Friday 15th March 2019
Myles McDevitt – UCFB Multimedia Sports Journalism Student
Nearly a month ago, British horse racing feared that the Cheltenham Festival would not go ahead to the outbreak of equine flu which led to a complete shutdown of racing in this country for six days. Thank the lord the flu outbreak didn’t continue as Cheltenham delivered its most memorable day in a long time.
The two big races on Thursday were the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers Hurdle. Both back to back and both providing emotive stories.
The Ryanair Chase saw an almighty battle between Frodon, Aso and Road to Respect up the Cheltenham hill. Frodon was victorious and rightly so. Many people had doubted this horse coming into the race but it showed heart to pull away in the final strides and give jockey Bryony Frost her first grade one at the festival. Frost is a huge credit to the sport of Horse Racing. A down to earth person, you could not help but have happiness for her as she came back into the winner’s enclosure.
After Frodon, the Stayers Hurdle took place. Many punters were hoping that the old warrior Faugheen was to turn his old magic on like he did in Punchestown last April. However, Paisley Park bolted up the hill to give Emma Levelle and jockey Aidan Coleman a famous victory.
It was an emotional one for the owner of Paisley Park, Andrew Gemmell. Gemmell, who is blind, managed to see his horse take the race as it came to the final fence where it blundered but showed heart up the Cheltenham hill to give an fantastic win.
If people think that the day couldn’t get better, they were wrong. Lizzie Kelly partnered up with Siruh Du Luc to fend off the challenge of Janika in the Brown Advisory Handicap Chase to make it a memorable day at Cheltenham. Kelly was the first female jockey to ride a grade one winner in 2015 and she proved why she is one of the best jockeys out there.
Through all the trials and tribulations to get to the festival, National Hunt Racing has seen its finest day in years. A day to saviour. That’s what magic racing can bring.