A golden Cheltenham
Kyle Merrick on a Cheltenham Festival that had the wow factor
Last week showed us why we wait a whole year. Anticipation with excitement that finally results in patience being rewarded. The twenty-eight races across the four days were thrilling and this piece could be endless so here are my highlights and eye-catchers after Cheltenham 2020.
One issue after watching the Festival is the start of National Hunt races. After the discomfort of the first two days I do think two attempts of “jig-jogging” would be much better, especially in bigger fields. Some horses were clearly struggling from a standing start which also doesn’t look professional for new spectators to the sport during the week.
However, the racing did not disappoint with take two at the Supreme still providing a great “roar” and a finish. Shishkin battled brilliantly up the famous hill to give Britain an early lead in the Prestbury Cup with Abacadabras running excellently. Both names that will likely be in the spotlight in future.
Day one was really about girl power. Put The Kettle On, a six-year-old mare who provided the first of the week’s surprises showed an outstanding attitude to keep up the gallop to take Grade 1 glory in the Arkle.
The Irish duel between Notebook and Cash Back couldn’t be repeated. Epatante answered the questions and won in good style by confirming her status in the two-mile championship division. A possible Cheltenham Punchestown double awaits
Honeysuckle and Racheal Blackmore took the David Nicholson Mares’ which increased her unbeaten run up to eight under rules. My star on day one.
It was really nice to see smaller yards gaining Festival success this year. David Bridgewater and jockey Brendan Powell with The Conditional started the week. Imperial Aura got the gold medal at the most important Cheltenham meeting this season, after two seconds at the International and Trials Day for Kim Bailey and David Bass.
Name to remember
Harry Whittington and Gavin Sheehan teamed up with Simply The Betts in the Stable Plate who followed up his Trials Day win. A name to remember for the course now after two consecutive victories.
The O’Sullivan family had a memorable day as It Came To Pass bolted up in the Foxhunters with an easy win. Indefatigable’s finishing burst in the finale, the Martin Pipe hurdle, fits perfectly into this group for a huge success for trainer Paul Webber and jockey Rex Dingle. A first win at the Festival for both.
The famous green and golden hoops of JP McManus were not just celebrating on his birthday, but he had a whole week of partying. Six victories made it some week with Wednesday being the best.
Dame De Compagnie, Aramax, Easysland and my second favourite race to watch – the RSA. Champ powering up the hill to split the talented Irish pair of Minella Indo and Allaho in a great horse race. This also resulted in a fantastic Festival for top jockey Barry Geraghty. A quick-fire double in the Coral Cup and the RSA probably one of his many highlights.
The Emerald Isle were celebrating by securing a clear win the Prestbury Cup in the end with Gordon Elliot having a fabulous four days with one for many “bankers” heading into the winner’s enclosure as Envoi Allen made it a second Festival win in the Ballymore.
A classy six-year-old who is unbeaten now in eight starts under rules. Elliot’s fine form continued with Samcro coming back to Cheltenham where he left off by winning the Marsh by a whisker as the Mullins pair (Melon and Faugheen) were breathing down his neck, literally. Another top finish of the week.
Gordon’s week ended on a high with Chosen Mate making his first Prestbury Park visit a winning one by taking The Grand Annual.
Back with a bang
After no runners on Tuesday, Paul Nicholls came back with a bang by achieving a one-two in the Betway Queen Mother champion chase as Politologue went one better than 2019 and Dynamite Dollars getting the silver medal this time around.
The shock of the week came in the stayers’ hurdle as it was a Welsh success as Lisnagar Oscar and Adam Wedge achieved a big moment in both of their careers. When looking back, an under five length third to Paisley Park in the Cleeve Hurdle in January looks alright and he turned the table in the feature on day three for the Racing for Fun group.
My heart goes out to everyone associated with Goshen. Ten lengths clear when approaching the last when looking one of the most impressive winners in recent times at the Festival.
My fingers are crossed that everyone gets the day in the sun with a big win surely awaiting. From winning a class five Brighton handicap last June, nine months later in the Triumph is still some achievement.
However, Burning Victory started the Townend/Mullins domination on Friday as Mullins had a consecutive four timer. Saint Roi, Monkfish and the most important prize.
Al Boum Photo retaining his title in an excellent race. So many chances coming to three out, and four fantastic horses fought out the finish up the Cheltenham hill. Santini ran a beltor after a progressive season with only two starts prior, with Monalee and Lostintranslation all names I think will be fighting out big Grade 1 prizes in the future.
After an unbeatable week, a thank you to all who make Cheltenham possible. From the course staff, emergency services, groundstaff for perfect ground, media, and most importantly the jocks and horses!
It’s a show that is on a different level. A typical rollercoaster that was another memorable ride! Next year I am going in some shape or form!
Gary McKenzie’s Cheltenham awards http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3Hp