The 2015 Cheltenham Festival posted four days of consecutive record breaking attendance, with racing crowds of +68,000 gathering daily at Cheltenham Racecourse. The success and drama of this year’s Cheltenham Festival has placed the event firmly on the British sporting calendar and more importantly racing back in the public’s sporting agenda.
Cheltenham 2015 will be remembered for its dramatic headlines and emotional storylines, as the UK was gripped by Cheltenham Fever this past week.
The festival opened to a historic day 1, as legendary trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh won three opening day races with favourites Douvan, Un De Sceaux, and Faugheen.
UK bookmakers feared a complete wipe-out as Ruby Walsh rode favourite Annie Power towards the finish line of the OLGB Mares Hurdle, only to stumble at the last hurdle. Annie Power’s fall saved UK bookmakers a reported +£30 million, as thousands of punters had taken up a ‘Mullins Four’ accumulator.
Willie Mullins produced a record breaking eight Cheltenham winners, when Killultagh Vic landed a thrilling victory in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. The Mullins stable 2015 performance has led bookmaker Paddy Power to offer 20-1 for a Mullins 2016 clean sweep of the big four Cheltenham Races (Stan James Champion Hurdle, Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Ladbrokes World Hurdle and The Betfred Gold Cup)
Mullins epic performance dominated headlines, along with the farewell of champion jockey AP McCoy who was riding his last ever festival. McCoy who rode gallantly all week, gave his fans a glorious farewell adding to his 31 Cheltenham wins by winning Thursday’s Ryanair Chase aboard Uxizandre.
McCoy would enter Friday’s Gold Cup to rapturous applause riding Carlingford Lough, however the Cheltenham legend could not produce the glorious ending Festival punters all wanted, losing out to eventual winner Coneygree (12-1) ridden by Nico de Boinville.
“I’m always someone who has looked forward in life but now I’m going to have to look back,” said McCoy.”I’m a realist and I’m lucky to have ridden here for 20 years. You cannot keep going on, no matter how much you would like to.”
It is thought that AP McCoy will retire from all professional racing by riding the 40-runner 2015 Grand National at Aintree.
This week UK bookmakers and broadcasters will likely reveal Cheltenham betting and viewing figures, in what will likely be a Festival to remember