Preparations are already underway for the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, but before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look back at the memorable week that was the 2019 Festival.
Overall it was a week packed full of fantastic racing with many highs, a few lows and a lot of excited punters!
The pinnacle of the Festival was, as always the Cheltenham Gold Cup. If you follow trends and statistics you will know that 90% of the last 20 winners have been aged between 7-9. And the 2019 winner, Al Boum Photo, backed that stat up perfectly. The 7-year-old gave jockey Paul Townend and trainer Willie Mullins their first taste of Gold Cup success. But how the rest of the Festival fair?
Day one started off with a Cheltenham classic. Klassical Dream (5/1) won the first race of the day, the Supreme Novices Hurdle, and was ridden by Ruby Walsh and trained by Willie Mullins. The most successful jockey and trainer ever at the Cheltenham Festival got off to a great start.
In the day’s main race Espoir D’allen caused an upset at 16/1 by winning the Champion Hurdle. There had been a lot of betting on Buveur D’Air, the clear favourite, but he ultimately fell. Hotly tipped Apple Jade didn’t even place in the race.
Day one was a fantastic day for the bookmakers with only one favourite winning all day. That was A Plus Tard, ridden by jockey Rachael Blackmore at odds of 5/1. The second days racing swung back in favour of the punters. Four favourites won on Ladies Day, which hit the bookmaker’s pockets! The Queen Mother Champion Chase was the main race. Altior was in the running and looking for his 18th consecutive win. He kept his Champion Chase crown but had to really bring out his best in order to do so.
Last years Grand National winner Tiger Roll (5/4F) also retained his Glenfarclas Chase trophy. The win has now made him the firm favourite for the 2019 Grand National. The outside winner of the day was William Henry who won the Coral Cup at a massive 28/1. St Patrick’s Thursday didn’t get any better for the bookmakers. Three favourites crossed the line to the delight of the punters. The race everyone was looking forward to was the Stayers’ Hurdle.
Paisley Park went off as 11/8F and managed to claw back an 8-length deficit after the final turn. No one at Cheltenham was happier than trainer Andrew Gemmel.
Race of the day was the Ryanair Chase. The duo of Frodon (9/2) and Bryony Frost prevailed in a very emotional win. The race also made history as not only were Bryony Frost and Rachael Blackmore the first female jockeys to ride in the Ryanair Chase, Bryony became the first female jockey to win a Grade 1 Cheltenham Festival race.
One for the punters was the penultimate race of the day, the Mare’s Novices Hurdle. The winner, Eglantine Du Seuil for trainer Willie Mullins, came in at 50/1. Second place was at 66/1 and third at 40/1.
The final day of every Cheltenham Festival is Gold Cup Day. The day’s first race was the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Sir Erec was the favourite at 11/10. En route to the start, one of his shoes came off and as they replaced it we all got to see what a great horse he was. Unfortunately, during the race, he fell and suffered a fatal injury.
Rachel Blackmore rode what was arguably the best race of the week. She rode Minella Indo to win at 50/1 and didn’t look contested once in the race.
Then it was time for the Gold Cup. Last years winner Native River was running again at 6/1 with the bookmakers favourite Presenting Percy at 100/30. However, neither managed to catch the wonderful Al Boum Photo as he romped home to victory and the biggest win of his career.
The 2019 Cheltenham Festival was one of the best there’s been. It will be remembered for many reasons. Altior winning again, trainer Andrew Gemmell having his first Cheltenham win, Bryony Frost making history for female jockeys and many more moments.