March 15 - Despite fears that the current economic crises would affect attendance and betting numbers at last week's prestigious 4-day Cheltenham Festival, the event was bigger and better than expected, offering up mountains of national hunt horse racing action, including Friday's Cheltenham Gold Cup.
As the highlight of the festival, the Cheltenham Gold Cup proved every bit as exhilarating as expected, not least because it was won by Kauto Star for the second time, but also because Ruby Walsh was aboard. Walsh's victory was his seventh in four days, the most by a jockey in a single Cheltenham Festival.
The Cheltenham crowd went crazy when Kauto Star - winner of this race in 2007 - stormed home by a whopping 13 lengths, becoming the first horse to win the coveted race twice since it became a national hunt race in 1924. In addition, Kauto Star beat Denman in second, who won the Gold Cup in 2008.
Said an ecstatic and exhausted Walsh after the race, 'I just hope I don't wake up and it's Tuesday morning. Kauto Star is an incredible horse. He's one in a million.' As many fans expected, the race came down to the two favorites, Kauto Star and Denman. The former, however, was just too good on the day.
Despite pre-race chatter that Denman has been struggling with a heart murmur and general poor form of late, judging by his performance in the Cup with talented rider Sam Thomas aboard, you would not have known it since he ran an excellent race. The undeniable truth is that Kauto Star was simply unbeatable.
So impressive in fact, that right after the race the comparisons started being bandied around. For instance, some punters started comparing Kauto Star to former British national hunt icon, Desert Orchid, who won Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1998, and many other races including the Irish Grand National in 1990.
All in all this year's Cheltenham Festival was a real humdinger - full of top-class national hunt racing, eager spectators and punters, and some record breakers. The 2009 Cheltenham Festival will certainly be one of the most remembered festivals in recent times and without a doubt one to live up to in the future.
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