THE Cheltenham Festival concluded with an epic Gold Cup which was won by Minella Indo for the all-conquering Henry De Bromhead team.
Paul Townend ended the week with three winners and was touched off on number of other occasions. Rachael Blackmore emerged as the leading rider after an unforgettable week while Willie Mullins just edged out De Bromhead for the Trainers Title.
The final day was tough for punters as all seven favourites were beaten. The Triumph was won by Quillixios who was another winner for Cheveley Park Stud. Gavin Cromwell enjoyed his second winner of the week with Vaniller in the Albert Bartlett under an excellent ride from Mark Walsh.
The Gold Cup itself had everything with the Nicky Henderson duo of Champ and Santini pulled up early. Al Boum Photo and Townend were stalking the leaders and the pace was frantic. But in the end the De Bromhead duo just had too much gears for Al Boum Photo and Minella Indo charged clear to beat his stablemate A Plus Tard under Rachael Blackmore by just over a length.
Other highlights this week included the victory of Aidan Coleman in the Champion Chase aboard Put The Kettle On while Richard Condon won many new fans with his exuberant celebrations aboard Heaven Help Us. The Conna rider certainly advertised his talents and will pick up plenty of new rides as a result.
Aidan Coleman’s victory aboard the brilliant mare Put The Kettle On in the Champion Chase was the highlight of the week on a number of levels. This brilliant horse won the Arkle last season but lost her way during the winter. But De Bromhead just works wonders on these horses for Cheltenham and how gutsy this victory was. For Aidan Coleman the decision to concentrate on quality rides has proved a very wise move.
Coleman said: "Numbers have always been my main focus and we've been on the lookout for the good horses, but they're hard to come by. When I came back from injury, I decided to change tack and focus on quality over quantity and if you look at those four championship race rides coming into this festival, it's probably working out.
“I jumped off to get a good start and wasn’t really sure where I’d sit as this was her biggest test, and I didn’t know if she’d be quick enough to be bang there.
“She was very good over the first three or four fences, and after I’d jumped four I was fairly confident that I’d stay there until at least turning in and then what will be will be.
“I don’t know what it is about Cheltenham with her as this is the only place I’ve ridden her. As long as she can come here a couple of times a year and do the business we’re happy enough. If I could bottle what she has I wouldn’t have to ride again – I’d sell it, and be a rich man.
“These championship races – the Champion Hurdle, the Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Gold Cup – are the races you grow up watching. If you’re lucky enough to ride in them it’s fantastic, and if you’re lucky enough to win one it’s even better.
"It was very special – pulling up was nearly emotional because we all love these horses and we do it day in, day out for them. When you ride something that loves it and wants to win as much as this, it’s just a pleasure. It brings you back to your roots and why you wanted to get into the game – and that’s the love of the animal.”
Other great moments this week included the performances of Appreciate It and Bob Olinger in the novice hurdle races. Paul Townend needed a good start to the meeting and Appreciate It delivered in spades in the opening race of the meeting.
Townend said:” He was a very impressive winner. Conditions came in his favour and it was a huge performance. He’s a simple horse to ride and it’s ideal to have a horse like that to ride in the first race of the week.
“We knew from the bumper here last year that he was very good. He’d been beating the Irish novices at home, so I was quietly confident. We know he stays and I suppose the way he jumps makes him look like a quicker horse than he is.”