Hi there and welcome to our final review of the 2019 Festival.
The day kicked off in the worst possible way when the red-hot favourite for the Triumph Hurdle suffered a fatal injury when landing awkwardly over the 4th flight.
To be honest it ruined the whole day's racing for me and although I did watch the Gold Cup I didn't watch anything else. I won't linger on what happened but will say that trainer Joseph O'Brien could not have been more dignified (or human) in his after-race comments saying that although a tragedy for all concerned, it paled into insignificance when put up against the mass shootings that took place in Christchurch earlier that same morning... never mind the recent natural disaster in Mozambique which will end up costing thousands of lives.
Our thoughts are also with Graham and Andrea Wylie who also lost two high-class horses in Invitation Only and Ballyward.
Any deaths are a thing of deep sorrow (and we speak as owners who have suffered such a loss), most of us love the horses more than the winning and ultimately just want them to come home safe and sound. And it is the lads and lasses who feel the pain most keenly as they are with their charges day in and day out and it is almost impossible to imagine how big a hole is left in their lives.
Cleeve's performance on the day is similarly unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but we have a duty to members to be transparent so here we are. For the second year running, we could not maintain our winning streak on the final day. We managed only 2 places from our 8 selections so it was by far our worst single days performance of the week...
Given that the first 4 winners went in at 12/1 twice, 20/1 and 50/1... anyone who backed a winner was doing pretty well.
We looked booked for a place in the County Hurdle but Eclair de Beafeu unseated at the last when just about in the lead.
Lisnagar Oscar finished 5th when we backed him 4 places in the Potato race.
Presenting Percy never really got into it and paid the price for a bizarre preparation which didn't see him jump a fence all season. We didn't play in the Foxhunters, and then had places in both of the last 2 races at 12/1 and 14/1, so I guess all in all they weren't totally disastrous selections in the context of how the day went!
For us there were only two (tempered) highlights of the day... these were the clear cut victory of Minella Indo which provided Rachel Blackmore with her second winning ride of the meeting and made her joint-2nd leading rider of the week, a groundbreaking performance.
Owned by the same connections as Monalee who was an honourable second behind Penhill in this event two years ago, he had to buck the usual race trends as a lightly raced maiden and was sent off as a totally unfancied 50/1 shot, but as the race unfolded he never ever looked like one. Well placed throughout he was always tanking and jumped really fluently, you could tell the field were in trouble coming out of the back on the second circuit as Minella Indo incredibly was still taking a pull, but all those in behind were starting to work and it looked a case of how much would he find when he came off the bridle.... which was plenty!
As they swept into the straight she made a smart move and tracked across to the stands rail and nicked nearly 3 lengths on the field. She jumped the last well and although Commander in Fleet came out of the pack he never looked like getting there and she only had to keep Minella Indo up to his work to get home by 2 lengths with 7 lengths back to Alaho in 3rd.
They were always going a strong pace and the placed horses give the form quite a strong look. Minella Indo is currently quoted for both the 2020 RSA and The Stayers so it will be fascinating to see which way connections go.
The Gold Cup was most notable for finally providing Willie Mullins with his first Gold Cup winner, but it seems a bit strange that it should be ridden by Paul Townend rather than Ruby Walsh who has been the yin to Willie's yang over the years!
Mind you Al Boum Photo owed Townend big-time after giving him what was probably his most embarrassing moment as a professional jockey when running out with him at the last when in the lead of the Champion Novice at the Punchestown Festival last year. He also managed to break Ruby's leg in the RSA last year when a faller at the second last.
The race started to fall apart from the first when Kemboy unseated his rider after tangling with Presenting Percy, next Bellshill made a succession of mistakes and was pulled before the 9th by Ruby.
Invitation Only who had already looked very guessy at a couple of fences fell at the 10th and brought down Definitely Red, and Mite Bite, Thistlecrack and Double Shuffle were all pulled up before the end of the race.
Going out on the last circuit it looked a case of Deja Vu as Native River and Mite Bite duelled for the lead, and although he was pulled up it was Mite Bite's best performance of the season by a mile. I'm not sure how well the form will stand up as although the winner is undoubtedly a progressive young horse my feeling is that Anibale Fly basically picked up the pieces. Bristol de Mai ran well but doesn't run anywhere near his best at Cheltenham, Clan des Obeaux probably doesn't act at the course either and although Native River is only 9 he has plenty of miles on the clock and probably peaked last year.
Presenting Percy never jumped with his usual fluency and was always worse than halfway down the field. Davy Russell gave him a sympathetic ride when it was clear he wouldn't be challenging and with a more standard preparation he can go closer next year.
So we finished 6.4 points down on the day which meant we finished the week 14 points up, backing to £20 stakes you would have cleared a profit of £280. And given that you would have never been in the red after the halfway point of the first day when Beware the Bear came in so bank management should not have been an issue either.