It was the end of an era at 4.20pm as dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll bowed out of racing in the Cross Country. This was a race he had won three times, among his five festival victories and he was carried out on his sword as he was reeled in in the closing stages by his stablemate Delta Work.
Delta Work was landing quite a gable, returning the 5/2 favourite having been 6/1 in the morning, but the 12yo lost nothing in defeat and came out the moral winner having travelled like the winner all the way until the final 100 yards.
He leaves the sport the winner of 13 of his 45 races, amassing almost £1.5m in prize money. Happy retirement Tiger.
Meanwhile, the rematch that promised so much in the Champion Chase proved to be a damp squib. Literally.
However, try telling that to fans who backed Energumene who to be fair, if Shishkin hadn’t been pulled up early having not travelled a yard and some sketchy leaps, would have needed to be right on his A-game to see off his Clarence House victim. Tactics were interesting form an early stage as Paul Townend tracked his January conqueror in the early stages, but it soon became apparent Shishkin was struggling and he never even reached the halfway point before Nico De Boinville pulled up stumps.
Nicky Henderson later blamed the ground for the effort, and he could reappear at Aintree if nothing comes to light.
We can’t take anything away from the winner though. It was a bold move from Paul Townend to change tactics from front running to track Shishkin and then manoeuvre his mount out wide when the favourite floundered. He also saw another danger, stablemate Chacun Pour Soi, depart soon after and it was a matter of when Townend pressed the button to scoot up the hill and score as he liked.
It was Willie Mullins 81st Cheltenham success but his first Queen Mother Champion Chase. Energumene is 5/2 to give him a second next year with Shishkin available at 6/1.
Hopefully the pair are sound and well, and we will see them continue to meet on the greatest stages.
It was the final race of 2020 winner Politilogue who retires after his 31st start after amassing over £1m. I wish him a happy retirement.
The big talking point of the day ahead of racing was the ground. The heavens opened at around 10am and persistent rain up until the opener turned the ground to soft all over.
We were treated to a stylish performance in the opener as favourite backers got off to the perfect start again courtesy of Sir Gerhard. It looked hard work in the rain softened ground, but he travelled powerfully and had matters safely in hand when Journey With Me came to grief at the last. It was left to his old adversary, Three Stripe Life to chase him to the line but was always coming off second best.
The winner has plenty of options and is quoted at 8/1 to follow the route of the great Istabraq, hardy Eustace and Faugheen to win the Ballymore and drop back in trip to land the following years Champion Hurdle.
Forty minutes later, the Brown Advisory field jumped off without long time favourite Bravemansgame, who was pulled out by trainer Paul Nicholls on account of the ground 20 minutes before post time. It left L’Homme Presse to put in a super jumping performance and give trainer Venetia Williams and jockey Charlie Deutsch their first Grade 1 Cheltenham festival success on his first start over three miles. He jumped from fence to fence and surged away up the hill, chased by Ahoy Senor who ran a gallant race considering he was nowhere near as efficient over his obstacles.
The winner is quoted at 10/1 to head back to next year’s Festival and land the biggest prize of them all, the Gold Cup.
By the time we got to the Coral Cup at 2.50pm, the jockeys were mud splattered and it was hard to tell who was who as they turned into he straight. That contest went to 50/1 shot Commander of Fleet, trained by Gordon Elliott.
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