Tuesday started off brilliantly and to get two winners was the dream start.
Getabird set a bit of a theme for the week. Horses that got on the front end did well, but the horses that didn’t settle all paid a price through the week. Getabird was too free. Petit Mouchoir, Monalee, Apple’s Shakira, Stormy Ireland, that’s just but a couple, but on slower ground you really saw that you have to race behind the bridle – you have to settle in Cheltenham to maximise your potential on soft ground. Getabird set a toll for quite a few horses that followed suit afterwards.
I was happy with Footpad until he made the mistake.
Then I guess I was kind of hoping he’d get his jumping back. But he was lucky that it was the water jump that was next, which was quite small. So that gave him confidence going to the ditch and he jumped the ditch really well. But I was confident with regard to pace – the only fright was making the mistake and how it would affect his jumping. I knew after the first race that he couldn’t run keen and win, and watching the two horses in front of me, they were both racing with the choke out so in all probability they were going to stop.
After the race, it felt great to be back. I wouldn’t say it was relief or anything; it was excitement. It was just great to go back to Cheltenham and ride a winner and experience that reception that you get.
Benie Des Dieux was done with Apple’s Jade by the second lap, and obviously the race quickened away from there, so she was caught a bit flat for the turning in. But I was really impressed with her stamina. She dug deep and stayed well to win. Obviously, I hadn’t ridden her in a race before, so I learnt a bit about her. I think she’s a mare that’ll definitely prosper in future.
Then, of course, came the injury. Currently, it’s not too bad. I got the cast off yesterday so they could put on an air-cushioned boot in order that I could use some ultrasound machines on my leg.
The doctors described it to me using the term ‘beaked’ – so like a bird opening its mouth, literally a beak. So it’s beaked up on the edge, albeit not anywhere near as bad as the original fracture. But still there’s a gap there that has to close and it’ll take a couple of weeks.
I won’t be making it to Aintree, but hopefully I have enough time to make Punchestown and that’s the aim.
Highlights from the Festival
Samcro just has everything. He has that habit that Altior has and that’s just winning. Altior looked to be in trouble for a bit of the Champion Chase and he bolted in in the end. I don’t think Samcro is a massively flashy performer but he’s always winning and like Altior he has a great attitude. They’re great jumpers, they have pace, they can travel. I think they’re two exceptional horses.
Maybe the tacky ground didn’t suit Next Destination as much as anything else in that race. He clearly got stuck in it and was never going from very early in the race. He was struggling but he jumps super and he stayed at it really well. I was really taken with his attitude, how game he was and I think he’ll be a huge player over fences next year.
As for the Champion Hurdle, with great respect to Charli Parcs, he is what he is and he had Faugheen flat out very early in the race. Faugheen rode like he wanted further and I’m hoping that’s what’s going to bring out a resurgence in him. Buveur D’Air turned inquite a solid performance and if he goes to Aintree he’d be very hard to beat again.
Melon ran a blinding race. He’s probably been improving with nearly every run. It was a great performance from him. He’s only a six-year-old and if he could improve another little bit he’ll be excellent. He was only beaten a head here, after all.
Another talking point was the way Douvan was going to go and what he was going to do.
To me he looked like he was travelling really well. The fourth-last is a long way from home to fall, as he did in the Champion Chase, but you couldn’t have been happier with him up to then. Thankfully he and Patrick Mullins got up and went on to live and fight another day.
It’s hard to make any excuse for Un De Sceaux. You could say he got a bit keen but that’s Un De Sceaux – he’s been doing that all his life. But Balko des Flos looked a very progressive horse on the day and had Un De Sceaux’s measure a long way from home. At the top of the hill there was only going to be one result.
In the Triumph Hurdle, Stormy Ireland and Apple’s Shakira kind of spoilt their own chances. Not necessarily against each other, just the way that they both ran. But that’s the unknown with every horse going to Cheltenham. When you get the 70,000 capacity on Gold Cup Day with the atmosphere that comes with it… well, they’re only four year olds and both of those uncharacteristically ran quite keen.
There wasn’t much between Farclas and Mr Adjudicator on their Irish form and that’s the way it worked out on the day. But the two fillies didn’t give themselves a chance to run to their maximum, a bit like Monalee in the RSA. As we said, there were plenty of horses through the week that spoilt their own chances.
In the Gold Cup, Might Bite and Native River were able to travel at a speed that the others couldn’t. Killultagh Vic and Our Duke were the first two that looked to be struggling to go at a gallop and their jumping didn’t hold up. But Native River and Might Bite were just able to travel at around a mile an hour faster than the rest and maintain it.
Dickie Johnson had a brilliant ride, but that’s not saying Nico de Boinville didn’t give Might Bite a better ride. He arrived at his chance at the second-last and on testing ground you’ve just got to outstay it. Who knows what would happen on better ground but on that ground Native River was too good for him.
Overall, Willie Mullins was happy with Cheltenham.
Penhill in particular was brilliant. Looking at the bigger picture, to have the first, second, third, fifth, and seventh in the Bumper, you know that shapes well for novice hurdlers next year. I think our juveniles are decent and we picked out a couple of good runners in novice hurdles that will make novice chasers.
I think looking at next season we’ve a lot of nice horses to go to all the way.