As we all expected, the Cheltenham Festival was a much more open one than has been the case in recent years. The big stables did not dominate proceedings. There were hard luck tales – as there always will be – but the winners earned their honours.
As a viewer, it made for a refreshing change that it wasn’t the usual suspects who dominated the winners’ enclosure. Trainer Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House stud owner Michael O’Leary did get there, but nowhere near as often as in past years.
Willie Mullins broke his duck in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when his Al Boum Photo won at SP odds of 12/1.
After the exceptional success I and members of VG Tips savoured at the 2018 festival, with 10 winners and 8 profitable each way bets; 2019 saw more typical returns.
7 winners and 7 each way tips that delivered profit. I’m happy with that.
ROSKANA was a 10/1 winning tip on day one. She won the Grade 1 Mares’ Hurdle and my 11/1 each way option, Stormy Ireland, followed her home in second.
Vintage Clouds was a 25/1 each way tip from me for the Ultima Chase. The Sue Smith trained grey was a staying on runner up, beaten a length and a quarter. The next target for the ever likeable trier Vintage Clouds will be the Grand National at Aintree.
ALTIOR was the obvious winner on day two for odds on backers taking the 4/9. My favourite winner that day was my first ante-post tip for the festival.
My favourite winner that day was my first ante-post tip for the festival. TIGER ROLL romped home with ease in the stamina testing Cross Country race. After that performance the bookies made Tiger Roll favourite for the Grand National at Aintree on April 6th. In another one-two for forecast backing members of VG Tips, my 9/1 each way tip in that race, Josies Orders, was second behind Tiger Roll.
ENVOI ALLEN was the third winning tip on the Wednesday. Tipped up at odds of 7/2, members not only made money on the winner of that Grade 1 Champion Bumper. Each Way backers placing their bets with the bookies offering returns about the first four horses home, also collected some profit via the fourth placed Abacadabras at SP odds of 14/1.
Day three of the festival was the best day of punting for me and members of VG Tips. It was also, in my opinion at least, the best day of racing at the festival.
DEFI DU SEUIL had got Thursday off to a great start for us. Offered up the day before racing when odds of 10/3 were available, even the SP price of 3/1 represented good value as the Philip Hobbs trained gelding was an impressive winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase.
Some people thought I was crazy tipping FRODON each way at 15/2 for the Ryanair Chase. But there were justified reasons. To my mind Frodon was already a Grade 1 horse in all but name. Granted, I was concerned that his one previous outing at that level of racing at the festival had not been a success. But trainer Paul Nicholls had given Frodon a more gentle preparation for the 2019 meeting. Under the usual fine ride by Bryony Frost, who became the first female jockey to win a Grade 1 at the festival, Frodon refused to be beaten and the cheers from the crowd when he won were the loudest heard during the week.
There were further cheers and tears when the very good PAISLEY PARK, a 2/1 tip for the Stayers’ Hurdle, won for his blind since birth owner, Andrew Gemmell. To witness his joy at winning a big race at the festival was a delight.
9/1 each way selection Spiritofthegames returned each way profit when finishing third in a Grade 3 handicap chase.
Thursday was National Hunt racing at its very best.
While the final day of the meeting is always the one to attract the biggest crowd, I failed to find the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year. But there was a greater loss.
It was a day of tragedy when my win only tip in the first race of the day, Sir Erec, died in action. Condolences to all connections of a horse that promised so much and was so fatally unlucky in running.
Shantou Flyer, an 8/1 selection for the Foxhunter Chase, returned some placed profit when a four length runner up.
In the final race of the festival for which I made a selection, 7/1 each way tip Not Another Muddle returned a little profit for those members wisely choosing to place their bets with the bookies returning bets about the first five horses past the post.