On a wet, overcast, dreary day at Cheltenham on Friday afternoon, nearly 70,000 flocked through the turnstiles for Cheltenham Gold Cup day, the final day of the four day Cheltenham Festival extravaganza.
Many make the annual pilgrimage in the second week of March to Cheltenham to watch both past champions and young pretenders emerge in all categories of race throughout the week from the Champion Bumper right through to the Gold Cup itself.
Speaking of the Gold Cup, there was a very competitive sixteen runner line up facing the starter this year, with some leading Irish contenders including last year’s winner Lord Windermere, together with a pretty strong home team headed by favourite Silviniaco Conti, already the winner of the Betfair Chase and King George this season and the novice Coneygree for Nico De Boinville and Mark Bradstock.
Early on, Coneygree led at a good gallop, with lots of precise, accurate jumping standing him in good stead throughout the contest, always able to keep turning the screw on his floundering rivals in behind him. As the race progressed, one by one Coneygree got the other runners in trouble and coming down the hill with three to jump, even Silviniaco Conti looked in deep trouble.
It turned into a four horse war turning for home, Coneygree, Djakadam for the all-conquering Ruby Walsh and Willie Mullins combination, Road To Riches and Holywell but Coneygree fought them all off for an emotional triumph.
Nico De Boinville returned to action at Southwell on Monday for one ride, but could only manage third place in the closing National Hunt Flat Race behind impressive winner Sea Pride.
After racing, Grand National favourite Shutthefrontdoor galloped after racing under Richie McLernon under the watchful eye of trainer Jonjo O’Neill. Shutthefrontdoor, who won the Irish Grand National in 2014, looks set to be AP McCoy’s final Grand National ride on April 11.