It wouldn’t be the Cheltenham Festival without a ride, and more specifically a jockey, being put under the microscope and criticized to the hilt. Unfortunately on Day 1, there were two jockeys bearing the brunt of that flack, and they both rode Willie Mullins’ horses in the Mares’ Hurdle.
Benie Des Dieux, one of our Cheltenham Tips for Day 1, looked to be travelling all over her rivals in the 2m 4f contest under Paul Townend. Townend was sat in behind Robbie Power on Stormy Ireland, her stable-mate, before making a move to the outside approaching the bend. That would turn out to be a race-losing moment, as Power left the door wide open for Honeysuckle, who skated up the inside while Townend had to take the scenic route.
That would lead to Rachel Blackmore and her up-and-coming partner landing the spoils, with Benie Des Dieux beaten agonizingly into second. Willie Mullins in a Racing TV interview aired his disappointment, citing “miscommunication” between the jockeys that gifted Honeysuckle the golden highway.
Ruby Walsh, however, would go one step further, and was scathing in his review of both jockeys. It was Townend who bore the brunt of his dress-down, however, citing that “Paul Townend should have shoved Robert Power in and closed the door on Honeysuckle there, and make her come around”. That was the moment the race was lost in his eyes, as he added: “Instead Rachael Blackmore gets a dream run through. That’s the saving of two lengths and she only wins by one”.
Power wasn’t spared either, as Ruby was quick to note that hugging the rail and making your rivals go the long way round was “the basics of race-riding”. A miscommunication, as Mullins suggested, or a more unforgivable error by both, suggested by Walsh, which side are you on? Let us know on Twitter, where we have all the conversation and results from this year’s Cheltenham Festival!