Cheltenham Festival Day Two: Winners on this day
With the first day now over, here are five more Festival races from the past with a focus on the recent history of day two.
2000 Champion Chase – Edredon Bleu
With fast ground at the fore during the year of 2000, the majority of course records were broken throughout the week. Over the same course and distance, Tiutchev had broken the record in the Arkle twenty four hours earlier and with the seasoned chasers up next, it was surely going to be quicker. It was. And what a race it was!
The favourite going into the race was the Paul Nicholls trained Flagship Uberalles who had won the previous year’s Arkle and almost gone unbeaten apart from a superb effort when giving lumps of weight away to Nordance Prince in what is now known as the Clarence House Chase when it was a limited handicap.
His main dangers were the perennial bridesmaids in the race. Both Edredon Bleu and Direct Route had finished in the frame the previous year behind Call Equiname. What was in the former’s favour was the fast ground and the assistance of Tony McCoy in the saddle. There are many McCoy rides that you can rate highly but this has to be in the top five.
Having to set a tempo which allowed his mount to spare a bit for the finish, his fast and accurate jumping got his rivals into trouble bar Direct Route who loomed up at the last and at one point, poked his head in front. McCoy wasn’t to be denied as he thrusted Edredon Bleu back in front on the line.
2000 Coral Cup – What’s Up Boys
The Festival is all about pure drama. The hurly burly of the Coral Cup can unsettle a young horse and at one stage, What’s Up Boys looked a prime example of this. Having started off in front at the first, he drifted back slightly into a prominent position before getting outpaced at the top of the hill. He was that outpaced, he looked the first horse beaten with a whole host of strong travellers cruising past him.
Coming down the hill, he kept his spot but didn’t look to be making too much ground until the final bend. The one to catch was Native Dara who shot clear and looked the winner jumping the last. But What’s Up Boys under then amateur Paul Flynn sprouted wings up the hill and got up in the shadows of the post in one of the most memorable finishes in Festival history.
1999 RSA Chase – Looks Like Trouble
The Irish love a banker. They had Istabraq go in on the Tuesday for his second Champion Hurdle success and in the Royal & Sunalliance Chase the following day, Edward O’Grady and Norman Williamson paired up with the exciting prospect Nick Dundee. He was unbeaten on all his completed chase starts having unseated on chasing debut which included two Graded successes, the last one being the Dr P.J Moriarty at Leopardstown. The concern was whether this freegoing sort would stay the three miles and would his jumping stand up.
Throughout the race, he travelled supremely well and his jumping stood the test until the fourth last, the final open ditch. Horse and jockey disagreed but he managed to recover. Coming down the hill, he was making one stride to his main rival Looks Like Trouble with Williamson struggling to hold his head.
Going into the third last, he was asked up but put in an extra stride and took a heavy fall. Initially, it looked as though the horse had met a sad end as it appeared he had broken his leg but had fractured his pastern and survived. The race went to Looks Like Trouble who went onto success in next season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.
2003 Coral Cup – Xenophon
The Coral Cup features again. This time with one of the major gambles in the race’s short history. Step forward Xenophon, trained by Tony Martin who had shown reasonable form in maiden hurdles. He was laid out for the Pierse Hurdle and off a mark of 117, he only won by two lengths but he won in the manner of a horse that had plenty in hand.
After that success, jockey Mick Fitzgerald was asked by Martin which handicap would suit him at Cheltenham, the County or the Coral Cup.
His answer “Whichever race you run him in, I want the ride”
The decision was for the longer race and apart from the first flight of hurdles, there was never a moment’s doubt for the 4/1 favourite as he was effectively a steering job for Fitzgerald.
2000 Royal & Sunalliance Hurdle – Monsignor
Throughout history, there are horses we ask the question “What might have been?” had their careers progressed the way people originally thought they would. Monsignor is one of those.
Having won the Champion Bumper in 1999 at 50/1, he turned up to Cheltenham unbeaten over hurdles which included a win in the Tolworth where he beat triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate. He made no mistake on the day and ran out a very easy eight length winner for Norman Williamson and Mark Pitman. Sadly, we never saw him again as multiple setbacks ruled him out from ever seeing a racecourse again.