by Dave Metcalf
Dave has over 30 years’ experience in the media industry having worked for regional and national newspapers. He is a huge horse racing and football fan and has done interviews on various radio and TV stations, including talkSPORT and Sky Sports, whilst working as a PR front man for a betting firm. David has also written for At The Races, Coral News, the Daily Mirror and Racing Plus newspaper. He produced a Cheltenham Festival guide with former eight-times champion national hunt jockey Peter Scudamore, MBE, after helping him to set up a syndicate for his trainer son Michael.
Espoir D’Allen Springs 16/1 Shock in Champion Hurdle
Espoir D’Allen ran out a shock 16/1 winner of the feature race on the opening day of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle, after dual reigning champ Buveur D’air crashed out early doors.
Trained in Ireland by Gavin Cromwell, the JP McManus owned five-year-old travelled well throughout and shot clear rounding the home turn. He then produced a superb leap at the last to register an empathic 15 length success under Mark Walsh who was registering only his second success at the meeting overall.
The Willie Mullins-trained Melon (20/1) was back in second with a neck back to 80/1 shot Silver Streak, trained by Evan Williams in third.
In a dramatic race, favourite Apple’s Jade (7/4f) was sixth, defending champion Buveur D’Air (11/4) – who is also owned by McManus – fell at the third and the hitherto unbeaten Laurina (5/2) could only finish fourth.
Winning rider Walsh commented:
“Everything went well for me on Espoir D’Allen. When Buveur D’Air fell at the third hurdle, I luckily avoided the fall and got a lovely run through the whole way. For a five-year-old to do that against what we thought was one of the best Champion Hurdles run in the past few years, he is a right little horse. It is unbelievable.”
Espoir D’Allen is has been installed as ante post favourite for next year’s Champion Hurdle, with Betfair going 7/1.
Supreme Start for Mullins as Dream Comes True for Widow Jo
Klassical Dream ran out an impressive winner of the traditional curtain raiser at the meeting, the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. In doing so he gave his trainer Willie Mullins a record 62nd Festival success and ix in this 2m contest.
The five-year-old also fulfilled the dreams of his late owner John Coleman by providing him with a first winner at the prestigious meeting. His widow Jo travelled to the track from her home in Essex with her late husband – and not just in a spiritual sense.
John died last summer from bone marrow cancer, but his wife was keen to fulfil his wish of seeing Klassical Dream run at the meeting so she carried some of his ashes in her handbag.
It was therefore fitting that Klassical Dream (6/1) romped to a 4 1/2 length success in the hands of jockey Ruby Walsh .
Mrs Coleman said:
“I don’t know I can put into words how I feel, but it has blown our minds. It’s mind-blowing. I’ve bought some of John’s ashes with me because he said he wanted to be here, but he knew his time was limited. I wanted to make sure he got here.”
Blackmore Joins Exclusive Club of Female Winners
Rachael Blackmore became the 15th female jockey to win at the Cheltenham Festival after steering the Henry de Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard (5/1 favourite) to an easy 16 length success in the the Listed 2m 4f Close Brothers Handicap Chase.
It was her first ever success at the meeting. Blackmore, 29, is second with 84 winners in the Irish jump jockeys’ championship to Paul Townend (94) at present. She has had more rides than any other jockey in Ireland this season.
“Henry de Bromhead has put a lot of faith in me this week, considering I had never ridden a Festival winner; he’s put me up on a lot of them, including in Grade Ones, and I’m very grateful to him. It’s phenomenal. He’s been extremely good to me all year and this is a very nice horse for the future. Cheltenham has its own kind of atmosphere and pressure attached to it but Henry left it up to me and gave me very easy instructions. He was going to be able to blame me if it didn’t go right! To be honest, I was never winning with that margin in my mind. It’s fantastic to get a winner here – it’s what every jockey dreams about and I’m just so grateful to get to ride a horse like him and just steer him up the hill.”
Near Record Placepot Payout
An opening day of shocks produced the second biggest Totepool Placepot dividend of all time as one on-course customer took home a spectacular £182,567.80 for a £2 straight line bet, in which they selected only one horse in each race.
The net pool of £958,481.10 was shared by just 10.50 winning units, producing a dividend of £91,283.10, only a few hundred pounds short of the record Placepot payout.
Other on-course winners at Cheltenham included two customers who each collected £36.513.56 for a 40p share, having played in 10p unit stakes, while there were numerous 20p and 10p winners.
The selections of Tuesday’s £182,567.80 winning toteplacepot ticket holder were:
- Race 1 Klassical Dream – WON
- Race 2 Duc Des Genievres – WON
- Race 3 Beware The Bear – WON
- Race 4 Melon – 2nd
- Race 5 Stormy Ireland – 2nd
- Race 6 A Plus Tard – WON