I hope you enjoyed the recent Cheltenham Festival as much as I did, and I believe it probably surpassed previous Festivals in terms of the overall quality of racing.
Day 1 saw the tremendous victories of Constitution Hill and Honeysuckle, with the former appearing to be the best Champion Hurdler since Istabraq.
It will be interesting to see what direction his owner Michael Buckley and trainer Nicky Henderson decide to take next year, as Constitution Hill could stay hurdling and win another three or four Champion Hurdles, providing he stays sound.
However, I think there is a distinct possibility that Constitution Hill may go chasing next season with a view to going for the Gold Cup at some stage in the future.
The performance of Honeysuckle to land the Mares' Hurdle in her farewell appearance brought the house down and I don't remember ever seeing a horse having to go round the parade ring rather than straight to the winners' enclosure.
I also do not remember ever having such a surge of emotion as when Honeysuckle and the excellent Rachel Blackmore crossed the finishing line as winners once again and for the final time.
Day 2 was bound to feel a little flatter after such a brilliant start to the Festival, but the win of Energumene in the Champion Chase and Impaire Et Passe in the Ballymore Hurdle were the highlights.
Energumene was more impressive than when winning the Champion Chase last season and must end up being the favourite to win again next year.
Impaire Et Passe was the selection in my trends article on the Ballymore Hurdle and won impressively at 5/2. Surprisingly, Hermes Allen was backed into favouritism before the off but failed to live up to that support.
Day 3 saw two old favourites and previous Festival winners returning to the winners' enclosure with Envoi Allen landing the Ryanair in impressive style, and Sire Du Berlais rallying to win the Stayers' Hurdle at a generous 33/1.
Thursday also saw wins for some smaller trainers, as breaking up the big-stable domination can only be good for the sport.
Day 4 saw a second win at the Festival for Dan Skelton with Faivoir winning the County Hurdle as a tasty 33/1 shot, which was unexpected after his other runner Pembroke was backed in from 10/1 to 9/2 favourite.
Lossiemouth won the Triumph Hurdle for Willie Mullins and recovered his reputation having run into trouble in running at the Dublin Racing Festival, while Paul Nicholls added a second winner of the week with the impressive Stay Away Fay.
The highlight of the day was Galopin Des Champs winning the Gold Cup with Bravemansgame finishing a gallant second.
Galopin Des Champs proved wrong all those (including myself) who thought he would not stay the trip, and also proved that Willie Mullins knows a lot more about his horses than anyone else!
Bring on Cheltenham Festival 2024!
Looking ahead to next year, and I already have my eye on some likely prospects in the feature races of the Festival (excluding the Gold Cup):
- Impaire Et Passe (6/1)- if Constitution Hill goes chasing.
- El Fabiolo (4/1) - should be ready for next level after winning the Arkle
- Jonbon (8/1) - Envoi Allen and Allaho probably too old and Jonbon needs step up in trip.
- Teahupoo (12/1) - second this year at only six years old and will only improve over this trip.
Those ante post prices of 6/1, 4/1, 8/1 and 12/1 might vary from bookie to bookie, but they certainly make up an attractive Lucky 15 for anyone who likes to get their bets on early!