The curtain falls on the Cheltenham Festival. Four days. Twenty-eight races. A million moments.
Highs and lows. Upsets and certainties. Stars and scars.
Dreams achieved. Dreams shattered.
Pints downed. Kings crowned.
As always, it’s delivered. The perfect goodbye from Honeysuckle. The return of Envoi Allen. The subtle brilliance of Rachael. The domination by Willie. The electricity of Constitution Hill. The heartfelt joy of Daryl Jacob for his comrade Sam Twiston-Davies. The shock of Seddon, Sire Du Berlais and a few others. The testing ground. The testing fences. The gravity-defying recoveries by Shishkin and other acrobats. The gravity-defying leaps by The Real Whacker and so many others. The flawlessness of Energumene. The pace of Stage Star. The scything of Good Time Jonny. The future of Impaire Et Passe. The dream of A Dream To Share.
Cheltenham, thanks for sharing.
Race 1. 9:30. JCB Triumph Hurdle. Grade 1. $167,000. 2 miles, 179 yards.
The ground has switched to “good to soft in places.”
The Willie Mullins trifecta. Paul Townend chooses Lossiemouth, the mercurial filly over Blood Destiny and the other Willie Mullins’ machines.
The Picks: Lossiemouth. Blood Destiny. Gala Marceau.
Race 2. 10:10. The McCoy Contractors County Hurdle Handicap. $120,000. 2 miles, 179 yards.
Whew, another tricky Cheltenham handicap. Novices in handicaps for shrewd trainers, that’s an angle to watch. Now, which ones?
The Picks: Filey Bay, Hunters Yarn, Pembroke.
Race 3. 10:50. The Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle. Grade 1. $162,000. 2 miles, 7 furlongs, 213 yards.
Corbetts Cross rides a three-race win streak into this, he looks strong at the top. We’ll poke around underneath him, perhaps, using Search For Glory, Weveallbeencaught, Three Card Brag and Embassy Gardens.
The Picks: Corbetts Cross, Three Card Brag, Weveallbeencaught.
Race 4. 11:30. The Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup. Grade 1. $750,000. 3 miles, 2 furlongs, 70 yards.
“That’s the horse you woke me up with…”
That’s how Miles knows Galopin Des Champs. A year ago, I yelled, “I can’t believe he fell…I can’t believe he fell…I can’t believe he fell…”
On spring break, Miles stumbled out of his room, the urgency, the energy of National Hunt racing providing an alarm clock.
Galopin Des Champs fell while in charge of the Turners Novice Chase. Overjumped, overzealous, overfast, too wicked a combination to stick the landing at the last while well in front. The French-bred 7-year-old returns for the Cheltenham Gold Cup today, last year’s fall more in Miles’ mind than in Galopin Des Champs’ mind. He’s 3-for-3 since and puts another jewel in his crown today.
American Grand National winner Hewick makes his first start since his American foray. The ground has dried a bit for him but this is a big test.
The Picks: Galopin Des Champs, A Plus Tard, Conflated.
Race 5. 12:10. The St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase. $60,000. 3 miles, 2 furlongs, 70 yards.
A few of these hit the Horse Tracker along the way.
American Grand National winner Brain Power still plying the miles. Vaucelet has been strong for a while. I like Famous Clermont.
The Picks: Famous Clermont, Vaucelet, Chris’s Dream.
Race 6. 12:50. Mrs. Paddy Power Mares Chase. Grade 2. $144,000. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 127 yards.
The driving test of the week. We know Allegorie De Vassy has the engine, the tempo, the speed, the talent, the scope but does she have the jumping acumen? She jumped to the right, nearly losing Paul Townend several times, in her most recent win. That was on a right-handed track. Today she goes left. Heart meet throat. II.
The Picks: Impervious, Allegorie De Vassy, Pink Legend.
Race 7. 1:30. The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. $90,000. 2 miles, 4 furlongs, 56 yards.
The conditional jockeys, the apprentices get their chance. Some will make this a career, a home, a life. Some will just be passing through, perhaps, a win photo or two for their wall and that’s it. One will have a moment that lives forever, a win picture for their soul.
The Picks: Cool Survivor. Imagine. Spanish Harlem.
Thanks for reading this week, hopefully you backed a few picks (Seddon!). Now back to your regularly scheduled program. Warrenton Point-to-Point!