Donn's Articles » Bests from Cheltenham 2009

Bests from Cheltenham 2009

Best riding performance

AP McCoy on Wichita Lineman in the William Hill Chase on Tuesday, blundered ninth, hit 10th, hit 15th, some headway when hit three out, traded at 59/1 in-running, seventh turning in, five lengths down over the last, still three lengths down half way up the run-in, got up to win by a neck. The usually reticent McCoy found it difficult to disguise his delight, as did the punters who had backed him down to 5/1 favourite.

Best training performance

The award goes to Paul Nicholls, but not for Kauto Star. The trainer turned Denman inside out in five weeks, from the wet paper bag who was ripped apart by Madison Du Berlais at Kempton in the Levy Board Chase, to the athlete who was primed to run the second best race of his life on Friday.

Broadest grin

The one that stayed on Paddy Brennan’s face from the time that Imperial Commander crossed the winning line in the Ryanair Chase until the time that he began to drive Pettifour along in the World Hurdle, when it turned to a scowl.

Most pertinent question

Should Chocolate Thornton really have been passed fit to ride on Thursday after his fall from Big Zeb on Wednesday? The grimace as he was legged up on Voy Por Ustedes before the Ryanair Chase suggests not. These jockeys may be made of iron, but they are not indestructible.

Most rapturous applause

That which greeted Forpadydeplasterer and Barry Geraghty as they were led back in after winning the Arkle. A couple of Ole Oles and a few verses of The Rose of Tralee kept the decibel level up as the horses paraded for the William Hill Chase.

Most exciting horse for the future

It was Quevega, winner of the last race on Tuesday, until Mikael D’Haguenet threw the award into doubt when he won the second race on Wednesday. Then Cooldine won the third race on Wednesday. The fairest result is a three-way tie. Willie Mullins can keep the trophy.

Best quote

“I hope I don’t wake up and discover that it’s Tuesday morning!” Ruby Walsh

Biggest horse

Dead heat between Quwetwo and Mad Max, who towered above their rivals in the Ballymore Properties, more than 18 hands each. Mikael D’Haguenet looked like a pony between them (and he isn’t).

Clearest evidence of recessionary times

Green patches in the enclosures from the stands where usually the bodies are packed thick in the minutes before the Gold Cup.

Lucky 15 for next year

– Hurricane Fly (Champion Hurdle)
– Mikael D’Haguenet (RSA Chase)
– Barbers Shop (Ryanair Chase)
– Cooldine (Gold Cup)

Best (simply the)

Ruby Walsh. Unbelievable.

© The Sunday Times, 13th March 2009