Why the 2017 Cheltenham Festival will be remembered as one of the best

The curtains were drawn on the 2017 Cheltenham Festival last Friday, after over 200,000 people from the United Kingdom and worldwide descended on the town in Gloucestershire for the biggest week in the jump racing calendar.

Thistlecrack, Annie Power and Faugheen were notable absentees ahead of the Festival, which caused concern amongst punters that this year’s edition would not replicate previous memorable ones.

But, in the end, Cheltenham 2017 will be remembered as one of the best Festivals to date. Here are some reasons why:

The shocks

This year’s Cheltenham Festival was one of the most unpredictable yet, with a major shock taking place in the first race on day one.

17-year-old Jack Kennedy showed an old head on young shoulders, riding a tricky 25/1 outsider Laiback to victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ahead of favourites Melon and Ballayandy.

This trend continued on day two, when Douvan’s unbeaten record came to an end at the hands of Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. It was later revealed that Willie Mullins’ horse had a problem, but it still remained as one of the biggest upsets of the Festival with many punters viewing Douvan as the banker of the week.

One punter lost £500,000 after placing a bet on Douvan
One punter lost £500,000 after placing a bet on Douvan.

To add to all this, one of the most dramatic outcomes to a race ever seen at Cheltenham took place when Mite Bite was victorious via a photo finish, but there was a lot more to it than that.

The horse trained by Nicky Henderson was 20 lengths clear before jumping the last, where it then veered and looked more interested in stopping than completing the race.

His stablemate, Whisper, capitalised and closed Mite Bite down rapidly, but the horse remarkably straightened up and pushed hard towards the line.

It went to a photo finish, to the delight of punters, where Mite Bite was announced the winner in what was remembered as the most dramatic race at the 2017 Festival.

Irish Storm on St Patrick’s Day

Punters were questioning how trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh had not secured a winner on day one or two after their dominance at previous Festivals.

This trend ended on day three, however, as the Irish duo secured a memorable four-timer on St Patrick’s Thursday.

Yorkhill, Un De Sceaux, Nichols Canyon and Let’s Dance were all victorious for the Mullins-Walsh combination, which helped secure a 19-9 victory in the BetBright Cup over Great Britain after successful Festivals for fellow Irish trainers Gordon Elliott and Jessica Harrington.

Missing horses did not overshadow the Festival

Although the absentees would have added to the talent on show at Cheltenham 2017, it did not overshadow the proceedings throughout the week.

If anything, it helped contribute to revealing new jump racing talent, whilst adding excitement and unpredictability to the majority of races.

Buveur D’air and Defi du Seuil shone as stars with wins at the Festival, whilst Sizing John overcame doubts to win a first Gold Cup for trainer Jessica Harrington.

Sizing John was the first horse trainer Jessica Harrington had ever entered into the Gold Cup race.

These were just a few notable highlights from a brilliant week of racing.

Year on year, Cheltenham continues to produce fantastic sporting moments and a fantastic occasion, which is why it is slowly cementing its place as one of the most popular annual events in the United Kingdom.

Many entered Cheltenham with the view of what could have been with so many injuries to high-profile horses. However, in the end, we missed them, but did not miss them enough.

The 2017 Festival will be remembered as one of the best.

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