What did we really expect leaving Cheltenham last year? When we looked at all the results, how did we think, 12 months down the line, those winners would fair back at the Festival?
Leaving the handicaps aside, we will start at the beginning and look through them all.
When Klassical Dream won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, I felt he could win this year’s Arkle and Willie Mullins thought he could be a Champion Hurdle horse. Unfortunately, he picked up an injury and neither of us will be proved right.
Then Duc Des Genievres scooted home in the Arkle, but I felt he was a lucky winner. There had been injuries through the season to some of the leading fancies and some of the shorter ones in the betting on the day fell. Duc hasn’t really enhanced his reputation since, in fact he has failed to win this season.
Espoir D’allen was a brilliant winner of the Champion Hurdle and the future looked his, but sadly he had a life-ending injury last October. Roksana, to my despair, was a lucky winner of the Mares’ Hurdle and, whilst she is a good mare, let’s be honest, she is going to need to be as lucky again this year to retain her crown.
Le Breuil was a game winner of the National Hunt Chase but looked more of a Grand National horse than a Festival horse and that looks like his target.
City Island won the Ballymore and looked a star in doing so, but his chasing campaign has not gone to plan, and he looks like being switched back to the Stayers Hurdle now. It is hard to believe he has not won a race since. Topofthegame beat Gold Cup contenders Santini and Delta Work in the RSA but injury has ruled him out as well.
Of course, Altior won the Champion Chase and, even if it looked workmanlike on the day, he is still going to be the horse to beat this year. The most informative race from last year could turn out to be the Champion Bumper.
Envoi Allen beat Blue Sari, who is unlikely to run this year, with Thyme Hill in third and Abacadabras in fourth. It is possible those three of the first four could contest different novice hurdles this year and all three could collect.
Thursday saw Defi De Seuil win the JLT Novice Chase and I thought he had put himself into the 2020 Gold Cup picture. However, connections saw it differently and he is now a live Champion Chase runner.
Frodon got a canny ride to win the Ryanair Chase and I thought then and think now he will struggle to win it again. Paisley Park announced himself as potentially the next great staying hurdler and, so far this year, has done nothing but enhance his reputation. I thought after last year’s race he looked nailed on for a repeat bid and I still firmly believe that to be the case.
Tiger Roll strolled home in the Cross Country Chase, and it looked obvious to anybody who watched him that a repeat win only required him to turn up fit and well in 2020.
Eglantine De Seuil was a surprise winner of the Mares’ Novice Hurdle and nobody could read or foresee how that race would work out. Looking back now it appears that a couple of fillies that finished down the field - Epatante and maybe Elfile - are the ones most likely to make an impression at this year’s Festival.
Pentland Hills was a decent winner of the Triumph Hurdle but who can tell how four-year-old form will work out? I am not certain it has worked out that well.
Minella Indo collected the Albert Bartlett and looked a star in the making, which we might get to see in this year’s RSA Chase.
Al Boum Photo gave Willie Mullins a first Gold Cup victory but repeat winners of the Gold Cup are a rarity.
As the season has progressed it is has begun to look more likely that Al Boum could retain his crown, but my impressions last March were that he may struggle. Time will tell.
Finally, I have never pretended to be expert on Hunter Chase form and being honest don’t even recall last year’s Foxhunters Chase.
Maybe I’ll find this one more memorable.