Looking back at the Cheltenham Festival on Monday morning I have to say that my feeling on a personal level is tinged with disappointment. Cheltenham is all about winners and I came close a few times including finishing second with Sub Lieutenant and Monalee but as they say; “that’s racing.”
The Cheltenham Festival is like nothing else I have experienced as a jockey and it’s different to any other racing festival too. It’s not uncommon for a jockey to ride competitively for seven or eight days in a row and if it was me, I wouldn’t feel particularly tired for doing so. Cheltenham is different. From the moment you wake up to exercise the horses staying at the racecourse to the moment you go to bed, the whole day is fuelled by expectation and adrenaline. I felt tip top all week as part of this routine but as soon as it ended it all felt quite draining. Having said that, racing doesn’t wait for anyone and having returned from Cheltenham empty handed I was pleased that God decided to give me a winner at Limerick on Saturday!
On reflection, there are a few key highlights and surprises to take out of the festival. For me, Monalee’s performance in the Albert Bartlett on Friday was outstanding and a personal highlight. As any readers of this blog will know, I had been looking forward to him running for some time. He finished second to Penhill but his future lies over fences and there’s no doubt in my mind that he will make into the best chaser from that race. Brain Power marked a disappointment in the week for many people. He ran too free and didn’t get home. I think the plan is to go to Punchestown now and taking our time in the race will be crucial for him.
Looking back to what surprised me the most, I know I wouldn’t be alone in thinking of Willie Mullins. To see Willie absent from the score sheet at the end of day two was not something the racing world is used to! The way that Willie handled that pressure was the most impressive performance of the week and Robbie McNamara’s tweet on Thursday evening summed up the atmosphere surroundings Willie’s performance.
“Yesterday Willie Mullins' yard had a "virus" and his gallops needed to be changed. Glad to see they got it sorted so quick.”
The best news to come out of the biggest week in National Hunt racing however, was to hear that Mark Walsh is ok after his horror fall from Consul De Thaix. Mark had some exciting rides lined up for the week but I was thrilled to hear he will be fit to fight another day after watching the race back and realising the extent of his fall.
Cheltenham is always a rollercoaster whoever you are and whatever your involvement. It’s good to be back to normality and it’s time to look forward.