Cheltenham Festival

Cheltenham Festival 2017 Review

Adam Courtney
2017-03-20
“They came, they saw, they conquered” pretty much sums up what the Irish trainers did last week at the Cheltenham Festival when they comprehensively beat the horses trained in Great Britain by a score of 19-9.

“They came, they saw, they conquered” pretty much sums up what the Irish trainers did last week at the Cheltenham Festival when they comprehensively beat the horses trained in Great Britain by a score of 19-9.

As the dust settles on another unforgettable four days of action at the home of jump racing we look back at the headline makers from last week.

Day One (Tuesday)

The first race of the Cheltenham Festival went to Ireland as Labaik claimed the Supreme Novices' Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott and 17-year-old jockey Jack Kennedy. The grey six-year-old, who refuses to race on occasion, belied odds of 25-1 to deny the 3-1 favourite Melon by two and a quarter lengths.

Altior landed the odds in the Racing Post Arkle. The 1-4 favourite, trained by Nicky Henderson, stormed clear of Cloudy Dream (12/1) to land the Grade One Novice Chase.

Un Temps Pour Tout bravely won back-to-back renewals of the Ultima Handicap Chase narrowly fending off Singlefarmpayment in a photo finish.

Buveur D'Air, ridden by Noel Fehily, stormed to victory in the Champion Hurdle. It was Fehily's second Champion Hurdle victory, and owner JP McManus' 50th winner at Cheltenham.

Apple's Jade fought off the challenge of Limini and Vroum Vroum Mag to win the Mares' Hurdle. To add insult to injury, the winner was previously trained by Willie Mullins before being switched to Gordon Elliott.

Tiger Roll handed trainer Gordon Elliott a hat-trick on the first day of the Festival with a win in the JT McNamara National Hunt Chase. The 16/1 shot was ridden by Lisa O'Neill.

The final race of the day, the Novices' Handicap Chase, was won by Tully East. Alan Fleming's charge was produced with a well-timed challenge by Denis O'Regan.

Day Two (Wednesday)

Willoughby Court produced an amazing performance from the front in the Neptune Investment Management Novices' Hurdle, just getting the better of Neon Wolf. David Bass and Ben Pauling combined for the win.

Might Bite defeated stablemate Whisper in the RSA Chase in one of the most dramatic finishes in recent Cheltenham Festival history. Stopping almost to a walk on the run-in he re-rallied to win in the closing strides.

Supasundae landed the Coral Cup for trainer Jessica Harrington and jockey Robbie Power. The 16/1 winner stuck on well after hitting the front at the second last, beating Taquin Du Seuil by a couple of lengths.

Special Tiara made most of the running to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase while Douvan, the hot favourite, never figured.  Ridden by N.Fehily and trained by Henry De Bromhead the 10-year-old Special Tiara (11-1) finished a head clear of Fox Norton (7-1) with Sir Valentino (33-1) third.

Cause Of Causes claimed the third Festival success of his career with a super display in the Cross-Country Chase. The victory was a poignant one for Jamie Codd, whose old friend JT McNamara was successful in the race in 2005.

Richard Johnson recorded his first winner of the week when Flying Tiger (33/1) secured a shock victory in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle. It was also Nick Williams’ first Festival winner.

Fayonagh came from out of the clouds to land the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. Despite being knocked sideways at the start and setting off behind all her rivals she stormed up the hill under Jamie Codd to run them all down.

Day Three (Thursday)

Yorkhill ended Willie Mullins' wait for a 2017 Cheltenham Festival winner with success in the JLT Novices' Chase, the first race of the day. Ruby Walsh was aboard the 6/4 favourite.

Trainer Pat Kelly continued his 100% record at Cheltenham when saddling Presenting Percy to win the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle. It was Davy Russell’s 18th victory at The Festival.

Un De Sceaux put up a tremendous performance to win the Ryanair Chase and give trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh a quick double after winning earlier in the day with Yorkhill. After pulling Walsh to the front he jumped impeccably and left his rivals standing.

Ruby Walsh conjured up an amazing run from Nichols Canyon to deny the gallant Lil Rockerfeller and lift the Stayers’ Hurdle. Walsh landed the spoils for owner Graham Wylie, already a three-time race victor with the great Inglis Drever.

Road To Respect recovered from a bad blunder at the first fence to run away with the Brown Advisory & Merribale Stable Plate Handicap. Bryan Cooper’s agility gave trainer Noel Meade a first victory over fences at the Cheltenham Festival.

Let's Dance gave Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins a fourth winner on the afternoon in the Trull House Stud Mares' Novice Hurdle and the day was aptly renamed “Ruby Thursday”.

Domesday Book sprang a 40-1 surprise for trainer Stuart Edmunds and jockey Gina Andrews in the lucky last, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup. Thirty years earlier Gee Armytage won the very same race so it was very poignant to see another female rider win it.

Day Four (Friday)

Defi Du Seuil took his 100 per cent record over jumps to six with an impressive victory in the JCB Triumph Hurdle. It was Richard Johnson’s second winner of the week. Philip Hobbs' exciting juvenile was carrying the first colours of JP McManus.

Arctic Fire, a 20/1 Willie Mullins trained runner, claimed victory in the County Handicap Hurdle by the narrowest of margins, just pipping L’Ami Serge and Ozzie the Oscar on the finish line.

Penhill came from way off the pace to come out on top in the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle and gave Willie Mullins another welcome winner. Owner Tony Bloom, chairman of Brighton & Hove Albion FC was over the moon with the result.

Sizing John showed he had stamina in abundance when lifting the Cheltenham Gold Cup for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power. The seven-year-old Sizing held off runner-up Minella Rocco by two and three quarter lengths, with Native River third and Djakadam fourth.

Bryony Frost, the daughter of 1989 Grand National winner Jimmy Frost, rode Pacha Du Polder to victory in the Foxhunters Chase. Her win also made it a record number of victories for female riders at a single festival, following earlier triumphs for Lisa O’Neill and Gina Andrews.

Gordon Elliott's good week at the Cheltenham Festival continued when Champagne Classic won the Conditional Jockey's Handicap Hurdle under JJ Slevin. The victory gave him the trainer's title at the Festival for the first time - won on countback with Willie Mullins.

Gold Cup winners Robbie Power and Jessica Harrington teamed up again to win the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup with Rock The World and brought the curtain down on a memorable Cheltenham Festival.

Same again in 2018? Yes please!