Just how ‘new’ is the New Course at Cheltenham?

Just how 'new' is the New Course at Cheltenham?  The short answer is not particularly. In its current configuration, the New Course was first used in 1967 – the year Woodland Venture, trained by Fred Rimell and ridden by Terry Biddlecombe, won the Cheltenham Gold Cup – so is really only ‘new’ in relation to the original Old Course.

Every March, when the Cheltenham Festival rolls around, plenty of column inches are devoted to the differences between the Old Course and the New Course at Prestbury Park. The New Course, which is in use on the final two days of the Festival, is a left-handed, undulating oval which, like the Old Course, is galloping and testing in character.

The New Course runs parallel to the Old Course for much of the way but, at its highest point, furthest from the grandstands, takes a wider loop back towards the winning post. Thus, runners enter the home straight slightly further from the winning post than on the Old Course, which places even more emphasis on stamina. It should come as no surprise that the longer feature races on the third and fourth days of the Festival, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, are run on the New Course. Retired jockey Barry Geraghty, who rode 43 winners at the Cheltenham Festival, said, ‘It is as simple as this really; the Old Course is all speed, the New Course is all stamina.’

How many winners did Rachael Blackmore ride at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival?

How many winners did Rachael Blackmore ride at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival?  Notwithstanding a fractured ankle and hip injury sustained when Merry Poppins fell heavily at Killarney in July, it would be fair to say that 2021 turned into an annus mirabilis for Rachael Blackmore. At the Cheltenham Festival in March, Tipperary-born Blackmore rode six winners, thereby becoming the first woman to win the Ruby Walsh Trophy, which is presented to the leading jockey during the week. Of course, less than a month later, she won the Grand National on Minella Times, thereby becoming the first woman to do so.

Back to the Cheltenham Festival, though; Blackmore opened her account for the week, and made a little more history, when partnering the unbeaten Honeysuckle to an impressive, 6½-length victory in the Champion Hurdle. Two more winners followed on both Wednesday and Thursday, courtesy of Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Sir Gerhard in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Allaho in the Ryanair Chase and Telmesomethinggirl in the Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Last, but by no means least, Blackmore brought up her sixth win of the week on Quilixios in the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle.

Later on the Friday afternoon, Blackmore narrowly missed out on a memorable Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double when A Plus Tard was beaten 1¼ lengths by lesser fancied stable companion Minella Indo. Nevertheless, she described winning the Ruby Walsh Trophy as ‘crazy stuff’, adding, ‘I was hoping I would get one [winner]…’

How many times has Tiger Roll won at the Cheltenham Festival?

How many times has Tiger Roll won at the Cheltenham Festival?  Of course, Tiger Roll is best known for becoming the first horse since Red Rum, in 1974, to win back-to-back renewals of the Grand National. However, since his second win in the world famous steeplechase, in 2019, his name has become associated with some ludicrous, frankly reprehensible, remarks by his owner, Michael O’Leary. O’Leary’s disgraceful, ‘holier than thou’ attitude has been well chronicled elsewhere, but should not be allowed to overshadow Tiger Roll’s achievements.

The Grand National aside, Tiger Roll has been a fine servant to connections at the Cheltenham Festival. He was originally bought by Gigginstown House Stud with a view to winning the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle, but exceeded expectations; on just his third run over hurdles, he not only contested, but won, the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival.

Tiger Roll returned to the Cheltenham Festival in 2015, finishing down the field, at 50/1, in the Stayers’ Hurdle. However, slightly surprisingly, given his diminutive stature, fences proved to be the making of him. He won the National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival, followed by the Glenfarclas Chase, on the idiosyncratic Cross Country Course, in 2018, 2019, and 2021. Tiger Roll currently has five Cheltenham Festival victories to his name and, amidst the hoo-ha surrounding his non-participation in the Grand National, O’Leary has confirmed that he will attempt a sixth, in the Glenfarclas Chase again, in 2022 before being retired.

Has a female jockey ever won the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

Has a female jockey ever won the Cheltenham Gold Cup?  The simple answer is no, not yet, but until recently female jockeys in the Cheltenham Gold Cup had been few and far between. In fact, the first female jockey to ride in the ‘Blue Riband’ event was the late Linda Griffiths, formerly Sheedy, who failed to complete the course on 500/1 rank outsider Foxbury in 1984. Remarkably, the second was not until 2017, when the now-retired Lizzie Kelly was unseated at the second fence by Tea For Two, although the partnership did return to Cheltenham to finish a distant seventh in 2018.

More recently, the redoubtable Rachael Blackmore has gone closest to becoming the first female jockey to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In 2020, she rode Monalee, trained by Henry De Bromhead, to finish fourth, beaten just 1¾ lengths, behind Al Boum Photo. In 2021, having already won the Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle, for the same trainer, she rode A Plus Tard to finish second, beaten 1¼ lengths, behind stable companion Minella Indo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In that same race, Bryony Frost also rode Frodon to finish fifth, albeit 33¾ lengths behind the winner.

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