What an unbelievable week it has been for Henry de Bromhead, whose 2021 Cheltenham Festival haul includes a Champion Hurdle, a Champion Chase and a one-two in the Gold Cup. It doesn’t get any better.
Henry won’t care, but for Gold Cup punters things didn’t quite go to plan.
With Rachael Blackmore carrying all before her this week, it was no surprise to see punters put their faith in her once again with A Plus Tard, one of the new generation of Gold Cup horses expected to put it down to the hat-trick seeking Al Boum Photo.
Approaching the last, A Plus Tard looked like he might pick up the leader but Minella Indo is a strong stayer and he toughed it out up the hill to provide Jack Kennedy with the biggest moment of his riding career.
Minella Indo was arguably the forgotten horse of the Gold Cup having not lived up to market expectations in two Grade 1’s at Leopardstown over the winter and his fate with punters was sealed when de Bromhead's number-one rider, who has been on board for his ten previous outings, jumped ship to the Cheveley Park-owned stablemate.
But this wasn’t the same Minella Indo that we saw at Leopardstown. It was a peak Minella Indo and an improved version than the one that finished a valiant second in last year’s RSA Chase.
Kennedy, who looked so forlorn after Envoi Allen’s crashing fall on Thursday, showed just why so many top trainers retain great faith in him by having his mount perfectly placed throughout before going for home off the turn. Redemption is such a wonderful thing.
You would have got a huge price about Jack Kennedy riding four winners this week and Envoi Allen not being one of them!
Rachael Blackmore may have been pipped in the big one but it didn’t prevent her becoming the first female leading rider at the Cheltenham Festival. She had an incredible week and is undoubtedly the new human star of the sport.
As for reigning Gold Cup champion Al Boum Photo, well he looked a major threat to the de Bromhead pair until he had the door shut on him by A Plus Tard and just couldn’t recover from losing valuable momentum at such a crucial point in the contest. He’ll be back in 12 months’ time and I for one wouldn’t be writing off his prospects of grabbing his crown back under more favourable circumstances.
Things just didn't go to plan for the home challengers, not least Nicky Henderson’s big guns Champ and Santini, who were both out of the contest by halfway.
Just when we thought Champ’s jumping was on the improve, he goes and throws in a stinker. He might be talented but he is still some way off being the complete package and connections have much to work on with him.
The decision to throw Royale Pagaille in at the deep end didn’t work out but drying ground wouldn’t have been in his favour and he remains a stayer of considerable potential under slower conditions.
Frodon gave Bryony Frost a great spin on the front end, indeed some of his jumping was a joy to behold, but he was no match for the Irish challenge at the business end.