Handicapper’s Blog: Cheltenham Festival Round-Up

21 Mar 23

In the final edition of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival Handicapper’s Blog, BHA’s Andrew Mealor summarises the Grade 1 races from the Chasing, Novice Chasing, Hurdling and Novice Hurdling divisions and highlights all the key ratings from a week of pulsating racing.


The star performance among the established chasers was clearly Galopin Des Champs who recorded a figure of 178 in landing what looked a strong renewal of the Gold Cup. That rating has been bettered only by A Plus Tard (180 last year) among recent winners of chasing’s blue riband and he’s young enough to think that sort of figure won’t prove his limit.

Bravemansgame (172) was ultimately comfortably held in second but ran a fine race all the same, confirming his status as the best staying chaser on this side of the Irish Sea following his King George success.

Energumene (175) and Envoi Allen (164) made it a clean sweep for Ireland in the championship events over fences.

With Edwardstone (170) and Editeur Du Gite (166) both failing to give their running, Energumene was left with a fairly straightforward task in the Champion Chase and likely didn’t need to better his 2022 performance in the race to bring up a notable double.

The underperformance of hot favourite Shishkin (down 1 lb to 173) was the main talking point after the Ryanair and an overall bunched finish allied to the prior form of the other principals suggests a below-par renewal, for all Envoi Allen was landing a noteworthy third Festival success.

Novice Chasers

British runners fared better in the novice events, landing two of the Grade 1s, though El Fabiolo’s success over Jonbon in the Arkle – which earned him a rating of 164 – was the standout performance in the novice ranks.

The Real Whacker and Sam Twiston Davies lead the way in The Brown Advisory Novices’ Steeple Chase

The Real Whacker – one of three winners from Northern-based British yards over the four days – maintained his unbeaten record over fences in the Brown Advisory, just holding off hot favourite Gerri Colombe. Both recorded figures of 159 on the day, which has them several lbs off the best recent winners of this race (for comparison L’Homme Presse ran to 164 in the 2022 renewal).

A well-judged ride from the front in a steadily-run race aided Stage Star (155) who ran out a decisive winner all the same in the Turners, though Mighty Potter still remains the highest rated in that division on 160 courtesy of his earlier wins at Fairyhouse and Leopardstown, form franked by Gaillard Du Mesnil’s (154) success in the National Hunt Chase.


Constitution Hill was sent off the shortest price favourite in Champion Hurdle history and gave his supporters very few anxious moments with a flawless performance as he sauntered nine lengths clear of State Man and co.

In a race not really run in a fashion conducive to achieving a big rating (the time was only just over a length quicker than the Supreme from earlier the same day), Constitution Hill (175) still produced a performance bettered only by Istabraq and Faugheen among top two milers since the Anglo-Irish classification were first published in 1999-2000. With just six runs and less than two seasons of racing behind him, the strong likelihood is that Constitution Hill can produce a bigger effort under the right circumstances – as it is, this was the best performance by a British-trained hurdler this century.

There were emotional scenes forty minutes later when Honeysuckle (155) brought the house down with a second success in the Mares’ Hurdle and fourth festival success of what has been a stellar career. A steady pace counted against some on the day, notably Marie’s Rock and Epatante, and it was another with previous Festival form, 2022 Mares’ Novice winner Love Envoi (153), who gave Honeysuckle most to think about under a well-judged ride from the front.

The theme of prior form at the meeting counting for plenty was also evident in the Stayers’ Hurdle won by 33/1-shot Sire du Berlais, whose previous runs at the Festival included two wins in the Pertemps and a second in this race. The proximity of another outsider in Dashel Drasher (159) suggests this wasn’t a vintage renewal by any means and a rating of 160 for Sire du Berlais is the joint-lowest achieved by a Stayers’ Hurdle winner in recent years, alongside 2020 winner Lisnagar Oscar.

Novice Hurdlers

The standout performer in the novice hurdle ranks was undoubtedly Impaire Et Passe (159) who put stablemate Gaelic Warrior (154) and eight others to the sword in impressive fashion in the Ballymore, producing a performance bettered only by Envoi Allen in the race in recent times.

It was hard to take quite as high a view of the Supreme form, with the first nine home covered by just twelve and a half lengths, albeit in a time that matched up well to the other two mile races on day one. Marine Nationale (156) still impressed in victory, however, and he clearly has plenty of scope for further improvement after just three runs over hurdles.

The theme of Irish domination in the novice events over hurdles continued in the Triumph won by Lossiemouth (144), but the home team struck back in the Albert Bartlett courtesy of Stay Away Fay (148) who held off the best of the Irish with a strong staying performance.

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.