RENTON DELIGHTED WITH 2017 FESTIVAL
Ian Renton, Regional Director, South West, Jockey Club Racecourses, has been delighted with the 2017 Cheltenham Festival so far.
Renton said: “It has been a fantastic three days. I think operationally, everything has run as smoothly as we could hope.
“We’ve had three great days of racing, we have been lucky with the weather and we look forward to another superb day today with another great attendance.
“I think the new facilities are all beginning to work extremely well. I think racegoers are getting used to the new surroundings at the racecourse, particularly The Princess Royal Stand and how that fits in as well as enjoying the additional space so hopefully with a sold-out crowd of 70,000 today, they will feel that much more comfortable since the last time we had those numbers.
“The racing has been fantastic – we have had three brilliant days of racing. Yesterday’s performance of Un De Sceaux [Ryanair Chase] was wonderful to behold and hopefully we will have some great performances here today as well.
“The press coverage has also been fantastic. I haven’t seen any of the ITV coverage but everything I have heard about it has been absolutely wonderful.
“We try to improve every year and I think things have worked really well this year.”
Possible headline acts on the final day
Smad Place makes his seventh consecutive Festival appearance when he runs in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.30). His best previous results at the four-day extravaganza include a second in the RSA Chase (2014) and thirds in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (2012 and 2013).
Fellow Gold Cup contender Cue Card is making his sixth reappearance at The Festival. Cue Card won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2010 and the Ryanair Chase in 2013.
JCB Triumph Hurdle: leading owner J P McManus won the JCB Triumph Hurdle last year with Ivanovich Gorbatov. This year he has two of the leaders in the betting, Defi Du Seuil (trained by Philip Hobbs, winning trainer in 2006 and 2004) and Charli Parcs (trained by Nicky Henderson, the most successful trainer in the race with six winners to date). Jockey Davy Russell (Mega Fortune) has won the race once in 2014 on Tiger Roll, who won this year’s J T McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase. The race has been won once by a female trainer, Dina Smith with Shiny Copper in 1982. No female jockey has ever ridden the winner and today trainer Ellmarie Holden and jockey Rachael Blackmore combine with Ex Patriot.
Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle: no jockey has ever won the race for two years in succession. Harry Skelton captured the prize last year and has strong claims with North Hill Harvey. Only trainer Willie Mullins has won the race two years in a row (2010 and 2011). Mullins has trained three winners (also 2015) and victory this year from either Arctic Fire or Renneti would match the four of winning-most trainer Paul Nicholls in the post-war era.
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle: Noel Fehily is the only jockey riding in this year’s race who has been successful in it before (2016). Trainers Harry Fry (2016) and Nicky Henderson (2011) are the only two trainers with previous winners of the race. It would be a first Festival winner for David Mullins (rides Monalee). Augusta Kate would be the first winning mare in the race.
Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup: of the jockeys riding this year, Bryan Cooper (2016), Ruby Walsh (2007 & 2009) and Richard Johnson (2000) have won the race before. Gordon Eliott (2016), Jonjo O’Neill (2012) and Paul Nicholls (2009, 2008, 2007, 1999) are previous winning trainers. Victory this year for Nicholls would match Tom Dreaper’s record as the most successful Gold Cup-winning trainer. Lizzie Kelly is the first female to ride for 33 years and only the second ever. It would be a first Festival winner for David Mullins (rides Champagne West).
St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase: no jockey riding this year has won the race before. Only Enda Bolger ¬- in 2015 and 2016 – and Paul Nicholls (2004 and 2005) have trained the winning horse before. On The Fringe could become the first-ever horse to win the race three years in succession, while Salsify is also going for a third victory. At 14 years of age, Cottage Oak and Pentiffic would be the oldest horses to ever win at The Festival.
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase: Solar Impulse could become the first horse to win the race twice since Dulwich in 1974 and 1976. Paul Nicholls is currently the joint-most successful trainer with Fulke Walwyn with three winners.
The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award: if Gordon Elliot takes the trainers’ title, he will be the first trainer other than Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls or Nicky Henderson to succeed since 2005.
The Boodles Leading Jockey Award: Ruby Walsh, if successful, would be taking the title for the 11th time, a run broken only in 2012 by Barry Geraghty and Robert Thornton in 2007.