Cheltenham report

THE SEASONAL National Hunt highlight is over for anther 12 months, the Irish army returned home happy, the bookmakers considerably richer, and nine of the competitors paid with their lives for the privilege of having been there.

None of my fancies did, but neither did they manage to get their noses in front. In the Gold Cup, Conor O’Dwyer gave third favourite War Of Attrition a beautifully judged ride to hold off 2006 Grand National winner Hedgehunter, while Tony McCoy riding Brave Inca took the meeting’s other feature race, the Champion Hurdle. At least I had him on my short list, and my outsider Al Eile finished fourth. Darkness and Denman were placed, but ‘bankers’ Kauto Star and Andreas disappointed. ‘Good thing’ River City’ should have won, but was too highly tried in the Champion Hurdle. By far the most impressive Cheltenham winner was Black Jack Ketchum, a seven-year-old Jonjo O’Neill novice with a perfect six-win record. He cantered all over a quality 17-horse field in the “Brit Insurance” hurdle and is a champion in the making.