Cheltenham Festival Recap: Victories, Upsets, and Unforgettable Moments

recap

The Cheltenham Festival kicked off with Ireland dominating the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and concluded with them sweeping the Martin Pipe.

Nick Luck humorously suggested that viewers switch to Racing TV Extra to catch the British contenders.

Willie Mullins showcased his prowess by training the top five in the Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle.

Irish trainers, especially Mullins with 75 entries and Gordon Elliott with 51, were formidable, representing over 34% of the 367 runners.

The British team managed nine wins, sparing them total defeat for the Prestbury Cup.

Dan Skelton secured four victories and enjoyed an exceptional week, unlike Nicky Henderson, who had a disappointing run, and Paul Nicholls, who fell in the middle.

Heavy conditions marked the Festival’s start, with British runners lagging behind.

Irish horses won six out of seven races on the first day, leading in at least the first two positions per race, except for the Ultima claimed by Kim Bailey-trained Chianti Classico, marking Bailey’s sixth festival win.

Bailey previously triumphed in 1995 with Alderbrook (Champion Hurdle) and Master Oats (Gold Cup), recalling the era when Britain didn’t feel as threatened.

That year, a young Willie Mullins notched his inaugural festival win with Tourist Attraction at 25/1 odds, proving he was no one-hit wonder.

Day 1 Recap

Mullins increased his Festival wins to 97 with victories from State Man, Gaelic Warrior, and Lossiemouth on day one.

State Man, helped by Constitution Hill’s absence, narrowly defeated Irish Point in the Champion Hurdle. Given Constitution Hill’s sidelining, Luccia’s third-place finish was a bittersweet moment for Henderson.

Henderson faced further challenges as all his runners on day one were pulled up, and he withdrew top horses, including Shishkin, due to health concerns.

His 16 runners only managed to secure £60,000, marking a disappointing week for Britain’s leading Festival trainer, with form figures of PP3PPPP404000P7P.

Henderson maintained a brave exterior despite the setback, which cast a shadow over the event.

Day 2 recap

The Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase on the second day of the meeting was cancelled due to a waterlogged course, missing out on an exciting race with Delta Work aiming for a third win against rivals like Minella Indo.

Suggestions to turn the race into a handicap were dismissed in favour of keeping it a level weights contest.

Willie Mullins had three favourites running: Ballyburn won impressively, Fact To File performed efficiently, but El Fabiolo, the biggest favourite, failed to finish after jumping poorly, reminiscent of Douvan’s upset in 2017.

Captain Guinness, trained by Henry De Bromhead, capitalised on El Fabiolo’s error.

Concerns for El Fabiolo’s future are hopeful; we wish him a better outcome than Douvan and Special Tiara.

Mullins hit his 100th Festival win with Jasmin De Vaux in the Champion Bumper.

Langer Dan achieved a second Coral Cup win, with the Skelton brothers also winning with Unexpected Party.

The British rally began as the event moved to the New Course, with wins from Grey Dawning, Monmiral, and Protektorat, marking a good day for Britain and particularly rewarding for former Nicholls assistant, now trainer, Skelton.

Day 3 Recap

Skelton’s prize-money winnings put him ahead of Nicholls in the trainers’ championship. The upcoming weeks will be competitive, with Aintree as a key event.

British victories came from Shakem Up’Arry (Plate) and Golden Ace (Mares’ Novice), while Gordon Elliott celebrated Teahupoo’s Stayers’ Hurdle win under Jack Kennedy.

Inothewayurthinkin triumphed in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir, overcoming errors to beat 21 rivals at 13/8 odds.

Rain marked the final day of Cheltenham, affecting the ground for the centenary Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Galopin Des Champs, the 10/11 favourite, successfully defended his title, narrowly avoiding interference from the loose Fastorslow and beating Gerri Colombe and Corach Rambler.

Galopin Des Champs is now a 3/1 favourite to win a third Gold Cup, a more appealing bet than stablemate Fact To File at 4/1, who must improve significantly to compete at the highest level.

Punters used many regulated UK sportsbooks, such as the Lottoland horse racing online platform.

Day 4 Recap

Galopin Des Champs avoided any trouble and made impressive jumps at the end, which helped him beat Gerri Colombe by three-and-a-half lengths. Corach Rambler, who won the Grand National, came in third.

The odds from bookmakers are 3/1 for Galopin Des Champs to win the race three times, a feat last achieved by Best Mate.

I prefer those odds for him over his teammate Fact To File, who is at 4/1. Fact To File tends to jump to his right, and his victory at the Brown Advisory was against horses rated in the 140s.
This shows he needs to improve a lot to be the best.

Willie Mullins suggested that Galopin Des Champs’ season might not be over yet.