Stars of the Cheltenham Festival in 2024

Following all the build-up, the Cheltenham Festival is over for another year, and, as ever, the magical four days at Prestbury Park proved well worth the wait. Each of the days was lit up by stellar displays on the track, thrilling finishes, and the trademark atmosphere in the stands. The meeting provided much to reflect on as we edge ever closer to the flat season, and here, we highlight the star performers, both equine and human, from another meeting to remember.

The Pick of the Performances

There were many superb displays, from the success of Slade Steel in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle to the battling victory of Better Days Ahead in the Martin Pipe finale but for us, the following trio of stars edged just ahead of the rest.

Galopin Des Champs – Cheltenham Gold Cup

The contenders came to challenge the reigning champion, including old nemesis Fastorslow, Grand National king Corach Rambler, the highly regarded Gerri Colombe, and leading English hopes L’Homme Presse and Bravemansgame. Most ran with credit, but none could lay a glove on Galopin Des Champs.

Travelling ominously well throughout, Paul Townend swept his willing mount into the lead after the second last as the long-time leader L’Homme Presse began to wilt. A loose horse did his best to disrupt the favourite, but a huge leap at the final fence sealed the deal, as, try as they might, Gerri Colombe and Corrach Rambler failed to get within three and a half lengths of the champ.

Corbetts Cross – National Hunt Challenge Cup

Well fancied heading into the 2023 meeting, this Emmet Mullins star fluffed his lines when sent off as the favourite for the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – travelling well only to plough through the wings of the last.

There would be no such antics this time. Having cantered around during the early and middle stages, a prodigious leap took the JP McManus star into the lead two from home. The big question was whether or not the horse would have the stamina for this 3m6f trip. Corbetts Cross’s response was to fly over the last and power right away up the hill for a resounding 17-length rout. Stamina proven, the Irish National was touted as a possible next destination for this rapidly improving star. That may come too soon, but on this evidence, the son of Gamut wouldn’t look out of place in the 2025 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Ballyburn – Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle

Many horses arrived at the meeting with a lofty reputation, but few carried as much hype as Ballyburn. Touted as the next big thing ever since showing tremendous acceleration to land his bumper in February 2023, he ultimately skipped the 2023 Festival but arrived in 2024 carrying the full confidence of all involved with the Mullins yard.

Having warmed up with a Grade 1 success at Leopardstown, the mount of Paul Townend was sent off as the 1/2 favourite for this despite a host of promising performers lurking amongst the opposition. To say that he delivered on the hype would be an understatement. As the rest of the riders pushed along, Townend sat motionless on the turn for home and, in the blink of an eye, was six lengths clear of the rest. By the line, that margin stood at a yawning 13 lengths in a jaw-dropping display. Possessing speed, size, and scope, Ballyburn would rate a strong contender in the 2025 Champion Hurdle but could equally be a Gold Cup horse of the future.

Top Trainer: Mullins Magic Again

There were no surprises at the top of the Trainer’s Table. Willie Mullins was the overwhelming favourite to finish as the leading trainer before the event and duly surged well clear of the rest.

Flying out of the traps with three wins on the opening day, he repeated the feat on Day 2 before surprisingly drawing a blank on Thursday. However, that proved a mere blip, with Galopin Des Champs spearheading another Mullins treble on Gold Cup Day. A final tally of nine was one less than his all-time best but still more than twice as many as his nearest rival. Now sitting on 103 wins at jumps racing showcase meeting, he remains the king of the Cheltenham Hill.

Willie Mullins 2024 Cheltenham Festival Wins

  • Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase – Gaelic Warrior
  • Champion Hurdle – State Man
  • Mares’ Hurdle – Lossiemouth
  • Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle – Ballyburn
  • Brown Advisory Novices’ Hurdle – Fact To File
  • Champion Bumper – Jasmin De Vaux
  • Triumph Hurdle – Majbourough
  • County Hurdle – Absurde
  • Cheltenham Gold Cup – Galopin Des Champs

Top Jockey: Super Six for Townend

As the number one jockey in the Mullins yard, Paul Townend had an enviable book of rides heading into the meeting. However, riding so many fancied contenders comes with more than its fair share of pressure. Not that you would know it by watching ice-cool Townend in the saddle.

Delighting favourite backers with a treble on the opening day, he followed up with a single on Day 2 before finishing with a closing Friday double – the only real disappointment coming with the flop of El Fabiolo in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Paul Townend 2024 Cheltenham Festival Wins

  • Arkle Chase – Gaelic Warrior
  • Champion Hurdle – State Man
  • Mares Hurdle – Lossiemouth
  • Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle – Ballyburn
  • County Hurdle – Absurde
  • Cheltenham Gold Cup – Galopin Des Champs

Leading Owner: Sparkling Week for the Green and Gold

Many of racing’s most recognisable silks hit the target throughout the meeting, with the Double Green of Isaac Souede & Simon Munir, the Baby Pink of the Riccis, and the Gigginstown Maroon all making it the top of the rostrum; even Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp got in on the act. However, it was the famous Green and Gold of JP McManus which shone brightest of all. Picking up at least one winner on each of the four days, McManus finished with an impressive total of five wins, taking his all-time Cheltenham tally to 78.

JP McManus 2024 Cheltenham Festival Winners

  • National Hunt Challenge Cup – Corbetts Cross
  • Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase – Fact To File
  • Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup – Inothewayurthinkin
  • Triumph Hurdle – Majborough
  • Mares’ Chase – Limerick Lace