Three landmark riding performances on racing's biggest stage
The Cheltenham Festival provides a platform for human as well as equine talent to shine, and here are three riders who stole the limelight last week
Labaik, winner of the Supreme Novices' Hurdle
Jack Kennedy was already firmly established as a prodigious riding talent having blitzed through his claim and tasted Grade 1 success before his 18th birthday. But he served further notice of his extraordinary skill by bagging a first Festival winner when persuading the recalcitrant Labaik to showcase his own remarkable ability in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.
Labaik, who prior to Cheltenham was best known for his persistent refusal to start rather than racecourse success, had won the first battle when planting at the start of a Grade 2 novice hurdle at Naas last month – but Kennedy was to win the war, convincing Labaik to set off on terms with the field at Cheltenham. Described as "one of the best work horses I have ever seen" by Jamie Codd in the run-up to the festival, Labaik was ridden with the utmost confidence by Kennedy, who bided his time before delivering a telling challenge on the run to the last. He made it look easy, but it must have been anything but on such a quirky character.
Domesday Book, winner of the Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Punters love nothing more than a never-say-die ride, and presumably those who backed Domesday Book at 40-1 were delighted by the persistence Gina Andrews showed aboard her willing partner.
Domesday Book looked in trouble when Pendra forged on approaching the last but Andrews refused to give up and her mount rallied gamely to regain the advantage close home.
There is often a vast gap in skill and experience among the jockeys in races restricted to amateur riders – and they don't come much more skilled or experienced than Pendra's rider Derek O'Connor. However, Andrews also looked extremely strong in the driving finish and gained many admirers for her efforts.
Pacha Du Polder, winner of the Foxhunter Chase
Many a Cheltenham dream has been dashed up the famous hill, particularly at the end of three and a quarter miles when the petrol tank has started to empty. Backers of Pacha Du Polder must have feared that the hunter chaser was to join the lengthy list of horses agonisingly overhauled on the climb to the line but, crucially, he had received an excellent, energy-saving ride from impressive amateur Bryony Frost.
Hugging the inside rail the entire way, Pacha Du Polder didn't cover a yard of ground more than was necessary and was delivered with a perfectly-timed challenge, jumping to the front at the last before gallantly holding off all comers. Pacha Du Polder arguably wasn't the best horse on the day at Cheltenham, but he received the best ride, which made all the difference.