If at first you don’t succeed…
I wonder if Willie Mullins will be playing the Etta James classic “At Last” this weekend? The legendary trainer had saddled six runners up in the Gold Cup before yesterday and, with three of his four runners not making it to halfway, he was probably thinking “here we go again”. But Al Boum Photo hit the front three out and was too good for the chasers.
A well deserved win for a man from a racing dynasty. And what a week it was.
Obviously Bryony Frost is the poster girl, not forgetting how good Frodon was, and the story of Paisley Park made Thursday the best day of the Festival for me. And that is coming from someone who has picked just four winners all week.
The much heralded clash in the Champion Hurdle failed to live up to the hype with Buveur D’air falling, and the two talented mares not running as expected. But you have to be impressed with the winner. Espoir D’Allen was winning his eighth race from nine runs over hurdles and the manner of his win, and the fact that he is just five, leads me to hope he could be a multiple winner.
Altior made hard work of it but he is now eighteen from eighteen over obstacles and a four time Festival winner. He is just amazing and talk of him going for the King George has me almost giddy with anticipation.
Tiger Roll is another four timer after winning the Cross Country as he liked and he is now as short as 6/1 to become the first horse since Red Rum to follow up at Aintree.
Paisley Park was another that was not as impressive as he has been but champions have to have that little bit extra whether it be ability, class, or guts and the Stayers Hurdle winner has all three.
The RSA is one of my favourite races and the finish showed what jumps racing is all about. Three top class chasers going up the hill together with less than two lengths between the three of them at the line and the rest nowhere. It is possible that Topofthegame, Santini, and Delta Work could all be back next year in the Gold Cup.
The JLT was no less exciting with Defi De Seuil beating Lostintranslation in a pulsating finish with Barry Geraghty at his best.
I know I keep going on about it but could the King George be even better than I first supposed with these top novices in the mix as well as defending champion Clan Des Obeaux all possible for the Boxing Day feature?
There were some sad scenes with the loss of some of our equine friends and condolences go out to all those who will going home to an empty stable. It can be a cruel game.
Jockey Noel Fehily announced he will be retiring this season and before his last Cheltenham ride he was given a guard of honour by his weighing room colleagues. He is a brilliant horseman and I am sure he won’t be lost to the game. We wish him all the best.
So how do we follow that?
Well Uttoxeter has its big day with the Midlands Grand National set to be a real test. Back To the Thatch looks progressive and is on a low weight. Milansbar and Ms Parfois are likely types and even old Raz De Maree would not be without a chance.
BALLYDINE has come close on a few occasions and is on the same mark as when finishing third last time out. He made a mistake at the third last but was staying on. Hopefully he can see the trip out.
BROTHER TEDD was running for the first time in two years when he was second last time out. He has actually been dropped a pound for that and assuming he comes on for the run he has to have a chance in the 3.15 at Kempton.
I am crossing the Irish Sea for my final tip. And I am hoping the Gold Cup winning combination of Mullins and Townend can hit the mark again. STAY HUMBLE makes his handicap debut in the 3.40 at Down Royal and if he can tidy up his jumping he has to be thereabouts.
Good luck all