Funny sort of week. Great week for Willie and a brilliant week for Paul Townend, but it was a funny week for me.
It started great, winning the Supreme on Klassical Dream, but then the mare, Benie Des Dieux, fell with the Mares’ Hurdle at her mercy.
And I think Min, which I rode in the Champion Chase, and Bellshill in yesterday’s Gold Cup, both showed the effects of running on the quick ground in Leopardstown. Neither jumped and, for two very good jumpers, that’s where their races were left. That’s with the evidence of hindsight, of course.
But I’m delighted for Paul Townend. I think he’s an incredible young man and it’s great for him, his sisters and his dad. It was 12 months ago when he got all the flak for his ride on this horse at Punchestown but how he’s pulled himself back together and won the Gold Cup on the horse I’m absolutely thrilled for him.
Willie had four good chances in the race but before they went a circuit, he only had one. But it means everything to Willie. To be the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history and not have the Gold Cup on your CV is not ideal, and it’s great that he has that now.
Of the week as a whole, I thought there was some great races and great winners. Espoir D’Allen in the Champion Hurdle for Mark Walsh and Gavin Cromwell was brilliant.
And Mark won the Ballymore Novice Hurdle on City Island, who I thought was very impressive. And Paul Nicholls’ Topofthegame could be one to take on Al Boum Photo next year.
Altior showed real guts because the race wasn’t run to suit him and yet he still managed to pull it out of the fire. I thought Paisley Park was one horse you’d love to own. His performance in the Stayers’ Hurdle was outstanding.
Bryony Frost was great on Frodon and I thought Derek O’Connor gave Any Second Now a super ride to win the Kim Muir for Dad, which was a highlight for me.
And I thought Jamie Codd was very good in the four-miler. But I thought the BHA were so far out of line it’s not funny by banning Declan Lavery for his ride on third-placed Jerrysback. How they banned him was beyond me and that was one of the low points of the week. I thought the criticism they got from Sir Anthony McCoy was fully justified and I think racing needs to unite to save itself from the BHA.
Looking to this weekend’s action, we unleash Carefully Selected on the soft ground tomorrow at Limerick and he will be hard to beat in the maiden hurdle.
My only ride of the weekend is on Robin De Carlow, who has an each-way chance in the Grade 3 Shannon Spray Mares’ Novice tomorrow. She is giving weight to all her rivals, but she has won over course and distance and hopefully she will go well.