The 2013 Cheltenham Festival was packed with incidents and talking points, personal milestones and heartache, ecstasy and agony, tragedy and heart-warming moments.
Four days of fantastic racing climaxed with Bobs Worth capitalizing on an unfortunate fall from Silviniaco Conti three out to power up the hill and clinch a dramatic victory for trainer Nicky Henderson in the Gold Cup.
It started with what the media dubbed ‘Ruby Tuesday’ as Ruby Walsh triumphed in the Champion Hurdle on Hurricane Fly, rode the first winner of the Festival as Champagne Fever edged out My Tent Or Yours in the Supreme Novices Hurdle and then helped Quevega win the Mares’ Hurdle for the fifth successive year.
Sprinter Sacre grabbed the headlines on Wednesday by winning the Champion Chase by 19 lengths, Solwhit took centre stage in Thursday’s feature race the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, but it was overshadowed by a serious injury to Irish jockey JT McNamara that sent shockwaves through the sport.
Friday began understandably subdued following McNamara’s heavy fall before the Festival closed with Willie Mullins finishing as top trainer with five wins and Ruby Walsh as top jockey after four victories.
Ladbrokes’ very own David Williams described it as a “score draw” between the punters and the bookies – and here we review the Festival with the views of prominent racing bloggers.
Dave Potter and Joe Norris (www.getyour-tipsout.co.uk)
It was such a great week. The 2014 Festival couldn’t come soon enough.
We have two overriding memories this year. Bobs Worth powering up the hill to win the Gold Cup relishing the gruelling stamina test and the sad sight of the horrific fall JT McNamara suffered. We hope he can make a full recovery and wish him all the best.
There’s no doubt what our favourite moment was. Seeing our favourite horse in training Sprinter Sacre cruise home in the Queen Mother Champion Chase having backed him both years at nice prices ante post. We managed to get some great shots of him coming out of the paddock (above).
As for jockey of the moment Bryan Cooper, he’s a future Champion Jockey! He showed such experience and judgment for a 20-year-old on all three of his winners at the festival.
He is sure to go far if getting the breaks.
Paul Ostermeyer (www.ors-racing.co.uk)
It was a Festival of raw emotion, positive and negative in equal measure.
From the high of the scintillating destruction of a high-class field by Sprinter Sacre to the gut-wrenching numbness as jockey JT McNamara was airlifted to hospital. The highs included Hurricane Fly becoming only the second horse to regain the Champion Hurdle.
The Queen of Cheltenham, Quevega, winning the Mare’s hurdle for the fifth time. A run reminiscent of Sea The Stars; Arc victory, where the horse emerged from a seemingly-impossible position to run on to glory.
We had Solwhit borrowing Big Bucks’ World Hurdle crown. And on Friday we saw a Gold Cup worthy of its status, as Bobs Worth came home an impressive winner.
It was one of those contests where it was impossible to call the winner until the very final stages. There may not have been no Kauto Star (although he looked superb as he led the parade), Imperial Commander or Denman but, being brutal, the race did not need them.
Long Run led them at a generous place and was still there turning for home, Sir Des Champs with his late, controversial, jockey change looked ominous and the winner being produced with a perfectly timed run.
If that wasn’t enough, we also have a great what if? What if Silviniaco Conti had not fallen three out?
Friday also gave us a tantalising glimpse of the next generation, both equine and human, with the two coming together in the opener of Our Conor and young Bryan Cooper, both made striking impressions. Our Conor, arguably, performing the second best demolition job of the week.
The consummate demolition job came from Sprinter Sacre who made it eight from eight with his imperious victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, leading to many dubbing him the Frankel of jump racing.
There were plenty of equine disappointments as well, most notably My Tent Or Yours and Pont Alexandre, two “bankers” who failed to deliver.
On Thursday, though, we saw the darker side of our sport. On the equine front, we lost the talented, promising Matuhi, whilst earlier in the afternoon saw Davy Russell being taken to hospital with his punctured lung.
They were eclipsed, however, by the terrible accident to befall Irish rider JT McNamara and as I write this five days after the festival he still lies in an induced coma in a Bristol hospital.
If ever anything underlines the risks the riders take every single day for our enjoyment, this does.
I came to Cheltenham 2013 not expecting much to be honest. I was wrong, ignoring the events of late Thursday afternoon, I believe Cheltenham Festival 2013 was a classic.
Richard Smith (www.cheltenham-festival.co.uk)
The Cheltenham Festival never fails to live up to expectations and once again in 2013, the four-day rollercoaster seems to have been enjoyed by everybody. Our site has seen record levels of visitors to the site and as a partner, Ladbrokes has benefited from many new accounts that we’ve sent across over the meeting.
Results have been a mixed bag with day one definitely going the way of punters with Simonsig, Hurricane Fly and Quevega all obliging.
However, bookies slowly managed to recoup their losses with plenty of big-price winners going in, especially on Thursday.
Needless to say, the feedback from our fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter, which combined, exceeds 33,000, has reflected the results with plenty of hard luck stories and some great tails of big wins on multiples.
Without doubt, the overwhelming consensus is that the highlight of the week was Sprinter Sacre’s breathtaking win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and everybody seems to be looking forward to seeing the seven-year old-come back for more glory next year and the next few Festivals with luck – even if he is an unbackable price.
It’s great to see National Hunt acquire a star akin to what Frankel was on the flat. A great four days for all and we’re already counting down the days until March 2014!