Racing rewind: the stories making the news on the Turf

Steve Mullington
2015-03-16
Steve Mullington looks back at a memorable Cheltenham Festival

Racing Rewind

What a superb Cheltenham Festival that was. Every year we say it can’t get any better, but every year it does just that and we see new stars steal the limelight and watch new records being set.

Here’s a brief recap of the day-by-day news stories that made the Cheltenham Festival 2015 a week to remember.

Tuesday

According to estimates a monster £50m payout was avoided by the bookmaking industry when Annie Power, with the race at her mercy, cruelly took the last hurdle a stride too early and fell, resulting in a collective sigh of relief from certain quarters.

With singles, doubles, trebles and accumulators rolling up on the four Willie Mullins “hotpots” that day, trading room telephones were heading into meltdown after Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen had already obliged for punters.

One bookmaking industry spokesman said afterwards “We’d have been facing up to the worst day since ‘Dettori Day’.

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The Druids Nephew was trimmed to around the 16/1 mark for the Aintree Grand National on Tuesday after landing the Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase and giving trainer Neil Mulholland his first ever Festival winner.

Barry Geraghty’s mount strolled to the lead at the top of the hill before going away in the straight and must now be considered to have a live chance in the Aintree marathon.

Wednesday

The Queen Mother Champion Chase was billed by pundits as a straight fight between Sire De Grugy and Sprinter Sacre, but a horse originally bred to win the Derby by flat-legend Frankie Dettori had different ideas.

Dodging Bullets, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, was flanked by the veteran Somersby and Special Tiara approaching the home straight, but found a bit more and got home by a length and a quarter.

Thursday

The history books will now tell you A.P McCoy’s final ever Cheltenham Festival winner was aboard a horse called Uxizandre. You may want to remember that for a future pub quiz because it is certain to come up.

Uxizandre’s 16-1 Ryanair Chase rout was a sight to behold as McCoy notched up his 31st, and what turned out to be his last, Festival victory.

“I will miss riding a horse like this which runs away with you all the way and jumps like a stag. It has to happen at some point so it’s a bit sad” said McCoy.

Well, we’ll certainly miss you A.P!

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Front running successes were the order of the day on Thursday when Gavin Sheehan led from pillar to post to land the World Hurdle aboard Warren Greatrex’s Cole Harden.

The young jockey slowly wound things up rounding the home bend, and while the likes of Saphir De Rheu were expected to go on, Cole Harden dug in and took the Grade 1 by three and a quarter lengths.

Friday

The Gold Cup never fails to throw up a new statistic or a new superstar and it did just that on Friday when the novice chaser Coneygree led from start to finish.

As in his previous handful of races, the horse put up a superb display of jumping and remorseless galloping to beat a quality field and become the first novice in 41 years to win the race.

The decision by his trainer Mark Bradstock to miss Wednesday’s RSA Chase in favour of the Gold Cup was totally vindicated and it was great to see a smaller stable winning the most prestigious of all National Hunt races.

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Friday also saw more Cheltenham history being made when trainer Willie Mullins set a new Festival record of training eight winners at the Festival, a record that was previously held by Nicky Henderson with seven winners.

Racing Forward

After the euphoria of Cheltenham last week the racing calendar takes somewhat of an inevitable lull this week. There is a decent card at Haydock midweek and then Newbury is taking place next Saturday. All eyes will then be focused on Town Moor on the 28th March for the start of the flat season and the Lincoln Handicap.