March 14 – Cheltenham – Marine Nationale – 77

Inevitably, the action at Prestbury Park during the four days of the festival dominate this column this week and we kicked off with what turned out to be an above-average Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. A race that had so many questions to answer beforehand, ended up being run at an extremely strong pace and it suited Barry Connell’s gelding who stalked Facile Vega off the home turn before being delivered with a devastating final kick. Clocking one of the best time figures we’ve ever collated for the curtain raiser in recent times, the son of French Navy has to go down as a horse with a huge amount of talent and considering the ground may not have been 100% to his liking, there is every chance of even more to come under quicker conditions. Where he goes from here remains to be seen, but either way, he looks to have a bright future whichever route connections decide.

March 14 – Cheltenham – Corach Rambler – 76

Looking back over the four days and there were quite a few horses who put their prospects of Aintree glory in the shop window, none more so than Corach Rambler in the Ultima Chase. Bidding for a repeat of last year’s win, Lucinda Russell’s inmate was ridden in typically confident fashion by his regular pilot Derek Fox and having taken the brave man’s route around the inside for the entire journey, they came through strongly at the business end to pull off a famous double.

First impressions would be to say he’d had a hard race, but when you consider it was only his third start of the campaign, and his first since November, it’s probably wiser to take the approach he might actually come on for the run. Whichever side of the fence you sit, there’s no denying the obvious claims the son of Jeremy holds heading into his toughest examination of his career and with his solid jumping being the biggest part of his game, he has every attribute in the book to succeed.

March 15 – Cheltenham – The Real Whacker – 78

Billed as a race that would see Gerri Colombe propel himself forward as a potential superstar, ended up going the way of a horse who was consistently underestimated in the build up to the Festival. Setting off in his usual front-running fashion, Patrick Neville’s gelding soon got into a lovely rhythm and it was clear from halfway, he was in no mood to relinquish his advantage without a fight. Really good over the last three fences when he needed to be at his best, the son of Mahler had to find plenty for pressure on the run-in as his main market rival threw down a late challenge. Answering every call, the seven-year-old found the necessary reserves to hold on by the narrowest of margins and even though many felt the runner-up was given an ill-judged ride, at the same time it was hard to begrudge the winner his moment of glory. Because of his sound technique, The Real Whacker will always be a threat at Grade 1 level and he should continue to have say in plenty of big races next season.

March 15 – Cheltenham – Impaire Et Passe – 73

There were much better overall times during the four days such as Constitution Hill (78), Envoi Allen (75) and Sire Du Berlais (75), but we feel as though this fella deserves to be flagged up because he has the most potential of all the winners at Cheltenham to go to great things next season. Hyped up to the hilt in the build up to the race, he was actually very weak in the market just before the off, but that didn’t prevent him from putting in one of the performances of the festival in terms of pure class. The way Willie Mullins’ gelding went through the contest before putting matters to bed with a decisive turn of foot marked him down as a seriously good horse and with all the right’ horses well beaten off in behind, the form looks solid. Which route he will go down next remain to be seen, but should connections drop the son of Diamond Boy back down in trip as they intimated in the post-race chat, he could end up being the only horse capable of giving Constitution Hill a race in the Champion Hurdle division.

March 17 – Cheltenham – Galopin Des Champs – 85

A Gold Cup that had so many different permutations beforehand, ended up going the way of the one potential superstar of the 13-strong field and as the post-race time figure revealed, his performance was right up there with some of the best we’ve witnessed for quite some time. As predicted, Ahoy Senor made sure the gallop was strong right from the start and it soon had many of the field at full stretch. Put to sleep towards the rear of the pack, the son of Timos kept his powder dry until being unleashed off the home turn and then once joining Bravemansgame at the last, he powered his way up the hill to a brilliant seven-length success. With the rest of the runners strung out like washing or pulled up, this was a Gold Cup that demanded everything of a three-mile chaser at the highest level, so to win it in the way he did, marked the seven-year-old down as one of the true greats. Young enough to come back for many years to come, let’s hope the wheels can be kept on this phenomenal talent as he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Kauto Star, Al Boum Photo and Best Mate.