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Cheltenham Festival 2015: The 5 best rides of the week

Fours day have passed by in a bit of a blur with some incredible performances accross the week, we round up the best 5.

Vautour – JLT Novices Chase

Before the week, all the stats people were screaming from the rooftops that Willie Mullins cannot train chasers. He leaves the meeting having trained the winner of all the big novice chases with Un De Sceaux who was scintilating in the Arkle, Don Poli who won the RSA through staying power and Vautour who was just sensational in the JLT.

Of those, Vautour was the most impressive. His form beforehand over fences hadn’t matched those of his main rivals but the manner in which he put Grade One novices in their place was just extraordinary. It was the best performance on the figures by a novice chaser at the Festival for a very long time but it was justified. The leap at the final open ditch at the top of the hill underlined the horse’s real class and the way he was still on the bridle turning for home with the likes of Apache Stronghold, Valseur Lido and Ptit Zig all under maximum pressure. He could have won further by the fifteen lengths he ended up succeeding by and the world looks to be at his feet. Will he be back in twelve months time for the Gold Cup?

Glens Melody – Mares Hurdle

For drama, this moment stands out above everything else. The bookmakers were already in dire straits after Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen with plenty of multiples all then rolling onto Annie Power. She travelled through the race like a dream and the instant acceleration off the bend was stunning. All she had to do was to jump the final flight for certain victory. What came next was one of the most dramatic moments ever in Cheltenham Festival history. She came to the last on what seemed a perfect stride but took off too early and took a horrific fall. Thankfully she got up and galloped away but the finish was just as dramatic with Glen’s Melody just denying Polly Peachum and Bitofapuzzle.

Peace And Co – Triumph Hurdle

Friday started with an incredible 1-2-3 in the Triumph Hurdle for Nicky Henderson when Peace And Co beat Top Notch and Hargam with an impressive turn of foot under a supremely confident Barry Geraghty. He was a bit keen early on but once he settled down, he travelled strongly through the race and with the rain softened ground, Geragthy was mindful to reserve his winning run until the final flight where Top Notch who has looked a stayer looked to have the upper hand for a brief moment but the kick was decisive enough to seal the victory. The training feat here of Nicky Henderson deserves to be highlighted as bringing along juveniles isn’t the easiest thing to do as they are essentially babies in the National Hunt sphere.

Faugheen – Champion Hurdle

Willie Mullins already had two on the board. Faugheen was many people’s banker of the week in a race hyped up for several months to be fought out by three horses which also included The New One and Jezki. Ruby Walsh was allowed to make his own running and control the race but still, a bad mistake two out could have ended his chances as you cannot make any errors but he instantly came back on the bridle and the turn of foot he showed against proven horses was sublime.

The effort of the winner was superb but the other placed horses deserve their accolades with Arctic Fire running the race of his life in second and Hurricane Fly yet again showing his longetivity with an unbelievable effort in third, yet another advert for the excellence of Willie Mullins.

Coneygree – Gold Cup

To think the week couldn’t get any more dramatic or have performances like Vautour and Faugheen being eclipsed. Well we were wrong. The performance of Coneygree was just sensational, almost Denmanesque the way the put his rivals to the sword with his slick, fast jumping and one by one, his competitors fell away. Former Gold Cup winners Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere were put into trouble some way out and the antepost favourite Silviniaco Conti didn’t seem to look happy today with him jumping out to the right. He was beaten by the third last but in the back of your mind, you were waiting for Coneygree to stop. But he didn’t.

For a novice to win the Gold Cup as well on only his fourth chase start is something that only dreams are made of. For the Bradstocks, a famous success for a small yard who work so hard with this being their second Festival success after King Harald in 2005. The runs of both Djakadam and Road To Riches made it a classic Gold Cup to remember and we only hope they all return next year against the likes of Don Poli and Vautour.