Our columnist reflects on a Cheltenham Festival like no other – Irish domination, Rachael Blackmore and the Gold Cup
Wow! What a week of sport at Cheltenham. And an Irish domination.
And you know what? The best might be still to come.
Because sweet Honeysuckle can be the next Dawn Run – hell she might be better than Dawn Run!
The Champion Hurdle heroine – part of a sensational week for the brilliant jockey and top rider at the meeting Rachael Blackmore – was just one of many super highlights at Cheltenham 2021 behind closed doors.
Of course I was lucky enough to be there for ITV, and while without crowds it was a most surreal experience I have to say I loved every minute of it. The horses were just magnificent, and what a spectacle and entertainment they provided for viewers all around the world.
I never thought I’d write that there could be a better mare than Dawn Run, although I suspect in raw ability Annie Power was nor far off the magnificent beast who remains the only horse to land a Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup.
And I suspect many of you will be spitting out your cinnamon crunch at the mere suggestion.
But Honeysuckle, who started off life landing a three-mile point-to-point, might just be so good that she could rule the roost over hurdles and then fences.
Peter Molony, racing manager for owner Kenny Alexander, admitted: “I’ll be honest last Autumn we had a plan that his would be Honeysuckle’s last season hurdling and next season she would be going chasing.
“Obviously wee now have a hurdling super star on our hands, so we are going to have to sit down again and think long and hard what we are going to do next. That will be in the summer after hopefully we have been to Punchestown. It will be Kenny’s decision.”
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Molony added: “I’d be lying if the thought of emulating Dawn Run had not entered my head once or twice. But we’ll have to see. She’s such a super stare hurdler now there is so much to consider.”
Yesterday the feature WellChild Gold Cup went to Minella Indo, and with A Plus Tard in second Henry de Bromhead managed to train the first two home.
De Bromhead is also the trainer of Honeysuckle and Queen Mother Champion Chase victor Put the Kettle On. Some week Henry. Class man.
Minella Indo was ridden by Jack Kennedy, a man who has fought back from so many bad injuries that a lesser person would have given up. He’s a credit to the sport and should be very proud.
It was on Wednesday Put the Kettle On was all guts in the Queen Mother Champion Chase under a terrific Aidan Coleman drive. Coleman delivered.
However, they were all a bit in a heap over the last, and I’m pretty sure Chacun Poiur Soi was nowhere near his best.
Some have suggested the hill or track were to blame, but I’m of the opinion he just wasn’t at his best and would be fairly sure he’s still the most talented two-mile chaser in the land eight now.
On Thursday the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle saw a new kid on the block in Flooring Porter, with Danny Mullins producing a master class as regular partner Jonathan Moore was ruled out through injury.
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Moore came out of his most disappointing moment in the sport with great credit, and there will be other days for him and Flooring Porter.
For Mullins it was a first Festival win with a spare ride. Considering his old man Tony was once jocked off Dawn Run there was just a sense of redemption here for a great family.
As with all Cheltenham Festivals there were ups and downs.
The Irish ruled the waves which once Great Britain ruled. It happens.
Appreciate It was awesome in the Supreme, while the crack novices Shishkin and Monkfish showed they remain very hard to beat. And Allaho was a machine in the Ryanair.
But Envoi Allen hit the deck and Goshen hung like a gate. It happens and both will return to the winner’s enclosure sooner rather than later.
Most of all Cheltenham just reminded us why so many love the sport of horse racing. Like so many relationships the game hits troubled waters from time to time.
But it’s foundations are solid. The horse is a fantastic creature that loves to race. And many of us love to watch them race. Bring on 2022.
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