The excitement at the start of the festival that has been heralded the Olympics of horseracing, is captured beautifully here by former Grand National winning jockey Marcus Armytage, writing for Betfair:
“At 1.30pm in the natural amphitheatre below Cleeve Hill, a roar will ring out across the north-eastern corner of Cheltenham that signals the start of the 2015 National Hunt Festival; four days, 27 races, Britain versus Ireland, punter versus bookmaker, the retiring A P McCoy against Ruby Walsh …”
It looked to be Walsh’s day with a win in the first race, the Sky Bet Supreme Novice Hurdle on Douvan (and a win for the punter that placed £20k on him!). Followed up by a win in the Arkle on Un De Sceaux and to the cries of ‘Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby’ Faugheen wins the Stan James Champion Hurdle. The bookies were panicking, Twitter was alive with speculation on the massive losses about to be made as the fourth favourite Annie Power looked all set to take the win in the Mares Hurdle, jumping well and tucked in on the nearside, second to last she took the lead and on the final hurdle… disaster! Today’s photos look as if she jumped the shadow and landed too early, either way Ruby and Annie were out of the race and it was a photo finish with Glens Melody taking first. Everyone (especially the bookies) breathed a sigh of relief as it was confirmed that all involved were well. Cause of Causes wins the Toby Balding and the last race of the day is won by Irish Cavalier.
An exhilarating start to what is truly the greatest show on turf!