Last week’s Cheltenham Festival was dominated by the Irish. The Irish trainers managed to win 23 of the 28 races, a record breaking number! But it was also a week of surprising results. Such as the super reliable jumper, and sure favourite, Envoi Allen falling early in the race. It really was an exciting week of racing.
Where were the Brits?
There has been a lot of noise and questions about how poorly the Brits performed this week. Towards the end of the week, all the hot favourites were Irish horses with the British horses hardly getting a look in. There were just 4 British winners, 2 coming from Nicky Henderson, 1 from Sue Smith and 1 from Jonjo O’Neill. Not even the legendary Paul Nicholls managed to get one on the board, despite perhaps having some of the strongest British claims.
I think AP McCoy made a really good point during the ITV racing coverage. He said that in all sports, there is a slow cycle of who are the strongest teams, racing is no different. It wasn’t that long ago that the British were dominating Cheltenham and it probably won’t be too long until they are again. But there were also points raised about how the prize money in Ireland is higher than over here. So perhaps more owners are choosing to base their horses in Ireland, allowing them the pick of better horses.
Rachel Blackmore becomes the first female Top Jockey
After 6 fantastic winning rides, Rachel Blackmore made history in becoming the first woman to win the coveted Top Jockey title at Cheltenham Festival. Towards the end of the festival, if you were stuck between two horses, it felt like a safe choice to go for the one running for the combination of Rachel Blackmore and Henry de Bromhead, who was so close to becoming the leading trainer after winning the Holy Trinity. He is the first trainer to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle, Betway Champion Chase and Wellchild Gold Cup in the same year. He drew with Willie Mullins with 6 wins over the Festival, but just 2 seconds to Mullins’ 7.
Rachel has been on the scene for a while now. But I don’t think she has ever been recognised for what an incredible jockey she is, until now. It wasn’t just the fact that she was winning, it was also the way she was winning. She won on front runners, hold up horses and from the middle of the pack. The legends AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh had nothing but praise for her. Her timing was incredible. She just always seemed to know exactly when to make her move. Her achievement of top Jockey, on the back of a flat season what saw Holly Doyle nominated for Sports Personality Of The Year, really shows that female jockeys are more than capable of not just competing with, but beating the boys.
Return of Tiger Roll
Last week we also saw the return of Tiger Roll. I have found it quite sad this year seeing this duel Grand National winner seeming to struggle in his races and really thought we had seen him at his best. But he surprised me and so many others who thought his time had passed this week when he returned to Cheltenham for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, his usual National preparation race. He had been written off by many of us and went into the race 9-2. But he proved us all wrong, charging up the hill to win by 18 lengths! While we won’t be seeing him at this years Grand National, it was fantastic to see this little horse back at his best.
A good result for EquiPepper VIPs
If you are one of our EquiPepper VIPs then hopefully you had a great Cheltenham too! We shared our tips each day exclusively to our VIPs with fantastic results. Out of the 28 races, we tipped 10 winners and 28 each way placed horses. So hopefully you backed a few of those!