And just like that, the Cheltenham Festival is over for another year. In the aftermath of the meeting, there are so many talking points. But whether you’re looking at today’s fast results, or are anticipating the next big meeting: the Grand National, let’s recap on the biggest shocks to come out of Prestbury Park on each day of the Festival.
Put The Kettle On: full of steam in the Arkle Chase
The surprises began on the opening day of the Festival, as early as the second race, when in the Arkle Chase, Put The Kettle On showed the boys how it’s done. The six-year-old mare was a 16/1 outsider, but had been in good form over fences – also winning the Arkle trial at Cheltenham back in November. Henry de Bromhead’s bay was one of two mares lining up for the race and his other horse, Notebook, was the favourite ahead of the Arkle Chase. But as tensions looked like boiling over, Fakir d’Oudairies who was challenging, lost momentum at the second-last and was never able to bridge the gap, leaving Put The Kettle On in the ascendancy to hold on. While stablemate Notebook was disappointing, de Bromhead was obviously delighted with his mare: “Aidan was brilliant on her and said she just attacked every fence. She just keeps on improving and I’m delighted, it’s fantastic.”
A Defi disaster in the Champion Chase
The Queen Mother Champion Chase on day two threw up a number of surprises, not least the exclusion of early favourites Altior and Chacun Pour Soi who were both ruled out lame in the lead-up to the showpiece. This allowed the third-favourite Defi Du Seuil to advance as the front-runner, with only five horses lining up. Having won The Cheltenham Chase in November and every entry since with Barry Geraghty in the saddle, it went on to be an afternoon to forget for Philip Hobbs’ seven-year-old. He was well beaten, finishing in fourth place. Instead, it was a great success for Politologue and jockey Harry Skelton who was making his debut in the race. Politologue was last year’s runner-up in the Champion Chase, but was the runaway winner this time around – leading from start to finish – and to think that the grey, trained by Paul Nicholls was unfancied at odds of 6/1.
50/1 Oscar winner in the Stayers’ Hurdle
The biggest shock came in day three of the Festival, in the Stayers’ Hurdle. The favourite was the previous year’s winner, Paisley Park, who had arrived at Cheltenham in exceptional form, but who was completely off-the-pace and went on to finish seventh. It was revealed after the race, the eight-year-old will undergo further tests after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. But let’s not take anything away from the 50/1 long-shot, Lisnagar Oscar who gave jockey Adam Wedge his first ever win at the Cheltenham Festival. The Irish-bred horse defied the odds, winning a race in over a year, since success at Haydock’s Prestige Novices’ Hurdle. Lisnagar Oscar took the lead in the run-in, finishing two lengths clear of Ronald Pump. It had been five years since trainer Rebecca Curtis has saddled a winner at the Festival, but this marked number five and possibly the most special win yet.
No Burning Victory for Goshen in Triumph Hurdle
There was heartbreak at the final hurdle for jockey Jamie Moore and all associated with Goshen in the Triumph Hurdle on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival. Having dominated for the entire race, building up an unassailable lead of 10 lengths, with just one fence to jump, a mistake saw Moore removed from the saddle, despite trying to hold on for his life. While the cameras panned to him head in hands on the turf, this let Willie Mullin’s 12/1 shout Burning Victory capitalise. The four-year-old Cheltenham debutant won by two-and-three-quarter lengths over Aspire Tower. Having been there before with Annie Power in the Mares’ Hurdle five years ago at the Festival, there were no big cheers from Mullins who said: “That’s the ups and downs right there. I certainly don’t feel like celebrating that one, I really feel for Gary Moore and Jamie there.”