The Wednesday of the 2007 Cheltenham Festival kicked off with what was formerly known as the Ballymore Property Novices’ Hurdle, about a distance of 2 miles 5 furlongs on the Old Course. Favourite for the race was Aran Concerto, who was to have his first and ultimately last race on English soil. After an impressive victory on debut in a Naas bumper in the October of 2006, only a defeat on hurdling debut when warmly fancied blotted the Noel Meade trained geldings copy book.
The strongest representative from the home contingent was Silverburn, who was to be piloted by Ruby Walsh, and turned up at Prestbury Park after victory in the Tolworth Hurdle in January. But for the second time in two days, the bookies were to get off to a flying start in the opener, with relatively unfancied second-season-novice, Massini’s Maguire coming up the hill in first place and returning at an SP of 20/1. The horse he held off that day up the run in? The character that is Tidal Bay. Further down the field that day, also happened to be none other than Imperial Commander of Gold Cup 2010 fame.
Denman imperious in RSA romp
Well if the punters didn’t get off to a great start on Day 2 of the meeting, they certainly got it back in droves, as Denman destroyed the Royal & Sun Alliance Chase field, as fully expected by his exuberant part owner Harry Findlay. Denman was purchased by Paul Barber out of a point-to-point, and anything that he did over hurdles in his first season under rules was simply going to be a bonus and what a bonus it almost was! Having gone the entire season undefeated over hurdles including a 21 length rout in the Challow Novice’s Hurdle, Denman only found Nicanor one too good at the 2006 Festival.
Immediately installed as the ante-post favourite for the RSA Chase, Harry Findlay didn’t keep it a secret that he considered Denman winning his target at the 2007 Festival a formality, and easier than buying money. If he stood up, he won. And the tank destroyed the field in devastating style, and in the process really put a stamp down for Gold Cup claims in 2008.
A Champion Chase turn-up?
The highlight of the Wednesday was the Queen Mother Champion Chase. For the previous handful of years, punters had been absolutely spoilt with stellar cast after stellar cast turning up looking to be crowned as Champion of the Two Mile Chasing division. Some even consider the 2005 renewal one of the races of a generation, with Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop, and Well Chief lining up to take home the prize.
Azertyuiop retired at the end of the 2005 season, after defeat to Well Chief at Sandown in the Celebration Chase, and Moscow bowed out a year later after the Festival as age was clearly getting the better of him. An injury to Well Chief in 2006 prevented him from taking the crown, but after nearly two years off the racecourse, an eleven length thrashing of Ashley Brook in the Game Spirit, Well Chief turned up at Cheltenham as the Even money favourite looking to add to his Festival trophies after taking the Arkle in 2004.
In the field was Newmill, the reigning Queen Mother champion who had benefited from Kauto Star’s fall in the race, and who had interestingly had half of his season campaigned over hurdles. Voy Por Ustedes represented the Alan King stable who had already enjoyed a solid start to the Festival after a victory on the previous day, and was confident that Sir Robert Ogden’s horse could improve on his Cheltenham record after taking the 2006 Arkle, which was a race littered with exciting novices.
Unfortunately for racegoers, and punters, the Queen Mother favourite fell very early on in the contest for the second year on the trot, as Well Chief bowed out at the second fence. In a race which certainly won’t go down as Queen Mother classic, with a couple of mistakes from the majority of the field, Voy Por Ustedes took it up before the last and managed to clear away from Dempsey and River City – two horses which wouldn’t have seen which way the Champion Chase field went had they been running in 2005.