2017 Wrapped- National Hunt Racing At Its Best.

By Samantha

Cotswold Chase. Thistlecrack (nearside) and Many Clouds fighting out the finish. (Not our photo)

It’s been a year filled with incredible National Hunt races that truly summed up the essence of the sport. There has been highs and lows with some of the big favourites of National Hunt fans being lost. The racing included some thrilling finishes and high class clashes.

The year kicked off with ITV taking over the main horse racing coverage. At first fans were unsure. Filled with cheesy scenes from presenters and bad jokes, the New Years Day coverage was nothing like how Channel 4 had done it before but now racing fans have accepted the new crew. The behind the scenes parts if the programme shows vinners the work that goes on in racing and that’s good to see.

Racing fans got exactly what the sport needed in the Cotswold Chase of 2017- a thrilling battle between the best of the best. King George winner Thistlecrack locked horns with Grand National winner Many Clouds in an amazing race. In the end, Many Clouds won by a head after being passed by Colin Tizzard’s Grade 1 winner in the run in but fighting all the way to the finish to prevail.

But then disaster struck. Many Clouds collapsed in the shadow of the winning post and it was later confirmed that the horse was put down. The whole racing world was shook by the tragic loss. His trainer Oliver Sherwood said, “I always said he would die for you and he’s died for me and the team today doing what he does best.” That is true- he died doing what he did best, winning.

After recovering from the heartbreak of Many Clouds, the racing word turned their attention to Cheltenham. Buveur D’air (5/1) bolted up in the Champion Hurdle under Noel Fehily. He was 4 1/2 lengths ahead of My Tent Or Yours, a synonymous second place horse. The favourite Yanworth (2/1) was also owned by JP McManus like Buveur D’air and My Tent Or Yours but he didn’ seem to fire and seemed outpaced towards the end.

The RSA Novices’ Chase was by far the most dramatic race of the meeting though. At two out, Might Bite was 12 lengths clear of the remainder of the field but he made a mistake at the last fence and veered right at one furlong out and was temporarily headed by his stablemate Whisper. It went to a photo and Might Bite won the race by a nose, which was a good thing for punters as he was the 7/2 favourite.

The main race of the festival was won by Sizing John. The gelding was trained by Henry De Bromhead but was transferred to Jessica Harrington’s yard at the start of the 16/17 season by his owners Ann and Alan Potts. He was a 7/1 chance to land the spoils under Robbie Power. Old favourite Cue Card fell at three out and Sizing John headed long time leader Native River at two out and went clear to win by 2 3/4 lengths with Minella Rocco in second.

At the start of April, the nation tuned in to watch the Grand National live on ITV. Blaklion was the favourite to win the infamous chase but he came forth. Second favourite Definitely Red was pulled up after a saddle malfunction. In the end, One For Arthur won under Derek Fox and for Lucinda Russell. He had Cause Of Causes four and a half lengths behind in second.

Coneygree, Djackadam and Sizing John fight out the finish to the Punchestown Gold Cup. (Not our photo)

Now the season was coming to a close. At Punchestown, the Gold Cup had a thrilling finish between three high class chasers- Djackadam, Sizing John and Coneygree. They were neck-and-neck at the last but Sizing John stayed on to win by a short head to Djackadam in second.

Then the big national Hunt horses were turned out for the summer, turning the attention of racing fans to the flat.

Daryl Jacob and Bristol De Mai. (Not our photo) 

The first Grade One race of the 17/18 National Hunt Season came around in November. Ran over 3 miles and 1 and a half furlongs, the Betfair Chase was won in tremendous style by Nigel Twiston-Davies’ grey Bristol De Mai. The gelding had won the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby beating Blaklion and Definitely Red, who both franked the form after that (Blaklion won the Becher Chase and Definitely Red won the Many Clouds Chase). Bristol De Mai won the Betfair Chase by a whopping 57 lengths to Cue Card and new rider Harry Cobden. His win was expected considering he was 11/10 favourite but no one expected him to win by that much because of the field of brilliant horses.

Christmas for National Hunt fans was incredible. It all kicked off with Sam Spinner winning the Long Walk Hurdle on the 23rd then the racing took a pause for the Christmas festivities. On Boxing Day, the King George VI Chase was won by Might Bite. The cheeky son of Scorpion won by a length with 50/1 outsider Double Shuffle back in second. The previously quirky individual was very mature in the race and didn’the give his owner or trainer any unnecessary scares. In the other two Grade Ones on the card, Black Corton gave Bryony Frost her first Grade One win in the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and Buveur D’air won the Christmas Hurdle.

Might Bite crossing the line in the King George VI Chase ahead of last year’s winner Thistlecrack. (Not our photo)

On the following day, Politologue bolted up in the Desert Orchid Chase, giving Sam Twiston-Davies a welcome first winner after coming back from his time on the side lines after breaking his elbow. Politologue was left in the front when Special Tiara took a crashing fall. The 8/15 favourite gave punters a scary moment when he dragged his feet through the top of the last but ran on, unchallenged, by the other two runners.

Politologue and Paul Nicholls. (Not our photo)

It has been a brilliant year. Bring on 2018!!

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