Things We Learned » Geraghty on fire

Geraghty on fire

Barry Geraghty was brilliant this week. When you ride one Grade 1 winner a day for the first three days, when you win a Champion Hurdle, an RSA Chase and a World Hurdle in three days, on a 9/1 shot, a 12/1 shot and a 15/2 shot, by a neck, a neck and a length and a half, for three different trainers, and when two of the horses are the owner’s second string, you know that you are riding out of your skin.

Geraghty’s strength in the finish was evident on all three, Jezki, O’Faolains Boy and More Of That, but the little things out in the country were also important.

He excelled on JP McManus’ Champion Hurdle winner Jezki. The Jessica Harrington-trained gelding was keener than ideal through the early stages of the race, and he made a significant error at the fourth last flight, yet his rider soon had him back on an even keel and, on a horse who stays two and a half miles well, kicked for home early, but not so early that he didn’t have enough energy left to get up the hill.

Interestingly, Geraghty was winning the World Hurdle on More Of That for Jonjo O’Neill 10 years after he had won it for the first and only previous time on Iris’s Gift, also, incidentally, trained by Jonjo O’Neill. And he was winning the Champion Hurdle on Jezki for Jessica Harrington 11 years after he had ridden Moscow Flyer to the first of his Champion Chase victories.

Time warp

Be careful if you are analysing times this week.

When the news filtered through shortly after the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle that Vautour had broken the track record, immediate reaction was that the ground was flying and that Vautour was something special. The record that he broke was Istabraq’s, set at a Festival at which the times in general were so fast that there was concern for a little while surrounding whether or not the races were run over the correct distances.

Vautour may well be an exceptional talent, but, while the time that he clocked was top class, it may not be exceptional. This quickly came to light almost two hours later, when Jezki went over a second faster than Vautour had gone over the same course and distance.

The reason for the unusually fast times across the board is that they timed the races at this year’s Festival from the time at which the first horse crossed the starting line, not from the time at which the tape was raised. It is a small and subtle but crucial difference, and it makes a significant difference to the measurement of the overall time.

Age trap

Age creeps up on horses as well, you know.

Hurricane Fly, Big Buck’s, Sizing Europe, brilliant champions all, Cheltenham heroes, but all three had to give best to younger sets of legs and lungs this week.

History tells us that it is difficult for the elders to compete with the youngsters in the championship races. You have to go back to 1986 to find Crimson Embers, the last horse aged in double figures to win the World Hurdle. You have to go back to Sea Pigeon in 1981 to find the last veteran to win the Champion Hurdle.

The great Moscow Flyer is the only horse aged older than 10 to win the Champion Chase since Skymas in 1977, and you have to go back to What A Myth in 1969 to find the last horse aged older than 10 to win the Gold Cup.

Defeat this week does not detract from all that these heroes have achieved, but it really is a young man’s game, this Cheltenham business.

Prestbury flop

It is easy in hindsight, but the Prestbury Cup was never really on, was it? It’s not exactly an intriguing match when they bet 1/5 about one side winning it, with several good judges maintaining that Britain were serious value at that.

You can see the argument, 13 Irish winners in 2011, 14 in 2013, but just about all the balls dropped right in those two years. Ireland just does not have the depth of numbers to ensure that it is a true competition each year.

In fairness, though, it did begin like a real competition, with Ireland going 3-2 up after five, and if Western Warhorse hadn’t performed 20lb above himself in his first-time hood in the Arkle, it would have been 4-1.

When Faugheen won the Neptune Hurdle, the first race on Wednesday, he brought the score back to 4-4, but the Irish challenge was always front-loaded. Thursday had always looked like the weakest day for Ireland Inc., and so it proved, with the entire afternoon passing under the bridge before Spring Heeled led home an Irish 1-2 in the Kim Muir, the last race of the day.

By that stage, however, it was all over. Britain were eight ahead with seven to play and, if the Prestbury Cup had been the only prize up for grabs for the week, we could have all gone home on Thursday evening. Fortunately, it wasn’t.

2015 Lucky 15

Vautour, Arkle Trophy

Taquin Du Seuil, Ryanair Chase

My Tent Or Yours, Champion Hurdle

Champagne Fever, Gold Cup