GBI RACING

5 things we learned on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival

Jockey Paul Townend (left) and trainer Willie Mullins with the trophy after winning the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase with Al Boum Photo

Photo finish is pure Gold for Mullins

Jockey Paul Townend celebrates his victory in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on Al Boum Photo
Jockey Paul Townend celebrates his victory in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on Al Boum Photo (Paul Harding/PA)

Willie Mullins finally laid his Cheltenham Gold Cup jinx to rest as Al Boum Photo galloped into jump racing’s hall of fame with a clear-cut victory. At halfway, Mullins must have thought his luck was out again as his three other runners had all exited the race, but Al Boum Photo rose to the occasion.

For Townend, it was retribution after Al Boum Photo ran out in controversial circumstances at the final fence when holding every chance at the Punchestown Festival last spring. “I owed it to the horse,” he said, showing great humility after realising every jump jockey’s dream.

Sir Erec loss a reminder of the downs of racing

Joseph O’Brien, trainer of Sir Erec, who was fatally injured in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham
Joseph O’Brien, trainer of Sir Erec, who was fatally injured in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham (PA)

The despair of racing, and jump racing in particular, was shown by the fatal injury to Sir Erec in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, and also Invitation Only in the Gold Cup. Sir Erec had been sent off the well-backed 11-10 favourite after winning both his starts, but had suffered a minor setback in the build up to the race.

That had not dented confidence in Joseph O’Brien’s runner. There had been so much anticipation ahead of the four-year-old colt’s appearance, only for it to end in tragedy less than halfway through the race won by Pentland Hills.

To add more poignancy, the spotlight had been on Sir Erec at the start when he had to be re-shod after pulling off a shoe on the way down, with the horse standing patiently throughout.

O’Brien was to win the last race of the Festival, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

Skeltons shine in the County

Ch’tibello, ridden by Harry Skelton, on the way to victory in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham
Ch’tibello, ridden by Harry Skelton, on the way to victory in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham (Julian Herbert/PA)

The rise of the Skelton family knows no bounds and was epitomised by the victory of Ch’tibello, trained by Dan Skelton, ridden by his brother Harry and with father Nick, Olympic gold medallist, an integral part behind the scenes.

They have enjoyed a tremendous season and capped it with another victory at the Cheltenham. Twelve months ago, Mohaayed took the spoils in this race, ridden by Harry’s girlfriend Bridget Andrews.

Shots of Harry, who also rode in the race, giving Bridget a celebratory kiss went around the world. Roles were reversed this time as Bridget found her husband-to-be among a mass of horses and jockeys to give her congratulations.

Blackmore blitzes Bartlett rivals on Minella Indo

Jockey Rachael Blackmore shone in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on Minella Indo at Cheltenham
Rachael Blackmore shone in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle on Minella Indo at Cheltenham (Paul Harding/PA)

After Bryony Frost and Lizzie Kelly stole the hearts of punters with Cheltenham winners on Thursday, it was Rachael Blackmore’s turn to take the mantle as she had her second success of the week.

She did not know quite what to say straight after steering 50-1 shot Minella Indo home in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – but her actions spoke louder than any words. Pressure had been on her as she had more rides than any other female at the Festival, but she was calmness personified.

King Edwards hits the heights on hill

Alex Edwards (left) is congratulated after his success on Hazel Hill in the St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup at Cheltenham
Alex Edwards (left) is congratulated after his success on Hazel Hill in the St. James’s Place Foxhunter

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