Ante-Post Armchair: Five takeaways from the 2022 Cheltenham Festival

1) Magnificent Mullins

All the records shattered as Willie Mullins trained 10 Cheltenham Festival winners. The maestro keeps on raising the bar, in a week to remember. He notched the same number as the whole of the British trainers combined. Could easily have been 11 – Galopin Des Champs was unlucky to slip and give away the Turners Chase. Allaho was at his destructive best in the Ryanair Chase, Energumene galloped through the mud to land the Champion Chase, as did Facile Vega in the Champion Bumper. Vauban looked electric in the Triumph Hurdle, and State Man was a handicap snip in the County. Sir Gerhard was one horse who oozed class in hock deep conditions in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. He jumped with pinpoint accuracy in the hands of Paul Townend, and despite being keen through the early part of the race, had plenty in the tank when it mattered as he powered up the Cheltenham Hill. The vibes coming out of the yard are that he could be staying over hurdles for next season, and if so, he will be a fascinating individual who could easily thrust himself forwards as a serious Champion Hurdle candidate.

2) Colossal Constitution

Undoubtedly the most breathtaking performance of the week came in the form of Constitution Hill for the combination of Nicky Henderson and Nico De Boinville. The five-year-old smashed up the opposition by 22 lengths, and in the process the course record went up in smoke too. It was a breathtaking display as he jumped and travelled with menace before sauntering up the Cheltenham Hill in his own time. Seldom do you see any race at the Festival won in that fashion; let alone the Supreme. Constitution Hill proved he could do it on a quicker surface and has the tools to be Racing’s next superstar. Owner Michael Buckley has suggested that he would be up for taking on Honeysuckle at some point in the near future, and that meeting could take place at the Punchestown Festival. What a contest that would be!

3) Home Team Handicappers

There were some heartwarming stories over the four days, especially in some of the ‘lesser’ races of the week. Ben Pauling deserves a pat on the back for getting Global Citizen back to his best to land an attritional Grand Annual, with a wonderful front-running ride in the hands of Kielan Woods. He jumped his rivals ragged in a real display of guts. Evan Williams was holding back the tears as the 11-year-old Coole Cody produced a remarkable display to land the Plate. Racing off a 2lb higher mark than his December Gold Cup Win, it was some performance in the circumstances, as he looked beaten, and then rallied to storm clear by over six lengths.

4) Fantastic Venetia

L’Homme Presse jumped immaculately to land the Brown Advisory, and now gives connections all sorts excitement for next season, as connections have indicated that his next campaign will be geared with the Gold Cup in mind. Chambard and Didero Vallis provided a 1st and 3rd in the Kim Muir, and Funambule Silvola came runner up in the Champion Chase. There were other horses that ran with plenty of zest for the Herefordshire handler in one of her best Cheltenham Festivals for years. With many of her string still without many miles on the clock, undoubtedly there is lots to look forward to.

5) Rachael!

It was another great week for Rachael Blackmore. The roar when Honeysuckle made it back to back wins in the Champion Hurdle was something else; as the special mare kept her unbeaten record intact – an unblemished 15 from 15. It was a great start to the week for Blackmore, who bookended the Cheltenham Festival with a dominant display on A Plus Tard, as the duo annihilated the Gold Cup field to win by 15 lengths. That was some performance, and all being well, Rachael, and those star horses will be back again in 12 months time for more glory. Not long now!