2018/2019 Cheltenham Festival Comparisons

2018/2019 Festival Comparisons

The 2019 Magners Cheltenham Festival provided yet more untold, captivating stories for us fans and punters to breath in and digest, narratives that will live long in the memory in the ages to come.

Tales and memoirs that many of us will now gleefully recall post-festival, that inevitably give us the somber Cheltenham blues.

Bryony Frost became the first female jockey to win a Grade One jump's race at the Cheltenham Festival by guiding Frodon to victory in the Ryanair Chase, Paisley Park landed the Stayers Hurdle for trainer Emma Lavelle and his blind owner Andrew Gemmell, whilst Willie Mullins finally broke his Gold Cup maiden tag.. the list just goes on and on.

It is easy to suggest, that this year's Festival 'was the best one yet', just like any season, we seem to conclude it with the same line of words. But, how did it actually compare and correlate to the same meeting held twelve months ago?

We will start with the obvious. Altior and Tiger Roll, the two horses victorious at last year's Festival both struck again, in exactly the same races.

Altior

It hardly comes as a surprise on paper, but Altior - trained by Nicky Henderson, really had to work hard to retain his crown, and in the process emulated Big Buck's outstanding record of eighteen successive victories.

Tiger Roll is vastly becoming a natural over the more unique Cross Country fences, and stormed to a twenty-five length triumph in the Glenfarcas Chase.

The Grand National is now only three weeks away, and the Gordon Elliott-trained 9yo surely has the best chance since the day's of Red Rum to land back-to-back Nationals.

It is just incredible how this son of Authorized - who won the Derby and the Juddmonte back in 2007, has progressed and proved his versatility.

The tiger won the Triumph Hurdle as a Juvenile back in 2014, and four and five years later he is winning four mile chasing highlights - he could even be a Gold Cup horse next year around if connections are brave enough. Who would argue otherwise?

Whilst Altior and Tiger Roll were still winning, they represented two of the nine favourites that won throughout the course of the week - a rate of 32% which is a pretty good return for the punters.

In comparison to last year, Tiger Roll was not a market leader whereas Altior was. The-then 8yo was part of a team of seven winning favourites throughout the week, at a lower percentage of 25%.

tiger roll

Clearly this year's favourites proportion was much higher than what we saw twelve months ago, with an extra four favourites finishing second best - one more than last year's weekly total.

Both festival's, this year and last year also however proved to share the same heartbreak.

The Champion Hurdle - won twelve months ago by Buveur D'Air at short odds, appeared to be much more of a puzzle this time around.

Buveur D'Air - a dual winner of the race, was joined at the head of the betting by the two mares Apple's Jade and Laurina, and yet none of the three managed to play a part in the finish.

The Nicky Henderson 8yo fell at the third flight, whilst Apple's Jade disappointed back in sixth, and Laurina lost her finish in the places when the 80/1 shot Silver Streak nabbed it on the line.

As for the Mares Hurdle, Apple's Jade was sent off a short price for last year's renewal - which was won by Benie Des Dieux, who too was sent off a long-odds favourite this time around, but came down at the final flight - mirroring what happened in this race four years ago when Annie Power fell at the last for the same jockey, trainer and owner.

Benie Des Dieux

Heartbreak and remorse was turned into delight and joy later in the week, when the likes of Bryony and Rachael Blackmore were successful in top contests, along with the incredible story regarding Andrew Gemmell and Paisley Park as already mentioned.

Last year the stories came early on, with six of the seven favourites coming in the opening two days of the Festival. This year was a bit more of a waiting game, with only one of the eventual nine winning favourites coming in the opening nine races - one day and a half.

Still, looking at the week as a whole, the punters and the bookmakers probably shared the celebrations and the champagne in the end with a fair 2-2 draw for their efforts.

Friday, just like every year seems to be the day that the bookies make back their losses.

Last year, we were treated to 28/1 and 33/1 shock winners on the final day, which were demolished this year by 50/1 and 66/1 outsiders landing the unlikely spoils.

The winner of the Mares Novice final this season was also a 66/1 winner, which led home another 50/1 shot, providing further proof that you can never rule out a horse at the bottom of any market, particularly at the end of the week when the proper stamina tests come into play.

sir erec juvenile triumph hurdle joseph o brien mark walsh jp mcmanus

In terms of a more darker topic, last year's Festival forced a review to be called into the number of fatalities at the Festival, after the number rose to six after the final day.

Fortunately, that number halved this time around to three - sadly Sir Erec, Invitation Only and Ballyward did not return home, but yet that is still three too many.

Horses welfare is paramount, and although safety measures have improved over the years, more can be clearly done to safeguard both horse and rider, to keep the enjoyment in racing at the top level.

The Grand National is looming - the day of the year where all the anti-racing troops come out to play, and Aintree will hope to keep a positive record which has seen no deaths in the big race itself in the last seven years.

Clearly officials in Merseyside have got things under control, and are adding to regulations every year.

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