Colm Greaves takes a look at the fourth day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Did they run in the wrong races?
In a week of extraordinary performances, most of them nourished in County Carlow, none was more visually impressive than Vatour winning the JLT chase yesterday.
Of course it’s impossible to prove empirically if this was the best exhibition of novice jumping ever, so let’s just believe that it was and enjoy the warm glow. So why is there a nagging feeling of ‘what might have been?’
Mullins has won the three big novice chases this week with Un De Sceux, Vatour and Don Poli.
The equivalent Championship races were won by Dodging Bullets, Uxizandre and the Gold Cup this afternoon is not exactly star-crossed.
Ask yourself this: if Un De Sceux and Dodging Bullets raced next week who would you back? Vatour Vs Uxizandre?
If, like Coneygree, Don Poli had been rerouted from the RSA for the big one this afternoon, would you steer clear of him? Thought not!
We still don’t have a star staying hurdler
Something had to win it and it was Cole Harden that did.
It looked beforehand like a fairly average race for a World Hurdle and the outcome did little to dispel that glum impression. Hopes that one of the more unexposed challengers such as First Lieutenant or Saphir Du Rheu would stamp some greatness on proceedings proved fanciful and we had to do with a winner who went in to the race with a rating of 158 and a win record of 6 from 13. That would be about 20 lengths behind Big Bucks if you need some context.
It was a first Festival success for jockey Gavin Sheehan and trainer Warren Greatrex who was understandably thrilled. "We've just won a Grade One and beat the best, so we're here, aren't we?" said Greatrex.
Meanwhile back on the Curragh, Windsor Park nibbled his oats at Dermot Welds and thought, “Is that it? Is that all you’ve got?” Roll on next year.
Next year’s Gold Cup could be epic
It’s a long way off and it may even be slightly rude to today’s contest to even bring it up now, but the 2016 Gold Cup could be as explosive an occasion as the one that’s to be commemorated on O’Connell Street a few weeks later.
The emergence of novice chasers with the quality, class and promise of Coneygree, Don Poli and Vatour has been remarkable.
Add in young pretenders from this year such as Djakadam and Road to Riches and then a few old soldiers like Slivianico Conti and Holywell and the race next year could be a sight to behold.
Vatour and Don Poli are currently sharing favouritism at 5/1 and as they are separately owned by Ricci and Gigginstown they will surely both be targeted at the race. That’s the thing about this blasted festival.
It always leaves you wanting more.
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