Thursday 15 February 2024

Biggest Cheltenham Festival Flops

The Cheltenham Festival regularly provides the most competitive racing in the British National Hunt calendar, so short-priced, even odds-on, losers are commonplace. Even so, from time to time, the public latches on to a horse which, for whatever reason, is backed as if defeat is out of the question. Of course, it isn’t, but such horses are often forced in to short, sometimes ludicrously short, prices. ‘Following the money’ can pay dividends, but can, equally, be a total disaster.

The most obvious recent example of a Cheltenham Festival ‘flop’ was Douvan, trained by Willie Mullins, in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2017. In a race that has had more than its fair share of odds-on losers down the years, Douvan was sent off at prohibitive odds of 2/9 to continue his unbeaten run, which stretched back 14 races over hurdles and fences. Even so, there were still takers, including one anonymous punter who reportedly placed a bet of £100,000/£500,000 at odds of 1/5. In any event, Douvan jumped poorly, was soon outpaced and trailed in seventh of the nine finishers, beaten 11¾ lengths, behind the winner Special Tiara.

Kasbah Bliss, trained in France by Francois Doumen, was a regular at the Cheltenham Festival in the Noughties, but having been beaten in the Triumph Hurdle and twice in the Stayers’ Hurdle – or the World Hurdle, as it was known at the time – he was surprising made odds-on favourite, at 10/11, for the latter race in 2009. The previous year, on the Old Course, he had failed by just a length to overhaul Inglis Drever, but the year before that, on the New Course, he had had his stamina limitations exposed when beaten 17 lengths by the same horse. Back on the New Course in 2008, he fared no better, weakening on the run-in to finish fourth, beaten 21 lengths, behind Big Buck’s.

Another fine Irish steeplechaser, Beef Or Salmon, trained by Michael Hourigan, had already been beaten three times in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, before he lined up, as 4/1 favourite, for the 2006 renewal. On his previous attempts he had fallen at the third fence in 2003, finished fourth, beaten 3½ lengths, behind Best Mate in 2004 and been tailed off when pulled up two out behind Kicking King in 2005. However, in the absence of Best Mate, who’d won for the previous years, he was suddenly considered favourite material. He wasn’t, finishing eleventh of nineteen, beaten 19 lengths behind War Of Attrition.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Funny Cheltenham Joke

Riding a firm favourite at the annual Cheltenham Festival, the horse is well ahead of the rest of the field. Suddenly, out of nowhere he's hit on the back of the head by a turkey, then a string of sausages. Rattled and confused, he somehow manages to keep control of his horse and stays ahead of the pack. Moments later however, he's struck again, this time by several mince pies and a box of Christmas crackers. He struggles to keep the lead, but somehow still manages to stay ahead of the field. With the win in his sights though, he’s then struck on the head by a bottle of sherry and, to add insult to injury, a Christmas pudding. As result, he finishes third. Angered, he immediately goes to the stewards to complain that he has been seriously hampered. 

and a couple of bonus funnies:

I found a way to make a horse stand perfectly still. Place a bet on him.

A talking horse walks into a bar and approaches the manager. “Excuse me, good sir,” the horse says, “are you hiring?”
The manager looks the horse up and down and says, “Sorry, pal. Why don’t you try the circus?”
The horse nickers. “Why would the circus need a bartender?”


What's the difference between praying in church and at the track?
At the track you really mean it!

Thursday 26 October 2023

Cheltenham Festival - Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the very first race run at every Cheltenham event. It started out as a curtain raiser event, but the novices have proven to be more and more skilled over the years, eventually making it one of the festival’s signature races.

The grade one competition race covers 3298 metres (2 mi furlong) over which racing horses go over eight challenging hurdles. Participating horses have to be at least four years old.

The race has had its current name since 1978 when it was renamed from Lloyds Bank Champion Novices Hurdle. It’s very first title was the Gloucestershire Hurdle, adopted when it was first introduced in 1946.

Thousands of onlookers gather every year to witness this first event of a hugely popular horserace.
It has become synonymous with the Cheltenham Roar,’ a wild cheer from fans every time the race kicks off. The success of the festival can often be gauged from the enthusiasm of the crowd when they make this signature cheer.

The Old Course has always been the surface for this hurdle race that is among amateur National Hunt premier events. The course has taken a galloping every year since 1946, with the exception of 1947 when the event was abandoned due to extreme snowing.

Trainer Willie Mullins has dominated the race in the last two decades, with his horses taking five wins over that period to make him the leading trainer since 1972. His case has been helped by jockey Ruby Walsh who swept three consecutive wins between 2013 and 2015. Walsh himself is the leading jockey, having recorded his own five wins between 2006 and 2015.

The race appears to mostly favour five, six and seven-year-old horses. No four-year-old horse has taken the first position since the turn of the 21st century, while 2002 winner Like-A-Butterfly (8 years) was the only winner older than seven years since 1966.

Thursday 20 July 2023

Cheltenham Festival - Festival Trophy

The Festival Trophy is among the curtain-raising races taking place on the first day of every event of the annual Cheltenham festival. It combines both skill and amateur practice to set the pace for more intense events that follow in the race fixtures as competitions build up with the aim of a climax in the Gold Cup.

The race falls in the third grade of chase races on the Great Britain National Hunt calendar and admits horses of age five and above. The participating horses run on a handicap seeking to come out best over a 5,029 meter (3 mi 1 furlong) distance. The path on the left-handed turf course is dotted with 21 fence obstacles, making it one of the toughest races at the festival.

It takes more than just speed to win the Festival Trophy. With a long distance to cover, not-so-young
horses to ride and a more than generous number of obstacles, riders have to exploit every advantage at every point in the race. There are points where speed counts, while in others the braking is what matters most.

The reward for the gruelling task is a largely satisfied and cheerful crowd which often puts all
else aside to watch the race from start to finish. A generous purse of £105,000 from event sponsor Ultima was on offer in the most recent event, of which the winner took a share of close to £ 60,000.

The tough race conditions  prepare horses to take part in the equally challenging Grand National later on. Rough Quest, Royal Tan, and Team Spirit are some of the notable Festival Trophy winners that have gone on to win the National Hunt.

No single horse has won the race more than twice since its inception in 1947. Sentina (1957 & 1958), Scot Lane (1982 &1983) and Un Temps Pour Tout (2016 & 2017) hold a joint record of two
wins each. The possibility of Un Temps setting a new record in 2018 makes the event even more exciting.