I have to say Vanillier was one of the most impressive winners of the week. John McConnell will have been very pleased with Streets Of Doyen who ran a very good race.

Henry de Bromhead claimed a famous one-two in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup as Minella Indo repelled the challenge of A Plus Tard. With Rachael Blackmore opting to partner A Plus Tard, it was left to Jack Kennedy to steer home the winner in the Festival feature. It was a straight shootout between the stablemates from the top of the straight, with Minella Indo going for home first. Blackmore tried to rally her mount after the last in a bid for another historic success, but A Plus Tard just could not catch the 9-1 winner. Dual champion Al Boum Photo had to settle for third as the 9-4 favourite, with Native River fourth and Frodon fifth. Leading British hope Champ was pulled up at an early stage after a series of jumping errors.

De Bromhead said: “It was incredible. Jack was brilliant on Minella Indo, who is just such a tough horse.“It’s all down to the crew at home, who work so hard. And the support of all our clients, it’s just brilliant. “Whatever it is about here — he’s a little bit like Put The Kettle On — he just comes alive. “He’s fast asleep at home on a daily basis, but even saddling him today, he was like he was before the Albert Bartlett — he was kicking the back door and so up for it. “We obviously had the mishap at Christmas and he wasn’t as good in the Irish Gold Cup, but we wanted to get a clear round that day and Rachael rode him brilliantly. “It’s all come together here and it’s fantastic. “To win a Cheltenham Gold Cup is something you dream about.” De Bromhead added of the riding arrangements for his pair: “Rachael had the choice. I always try to stay out of that and I left it to her.“Everyone has been asking me on the run-up to the race which had a better chance, but I couldn’t split them. This was a brilliant God Cup one of the best of recent times. The first two are very smart. Minella Indo loves Cheltenham in three runs its 121. A Plus Tard lost nothing in defeat, he looks like an ideal King George candidate.

Porlock Bay and Billaway fought out a thrilling finish to the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase, with the former just prevailing in a photo. With amateurs currently unable to ride due to coronavirus restrictions, Lorcan Williams took the mount on Will Biddick’s 10-year-old, who was having just his second start in Britain after previously running in France. Porlock Bay (16-1) could be spotted travelling supremely well from some way out, but favourite Billaway – who was second to It Came To Pass last year – proved a tough nut to crack, matching strides after jumping the last. It was nip and tuck all the way to the line, with Porlock Bay just grabbing the glory on the nod, with Staker Wallace back in third and pace-setting Latenightpass in fourth. This was a fantastic finish on a day of good ones.

Colreevy outpointed her Willie Mullins-trained stablemate Elimay in a pulsating finish to the inaugural running of the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase . The two market leaders had the race to themselves at the business end and there was nothing between them over the final obstacles. Colreevy (9-4), ridden by Paul Townend, gained the upper hand racing up the hill to hold the 6-5 favourite by half a length. Shattered Love was third, two and three-quarter lengths away. I thought this was the race of the week, it was a tremendous battle.

Galopin Des Champs won the closing Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, meaning Willie Mullins edged Henry de Bromhead on countback. However, Mullins was in no doubt that Allaho’s effortless 12-length victory in the Thursday feature provided the crowning moment for this year — with the trainer already turning his thoughts to next year’s Champion Chase over two miles. He said: “Allaho stands out a mile, I think. “After racing yesterday I was thinking he looked like a King George horse, but when I analysed it, I started thinking we should maybe aim for a Champion Chase instead. “The way he jumps so slick and so fast, I think we could bring him back in trip — and we could try two miles at Punchestown.”

While Mullins enjoyed plenty of success, he did have disappointments, too, with Chacun Pour Soi only third as a hot favourite in the Champion Chase while another odds-on shot, Concertista, was collared on the line in Tuesday’s Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle. Mullins’ dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo had to settle for third in his attempt at a hat-trick. The trainer said: “We had an in and out sort of week, but it came good in the end. “I always think 33 per cent of favourites win, so I was thinking we might have four or five winners this week and I was hoping for more.

“To have six winners is great. I suppose Concertista got beat and Chacun Pour Soi got beat. Al Boum ran a cracker, but it wasn’t to be. “A few of our hotpots got beat, but then some other horses came up, and I think we’ve had seven seconds and five thirds.”Mullins was not too disheartened following Al Boum Photo’s eclipse, giving full credit to the De Bromhead-trained pair of Minella Indo and A Plus Tard who dominated the finish. He said: “I just thought he was beaten by two very good horses. “Minella Indo likes it here and is a good horse. A Plus Tard is a very good horse as well — he advertised that in Ireland. “The three of them pulled right away from the field and our fellow is getting a bit older and is probably not as sharp as he was. “He knocked the third-last and the second-last and those were the jumps that won him the race last year.”

A stunning week for Rachael Blackmore at the Cheltenham Festival was completed on Friday as she became the first woman to secure the coveted top jockeys’ award. Six wins — including a history-making victory aboard Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday — have seen the 31-year-old rocket to the summit of the sport, earning plaudits from the likes of Sir Anthony McCoy and Ruby Walsh. Her final afternoon started in a similar vein to the previous three days, as she steered the Henry de Bromhead-trained Quilixios to victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle — and it so nearly climaxed with glory in the Gold Cup through A Plus Tard, who found only stablemate Minella Indo too good.

An amazing week for Irish Racing. A record 23 winners Irish Trained winners, for 20 different owners, 10 Irish trainers and 13 different Irish jockeys. As a youngster, I remember 1 winner for the meeting. These are golden times for Irish jump racing. For the UK they have some soul searching to do, it will not be a quick fix. The UK must start with how they approach novice races. On an industrial scale, they need to look at breeding. Over the last year in Ireland 4,000 National Hunt potential foals were born in the UK it was just over 1,000. The gap in foal production has increased year on year for the last four years. There was only one French-bred winner last week so there are no ready-made solutions in France for the UK either. On the other side of the coin, it does only take a couple of horses to come through. This Irish domination of the festival has been coming for a decade. It should not be forgotten how far Ireland had fallen in the late 80s and 90s. A group of exceptional horses changed that narrative. It bred confidence into owners, trainers and jockeys. That Ireland could compete again. 

Betting wise the week did not go my way personally. I had my first losing festival since 2008. When that happened I changed a few things around. I will now use this period during Covid Lockdown to make those adjustments as well as the new plan for 2022. The festival itself was an odd experience for me. I have never felt so detached from Cheltenham in my life. I have missed the Festival 4 times (including this year) since 1996. The Festival without the crowd is simply not the same. As I reflect on the week. I think about Rachael Blackmore, Honeysuckle, Tiger Roll, Shiskin, Appreciate It and Put The Kettle On. I also think of the syndicates who won Championship races.  All those ovations denied, possibly once in a lifetime achievements not getting the deserved acclaim. The Cheltenham crowd are the most knowledgeable racing crowd in the world. There were so many great moments in the week. Although the winners have the prizes and we have our champions. I cannot help but feel a little sad for those denied moments of glory and happiness due to the winners.