Mullins Unstoppable in Final Day at Cheltenham
The final day of the Cheltenham Festival is always thought to be the best. Whether that is true or not is open to argument, but it does have the week’s feature race ‘The Cheltenham Gold Cup’ sponsored by Magners, worth over £351,600 to the winner. 12 runners were declared to line up before the starter Robbie Supple for the 3 mile 2 ½ furlong race over 22 fences.
There were reports this morning that due to the coronavirus outbreak, that numbers attending this year were down, but only slightly on the record numbers of last year. Jockey Club representative Ian Renton said that if the festival had been scheduled for a week later, it would have been almost certainly cancelled. He was keen to state how the authorities had taken extra measures to ensure the safety of all concerned with extra hygiene stations around the course together with other responsible arrangements which enabled the festival to continue.
Together with the Magners Gold Cup on the card, there were two other Grade 1 races today. The first was the Triumph Hurdle, which has for years been sponsored by JCB and the second, another hurdle race The Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle.
In the Prestbury Cup, the trophy between the best number of winners trained by either UK or Irish trainers, at the start of the day, both UK and Ireland were on ten race wins each. In the Ruby Walsh Cup, the prize for the jockey with the most number of winners at the meeting, Barry Geraghty started the day in the lead with four wins. The Champion trainer of the meeting at the beginning of the day was Gordon Elliott from Ireland with six winners.
The first race of the day turned out to be the most dramatic of the week. 13 ran in the JCB Triumph Hurdle over 2 miles 1 furlong. It was considered to be a very open race for this renewal with Goshen, a recent winner, described by his trainer Gary Moore as ‘a freak’. Other fancied runners were Solo, one of the only stallions competing in National Hunt racing, and Allmankind, another who recently had great form. On good to soft going, the 13 runners were led at a blistering pace by Allmankind who was hoping to slip his field, as he had done in previous outings. However, Goshen, kept him keen and stayed with the leader. Finally, two from home Allmankind started to tire and Goshen cruised past and took a huge lead ahead of the rest of the field. At the last fence, Goshen took off slightly far from the fence but he jumped it OK but peaked a bit on landing. In correcting and re-balancing, Goshen had the most extraordinary of things; his back foot got caught in his front foot shoe which meant he could not move one side of his body, and although he did not fall, he did unseat his jockey Jamie Moore who naturally, afterwards was completely distraught. Without tis extraordinary thing, Goshen would have run the race doing hand stands, he was so far in front. Anyway, the 12 to 1 shot Burning Victory went passed and kept Aspire Tower in second with the original leader Allmankind coming home on third. It was the first mare to win the Triumph Hurdle in 20 years. The winner was another trained by Willie Mullins and was ridden by Paul Townend.
The second Grade 1 of the day was the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle, a 19 runner affair over 3 miles and 12 fences. Before the off, Thyme Hill, Latest Exhibition and another Willie Mullins trained horse Monkfish were all fancied. This is always a notoriously difficult race in which to predict the outcome. It was a steady gallop at the beginning of the race as all the 12 runners stayed well bunched together, but with Monkfish just jockeying for the lead with Oscar Academy. With three jumps to go, House Island joined Monkfish and Latest Exhibition plus Fury Road were all in a row and none were to be denied. The horses were running so close to each other that this became a rough race. In the final analysis, Paul Townend just managed to win on board Monkfish. Latest Exhibition came second and Fury Road was third. The trainer of the second was Paul Norton and in third was Gordon Elliott. Thyme Hill came fourth.
In the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, there were 3 miles and 2 ½ furlongs in front of the 12 runners with 22 fences to jump. The hot shots before the off were last year’s winner Al Boum Photo, another Mullins Trained horse, Clan des Obeaux trained by Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson trained Santini. In a steady gallop with the 12 runners well bunched over the first half, the leaders were Real Steel, Santini and Kemboy. In the second circuit of the course, Al Boum Photo made two huge forward jumps 4 and 5 fences out which put the horse in good contention. Coming up the hill, any of Al Boum Photo, Lostintranslation or Santini could have won, and it came down to the horse with the best stamina. In the event, it was another for the Willie Mullins machine with Paul Townend on board. Like last year, Santini trained by Nicky Henderson with Nico de Boinville riding was second and third was Lostintranslation ridden by Robbie Power trained by Collin Tizzard, who by his standards had a rather disappointing Cheltenham. The Gold Cup at Cheltenham was first presented in 1924 so it was right that The Princess Royal was there to present the prizes. It was the first time since Best Mate in 2004, there was a back to back winner of the race.
The Prestbury Cup was easily won by the Irish, with Willie Mullins winning the first four races today, the UK trainers didn’t get a look in! He ended up with seven wins at the meeting, Gordon Elliott, also from Ireland had six wins and Nicky Henderson, who had a brilliant first day ended the meeting with four winners.
The Ruby Walsh Cup for the best jockey of the meeting went to Paul Townend who ended up with five wins and three seconds. Also with five wins was Barry Geraghty, but with fewer placed horses, just missed out.
The meeting was a good meeting but not necessarily a vintage one. However, probably the best thing of all, is that the meeting went ahead at all, unlike so many other international sporting events currently, due to the worrying Coronavirus outbreak throughout the world.