Gary McKenzie’s Cheltenham Awards
Gary McKenzie hands out the awards for Cheltenham 2020
Due to the current health crisis, racing is on hold in Britain for now. The fact we have to do without the sport we love is a minor inconvenience compared to the problems being endured by much of the population. I just hope that things get back to near normal as soon as possible.
So I think I should take some time this week to look back on what was, once again, a fantastic Cheltenham Festival. And it is time to hand out some gongs, from that memorable week.
The “Thank God Altior Wasn’t in the Race” Award
Running in his fourth festival race Min finally got his head in front. In two of his three previous visits he had been second to Altior. It was close but those involved won’t care
The “I Thought He Was Finished” Award
This has to go to Samcro. After falling at the beginning of December, and then being hammered by Faugheen I was slightly surprised he was a short as he was. But he showed he was no back number just getting his nose in front on the line. And that leads us to
The “Oh No Not Again” Award
Like Min, Melon was running in his fourth festival. Second in two Champion Hurdles and a second in the Supreme of 2017 he was once again in the runner up spot by the shortest of margins. What does he have to do?
Honourable mention to Discorama whose festival figures read 223
The “That Wasn’t Supposed to Happen” Award
This award will be shared. Politologue was thought to have a chance of placing in the Champion Chase before two of the favourites were pulled out. With five runners he was thought to be the one to follow Defi Du Seuil home. As it was he led nearly all the way.
Paisley Park was my strongest fancy of the week but it shows the uncertainty of sport that he was nowhere near the shake-up at the finish. Lisnagar Oscar was sent off at 50/1 despite finishing third over course and distance on his last run before the Stayers Hurdle.
Two things come out of this. Horses are not machines and even the best horses have off days. And horses do not look at the bookmakers’ boards on their way to post.
The “AP McCoy Keep Going” Award
The meeting got off to a great start with the Supreme giving us one of the finishes of the week. But in true McCoy style Barry Geraghty kept going on Champ in the RSA and the horse made up nine lengths from the last fence. Amazing stuff to follow up last year’s race where Santini just failed to get up. Which of course leads to
The “OK, I Admit I Got It Wrong” award
I could not believe Santini was as short as he was in what looked a very good Gold Cup. The fact he was only a neck behind a dual Gold Cup winner shows he is a serious horse. It was a fantastic end to the week. The fact that less than two lengths separated the first four may lead some to question the form but there was no real pace on.
So they were the sort of fun awards but I think there are plenty of others who need a mention. Here are some.
Envoi Allen showed he is some weapon by taking his unbeaten run to seven. He is prominent in the betting for both the Champion Hurdle and the novice chases for next season.
Paul Townend had massive boots to fill following the retirement of Ruby Walsh. Although he was number two for years he knows Willie Mullins operation inside out and he is no mug. He has been Irish Champion Jockey twice. It was good that he had so much success.
I will be taking a close look at those who ran well if they return next year.
Envoi Allen and Al Boum Photo were winning successive festival races. Samcro is a previous winner. Champ, Min, and Politologue were all second last year.
And it is not just festival races but course form that should be taken into account.
Imperial Aura had two seconds on the track before winning the novices handicap. One of those defeats was behind Simply The Betts who won the Plate.
The Conditional is now two from two at Cheltenham. Dame De Compagnie was winning for the third time at the course from five runs.
Sire Du Berlais won his second Pertemps despite being 7lbs higher in the weights.
It is not a perfect system but horses for courses does definitely need to be thought about.
There will be many races (hopefully) between now and next March and we will see brilliant horses both on the flat and over jumps. But those four days at Cheltenham each year are just a class above in my eyes.
Have a good week all
Kyle Merrick’s “A Golden Cheltenham” http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-3G9