The Cheltenham Festival has come around again with the seven races on Day One providing storylines and drama throughout.
16.10 MARES HURDLE WINNER: HONEYSUCKLE
The hero of the hour sticks it to the critics that said she was past it. A race of pure tactics, the field stayed compact for most of the running, but when Love Envoi attempted to break through, only a true champion horse could pull back the deficit.
Jumping over the final fence tailgating Love Envoi, it looked as the race was run as the gap turned to a length, but the sheer class of a four time Cheltenham winner, ridden by Rachel Blackmoore, the duo will be eched in history for their all conquering career, that led to 18 wins from 20.
A clearly emotional Blackmoore was struggled to get her words out in the winners enclosure, she told “The way Henry has produced her every day is just phenomenal. As a jockey, I am just so grateful”
The sport says thank you and goodbye to a great, with Henry de Bromhead not even daring to joke about the retirement of the great filly.
Read all the quotes from Honeysuckle’s farewell race here
15.30 CHAMPION HURDLE WINNER: CONSTITUTION HILL
A forgone conclusion when the runners were announced. This machine of a horse is simple one of the best. Breezed through the field like he wasn’t even trying. Nico De Boinville was on a Sunday ride for most of the race until the run up to the last when the horse was put into gear and stormed ahead.
Now being touted as one of the best jump horses ever, it may be a little too early to say that after just six outings, but my word, Nicky Henderson has one special horse on his hands.
The brilliance of Constitution Hill almost makes State Man, the runner up look poor. Yes, they are not anywhere near the same level, but a strong ride for the Mullins trained horse.
“He’s just winged every single hurdle, it’s just a matter of when you push the button. I apologise to anyone who backed him for more than 10 lengths.”
14.50 ULTIMA HANDICAP CHASE WINNER: Corach Rambler
Back to back victories in the Ultima chase for Corach Rambler. The Scottish horse is now looking as one of the favourites for the Grand National. A horse that likes to lead from the front did not have it all his own way throughout the 24 jumps.
The tightest of victories of the three races so far. A superb run from Fastorslow pushed Derek Fox and Rambler to their limits, with an enthralling race to the finish line.
Fox, riding the victor said “Days like this is what I’ve been dreaming of since I was riding ponies at three, four years of age and my father, my grandmother and mother and my family they’ve been so supportive of me and to get a day like this.”
DYSART DYNAMO UPDATE
It is good news in terms of Dysart Dynamo. The horse ran so well in the Arkle, leading the pack before falling at the final fence. The green sheets were up on the course to give the horse some privacy, but thankfully cameras have shown the horse up and walking.
More likely just a fall out of tiredness, having travelled excellently leading both El Fabiolo and Jonbon for the entire race. Out of the big three in the race, it would not be hard to argue that he travelled the best out of them.
14.10 ARKLE NOVICES CHASE WINNER: EL FABIOLO 11/10
Romping home by at least six lengths in the end, the first of the big head to heads from Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson went the way of Mullins and El Fabiolo. Riding in third till the run up to the last fence, a three way fight that was lead by Dysart Dynamo until the final jump, who lets quickly say we hope is all okay after falling badly.
It was then a race to the line between El Fabiolo and rival Jonbon, but it was in truth never a close battle, the winner firing home by a long distance to help Mullins win the fifth Arkle in his career.
Paul Townsend told ITV “Huge engine, improving the whole time. Clumsy I suppose but he knows where his feet are at the back of the jump so you can trust him a bit. To be honest he went dead underneath me but he came alive at the right time”
13.30 SUPREME NOVICES HURDLE: WINNER: MARINE NATIONALE 9/2
A strong race from the six-year old saw them ride comfortably with the pace of the first mile and a half, but proved too strong for the chasing field. It was a fight to the final fence with fellow favourite Facile Vega, but an uncomfortable jump from the then leader opened the gate for Michael O’Sullivan to ease to chase chase down and then overtake to lead home the field in the first race of the week.
O’Sullivan was able to lead home his first Cheltenham Festival winner, and told ITVSport after the race of his joy, “Unbelievable, a massive relief, I’m just so lucky to be on this horse and for Barry O’Connell to put his faith in me and all his team at home, they work so hard and really welcome me in there. We’re having an amazing season. I don’t know if it can be topped, the horse is just incredible. I turned in there and I didn’t know what I was holding on to, but he actually won easily.”
For all the quotes from O’Sullivan and more, read here
Facile Vega came home in second after making the mistake at the last, with Diverge coming in third.