After another fascinating Cheltenham Festival, where we saw Al Boum Photo retain his Gold Cup, Tiger Roll crumble to Easyland in the X Country, and the Irish reigned supreme over the British once again; we take a look at the highlights of this year’s Festival, seeing who exceeded expectations and who failed to deliver across the four days.
The opening day started with the Supreme Novices Hurdle, which saw Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin come out on top. Having drifted from 3/1 out to as big as 6/1 in the horse racing betting, Shishkin clearly wasn’t fancied by the punters.
That is because Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras was backed off the board, coming in from 13/2 into joint favourite at 11/4 on the day. However, Abacadabras hit the front slightly too early and was eventually worn down by Shishkin.
No horse has ever won at the Festival after having their prep from at Huntingdon, which explains the drift before the off – however, the run was timed to perfection and it got Nicky Henderson off to a flyer.
One of the upsets of the Festival was when Honeysuckle beat Beni Des Dieux in the Close Brothers’ Mare Hurdle, with plenty of punters backing Beni Dex Dieux as short as 4/7 – which was meant to be one of the bankers of the Festival.
However, arguably the biggest upset of the Festival was Tiger Roll falling short in the X Country to Easyland, losing by a staggering 17 lengths in total. Tiger Roll was looking for back-to-back victories at the Festival, but Gordon Elliott’s two time Grand National winner couldn’t land a glove on Easyland, much to the surprise of the Cheltenham crowd.
The final day opened with a dramatic, obscure fall in the Triumph Hurdle when Goshin clipped heels at the final fence when bounding clear under the ride of Jamie Moore. Having gone off 11/4, Goshin was a lot of punters NAP of the Festival, and the bookies breathed a huge relief when Moore was unable to steer him home.
It has been sixteen years since a horse has won back to back Gold Cups, but this didn’t stop punters backing Al Boum Photo into the 10/3 favourite. Santini, who went off second favourite, was unable to come out on top at the Festival again, falling short to Al Boum Photo who has entered the history books for his fine performance.
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One thing for sure is the Cheltenham Festival once again delivered as it continues to uphold its reputation as one of the best sporting events on the British calendar. Dramatic photo finishes, dominant displays, upsets – it had it all.