Handicapper’s Blog: Andrew Mealor rounds up the 2024 Cheltenham Festival

19 Mar 24

In the final edition of the 2024 Cheltenham Festival Handicapper’s Blog, BHA’s Andrew Mealor summarises the Grade 1 races from each division and highlights some of the key ratings from last week.


The star turn of the week among the chasers was undoubtedly Galopin des Champs who continued Ireland’s stranglehold in the Festival highlight by landing back-to-back Gold Cups. He didn’t quite need to match the 179 performance he produced in 2023, with a winning figure of 174 good enough this time around, but it was still the highest-rated performance of the Festival and firmly cemented his place at the top of the division.

A second dual winner of the race for his trainer Willie Mullins (following Al Boum Photo), Galopin des Champs was a fourth Gold Cup winner for jockey Paul Townend, putting him level with Pat Taaffe (the rider of Arkle) as the most successful jockey in the race. Best Mate is the only horse since Arkle to win three Gold Cups, and Galopin des Champs will attempt to join that elite club at next year’s Festival.

Best of the home contingent was 2023 Grand National winner Corach Rambler who posted a personal best of 162 (up from 159) in finishing third, meaning he’ll be officially 3 lb well-in when he lines up for the Aintree showpiece on 13 April.

The Gold Cup went largely to form, but that was far from the case in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. The race had already been weakened by the late withdrawal of Jonbon (170), and hot favourite El Fabiolo (175) being pulled up after a bad jumping error at the fifth left a very weak feel to proceedings. Captain Guinness gained a first Grade 1 at the fourteenth time of asking in beating the Mullins second string Gentleman de Mee, and it’s unlikely he had to better by much – if at all – his previous highest rating of 162. Edwardstone looked booked for third when falling two out and has been dropped 2 lb to 164.

A competitive renewal of the Ryanair was notable for several dropping back in trip, and it was one of that group, Protektorat (167), who recorded a decisive success from last year’s winner Envoi Allen. Historical race standards point to winning figure in the mid-to-high 160s, with that sort of level also underpinned by the prior form of the principals.

Protektorat and Harry Sketon (yellow) winning The Ryanair Chase

Novice Chasers

The score was also 2-1 to Ireland in the three novice Grade 1 events over fences. The ratings produced by Grey Dawning (158 in the Golden Miller) and Fact To File (159 in the Brown Advisory) can only be considered as average at best for the winners of those races, suggesting they will need to improve to make an impact in top open company next year. The same can’t be said for Gaelic Warrior whose winning rating of 165 in the Arkle had been bettered only by Shishkin among the previous five winners.


With 2023 winner Constitution Hill (175) absent, allied to an overall lack of depth in the two mile hurdle division currently, it’s perhaps no surprise the Champion Hurdle field looked distinctly substandard. State Man’s (169) prior form – which included a nine-length second to Constitution Hill in last year’s race – looked head and shoulders above what the opposition had achieved and he didn’t have to run near his best in winning what was a rather muddling affair, clocking a time one second slower than the earlier Supreme.

The proximity of outsiders Luccia and Colonel Mustard (the latter in particular) restricts the bare form level and it’s likely that State Man only had to run to a rating around the 161 mark in winning, which is a fair way below the level that would normally be expected in a Champion Hurdle.

Luccia ran a stormer nonetheless in faring best of the four British runners. She was rated 140 coming in on the back of a big handicap win at Ascot, though still with scope for improvement as a second-season hurdler, and is now up to 149.

In contrast, the Stayers’ Hurdle looked an up-to-scratch renewal and a 165 rating for Teahupoo makes him the best winner of the race since Paisley Park back in 2018. Dual Stayers’ Hurdle winner Flooring Porter (159) led home the remainder, and Teahupoo himself will likely have strong claims of multiple wins in the race given he’s still only a seven-year-old in a division where plenty of the main players are in the veteran stage.

The Mares’ Hurdle brought together no less than five previous Festival winners but the opposition couldn’t really lay a glove on odds-on Lossiemouth (155) who ran out a very smooth winner and produced a performance similar to 2023 winner Honeysuckle. That mare landed two Champion Hurdles following her first success in the Mares’ Hurdle in 2020 and post-race comments suggest connections could well send Lossiemouth down that route next year – she would be a welcome addition to the two mile scene.

Novice Hurdlers

A condensed finish to the Supreme – just ten lengths covered the first seven home – suggest a below-average renewal containing no real standouts, and that was reflected in Slade Steel’s rating of 151, the lowest for a Supreme winner since Cinders and Ashes in 2012. His performance did, however, underline the credentials of Ballyburn, the season’s standout novice by far, and the latter again looked a top prospect in routing his six rivals by upwards of thirteen lengths in the Gallagher twenty-four hours later. A fast time backed up the visual impression, and an initial rating of 163 is the highest achieved in the race this century.

British-trained runners were generally in the minority across the novice events over hurdles, though Golden Ace (139) was a popular home-trained winner of the Dawn Run, whilst The Jukebox Man (148) very nearly struck gold under a well-judged ride from the front in the Albert Bartlett, collared only in the final strides by another outsider, the Gordan Elliott-trained Stellar Story (149).

The Irish completed a clean sweep of the novice Grade 1 events courtesy of Majborough (150) in the Triumph, though the absence of long-time favourite Sir Gino (145), the year’s standout juvenile previously, weakened the race to some extent.

Official end-of-season ratings for all horses rated 150+ will be agreed between the British and Irish NH handicappers and published in the Anglo-Irish Jump Classifications in late-May.