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Cheltenham Festival

The 5 Major Takeaways From The 2019 Cheltenham Festival Including A Grand National Contender

Monday 18th March 2019
Bryony Frost And Frodon Stole The Headlines At The Cheltenham Festival
Bryony Frost And Frodon Stole The Headlines At The Cheltenham Festival

With all the shocks and sensations of Cheltenham Festival sinking in, let’s look back at some key things we learned over the best week on the sporting calendar.

Female jockeys can just be called jockeys now

Rachael Blackmore, Lizzie Kelly and Bryony Frost did the sport a favour last week. Wins on A Plus Tard, Minella Indo, Siruh De Lac and, who can forget the emotional scenes of Frodon in the Ryanair Chase, proved that the girls can mix it with the boys at the highest level. 

This media obsession with female jockeys must finally die down now. Rachael Blackmore goes to Navan after the hazy heights of Cheltenham and Bryony Frost is booked at Fontwell – just like every other jockey.

Bristol De Mai is a great horse in any condition

Digging deep to secure third place in the Gold Cup, Bristol De Mai again proved he is not simply a Haydock specialist and not just a wet weather specialist. The additional 2 furlongs got to him, yes. However, you must think that had the Gold Cup been 3m, he was in with more than a shot. As Steve Ryder correctly suggested in his column, Bristol De Mai was a silly price for the Gold Cup and proved the market wrong. 

Where he goes next will be interesting. He holds an entry for the Grand National, but I’d love to see him winning the Aintree Bowl, where he was second to Might Bite last year.

Willie Mullins can win without his big guns firing

Whilst it was disappointing not to see Un De Sceaux or Faugheen back to their brilliant best, and Benie Des Dieux suffered a fall at the last hurdle, Willie Mullins proved strength in dept is crucial. He finished Cheltenham as top trainer for the sixth time since 2011. Of course, Willie finally had success in the Gold Cup with a great performance by Al Boum Photo. 

However, the depth of his horse portfolio propelled him to the winning most trainer at the Cheltenham Festival, now sitting on 65 – one ahead of Nicky Henderson.

Not all sportsmen are showmen

Noel Fehily announced his retirement as a jockey after his win on Eglantine Du Seuil. Described as quiet and down to Earth by his colleagues in the weigh room, Noel Fehily looked rather embarrassed as he was given a guard of honour walking out for his last race at the Cheltenham Festival. He then walked off for a chat with his manager, feet firmly on the ground.

Facing harsh horse racing reality

Touted the banker of the festival, Sir Erec won over the nation’s hearts when standing perfectly as the farrier went to work on a lost shoe live on television, before the biggest race of his life. As tension built, Sir Erec drifted slightly but his behaviour ensured he went off clear favourite. He was travelling just fine, only for a freak leg break to bring him to an immediate halt. Sadly, the leg break proved fatal and the sport lost a potential legend in the making.

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