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CHELTENHAM 2019: A look back ... A is for Altior, B is for bans...
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CHELTENHAM 2019: A look back ... A is for Altior, B is for bans...
on 18 March 2019
Anne Marie Duff looks back at the highs and lows of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival

A ...was for Altior, simply the best. 18 in a row and likely to go further.

A ..was for Al Boum Photo, from RSA faller (Don Cossack was similar) to Gold Cup winner

A ... was for Amateurs – rides in the National Chase proved contentious

A ...was for A Plus Tard, one of the most impressive winners and a first for Rachael Blackmore

A ..was for Aidan Coleman, a deserved first winner on Paisley Park

A ...was for Attendances – up on each of the four days.

B ...was for Bryony Frost, now one of the most recognisable faces of racing.

B .. was for Barry Geraghty. There were suggestions this season that his days were numbered but despite Buveur D’Air’s fall, he finished second in the jockeys title and with two winners. ”It’s the be all and end all,” he said of the Festival and his riding matched it with one of the rides of the week on Sire Du Berlais in the Pertemps

B ... was for Buck’s Boum, top sire on prize money with two winners in Al Boum Photo and Duc Des Genievres.

B ... was for Benie De Dieux, the shortest priced loser and almost a carbon-copy of stable-mate Annie Power, crashing when clear at the last in the Mares Hurdle.

B .. was for bans - 37 days in total for amateurs after the National Hunt Chase was a talking point.

C .... was for Croco Bay – biggest priced winner at 66/1

C .. was for the County Hurdle – watch whatever Dan Skelton runs in it (3 winners in 4 years)

D ...was for Defi Du Seuil, proving along with Tiger Roll that little Triumph Hurdle winners can reach further heights.

D . .. was for deaths – three this year. It’s difficult to see this prevented.

D ...was for disappointments, the main ones in the Champion Hurdle with Apple’s Jade and Laurina beaten after Buveur D’Air fell. Presenting Percy in the Gold Cup also never looked like winning.

E ...was for Espoir D’Allen, our new Champion Hurdle winner. Only five, he is still a bit of an unknown quantity.

E... was for Envoi Allen, a big price, a big reputation and a big future after his Bumper win.

F ...was for Frodon, one of the stars of the meeting, brave, bold and brilliant for Bryony.

F ..was for French-breds – perhaps a few too many winners?

G ...was for Gavin Cromwell. An amazing year from winners at the smaller UK tracks, to a Group 2 on the flat, Breeders’ Cup runner and a Champion Hurdle with his first runner.

H .. was for Hazel Hill. He had looked an above average hunter chaser at Warwick and so it proved.

I ...was for ITV Racing. Opinions differed on some of the contributors but viewing figures were up.

J ... is for jumping – why we love these horses. Native River in the Gold Cup and Frodon in the Ryanair put in some spectacular leaps.

J for JP McManus. Leading owner again after a few poorer years against Gigginstown. An eighth Champion Hurdle crowned the week.

J ...was for Jamie Codd, a professional amateur, notching two more wins and an emotional interview showed how much it meant.

J ... was for Joseph O'Brien - triumph and disaster, two winners but lost Sir Erec

J ...was for Jonjo Jnr, a familiar name with a first win.

K .. was for our first winner, business as usual in the Supreme with Klassical Dream, Mullins and Walsh.

K .. was for Kielan Woods, the new name to many viewers but enjoying his Grand Annual success

L ....was for Lady riders (female jockeys or just jockeys?). Two years ago they took all the amateur riders races, last year Katie Walsh took a Grade 1 and Lizzie Kelly got a first win. This year the three professionals got four wins, including two Grade 1s.

L for Lydia Hislop, simply top notch in the lengthy after race interviews for Racing TV

M ... is for Mark Walsh, the quiet man, shocked at his first Champion Hurdle win but nothing less than he deserves.

M for Minella Indo, argueably the most impressive of the novice hurdles winners, given how freely he travelled.

N for Nico De Boinville, top rider and cool as ever on Altior

N .... is for Noel Fehily, an unexpected retirement after the Mares' Novice Hurdle. One of the quiet men in and out of the saddle but perhaps the most Ruby-like among current jockeys.

O...was for Outsiders. Some big ones on the big stage including a 50/1 Mullins winner in Eglantine Du Seuil, Pentland Hills 20/1, Croco Bay 66/1, Minella Indo 50/1.

P ... was for Paul Townend. Second jockey to Ruby but grasping his big chance, and redemption for an error of judgement last year – winning a first Gold Cup for the Mullins yard.

P ... was for Paul Nicholls, back with two Grade 1 winner and probably the best end of race reactions. There’s no doubting how much it means.

P .... was for Paisley Park, one of the most impressive and heart-warming victories in the Stayers Hurdle.

Q ... Queen Mother Champion Chase - the only championship race to see the defending champion win again.

Q ... was for quality - all the Grade 1 winners look like they could can even get better.

R ....was for Rachael Blackmore. No surprise she had two winners. The first Grade 1 was timely reward for continued excellence.

R ... was for RSA Chase, for some the race of the meetings with the three favourites fighting it out, Topofthegame, Santini and Delta Work look terrific prospects for next year.

S ....was for Sir Erec, sadly no longer with us.

S ....was for starts, and standing starts. Still far from perfect and unnecessary delays.

S ...was for Sadler’s Wells. Yes, amazingly, flat racing greatest stallion was the paternal grandsire of nine winners through his sons, Oscar, Milan, High Chaparral, Saddler Maker, King’s Theatre, Beat Hollow, Dream Well, Court Cave.

T ... was for Tiger Roll, probably the most popular winner.

U ... was for Un De Sceaux, a fifth Festival appearance, probably his last along with previous winners Faugheen and Thistlecrack.

W ...was for Willie Mullins. Finally the big prize goes to Carlow with Al Boum Photo's Gold Cup alongside four Champion Hurdles.

X ...was for an X-rated National Chase, where only 4 of the 18 finished and only 2 had a chance over the last two fences.

Z ... nothing comes to mind ....359 sleeps... Zzzzzz.. until the next Festival.

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