Brilliant Vautour can be a Gold Cup horse
17 March 2015
Of course the Festival exceeded my expectations. Willie Mullins got the horses there in great condition but so many things have to go right and you need the rub of the green.
We saw that when Annie Power fell, yet Willie still won the race with Glens Melody. You need that bit of luck.
It was a huge first day as we were front-loaded for the week. There was a real sense of relief for Willie to have four winners and we knew anything else on top of that would be a bonus.
Supreme Douvan has more gears than Vautour
We were guessing a bit with Douvan as to how he would react to the heat of Cheltenham. I gave him an easy race at Punchestown last time and let him coast home to win. All his work suggested he would be up for it but Cheltenham was the first time he had to go through the gears and quicken up and win a race.
There were a couple of horses who wanted to be on the pace and forced a very strong early gallop so it was a quick time. He quickened up smartly going into the last – pinged it – and saw the race out well.
He probably has more gears than Champagne Fever and Vautour. I'd imagine he will get further than two miles. His pedigree has plenty stamina but equally he’s not short of boot. He might well improve.
He is a brilliant jumper with a high cruising speed. He’s a big horse and when he fills his frame then he will be ready for fences, no problem. He will run at Punchestown over hurdles then we’ll decide where he’s going.
No regrets about missing Champion with Sceaux
I wasn’t worried about the jumping, the track or the travelling from Ireland for Un De Sceaux ahead of the Arkle.
The only concern was the occasion and how he would handle the atmosphere generated by 60,000 people, so the parade ring and the canter past the stands were important.
He’s a more mature horse now and handled the occasion great. I was more than pleased when I got to the start.
The first time I rode him was in a maiden hurdle at Punchestown; it took me back to Pony Club. I couldn’t pull him up at the start. I was going around in circles to try and stop him. He was a tearaway. I never thought he would keep going the way he has, given the way he pulled.
He’s learned to relax more now and save a bit. Every run is an improvement and a step forward.
I have no regrets about not going for the Champion Chase. I know Coneygree won the Gold Cup as a novice, but, for me, novice races are for novices.
Champion Hurdle rode like a vintage one
I thought the Champion Hurdle rode like a very good race, but then the winning jockey is always biased.
I had plenty of confidence in Faugheen’s turn of foot but I didn't mind riding a steadily-run race. I could have been more assertive, but he quickened off the bend well and I was not overly serious with him and he won tidily.
No excuses for Annie – but nobody died
I don’t think the shadow was the reason for Annie Power’s fall in the Mares’ Hurdle.
The sun was quite high in the air and I don’t think it’s ever an issue in the early spring. When it’s low in the early winter it can all look one black colour but it was never an issue here.
She just guessed. If she was a couple of inches higher and got her front feet over the hurdle she would have stood up. Yes, I was bitterly disappointed as a four-timer on the opening day would have been the stuff of dreams.
In the end it was just great she got up and she will have another day. It was a pity but c'est la vie. The cookie won't always crumble your way. You have to take disappointments, learn to cope with defeat and move on. There’s no point kicking the hurdle, making excuses about the sun and so on. Nobody died.
Brilliant Vautour can be a Gold Cup horse
Vautour was brilliant in the JLT. We went a good gallop and were pressed all the way down the back. He jumped like a buck and free-wheeled to the third last. He quickened to the back of the last with his ears pricked. I loved everything about him.
He should stay further and at the moment I would be dreaming he’d be a Gold Cup horse. He is a pleasure to ride.
We were never going to catch Coneygree even if we continued into Cheltenham town!
I never felt like Djakadam would pick off Coneygree in the Gold Cup.
It was a searching gallop and I was always going as quickly as I wanted to be going. I bunny-hopped the water jump, which set me back a bit, and then snuck into race with a couple of quick jumps at the fifth and sixth last.
Turning down the hill I knew we would keep going but didn’t think I was going to accelerate past them all. I was hoping the ones in front might falter. In fairness to Coneygree, when he did falter across the track, we only got so close, and he went again.
The winner did it the hard way and galloped us into the ground. He was top class and a very, very good winner. He was on the pace every step of the way with no chance to get a breather in or relax as he was always being hustled. When I look back, I don't think we would have got past him if we'd gone into the middle of Cheltenham town.
As Willie says, Cheltenham is the first of the spring festivals. Most of them will go to Punchestown and a couple to Aintree, but you will definitely see them all again.
I'd imagine Un De Sceaux, Douvan and Faugheen will go to Punchestown. Vautour, needing two and a half miles, may go to Fairyhouse or Aintree.