Monday, 9 October 2017

Cheltenham 2017 Recap

The Cheltenham Festival is dubbed “the greatest show on turf” and it duly delivered on its nickname in 2017 by serving up thrills aplenty for horse racing fans, punters, celebrities and royals alike. A memorable four days of high-quality racing culminated in success for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power as Rock the World claimed the Grand Annual. It was their third victory of the week and they will look back fondly upon Cheltenham 2017, as will many trainers and jockeys that sealed a place in the history books. Who were the big winners and losers?
Legendary trainer steals the show
The 2017 meeting belonged to Harrington, who became only the third female trainer to win the Gold Cup in history. What made it all the more remarkable was that it came at her maiden attempt: she waited until the age of 70 to make her first entry into the most prestigious race in the calendar as she wanted to make sure her charge could seriously compete. A lifetime of hard work and perseverance paid off as Sizing John romped to victory. Harrington credited Power with the win after the jockey told her that Sizing John was crying out for a stamina test. He stepped up to the longer distance in style, overhauling Djakadam, the leading contender in the horse racing spreads, and winning by almost three lengths from Minella Rocco. The seven-year-old has now won all three of his races at three miles or more, a trifecta of Gold Cups, and is the one to watch going into the new season. Harrington and Power capped a magnificent festival when Rock the World seized the final race of the meeting, and they will be full of confidence going into next year’s contest.

Mullins and Walsh strike back
Willie Mullins had generated tremendous momentum going into Cheltenham 2017 by winning such key tests as the County Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett in the build-up to the Gold Cup, but could only watch as Djakadam blundered in the big race, finishing fourth. There was talk of a crisis for Mullins and Ruby Walsh after they failed to land a winner in the first two days of the festival. Even Douvan, who had so often beaten Sizing John over two miles, lost his unbeaten record as a broken pelvis saw him finish seventh in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. But Mullins and Walsh bounced back with aplomb by landing sensational four-timer on the Thursday: favourite Yorkhill took the JLT, Un De Sceaux romped to victory in the Ryanair Chase, Nichols’ Canyon took the Stayers’ Hurdle and Let’s Dance came in to make Walsh the first jockey to ride four winners in a single day at the Cheltenham festival. It was followed by the disappointment of Djakadam, but overall it was a strong meeting for Mullins, who saddled six winners, while Walsh took his fifth consecutive jockeys’ title.
Elation for Elliott
Gordon Elliott vanquished Mullins, his great rival, to be named the top trainer at the festival after landing a magnificent six winners of his own. They were neck and neck but with no runner in the Grand Annual, Elliott was crowned champion trainer with a race to spare. On the first day Elliott scored a treble when Tiger Roll came in, and he secured his sixth victory of the meeting when 12/1 shot Champagne Classic took the Martin Pipe. He will be in with a chance of winning the title again in 2018, but Mullins will be the one to beat and could be a good option for that market.
Irish assert their dominance
In the same month that Ireland’s rugby team ended England’s world record bid with a dramatic Six Nations victory at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland also asserted its dominance over Great Britain at Cheltenham. The Irish annihilated the British in the Bet Bright Cup, taking 19 winners out of 28 races to Britain’s nine. Sizing John’s victory was the centrepiece as the cup went across the Irish Sea, but the combined 12 winners from Mullins and Elliott sealed the deal. Britain won the title, formerly known as the Prestbury Cup, in 2015 and it finished all square in 2016, leading the British to go into 2017 as the favourites. But the Irish made a mockery of that by claiming an emphatic victory, and they are the frontrunners going into 2018.

Author bio
Martin Green is an experienced horseracing correspondent and tipster.

Cheltenham Festival 2002 - The Festival Returns

The outbreak of foot and mouth disease and subsequent ban on the movement of livestock, including the suspension of racing, put paid to the 2001 Cheltenham Festival in its entirety.

However, it was business as usual in 2002, with Flagship Uberalles supplementing his win in Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown the previous December in the Queen Mother Champion Chase to maintain his 100% record for new trainer Philip Hobbs.

Flagship Uberalles was one of just two winners for Richard Johnson, the other being Rooster Booster in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, but that was enough to make him leading jockey.

Hors La Loi III ran on well to beat Marble Arch by 3 lengths in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, Best Mate did likewise in the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup, coming home 1¼ lengths ahead of Commanche Court, and Baracouda just got the better of Bannow Bay in the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle, winning by a neck, albeit a shade cleverly.

In the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, 14/1 chance Pizarro, trained by Edward O’Grady and ridden by Jamie Spencer, was all out to hold 5/2 favourite Rhinestone Cowboy, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by Norman Williamson.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2000

There was a strong element of déjà vu about the Cheltenham Festival in 2000, with Istabraq and Stormyfairweather returning to Prestbury Park to repeat their victories in the Champion Hurdle and Cathcart Challenge Cup, respectively. Monsignor, who’d won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 1999, took his record over hurdles to six from six when pushed out to beat No Discount by 8 lengths in the Royal & SunAlliance Hurdle while Looks Like Trouble, who’d turned the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Chase into a procession the previous year, repeated the feat in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, jumping well and coming home unchallenged to beat Go Ballistic by a distance. Mick Fitzgerald, winning jockey on Stormyfairweather, recorded three more victories to become leading jockey for the second year running. Other notable victories included Edredon Bleu in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Bacchanal in the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle and Joe Cullen in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Cheltenham Festival 1999: Nicholls Breaks Through

The Cheltenham Festival in 1999 proved memorable for Paul Nicholls, who collected the Queen Mother Champion Chase with Call Equiname, the Arkle Challenge Trophy with Flagship Uberalles and the Cheltenham Gold Cup with See More Business. The latter was all out to beat 66/1 outsider Go Ballistic by a length, but ultimately did just enough to make Nicholls leading trainer at the Festival for the first time. Mick Fitzgerald, who rode Call Equiname and See More Business, also added Katarino in the Triumph Hurdle and Stormyfairweather in the now-defunct Cathcart Challenge Cup for Nicky Henderson to become leading jockey.

Elsewhere, Istabraq was long odds-on (4/9) to win the Champion Hurdle for a second year running and did so with a minimum of fuss, beating Theatreworld by 3½ lengths having led going well at the second last flight. The Stayers’ Hurdle produced a surprise, with 40/1 chance Anzum producing a strong finish to edge out 2/1 joint favourite Le Coudray by a neck. So, too, did the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, with 50/1 chance staying on gamely under Brendan Powell Snr. to beat Golden Alpha by 1½ lengths.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Top 5 Horses to Grace the Cheltenham Turf

A truly magnificent flat season is drawing to a close and it is time once again to turn our focus to the National Hunt. All eyes will be on Sizing John as we go into the new season, with fans keen to see if he can maintain his superb form. Earlier this year he became the first horse ever to win all three of jump racing’s Gold Cups – the Irish, Cheltenham and Punchestown. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the jewel in the crown and it will once again be the standout event of the season as it has delivered all manner of thrills over the years. Sizing John is a classy champion, but for all his pizzazz he does not trouble the list of the top five heroes ever to grace the Cheltenham turf. Here we run through the record books to present you with the five greatest horses in Cheltenham history:
5. Dawn Run
Dawn Run is the only horse ever to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle, and her achievement is all the more remarkable when you consider she was a relative novice when she won at the Gold Cup in 1986. In perhaps the most thrilling battle in the race’s history went hell for leather against defending champion Forgive ’N Forget and triple King George winner Wayward Lad, and it was nail-biting stuff as she rallied to come from well behind and seize a win on the line. Dawn Run went on to become the most successful mare in National Hunt history.
4. Kauto Star
Kauto Star is an absolute legend among punters following his Cheltenham heroics. He went off as 5/4 favourite in the 2007 Gold Cup and overcame a poor jump on the last fence to secure a comfortable victory. The following year he was 10/11 favourite but looked out of sorts throughout, succumbing to a seven-length defeat to stablemate Denman. He was written off as a has-been by many going into the 2009 Gold Cup, but turned the tables on Denman to pull off a remarkable 13-length victory, making him the only horse to ever regain the Gold Cup. He could not add to his Gold Cup triumphs, but he won the King George five times, was the best steeplechase horse of the 2006/07, 2007/08, 2009/10 and 2011/12 seasons, ranked joint third in the all-time Timeform ratings and achieved the highest Racing Post rating of all time.

3. Best Mate
Best Mate was another favourite among gamblers after he achieved a sensational hat-trick of Cheltenham Gold Cup wins between 2002 and 2004, costing the bookies a massive amount of money. It was believed such a feat was impossible in the modern era, but he pulled it off in style. He was sublime in 2002 and 2003, but in 2004 he put in a dogged, scrappy performance to hold off a spirited challenge from 25/1 shot Sir Rembrandt and win by half a length, causing the crowd to erupt with joy.
2. Golden Miller
The legendary Golden Miller won the Gold Cup five times in a row between 1932 and 1936 and enjoyed an astonishing career. In 1932 he was just five years old when he secured his maiden Gold Cup victory, and in 1934 he followed it up by winning the Grand National – a feat never matched throughout history. He would have been the favourite to win the 1937 race but it was cancelled due to heavy snowfall, so he retired with a fantastic record.
1. Arkle
It takes a special horse to knock Golden Miller into second place, but Arkle is the greatest of all time. This brilliant bay gelding ran with phenomenal power but also jumped with astonishing grace, and he was unstoppable. In 1964 he went off at 7/4 second favourite in the Gold Cup, while defending champion Mill House was 8/13, but Arkle made a mockery of that by securing a five-length victory. In 1965 he trounced Mill House by 20 lengths, establishing his dominance over the sport. The following year he was the shortest priced favourite this race has ever seen and he justified odds of just 1/10 as he won by 30 lengths, the most emphatic victory Cheltenham has ever seen. Later that year he was injured and never raced again, but he went down as officially the greatest steeplechaser in history with a Timeform rating of 112. Check out today's racing at Sun Bets and you will see many great horses listed, but none can hold a torch to Arkle, described as a freak of nature by many and cherished by anyone that saw him run.

Author bio
Martin Green is an experienced horse racing correspondent and tipster.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Cheltenham Festival 1998 – McCoy and Pipe Dominate

In 1997, A.P. McCoy joined forces with reigning champion jump trainer Martin Pipe and in their first full season together rode 253 winners, including five at the 1998 Cheltenham Festival.

On day one, Champleve was all out to hold Hill Society by a short head in the Arkle Challenge Trophy but, later, Unsinkable Boxer won the Gold Card Handicap Hurdle by 4 lengths in a hack canter. McCoy drew a blank on day two, but finished the meeting in style, with a quick-fire treble in the last three races on day three. He won the Grand Annual Chase by 3½ lengths on Edredon Bleu, trained by Henrietta Knight, the Cathcart Challenge Cup by the same margin on Cyfor Malta and the County Hurdle by 1¾ on Blowing Wind, landing a gamble in the process.

Other notable winners included previous Festival winners Istabraq and Florida Pearl, who returned to Prestbury Park to win the Champion Hurdle and the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase, respectively. The ill-fated One Man, trained by the late Gordon Richards and ridden by Brian Harding, won the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Cool Dawn, trained by Robert Alner and ridden by Andrew Thornton, caused a surprise in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, making all to beat Strong Promise by 1¾ lengths at odds of 25/1.