PAT HEALY: Pat has been on the ground at Cheltenham this week and describes the rollercoaster of emotions that have been on show.
As ever, the Cheltenham Festival is a rollercoaster of emotion. From the moment that white flag was raised on Tuesday for the start of the Supreme, the roar was phenomenal as the field were sent on their way and then again when we saw Constitution Hill jump the final flight the noise was unbelievable. The whole day was electric. It was fantastic to be here to witness Honeysuckle make it back-to-back Champion Hurdles with Rachael Blackmore, racing is just lucky to have them both and fingers crossed we can all get back here safe and sound next year to see them try and do it again and make it three in a row.
It was a fantastic opening day and onto Wednesday where the rain was nonstop which made everyone’s job a hundred times harder – from the grooms who already have the hardest job, to on a personal level me, photographing in the wet and the rain. However, the disappointment of the weather wasn’t a match on the feeling when Tiger Roll was chinned on the line by stablemate Delta Work. The following few minutes was like something I’d never experienced before, it was surreal. I’d never before heard people in the stands booing a winner. It wasn’t until Davy Russell stopped Tiger Roll down the walkway to let Jack Kennedy and Delta Work join them, that the booing stopped. The reception they then got when they made it into the winners’ enclosure was special and justified. I suppose it’s fair to say we have all missed out on seeing a reaction that could have rivalled that of Dawn Run or Arkle when he landed his third Gold Cup, I think if Tiger Roll would have won then the roof would have come down at Cheltenham. It was just a shame, but most importantly the horse is in one piece. He deserves his retirement and will have his place in a lot of people’s hearts.
In a more positive story though, the Mullins team winning their first Champion Chase with what looks a special horse, but the drama is never far away with Shishkin being pulled up. As I said, it’s a rollercoaster week at Cheltenham. Going forward, we have Constitution Hill to look forward to, Facile Vega certainly made an impression, and Sir Gerhard will have a lot of people excited. The weather has now taken a turn for the better and it’s great to be here witnessing the drama and the celebrations. It’s what makes Cheltenham so special.
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