Monday, 12 November 2018

Cheltenham Festival 2002

cheltenham gold cup 2002
The 2002 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by the Tote, featured 18 runners – the biggest field since Silver Buck beat 21 rivals in 1982 – and was the first to be run for two years, after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth required the abandonment of the Cheltenham Festival in 2001.

The defending champion, Looks Like Trouble, ridden by Richard Johnson, was sent off 9/2 favourite, ahead of Bacchanal, ridden by Mick Fitzgerald, at 6/1 and Best Mate, ridden by Jim Culloty, at 7/1 in an open betting heat.

Looks Like Trouble and 1999 winner, See More Business showed their rivals the way until the third last fence, at which point See More Business took a definite advantage. Paul Nicholls’ 12-year-old was challenged by Commanche Court, ridden by Ruby Walsh, on the home turn, but Best Mate – who’d travelled well into the race coming down the hill – took over, narrowly, on the run to the last fence and ran on well up the hill to win by 1¾ lengths. Commanche Court could make no impression close home, but finished second, with the veteran See More Business a gallant third, a further 8 lengths away.

Best Mate was attempting 3 miles 2½ furlongs for the first time, but winning trainer Henrietta Knight said afterwards, “I always knew that he’d stay. My only doubt was that it was a year too soon, that we were asking too much too early, but he’s answered every question today.”

Winning jockey Jim Culloty was equally delighted, saying of Best Mate, “He’s got the engine. I was always cruising. I got squeezed a little bit as Joe’s [See More Business, ridden by Joe Tizzard] came across me, but I wasn’t panicking because I didn’t want to get there too soon anyway.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2001

cheltenham gold cup 2001

As much as I'd like to write about the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2001, that could prove difficult as it didn't happen, due to falling within the foot and mouth disease exclusion zone. The boundary of an infected area reached a mile from the course and so the Festival was called off. It's the first time since World War 2 that the Cheltenham Gold Cup didn't take place.

Monday, 1 October 2018

Cheltenham Gold Cup 2000

cheltenham gold cup 2000
The 2000 Cheltenham Gold Cup, sponsored by the Tote, featured 12 runners and, on unseasonably fast ground, was won in a time of 6 minutes 30.3 seconds, marginally faster than the previous record set by shock 100/1 winner Norton’s Coin in 1990.

Defending champion See More Business started 9/4 favourite to become the first horse since L’Escargot in 1971 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in consecutive years. Florida Pearl, third behind See More Business in 1999, and Looks Like Trouble, winner of the Royal & SunAlliance Chase the previous year, shared second favouritism at 9/2, just ahead of Gloria Victis, winner of the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton the previous December, at 13/2.

In fact, it was the 6-year-old novice Gloria Victis, ridden by A.P. McCoy, who made most of the running, although at the third last fence he started to look a “sitting duck”, with his fellow markets leaders all poised to deliver their challenges. Tragically, Gloria Victis took a crashing fall at the second last, fatally injuring himself in the process, as Florida Pearl, ridden by Paul Carberry, quickened, albeit briefly, into the lead.

However, Looks Like Trouble, ridden by Richard Johnson, had continued to race prominently since surviving a monumental blunder just before halfway and jumped ahead at the final fence. Florida Pearl held every chance, but couldn’t match Looks Like Trouble for pace in the closing stages, eventually going down by 5 lengths. Strong Promise, ridden by Robert Thornton, stayed on well under pressure to finish third, just a neck behind, with See More Business only three-quarters of a length away in fourth.

Winning trainer Noel Chance, who was saddling his second Cheltenham Gold Cup winner after the victory of Mr Mulligan in 1997, said, “Today's win is great for the team at the yard;it is a team effort. I would never malign Mr Mulligan, but Looks Like Trouble can go on 'good to firm' ground, which is a major consideration at Cheltenham.”

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Cheltenham Festival 2017: Gordon Elliot Makes His Mark

For once, the Festival started poorly for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, who were both winless after the first two days. However, four winners on Thursday, all trained by Mullins, were enough to give Ruby Walsh his fifth jockeys’ title in a row. Willie Mullins saddled two more winners on Friday, for a total of six, but was pipped at the post by Co. Meath trainer Gordon Elliot, who lifted his first leading trainer award. All in all, Irish-trained horses won 19 out of the 28 races run during the four days.

Notable winners during the week included Buveur D’air in the Champion Hurdle, Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Fayonagh (Elliot) in the Champion Bumper, Nichols Canyon (Mullins) in the World Hurdle and Sizing John in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Labaik, who virtually refused to race in his last race before the Festival and his next race afterwards, set the tone for the week, quickening clear to win the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at odds of 25/1 for Gordon Elliot and Jack Kennedy. The 3/1 favourite, Melon, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh, could only finish second, in the first of several notable reverses during the week.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Cheltenham Festival 2016: When Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Again)

Cheltenham Festival 2016
No surprises for guessing the leading trainer and leading jockey at the Festival in 2016; Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh once again carried all before them, as they’d done for the last three years running, with seven winners apiece during the four days. Mullins’ haul also helped Irish trainers to a final tally of 14 winners, equalling the record achieved three years earlier.

The Stan James Champion Hurdle went the way of Annie Power, but Sprinter Sacre took the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ballyandy the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and Thistlecrack the Ryanair World Hurdle for the home team before Don Cossack headed a 1-2-3 for Irish-trained horses in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup. The 9-year-old, who’d won his last six completed starts since finishing third in the Ryanair Chase the previous year, was pushed out to beat the Mullins-trained pair Djakadam and Don Poli by 4½ lengths and 10 lengths.