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2019 Cheltenham Festival shocks - Five things that happened which few would have predicted happening

Brian Healy in News 20 Mar 2019

We look back at the Cheltenham Festival and pick out five shocks that happened during the course of the Festival that few could have predicted happening.

With the dust now settling on the 2019 Cheltenham, we have time to reflect on another fantastic four days’ of memorable action which conjured up fantastic finishes, big winners, heartbreak and tears aplenty as dreams came true for some while others saw their hopes dashed.

Here we take a look back on the four days of the Cheltenham Festival and reveal five Festival shocks that very few could have predicted.


Perhaps the most eagerly awaited Champion Hurdle renewal in many a year, the promised showdown between hurdling heavyweight and defending champion Buveur D’air, the unbeaten Laurina, and the resurgent Apple’s Jade failed to materialise as Buveur D’air came to grief early in the race and crashed out at the third hurdle before the race had began to develop in earnest.

Apple’s Jade meanwhile had been sent off the 7/4 favourite for the race, but Gordon Elliott’s mare ran a shocker and beat only one other finisher home; she subsequently scoped dirty, so that was clearly not her running.

Laurina fared best of the big three, holding every chance two out; but she was unable to quicken on the run to the last and crossed the line in fourth.

Gavin Cromwell’s Espoir D’Allen took full advantage of the big three’s failure to deliver and few would have predicted before the race that none of the trio would make the frame.


Another shock was in store just 40 minutes later in the Mares’ Hurdle where defending champion Benie Des Dieux was bidding to retain her crown.

Everything appeared to be going to plan for Willie Mullins’ charge who was making her first start of the season, and the Great Pretender mare was still travelling strongly in front and holding a three lengths’ margin over her hard-at-work rivals. 

However, in a chilling throwback to Annie Power in the same race in 2015 and sporting the same Rich Ricci colours on the 10/11 favourite, she would come to grief jumping the last much to the horror of the packed stands.

Many punters hoping to claw back some of their losses from the earlier races on what was for most the banker of the afternoon could only watch on in disbelief as Benie Des Dieux stepped at the hurdle, clipping the top bar and crumpling on landing to eject big race jockey Ruby Walsh out of the saddle.


Despite the big field of runners, many punters had the Grade Two Mares’ Novice Hurdle down as a potential match between the unbeaten Epatante from Nicky Henderson’s stable, and Paul Nicholls’ Posh Trish who came into the race on the back of three straight wins.

Neither got seriously involved in the finish however, with Posh Trish finishing just ahead of Epatante although neither troubled the judge in crossing the line in eighth and ninth place respectively. 

It was Noel Fehily on board Willie Mullins’ Eglantine Du Seuil who got up late to land the spoils and deliver a big boost to the bookmakers’ satchels; while the race for the places was filled with big-priced runners.

The winner returned at 50/1 under Fehily, while another of the Mullins contingent in Concertista finished a short-head runner-up at 66/1. Gordon Elliott’s Tintangle and Black Tears filled the third and fourth spots at odds of 40/1 and 25/1 respectively while the next three home returned at odds of 33/1, 50/1 and 100/1.

The tri-cast for those lucky enough to predict the first three horses home returned a monster £73,711.25.


Hard on the heels of steering 50/1 chance Eglantine Du Seuil to victory in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, big race jockey Noel Fehily revealed that the 2019 Cheltenham Festival would be his last as he announced plans to retire from the saddle.

Choking back tears, Fehily revealed his reasons for quitting the saddle while still at the top of his game having shown all his experience to get Willie Mullins’ charge up on the line to deny his stablemate.

"It's a young man's game, you can't go on for ever," he said in his interview. "I will be 44 this year, I've had a great time, loved every minute of it and I'll miss it like hell."

Fehily also revealed that he feared he might miss the Festival after needing keyhole surgery to remove his appendix in January.

"I could go on but I was very ill in January and February and it didn't look like I would make the Festival for a while; so to come here and ride a winner seems like the perfect ending. I will carry on for the next couple of weeks and then I'll decide when to stop.”

Fehily rode more than 1300 winners during his time in the saddle which included 27 Grade One successes with the likes of Buveur D’air, Special Tiara, Rock On Ruby and Silviniaco Conti giving him some of his biggest wins.


Since winning the 2006 Cross Country Chase on Native Jack, top Irish jockey Davy Russell has bagged at least one winner every year at the Cheltenham Festival, and the Youghal-born rider won the Champion Jockey prize at the 2018 Festival having ridden 4 winners.

However, Russell relinquished his crown to Nico de Boinville having failed to maintain his streak over the four days and he was unable to get himself on the scoresheet despite some notable mounts on the likes of Delta Work and Presenting Percy amongst others.

The closest Russell got to riding a winner was a runner-up finish on board Coeur Sublime in the Triumph Hurdle for trainer Gordon Elliott, and it was a frustrating end to the Festival for the top jockey as Presenting Percy couldn’t justify favouritism in the Gold Cup with the horse finishing lame.

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2019 Cheltenham Festival shocks - Five things that happened which few would have predicted happening

We look back at the Cheltenham Festival and pick out five shocks that happened during the course of the Festival that few could have predicted happening.

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