Top 6 greatest finishes at The Cheltenham Festival
Year after year the Cheltenham Festival serves up sporting drama of the highest order, with it’s stiff uphill finish serving as the stage to which the grandstand moments are played out.
Each and every renewal offers up moments that have the power to bring even the hardiest racing aficionados to their knees. Below we list off six finishes we’ve deemed to be the greatest.
Might Bite – RSA Chase 2017
ICYMI: Might Bite rallies to overhaul Whisper in RSA thriller pic.twitter.com/07nlNf38J3
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 15, 2017
A well-backed favourite, Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite arrived at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival with a small point to prove. The eight-year-old had shown both huge talent and a tendency to lose his concentration on his recent visits to the racecourse. This race would prove his ultimate Jekyll and Hyde moment.
Henderson’s big bay was quickly sent to the front by jockey Nico de Boinville, setting a fierce gallop that saw him spreadeagle the field from early on in the contest.
The field, unable to live with the relentless pace, ebbed out of the contest in the final half mile; the result of which saw Might Bite in splendid isolation as he rounded the home turn.
It was there that Might Bite began to show signs of slowing as any tired horse would. A leggy leap at the last saw him start to paddle up the home straight, still well clear of his rivals.
It was then that he veered right and slowed dramatically, seemingly pulling himself up. This dramatic action saw the previously adrift Whisper surge past and make his bid for glory under Davy Russell
Astonishingly, Might Bite regained both his concentration and conviction to dig deep for de Boinville. His second wind would see him surge towards the line and nab victory from his stablemate by a nostril.
Hardy Eustace – Champion Hurdle 2005
An absolute barnstormer of a three-way finish; with the resolute Hardy Eustace sticking his neck out to claim the Champion Hurdle ahead of the highly-touted Harchibald and Brave Inca.
Having led from the outset, the game Hardy Eustace looked sure to be overtaken as he turned into the home straight; with Harchibald in particular seemingly cantering along upside him.
But like so many things in racing, things didn’t pan out as planned as the Dessie Hughes-trained eight-year-old clung on for victory.
Not only did this win confirm Hardy Eustace to be as tough as teak, but it also saw him join a select club of horses to win the Champion Hurdle in back-to-back years.
Viking Flagship – Champion Chase 1994
The David Nicolson-trained seven-year-old pulled off a spectacular win which has many parallels to Hardy Eustace’s Champion Hurdle victory.
Jockey Adrian Maguire, in the red and white silks, was working overtime as pretenders Deep Sensation and Travado loomed up to challenge as they turned into the home straight.
The leading trio landed perfectly in sync over the final fence but, despite being headed, Viking Flagship showed the grit of a true champion to pull out a little extra.
The race perfectly demonstrated the battling qualities that became synonymous with the horse throughout a career which would see him win a whopping eight Grade Ones in the UK and Ireland.
Edredon Bleu – Champion Chase 2000
Driven to victory by the greatest jump jockey of all time Sir AP McCoy, Edredon Bleu showed all the same determined qualities as his rider in pinching the 2000 Champion Chase title from Direct Route.
Edredon Bleu and McCoy set off with a clear strategy; go out quick from the start and sap the energy from their rivals. And it looked to have worked a treat until the duo seemed to tire towards the finish.
A magnificent race ended with a bobbing photo finish, nobody knew the result until the judge announced that Edredon Bleu had taken victory at odds of 7/2.
Western Warhorse – Arkle 2014
“Western Warhorse is already beginning to hoist the white flag” uttered commentator Mark Johnston.
The leading pack began to descend down the Cheltenham hill towards the third last fence; the big outsider, who was trading at 1000/1 in-running, had other ideas.
Under an unyielding ride from Tom Scudamore, the David Pipe-trained seven-year-old timed his run to the line perfectly; giving it everything to nick it by a nose ahead of the hotly fancied Champagne Fever and Ruby Walsh.
Tom Scudamore, in the light blue and white silks, was both shocked and ecstatic, “I thought they were mad running him in the race … but his jumping has kept me in it the whole way through.”
Wichita Lineman – William Hill Trophy 2009 (Now the Ultima)
The fact that the 20-times Champion Jockey Sir AP McCoy rated this ride better than his 2010 Grand National win aboard Don’t Push It says it all really.
Wichita Lineman was sent off the 5/1 favourite for the Handicap but jumped poorly from the outset, with McCoy getting very animated in the saddle a long way from the finish.
But as with so many horses throughout his career McCoy managed to squeeze the best out of him.
Sporting JP McManus’s famous green and gold silks, the pair looked like they’d gallantly run on to claim a place as they entered the home stretch.
However, Wichita Lineman’s remarkable durability saw him find another gear to rally and win by a neck.