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The 2018 Cheltenham Festival featured some spellbinding performances, with Altior charging up the hill one that springs straight to mind. Few will forget Laurina’s devastating turn of foot either as she cemented herself as a possible future star mare. For all those wonderful performances though, there are horses who didn’t live up to expectations on race day. With the best of the best turning up to Prestbury Park, there can be surprise results, but we’ve picked out seven horses who we thought really should have performed better in their respective races. Looking to the future, we have antepost previews on site to view now as we draw closer to Aintree and they can be viewed now!
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A race that has been farmed by Ricci and Mullins in recent years, Getabird was sent off a warm 7/4 favourite to win the opener but ran way below form. He was lit up early when taken on for the lead by First Flow, which ultimately told as they turned for home as he slid down the field into eleventh. He’s clearly capable of much better and a return to a flatter may help him in the long run. Mengli Khan, who he brushed aside last time out, finished a close third, which boosts the form line and makes it obvious he’s not one to give up on just yet.
There was plenty of hype surrounding Saint Calvados going into the Arkle Chase after three dominant British victories, well backed on the day. Unfortunately we were never to see his true running as he and Petit Mouchoir took each-other on from an early stage, which told as Saint Calvados weakened tamely before three out and disappeared out of the picture. Petit Mouchoir managed to keep up his gallop better, but he ultimately was well beaten in third. Both horses are capable of far better and they aren’t to be given up on just yet, especially Saint Calvados who looked potentially out of the top draw earlier this season.
Although we expected Buveur D’Air to retain the Champion Hurdle, it doesn’t make Faugheen’s effort in the race any less disappointing. The best of generation, he sported cheekpieces for the first time and was well backed in the lead up to the race. There was hope in the air, but ultimately an early pace battle up front dented his chances from the outset. He was in the lead heading to two out, but the Machine started to sputter after the flight and he weakened away to be beaten twenty-two lengths. A step up in trip is being eyed by connections now and it’d be interesting to see how he fared at that distance, but it seems as though the best is past Mullins’ ten year old now.
Winner of two Grade 1 events leading up to the Festival, it seemed like a formality Apple’s Jade would go back to back in the Mares’ Hurdle after winning a much tougher renewal twelve months prior. Rated four pounds and upwards superior to the field, it was hugely disappointing to see her unable to quicken turning for home. It’s quite possible a three month break did her no favours as she did run a month prior to this race twelve months ago. Back at Punchestown in April, she should show up much better with this run under her belt.
She was touted as one of the bankers of the meeting and Apple’s Shakira was backed off the boards to take the Triumph, going off the 6/5 favourite. She raced keenly throughout and although she travelled up strongly round the bend, she weakened into fifth between the final two flights. She did stay on again after the last, but she was never threatening to the eventual winner. Henderson has already suggested we’ll be seeing her in blinkers next time which looks a good move. With her easy victories prior, she can be given another chance to strut her stuff with the headgear on.
This season has been extremely mixed for Our Duke, but he was well backed in his quest to give Jessie Harrington back to back Gold Cups. It was obvious from an early stage though that he wasn’t going to provide, jumping carefully throughout and being niggled for more from an early stage. The correlation at this stage seems to be that he struggles to jump at Grade 1 pace, though surely with experience he can start to get some more confidence in that department. His Irish Grand national romp is not forgotten and he remains of interest.