With a weekend taken to digest everything that has just taken place at the Cheltenham Festival, it is now time to sit back and have a look at the heroes that captivated their audience over the last number of days.
Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore do it again at Cheltenham!👑👑 pic.twitter.com/eIxoGDq35U
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) March 15, 2022
Well there was never going to be any horse that captivated everyone on the first day than Honeysuckle, the star mare who maintained her unbeaten record when landing her second Champion Hurdle on the spin. It was a fairly faultless display again, with similar tactics to last year being implemented by Rachael Blackmore. Having been perhaps a little bit further back then she would have anticipated early in the race, she quickly made up the ground coming down the hill and set sail for home on the turn in. The crowd was electric and she has firmly put herself right at the top of the public eye. Whether that is down to the mare herself, or the amazing Blackmore who rides, but it is very fair to say that they are a match made in heaven. There were people queuing 20/25 deep around the parade ring just to get a glimpse of Honeysuckle coming back into the winners enclosure, and that was something very, very special.
Even for the high standards that Champion Trainer, Willie Mullins sets himself - this was a week for the imagination. Having not had a winner for the first six races on the first day, despite throwing some decent bullets at the board, you would have got long odds that he would end the week breaking the record of the most number of Festival winners in the week. Ranging from his first Champion Chase win with Energumene, to further stars of the stable including Allaho, Facile Vega and Vauban - he ticked a lot of boxes. There was still a bit of heartbreak as well along the way, with Galopin Des Champs falling at the last with the race at his mercy, while the well touted Brandy Love had to be taken out of her race in the morning due to a stone bruise. There is simply no matching the exploits of Mullins and his team, and quite impossibly - they seem to only be getting better and better.
Tiger Roll definitely seems to be enjoying their first day of retirement! What a horse ⭐️pic.twitter.com/ZntqxqZteR
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) March 17, 2022
Some people may think it is a tad strange that I am including a horse who got beaten in the heroes of the week article, but it is hard to keep Tiger Roll out of this list. A festival immortal over the last few years, his five wins were sadly not added to in the most heartbreaking of fashions. Having cantered into the lead around a mile from home in the Cross Country race, it was hard to not see him coming out on top, but he was foiled by his stablemate Delta Work in a superb battle. The fact that Tiger Roll traveled with such enthusiasm and bounce, despite the ground becoming bottomless on the Wednesday card, was a testament to the horse and connections. Despite not coming in as the winner, he bowed out at the very top and will be missed by all fans of horse racing, he is a true Festival and Racing legend.
I fully concede that I have not had a massive amount of experience over the years of seeing different celebrations for different horses at Cheltenham, but I would struggle to imagine a bigger celebration that the Flooring Porter Syndicate cheering their star in on Thursday. The horse himself, was winning his second Stayers Hurdle, under a vintage ride from Danny Mullins and was giving Gavin Cromwell another Cheltenham Festival winner. However, the carnage was in the winners enclosure - where scarfs were being waved, chants were being sung and Danny Mullins was lifted onto shoulders and paraded around to growing cheers from the crowd. It was a surreal moment that needed to be bottled up and looked after. Flooring Porter is an amazing horse, and has been a true story of rags to riches in the racing game.
First woman to be Champion jockey at Cheltenham ✔️
First female jockey to win Grand National✔️
And now... first woman to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup✔️
'I feel so feckin' lucky'. Nothing lucky about it! pic.twitter.com/IImOEtE4GJ
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) March 18, 2022
It just wouldn’t be an article talking back on Cheltenham without mentioning this woman. Rachael Blackmore has had a whirlwind of the last 12 months, and this week went more to further that growing global reputation she now has. Blackmore’s rides to win the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup were of beauty, especially on the latter to claim her first win in the Blue Riband race of the entire week. She quite modestly said after this year’s Gold Cup that she ‘gave the horse a better ride this year’. I think plenty would argue she didn't do much wrong on A Plus Tard last year, when finishing second in the pinnacle. There was nothing stopping her this time and she had the most willing of partners, as A Plus Tard flew up the run in to win by 15 lengths - it was probably the best Gold Cup performance we have seen in over a decade. The reception and the roar that greeted Blackmore and her charge was spine tingling, and topped off the week. It was everything you wanted to see from the crowds being back, a true ‘I was there’ moment.