Power takes glory in a week of wonders
A record Festival for Irish raiders as Elliott edges out Mullins for trainer's title
In the end, he had to prove his stamina at the expense of two of the strongest stayers in training, but Sizing John did that and more in a stunning 7/1 Gold Cup success at a heaving Prestbury Park.
In defying the doubters who insisted the hill would blunt his kick, Alan Potts' steed was achieving all manner of firsts. Neither Jessica Harrington nor Robbie Power had any involvement in the great race before. Potts was fulfilling a lifelong ambition.
He is said to have belittled Sizing Europe's 2011 Champion Chase win: it wasn't a Gold Cup. Reports say he tried to acquire a staying rival this season but failed. He spends big on pointers. Money no matter in pursuit of Gold.
It was all so uncomplicated: Sizing John cantered through the race, took it up going best at the last from the faltering Djakadam - which had a perfect trip - and had too much for the staying-on duo of Native River and Minella Rocco.
Power's faith in the horse is pronounced, yet a career-defining day for man and beast involved deviation. "I can't believe it," the trainer said "and it was amazing how he jumped and travelled. Robert said he wasn't going to go down the inside - but he did. It's absolutely fantastic."
Cue Card repeated his third-last tumble of 2016 but looked unlikely to play a starring role in any event. The surprise was how Djakadam faded into fourth, Willie Mullins' pursuit of a first win in the race unlikely to end at the hands of what now seems a dubious stayer. Everything had gone like clock-work for a sublime Ruby Walsh.
Days like those toss the hoop at the target and it snares two prizes. Rock The World (10/1) doubled up for Harrington and Power in the finale; now time for these long-time allies to assure each other it could hardly be a dream if they corroborated dazzling details.
Moreover, the Irish rout of the British in a friendly but ultimately relevant battle for the Betbright Cup was staggering. The visitors went to battle outnumbered, yet the rivalry within the camp was such that 19 winners were concocted by seven trainers. From the military might of Gordon Elliott to the slingshot of Pat Kelly, the collective effort reinforced that we do horse-racing better than pretty much everything - a reminder that stereotypes need challenging on our national day.
Paul Townend rode a couple of winners for Mullins, our 16/1 tip Penhill getting a sweet steer in the Albert Bartlett, while 20/1 Arctic Fire took the County. "He's just a bit unlucky," Mullins said, "he's around the same time as Ruby. But he has a head for the big day as well."
In the end, Elliott and Mullins shared a dozen winners, Elliott taking the Irish Independent-sponsored award on the equivalent of transferred votes. Ruby's four got him his tenth title.
Privileged are we, party to it all.
Ride of the week
Even now it seems impossible watching the replay that Jamie Codd can get Fayonagh up from out of the clouds to win the Champion Bumper. Amazing.
Quote of the week
"Nice horse, a great owner and a free hand." - Trainer Pat Kelly neatly sums up his feelings after the Philip Reynolds-owned Presenting Percy hacked up in the Pertemps under Davy Russell. An enigmatic, talented man.
Tweet of the week
"at this point in time, Sizing John's place in racing history more secure than Douvan....what a game"
- Our own Daniel McDonnell (@McDonnellDan) sums up the unpredictability of this great sport..
Gamble of the week
The punt on Linger in the Fred Winter looked ambitious or idiotic, depending on one's viewpoint, and he finished pulled up at a remarkable 7/1. He had been available at 25s. However, the horse returned lame, so the money may not have been misplaced. Shark Hanlon bought him for £1,800 in January 2016.
Recovery of the week
Willie Mullins' turn-around was incredible. He went into Thursday morning with no winners before a fabulous, stunning four-timer and two more yesterday. He carried himself with grace all week.
Comeback of the week
That of Cause Of Causes, victory of which in the cross-country race meant he had won three different events at the Festival. He had shown very little since winning the Kim Muir last year.
Team of the week
The Elliott team. He had six winners: Labaik, Apple's Jade, Tiger Roll, Cause Of Causes, Fayonagh and Champagne Classic. The riders: Jack Kennedy, Lisa O'Neill, Jamie Codd, Bryan Cooper and JJ Slevin. That's what you call a team effort, culminating in a trainers' gong.
Shock of the week
This is shared between the defeat of Douvan on Wednesday and that Ireland could snare 19 of the 28 races.
Certainty of the week
Douvan at 2/9 was supposed to win the Queen Mother in a hack but he hurt himself. A stress fracture to his pelvis was diagnosed and he should return to action next season. He finished seventh.
Woe of the week
Billed as the Festival in which Mark Walsh's immense talent would be paraded to a British audience, he had no luck in the Champion Hurdle on disappointing favourite Yanworth. On Wednesday, the fall of Consul De Thaix, his sole other Cheltenham ride also having fallen, resulted in a fractured left leg. He maintains a positive outlook. Get better soon, Mark.