Here are our top ten performances of the 2019-20 jumps campaign
The 2019-20 jumps season may have been brought to an unexpected halt, but there were still more than enough memorable moments, and our team reflect on ten of the best performances during the campaign.
Baroneracing.com Hatton's Grace Hurdle (Grade 1), December 1, 2019
We knew Henry de Bromhead's unbeaten mare was a rare talent the previous season but a nine-length demolition job at Fairyhouse was a real coming of age moment for the diamond that is Honeysuckle.
This was simply scintillating. Rachael Blackmore and her trusted partner never missed a beat over the course and distance that brings out the best in Kenny Alexander's star performer, delivering a first Grade 1 success outside of mares' company in some style.
The recently-retired Apple's Jade made the Hatton's Grace her own in recent years and it will be intriguing to see if Honeysuckle's connections follow a similar path and remain over hurdles, albeit she looks every inch a chaser.
Benie Des Dieux
John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle (Grade 2), Gowran Park, January 23, 2020
Our viewing was restricted due to thick fog but what we did see was an utterly dominant performance from one of the best mares of the modern era.
Recency bias means most will remember Benie Des Dieux this season for not being able to handle Honeysuckle in the mares' hurdle at Cheltenham, but she was at her most glorious at Gowran Park on bottomless ground. Nothing would have beaten her that day.
Returning from a 250-day absence, Benie Des Dieux cantered through the race in second gear and Paul Townend barely had to move a muscle to secure a 21-length victory over Penhill.
The winning jockey was visibly shocked after the race and the performance prompted Willie Mullins to suggest she could be the best mare he has ever trained afterwards. High praise indeed when you consider Annie Power and Quevega have passed through his hands.
On winter ground over three miles, it will take something special to beat Benie next season. One wonders whether Mullins might be tempted to give her one last go over fences given what a brilliant jumper she is. She would take some stopping in the Thyestes off a mark of 147 next year.
Baroneracing.com Royal Bond Novice Hurdle (Grade 1), December 1, 2019
You could make a solid case for any of Envoi Allen's four flawless hurdle outings but the manner in which he oozed superiority in the Royal Bond was a sight to behold.
Given he is such a monstrous unit and had proved so effective in bumpers, there was a suspicion he might need further to excel.
We soon learned he does stay further, yet in this 2m Grade 1 he travelled with such consummate ease and hurdled so fluently that Champion Hurdle chatter became inevitable.
He absolutely toyed with Abacadabras and Darver Star at Fairyhouse. Abacadabras subsequently won a Grade 1 and lost out by a whisker in a thrilling Supreme Novices' Hurdle, while Darver Star gave Honeysuckle a scare in the Irish Champion Hurdle before finishing a gallant third to Epatante at Cheltenham.
Envoi Allen swatted away both with an utterly sumptuous display.
RSA Chase (Grade 1), Cheltenham, March 11, 2020
Many had written Champ off before the Cheltenham Festival after the ante-post RSA favourite fluffed his lines at the second-last in the Dipper Novices' Chase in January – it was hardly an ideal prep.
The suggestion he could bounce back from his crashing fall and win two months later was met with varying levels of incredulity by punters and pundits at preview nights and at the track, with Champ sent off a relatively unconsidered 4-1 under Barry Geraghty.
He appeared to have no chance during the closing stages and was matched at 400 in-running on Betfair before coming from the clouds to beat Minella Indo and Allaho, prompting a monumental roar of appreciation from the packed grandstand.
It was a thrilling redemption for Champ, whose scarcely believable performance cemented his credentials as a potential Gold Cup contender for Nicky Henderson and owner JP McManus.
Sire Du Berlais
Pertemps Final (handicap), Cheltenham, March 12, 2020
You may be surprised to see the two-time Pertemps Final winner in a list of top-ten performances of the season, given he only scored by half a length, but that only tells half the story.
The Gordon Elliott-trained eight-year-old went into the race somewhat under the radar at 10-1, with stablemate and runner-up The Storyteller more fancied off a 3lb lower weight. However, despite running off a 7lb higher mark than when scraping home last season, Sire Du Berlais looked much more comfortable this time round and beat the clearly well-handicapped The Storyteller with a little in hand and the pair pulled seven lengths clear of the third.
While Sire Du Berlais may not have been as visually impressive as other performers this season, his sectionals certainly were. Despite carrying 2lb more than Stayers' Hurdle winner Lisnagar Oscar over the same course and distance, Sire Du Berlais was quicker from the last to the finishing post and the races were run in very similar times.
Sire Du Berlais still has plenty of scope for improvement and looks a massive price for next year's Stayers' Hurdle at 20-1.
Unibet Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham, March 10, 2020
The strength of the Champion Hurdle form has taken more knocks than a professional boxer but there was no doubting the brilliance of the winner, Epatante, who delivered a knockout blow in fine style.
The improving six-year-old stamped her place at the top of the betting after an easy win in Kempton's Christmas Hurdle, but it was her festival win which made her look something quite special.
With her freakishly strong travelling style she cruised through the field into a prominent position and as they swung for home Barry Geraghty sat poised and ready to strike.
He asked for a big jump at the last, which Epatante responded to in emphatic style before surging on up the Cheltenham hill.
It was a flawless performance and, just like when Buveur D'Air won this at the same age, there could be so much more to come from the excellent Epatante.
Betfair Chase, Haydock, November 23, 2019
Beating Bristol De Mai at Haydock is no easy task. Plenty had tried and none had done it until Lostintranslation came along.
A dual Betfair Chase winner, Bristol De Mai had landed his four Haydock starts by a combined total of 115 lengths yet the new kid on the block saw him off in fine style.
Lostintranslation jumped with his customary elan and travelled strongly to get into contention, then answered Robbie Power's request for extra effort and stuck on pluckily to dethrone the local champion by a length and a half.
Lostintranslation was clearly not right in the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the low-key form of his yard's team at Cheltenham suggests he may be better than he showed when third in the Gold Cup.
But as Humphrey Bogart nearly said in Casablanca, we'll always have Haydock.
Molson Coors INH Flat Race, Downpatrick, March 22, 2020
The talk in the run-up to Cheltenham was this Cheveley Park Stud-owned son of Fame And Glory was Gordon Elliott's main hope for the Champion Bumper.
Finishing third when sent off a 1-4 favourite in a heavy ground affair at Navan in February scuppered those hopes, so instead of Cheltenham he was sent to the behind-closed-doors fixture at Downpatrick just over a week later to contest an ordinary bumper, and this was much more like it.
Sent off the 1-6 favourite under Jamie Codd, Ballyadam sauntered to the front on the run to the short straight with its stiff uphill finish, and just careered away with Codd hardly having to move a muscle, scoring by 18 effortless lengths.
With Codd opining he could be the best he has ever sat on, and the reputation he comes with, this could well be a race that is replayed over and over if this horse turns out to be as good as connections think.
JCB Triumph Hurdle, Cheltenham, March 13, 2020
If there was a single performance that truly took the breath away this season it was achieved not in victory but in the cruellest defeat.
This was the defining moment of the Cheltenham Festival. Goshen, a prolific winner on the Flat and over hurdles, looked wonderfully special throughout his most important test. He galloped down the hill like an animal who was set to explode. The explosion came as he raced off the bend. The lead became bigger and bigger. What looked like a vintage field was being destroyed. We all know what happened next.
Goshen may not have won but his performance was filled with the wow factor. Racing Post Ratings gave him a figure of 156, a huge number for a juvenile. It was entirely deserved.
In the moments after the Triumph we were left to reflect on what might have been. What could still be should make us all very excited when we think about Goshen.
Flogas Novice Chase, February 2
A multiple Grade 1 winning hurdler, Faugheen was a very late recruit to chasing, with his first outing over fences coming at the venerable age of 11 last year.
But class is permanent, and Faugheen demonstrated an immediate aptitude for his new discipline, winning his first three starts, culminating at the Dublin Racing Festival.
Faugheen's performance in the Flogas was one centred around tenacity. He battled to the lead before the last, and while not fluent at the final fence he kept finding against the far rail to deny stablemate Easy Game, who at six is half his age.
The roof came off at Leopardstown as Faugheen came home in front and it was a win that showcased all that is wonderful about jump racing.
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