Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cheltenham Festival 2018 - a brief debrief

Two of the twelve highlighted selections on the blog obliged this year (Presenting Percy win in the RSA Chase on Wednesday and Delta Work each-way in the Pertemps Final on Thursday) recording a modest profit of +1.25 points at advised prices over the week.

Regular contributor TW picked out Mohaayed in the County Hurdle and Le Prezien in the Grand Annual on Friday to record a very healthy Festival profit of +34.9 points.

Amongst the also-rans tipped, Burbank caught the eye, finishing seventh in the Coral Cup behind Bleu Berry, beaten just seven lengths on ground he didn't like. Prior to the race trainer Nicky Henderson indicated he would have really fancied the horse's chance if underfoot conditions had been more suitable.

Ireland had the Betbright Cup in the bag by Thursday evening; a late flurry from the home side on Friday brought a hint of respectability to the 17-11 scoreline but there should be no doubt questions remain for those based on the British side of the Irish Sea.

The first Festival in a generation to be run on soft / heavy ground saw a number of front runners beaten in the closing stages; Top Wood, Gino Trail and Fabulous Saga are three that come to mind from the final day. Of course, Native River proved the exception to that rule in his epic duel with Might Bite in an unforgettable Gold Cup.

The going on the members' lawn on Ladies' Day could be described as heavy, impassable in places.

This year we purchased Club enclosure tickets (full price £90) rather than Tattersalls tickets (full price circa £50); naturally conversation centred around value for money. Viewing is certainly better in Club, with the balcony over the paddock a particular boon, but for those who crave the cut and thrust of the betting ring the atmosphere was distinctly sanitised.

There were several opportunities to wander into random champagne bars and pay upwards of £154 a bottle but such temptations were easily resisted. In time-honoured fashion, after racing we retired to our regular haunt in Tatts (Guinness £5.50 per pint) where we swapped our perennial hard-luck stories and threw away unwanted betting slips.

The wind almost reached gale force on Wednesday too - at times I felt I was on platform 7 of Birmingham New St station waiting for the delayed Cross Country service from Edinburgh; several ladies had their hats returned by chivalrous gents.

A walk into the infield for the cross country race proved a mistake. As we stood next to the Cheese Wedges fence and waited patiently for the runners to pass, we sank, almost imperceptibly, further and further into the mud. All I could do was ignore the old adage 'Don't wear brown in town' as my black footwear changed colour before my very eyes; at one point there was a worry one member of the party would require 4x4 assistance to cross the track and return back to the main enclosures...

Highlights of the week for me - Native River's Gold Cup victory and Presenting Percy's commanding performance in the RSA. Will they take each other on in next year's Gold Cup? And a word too for Summerville Boy who overcame plenty of trouble in running before beating Kalashnikov a neck in the Supreme, the very first race of the meeting. It seems like half a lifetime ago now.

I'm sure we'll do the same again next year - but probably in Tatts.


Reamonnt said...

Sounds like you had a great time and its a trip I hope to make sometime. I was right that we would do well on the very soft ground and is there somewhat of a crisis in british racing with the Irish horses so dominant?
The Irish field had a two page spead on the Elliot horses and in hindsight that was full of winners! I had Pacha de Polder, Shattered Love, Mister Whitaker and a saver on Summerville Boy. I still finished slightly down for the week but it was peanuts compared to the weeks entertainment I received.
Roll on Punchestown

GeeDee said...

Hi Reamonnt,

Pleased to hear you enjoyed Cheltenham - there have been several occasions in recent years when I would have been more than happy to settle for slightly down on the whole week.

Yes, as the week progressed I think there was some embarrassment in certain quarters. The battle between Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins dominated the media coverage. Friday's Guardian reported BHA staff fielding questions about the Irish dominance and the possibility of introducing barriers:

Greg Wood countered that view with this article on Sunday:

From a British perspective Tom Segal has struck a more upbeat note with his piece in today's Weekender.

Punchestown will be upon us before we know it!

Reamonnt said...

Very good articles with plenty to think about. I think the mega rich like O Leary and JP are buying up all the good horses but surely there are even richer people in UK but not into the racing for some reason as per uk soccer and its mega wealth. Relations between these islands are so enhanced by our mutual love of racing and the horse and that is very important.