I must admit, there aren’t four days that I look forward to more than the four days of the Cheltenham Festival. Yes, Liverpool’s extraordinary comeback against Borussia Dortmund at Anfield in 2016, or seeing England win the Ashes in 2005, were incredible days to be at, but as an event, I don’t think much compares to Cheltenham. Granted, horse racing isn’t for everyone, but for the racing fans like myself, it’s a truly brilliant 96 hours of sport.
They call it the Olympics of horse racing and given its importance for several of our clients, Square in the Air was out in force at Prestbury Park.
Will Hill Racing accrued over 1.25m impressions across the four days with videos posted on the channel viewed just shy of 85,000 times. Coverage for our clients was seen across online, print and broadcast media.
Here’s a bit more on what we got up to while in the Cotswolds.
Tuesday – the curtain-raiser and what a day it was. With fans back for the first time since 2020, the traditional Cheltenham roar to send off the field for the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was perhaps the loudest in recent memory. We were greeted to a superb winner too, as Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill bolted up to win by 22 lengths to the joy of thousands of punters and fans alike.
While he was greeted with joy and adoration, perhaps the biggest reception came in the opening day feature, the Champion Hurdle, where the remarkable duo of Honeysuckle and Rachael Blackmore came home in front yet again. It was the outstanding mare’s 15th win in a row and her second Champion Hurdle. It was yet another feather in the cap of Rachael Blackmore, who continues to rewrite the record books in every shape and form.
In terms of our work, we were busy beavering away behind the scenes from both a social and public relations perspective. While covering the action on Twitter and Instagram, we were also providing industry media with latest prices on the key horses, as well as updating the wider contingent with how the bookies were faring in comparison with the punters after day one.
While Cheltenham was basked in sunshine on Tuesday, it was a totally different story on Wednesday. Sunglasses were replaced by umbrellas as the heavens opened and Prestbury Park was subjected to a deluge of precipitation. While the shelter of the media centre offered some respite from the awful weather, the action on the track was still of the highest quality with Sir Gerhard (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle), L’Homme Presse (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase) and Energumene (Champion Chase) all impressing.
Having backed the last two, I wasn’t in quite such a miserable mood as some of the hardy folk were, who were stuck in the grandstands getting drenched…
This isn’t a tipping blog by any means, so ignore this next part if you’re not inclined, but L’Homme Presse will win next year’s Gold Cup. You heard it here first!
In terms of the weather, Wednesday seemed to be a blip as the sun very much had his hat on again on Thursday. Having been going to Cheltenham since I can remember, I’ve never seen as many people as there were on Thursday; my estimates were correct as a record crowd was confirmed as being in attendance.
The day began with what was set to be one of the performances of the week, as Willie Mullins’ precocious Galopin Des Champs shot clear to seemingly have the Turners Novices’ Chase at his mercy… before a hugely unfortunate stumble at the final flight left Bob Olinger and Blackmore to pick up the pieces. Having backed the Mullins contender, I was obviously gutted and was even more so when the final two legs of a £20 treble came home in front. Yes, that would have returned just shy of £5k…
One of those winning selections was Flooring Porter, who, under a brilliant front-running ride from Danny Mullins, retained his Stayers’ Hurdle Crown. The scenes in the winners’ enclosure afterwards were a joy to behold as Mullins was carried on the shoulders of the winning Flooring Porter Syndicate. As cliché as it sounds, it was one of those moments you really will remember for years to come.
So on to the finale and as most Fridays do at Cheltenham, it more than delivered. Some might have called it Willie Mullins’ Day as the first three winners were all trained by the Irish trainer. With the first two, Vauban and State Man, being very well-backed favourites, the bookies were running for cover.
Those three races very much served as the starter for the main course, though. The Gold Cup is the race all jockeys, trainers and owners who are involved in jump racing want to win and given its importance, it’s a race that never fails to deliver a brilliant winning tale. And, yes, this year’s might just surpass the lot.
As mentioned, Rachael Blackmore has, over the past 12 months, repeatedly rewritten the history books, and on Friday she did it again. No female jockey had ever ridden the winner of the Gold Cup, but Blackmore, in just less than seven minutes, made sure that was a distant memory. The Irish jockey aboard favourite A Plus Tard stalked the leaders before unleashing a deadly turn of foot to rout the field by 15 widening lengths.
And I know I’ve said this already, but the reception she and the horse received as they returned to the winners’ enclosure truly took the proverbial roof off. Blackmore is about as humble as they come and whenever she is interviewed, she seems to gain another army of followers. But whatever way you look at it, this woman is an exceptional jockey and it would take a brave man or woman to bet that we won’t see her crowned a Gold Cup-winning jockey many times during a career which is going to be nothing short of remarkable.
A Plus Tard was another very well-fancied favourite, which was bad news for the bookies – us at SITA were quick to push out to media – with several leading national publications reporting in the hours after.
So, there we have it. Cheltenham done for another year and as I always say, thank you Cheltenham, thank you very much.