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2022 Cheltenham Festival: Highlights from the biggest week in horse racing

With the dust now settled on the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, we look back at the highlights of the four days, picking out the week’s top performances from a fantastic week of horse racing.

Race of the Week

Wednesday’s Champion Chase was all set to be a duel between Shishkin and Energumene once more, but a deluge of rain saw Shishkin pulled up early on, gifting the race to Energumene and denying racing fans a clash they badly wanted.

Friday, however, saw a Gold Cup that will live long in the memory as trainer Henry de Bromhead landed a 1-2 in the big race for the second consecutive year.

2021 saw Minella Indo take victory with A Plus Tard in 2nd, but the tables were turned this time around with A Plus Tard putting in a dominant display under Rachael Blackmore to take the victory with Minella Indo runner-up.

And having become the first female jockey to win the Grand National last year, Blackmore has now become the first-ever female jockey to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and it would be no shock if it wasn’t her last.

Chaser of the Week

Galopin Des Champs may still be a novice chaser and may have failed to win, but he looks like a horse destined for the top.

Up until the final fence in the Turners Novices’ Chase, he was in complete control – grinding the highly-rated Bob Olinger into submission before slipping on landing and ejecting jockey Paul Townend out the side door.

It had been a dominant display and was one of the week’s wow moments, and Galopin Des Champs is already as low as 5/1 for next year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup – a measure of how impressive he was.

Hurdler of the Week

Honeysuckle arrived at Cheltenham on Tuesday looking to defend her Champion Hurdle crown and her unbeaten record, and she delivered once more – storming clear under Rachael Blackmore to make it a perfect 15 from 15.

It was her 10th Grade 1 success in a row, and connections will now have one eye on Altior’s record of 19 races unbeaten.

She’ll now head to Punchestown, where there could be a clash with the new kid on the block – Constitution Hill, who destroyed the field in the Supreme Novices’, the opening race of this year’s Cheltenham Festival.

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Jockey of the Week

Paul Townend may have had a disappointing start to the Cheltenham Festival, failing to ride a single winner on Tuesday, but he was all smiles come Friday afternoon, having bagged himself five winning rides.

Sir Gerhard was far too good for the field in the Ballymore on Wednesday, and Townend quickly followed that up with Champions Chase success aboard Energumene.

Thursday saw him partner Allaho to Ryanair success in one of the most impressive wins of the week, and Friday saw him ride a double in the first two races on Vauban and State Man for trainer Willie Mullins.

 

Those five winners took Townend’s Cheltenham winners tally to 23 and also saw him named leading jockey at the Festival for the second time.

 

Trainer of the Week

Having saddled 10 winners to success at this year’s Festival, it was a no-contest when deciding who trainer of the week was – Willie Mullins.

Mullins has now won more races at the Cheltenham Festival than any other trainer in history, and his tally of 10 race wins this year, was the same number as UK trained horses won combined.

A stunning five-timer on Friday capped off a week to remember for the Closutton trainer, and you can be sure there will be plenty more Cheltenham Festival winners to come.

Ride of the Week

There were some fantastic rides over the four days but Danny Mullins partnering Flooring Porter to another Stayers’ Hurdle success takes some beating.

He dictated the race from the start and at the top of the hill as they headed for home , he stacked them up in behind before kicking off the home turn to seal victory with a perfectly timed front-running performance.

 

Mullins was in such control he even had time to check the big screen twice coming up the hill to see what was going on behind, and he had the instinct to correct Flooring Porter’s tendency to hang left as they went over the last flight.

Absolute mastery!

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