Adam Rodgers takes a trip down memory lane to look back at the opening day of the 2007 Cheltenham Festival. Whilst our attentions are almost always focused on the more recent Cheltenham’s it is sometimes good to look back and reflect on how it happened.
A 40/1 Willie Mullins 2007 Cheltenham Festival winner!
Absolutely gone are the days of Willie Mullins having 40/1 winners in novice races at Cheltenham, but that’s exactly where we begin our look back at Day 1 of the 2007 Cheltenham Festival!
Having saddled the solitary runner in the opening Supreme Novices Hurdle, Ebaziyan made the journey over the Irish Channel as the unconsidered 40/1 shot having ‘only’ won on his previous start at Thurles under Ruby Walsh.
And ironically it was Ruby Walsh who was to get closest to Ebaziyan on top of the Paul Nicholls’ trained Granit Jack, who had his life cut cruelly short in his next start after falling when looking the likely winner in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, at the infamous second last fence.
Third in the Supreme was one of the meetings hot pots, as Nicky Henderson saddled one of only two mares in the field; Amaretto Rose who was undefeated over hurdles. Her career was ultimately cut short too, after being pulled up in the Kingwell Hurdle a year later.
The 2007 Supreme Novices’ was far from a vintage renewal, and unlike many renewals, failed to produce the plethora of winners that it usually does for the forthcoming seasons.
After the Supreme Novice’s kicked off the 2007 Cheltenham Festival, the meeting really came into life with the eagerly anticipated rematch between Fair Along and My Way De Solzen in the Arkle Chase.
Fair Along v My Way De Solzen
In the blue corner, with a perfect three-from-three record over fences was Fair Along, emanating from the Philip Hobbs stable. In the red corner, trained by Alan King, was the slight underdog My Way De Solzen, whose only defeat so far over fences had come at the hands of none other than Fair Along in the Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown the previous December.
The rematch was on, and both returned to Prestbury Park looking to maintain their Cheltenham Festival records – Fair Along had come second in the previous year’s Champion Hurdle, whilst My Way De Solzen had gone one better by taking victory in the World Hurdle over the extended distance of 3 miles.
Throw in to the equation Don’t Push It, who arrived at Cheltenham with a near perfect record bar a defeat on racecourse debut, and a narrow defeat to none other than Denman, and Twist Magic, this was lining up to be some race!
And coming to two fences out, the race was far from concluded. Having detached earlier in the race, Fair Along was just making headway into the race to join the leading quartet of Jack The Giant, My Way De Solzen, Don’t Push It and Twist Magic.
As the latter pair over jumped two out, pilots McCoy and an irate Ruby Walsh were sent catapulting into the turf, which in turn stopped the momentum of the improving Fair Along, leaving the Nicky Henderson and Alan King inmates to fight it out up the famous hill.
Class prevailed, as My Way De Solzen completed back to back victories at the Festival, with the potentially unlucky Fair Along rallying up the hill to snatch second.
A shock in the Champion Hurdle
The crowning jewel on Day 1 of the 2007 Festival, and arguably the entire meeting, was the Champion Hurdle. A stellar line up assembled under the tape at 3:15, as the previous year’s Triumph Hurdle winner, Detroit City, looked to protect his since undefeated record after skipping five lengths clear of stablemate Fair Along in the Novices’ contest a year prior.
Having taken the Aintree Novices’ showpiece in equally impressive fashion just a month after conquering at the 2006 Festival, Detroit City was rightfully sent off as market leader in the Champion. Having taken the Cesarewitch Handicap on the level, the Greatwood Hurdle by an emphatic 14 lengths off top weight, and subsequent victories over Hardy Eustace and Straw Bear, some people considered Detroit City as one of the bankers of the meeting, a literal point and shoot.
Considered the toughest of oppositions to the hot favourite was 2005 and 2006 Champion Hurdle winners, Hardy Eustace and Brave Inca. Both horses of similar ilk. Battle hardened with a never say die attitude. True national hunt horses, and real fans favourites due to their commitment to continuously return to the well and put every last ounce of effort in for their pilots.
So it was ironic when fellow Irish raider Sublimity loomed up under Philip Carberry, in similar fashion to his brother’s infamously cocky ride aboard Harchibald in the vintage 2005 renewal of the Champion. This time round, the Carberry’s confidence was justified as Sublimity took off up the run in, leaving Brave Inca as the bridesmaid and the other fancied runners out of the places.