Nicky Henderson has trained 60 Cheltenham Festival Winners, Racing Post 21st February 2018. 'You always say you'd settle for one and what you do settle for is a winner on day one. Its amazing what it does if you can get any winner on the first day.'
Patrick Mullins Tuesday March 14th 2018 - 'For us to enjoy a hat trick on day one is fantastic - it just takes the pressure off the rest of the week.'
One Festival winner means well... Davy Russell - Racing Post March 2016. 'When you ride winners at Cheltenham it changes the look on everything really and changes the way people see you for a while. It means a huge amount.' Discussing the win on Mall Dini in the Pertemps, he says without hesitation, 'Ah yeah, it (Diamond King) would have helped, and I probably rode better on the Thursday because of it. That's the beauty of Cheltenham, when you ride a winner its a weight lifted.' Some months after the 2014 Festival Davy Russell was interviewed in the RP Supplement and said that without the win on Tiger Roll in the Triumph he would never have ridden Lord Windermere as he did in the GC passing seven horse from the bottom of the hill to the winning post. He would 'have come there at the top of the hill, taken the lead early, finished 5th or 6th and everyone would have said what a great guy I was'.
In the film 'Being AP' they had a camera in the jockeys room on lunchtime on Champion Hurdle day for AP's last Festival. All jockeys including B Geraghty were just sitting there, no noise, no chat, just silence. Ruby talks over the pictures. He says something like 'The thing you notice about the jockeys at the Festival is the level of disappointment. So many jockeys in tears, sitting with their heads in their hands.' Remember Daryl Jacob's disappointment in 2014 after being caught on the line in the Pertemps by Fingal Bay? John Gosden - Racing Post 19th July 2015 - 'A horse will always sense an edgy atmosphere, someone who is nervous or a nervous jockey.'
Humour me. The youtube link below will take you to the 1986 Triumph Hurdle won by Solar Cloud. Robin and I were there, our second year, dressed in best suits as we were in awe of the place then. Still are. It looks completely different. Before 1986 you knew not to back anything trained by Josh Gifford or David Nicholson ''cos they can't train Festival winners.' Then they got one... Sir Peter catches the importance of it all. Also another chance to watch Dermot Browne yet again get caught out of his ground, this time on Brunico. Stop it, Bryan.
So just how happy/relieved/de-stressed are jockeys and trainers when they win that first one? Paul Townend had a losing run of 34 before Annie Power crumbled at the last in the 2015 Mares allowing Paul the chance to win on Glens Melody. He immediately followed up on Irish Cavalier and jogged round on Wicklow Brave later in the week. 4 timer in Limerick that Sunday. In 2017, his losing run was back up to 23, then he rides the top weight to win the County Hurdle. Seems to like that race. And what does Paul Townend do when he rides a Festival winner? He immediately rides another one. Penhill in the Albert Bartlett. 2018 Penhill followed by Laurina (long odds admittedly). Davy Russell (again) won on five successive Festival rides between 2014 and 2015, the last being Rivage D'Or in the cross country. That horse was a real stats crusher and hadn't gone a yard in the two races previous or in any race it ran since. 'Going easily 2 out, led last, ridden out.' Wins by 2 and 1/4 lengths. Davy's confidence that day can't have been a hindrance.
In 2015 Sam Twiston Davies was on a Festival losing run of 28 before Aux Ptit Soins in the Coral Cup. Relief? Self Confidence? 30 minutes later he was on Dodging Bullets and winning the Queen Mother. P Nicholls stable then on fire. 1-2 in Fred Winter. STD does have previous for this type of streak behaviour. He is currently on a Festival losing run of 29. If he strikes early in March 2019, look for his next rides.
2016 Well, to include Ruby, Min didn't fire but Douvan did in the Arkle. Weight lifted from shoulders? David Casey helped him onto Annie Power, saying 'don't look back'. He didn't.
The Twiston-Davies family. On the 2016 Wednesday Ryan Hatch got Blaklion up for Nigel in the RSA. STD got lucky in the 4yr old h'cap hurdle and then the Twiston-Davies family got together for the bumper. Sam seems a lovely lad who can be very hard on himself when things go wrong. But he seems to be a streak jockey when things go right. On the Friday Paul Nichols wins the Martin Pipe which meant that Paul, Graham Wylie and STD each had now two winners for the week. Then all three came together with Solar Impulse in the Grand Annual, pulled up last time out, was never out of the first two here, could be called the winner half a mile from home. 40s to 28s very quickly. Of the three people involved, people tell me that owners don't have any influence. Perhaps, at least you could say that the horse wouldn't have noticed any edginess or nerves from Mr Wylie. Gigginstown 4 timer Gold Cup Day 2014? Perhaps they just have the best horses.
Compare Davy Russell's view with Aidan Coleman interviewed January 22nd 2017 Racing Post Supplement. Aidan - 'I've never been disappointed, because the week has always gone as I'd expected it to go. I want to do better, I need to do better because it doesn't look great but it is what it is. I don't lose any sleep over it.' Hopefully its a brave face you were putting on but I don't see much of the Being AP hunger there, Aidan.
2017 Rollercoaster - Altior wins Arkle for Nicky, does that make everyone chilled that the Big One has obliged? I'm sure it but it didn't hold back Buveur D'Air nor Might Bite. G Elliott finishes with a first day treble, Labaik and Apples Jade can only have helped Lisa O'Neill's confidence as she got the leg up on Tiger Roll. After Tiger Roll, I was standing near the walkway at the bottom of the parade ring near that huge double sided big screen. Gordon Elliott went past, beaming smiles, couldn't say enough thank yous. I can't remember when I have seen a happier person. Another back to back stable double Wednesday with JJ Codd on Cause Of Causes and Fayonagh.
Supasundae gentle strolls to Coral Cup glory. Harrington stable in form. After Sizing John Robbie Power on Rock The World Grand Annual said he 'just floated around'.
But the big momentum winner in 2017 was W Mullins. Douvan didn't fire and although the horses hadn't run badly, no winners by Wednesday tea time. Gordon had five by that stage and people were saying that Willie 'had gone at the game'. Well, no. The Willie Mullins 2017 Thursday saw him saddle four winners in the first five races, including the three G1s. Then on Friday he made in 6 wins in 9 races with the Paul Townend. I personally think that Yorkhill was the most important of these. Don't tell me that once he obliged, the whole Closutton organisation didn't let out a huge sigh of relief and everybody relaxed a little. I'm sure Ruby relaxed as well. 'We're on the board
Lets look at 2018 - Day 1 - W Mullins treble, Footpad the shorty, calms everything. Benie Des Dieux overturns Apples Jade, everyone happy then Patrick comes off the Festival Jockey Cold List with Rathvinden. I'm sure all slept well.
Day 2 - Go back to the picture I have on the Ballymore. Apples Jade didn't fire for G Elliott, his next best chance for the week is Samcro 8/11. Concerned? Enjoying the race? Relief. Then Tiger Roll, Veneer of Charm. Treble in six races. (Gordon thinks, I do know what I'm doing). Willie, now chilled, kicks on with Bleu Berry and a 1-2-3 in the Bumper.
Day 3 - Willie has a double, Gordon wins three of the first five races. Laurina in the Mares Novice gives Willie his 61st winner and gives him the all time lead over Nicky Henderson. Gordon wins the Ryanair for his boss, overturning Willie's Un De Sceaux at the same time. Its an easy game. Gordon can't remember the Ballymore.
Day 4 - Doubles for Elliott, Tizzard and Nicholls. I'm sure the GC parade ring was a happy place for Native River after Kilbricken Storm ploughed home in the Albert Bartlett. (Never struck me to back Native until after the GC, of course. I believed the Timeform stat, you stupid man) The Tizzards had just come off a losing Festival run of 42. Nicholls was 18 before the wonderful Pacha. Relief, joy? I think so.
Big Question. This is the Olympics. Can this relief, joy, momentum pass on to the next runner from the trainer, jockey, groom. owner? Or am I just being silly? Don't know. Will continue to consider it though
Apart from Aidan Coleman this Festival is so important to these people. Now, for betting purposes. Check if the winning jockey/stable has a horse under 20/1 for the rest of the day. Be prepared to change tack. As Punters, TV, Gurus continually set these races up as stand alone events. I'm not sure that's always the case.
To finish, Momentum On A Big Scale. Racing Post Sunday 17th February 2019. Paul Nicholls on the 1999 Festival. 'That's when it all began for me' he enthuses, 'I won the Arkle with Flagship Uberalles on the Tuesday, Call Equiname on the second and See More Business won the Gold Cup on the third, and having never trained a festival winner, that was some three days and really got the ball rolling for me. On the wall at home I've got a picture of those three horses' heads and I always say to people they're the ones who started it all. They were good days.
Barry Geraghty's only win in 2016 was on Ivanovich Gorbatov in the Triumph first race Friday. As he circled at the top of the hill after his success, Alice, the C4 lady, sticks the mike under his nose and asks, 'Where have you been all week Barry, I've been looking for you?' At that time the man had 34 Festival successes and a winner every year from 2002 to 2015 but it might be true to say that momentum was not the thing working for Barry in 2016. My Tent or Yours (a good second) was practically his only exercise on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he suffered on beaten favourites. Campeador might have got things rolling in the Fred Winter, but no. I'm sure he had a great seat to watch his old friend Sprinter Sacre, and JP's horses clean up in the amateur races. B Geraghty rarely gives much away. I'm not sure when he muttered 'Oh, I've been about.' that he was all that happy with Alice that day.
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