Friday, 1 December 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2006: Nicholls and Walsh Dominate

Ruby Walsh topped and tailed the week with a winner, making up fully 7 lengths on the run-in to win the opening Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Noland, but having to work much less hard on Desert Quest, who drew clear for an impressive 2½-length win in the closing Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle. In between, the Irishman also took the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase on Dun Doire, trained by Tony Martin, and three winners were sufficient to make him leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival for the second time.

Along with Noland and Desert Quest, Paul Nicholls also saddled Star De Mohaison, ridden by Barry Geraghty, to win the Royal & SunAlliance Chase and picked up a second trainers’ title.

Other notable winners during the week were Brave Inca in the Champion Hurdle, Newmill in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Hairy Molly, who sprang a 33/1 surprise in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, My Way De Solzen in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle and War Of Attrition in the Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. All bar My Way De Solzen, who was trained in Wiltshire by Alan King, were trained in Ireland and contributed to a record-breaking nine wins at the Cheltenham Festival for Irish trainers.

Monday, 20 November 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2005: Three Become Four

The National Hunt Festival at Cheltenham had been a three-day spectacle since 1923 but, in 2005, was extended from three to four days. Four new races – namely, the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Handicap Hurdle, the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, the Festival Trophy, or Ryanair Chase and the Spa Novices’ Hurdle, or Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle – were added to the programme, along with an additional £500,000 in prize money.

The first Cheltenham Gold Cup to be run on a Friday was won by Kicking King, trained by Tom Taafe and ridden by Barry Geraghty, in front of a sell-out crowd of 50,000 spectators. Hardy Eustace completed a double in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle and Moscow Flyer made amends for his fall the previous year by winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Missed That, in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, was one of two winners for Ruby Walsh and Inglis Drever, in the renamed Ladbrokes World Hurdle, was one of three for Graham Lee.

Lee also won the Letherby & Christopher Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Arcalis and the Royal & Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle on No Refuge to claim the leading jockey title for himself and the leading trainer title for his boss, Howard Johnson.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2004: Time for Rupert

With all due respect to Paul Webber’s charge, Time For Rupert, who ran in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, the RSA Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in his time, the titular Rupert, in this case, is Rupert ‘Ruby’ Walsh. In his second full season as stable jockey to Paul Nicholls – who was to become leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival for the second time – Walsh announced his arrival on the Festival stage by winning the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Azetyuiop, the Grand Annual Chase on St. Pirran and the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle on Sporazene. Three winners were enough to make the Irishman top jockey for the first time.

Elsewhere, Hardy Eustace sprang a surprise in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, seeing off the reigning champion Rooster Booster by 5 lengths. The ill-fated Total Enjoyment was a ready winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and Iris’s Gift reversed the previous year’s form with Baracouda when winning the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle, but the Festival is probably best remembered for Best Mate, who made history by becoming the first horse since the legendary Arkle to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years running.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Cheltenham Festival 2003: Nap Hand for Geraghty

The Smurfit Champion Hurdle featured a showdown between Rooster Booster, winner of the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle the previous year and Rhinestone Cowboy, narrowly touched off by Pizarro in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2002, but unbeaten in four subsequent starts over hurdles. However, the showdown never really materialised because Rooster Booster quickened clear in the closing stages to win, impressively, by 11 lengths from Westender, with Rhinestone Cowboy a further 3 lengths back in third.

Moscow Flyer, trained by Mrs. John Harrington, in the Queen Mother Champion Chase was one of five winners for leading jockey Barry Geraghty, while other notable winners included Liberman in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Baracouda in the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle and Best Mate in the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Master of Jackdaws Castle, Jonjo O’Neill, saddled three winners, Inching Closer in the Pertemps Final, Sudden Shock in the National Hunt Chase and Spectroscope in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, to become leading trainer at the Festival for the one and only time to date.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Cheltenham 2017 Recap

The Cheltenham Festival is dubbed “the greatest show on turf” and it duly delivered on its nickname in 2017 by serving up thrills aplenty for horse racing fans, punters, celebrities and royals alike. A memorable four days of high-quality racing culminated in success for Jessica Harrington and Robbie Power as Rock the World claimed the Grand Annual. It was their third victory of the week and they will look back fondly upon Cheltenham 2017, as will many trainers and jockeys that sealed a place in the history books. Who were the big winners and losers?
Legendary trainer steals the show
The 2017 meeting belonged to Harrington, who became only the third female trainer to win the Gold Cup in history. What made it all the more remarkable was that it came at her maiden attempt: she waited until the age of 70 to make her first entry into the most prestigious race in the calendar as she wanted to make sure her charge could seriously compete. A lifetime of hard work and perseverance paid off as Sizing John romped to victory. Harrington credited Power with the win after the jockey told her that Sizing John was crying out for a stamina test. He stepped up to the longer distance in style, overhauling Djakadam, the leading contender in the horse racing spreads, and winning by almost three lengths from Minella Rocco. The seven-year-old has now won all three of his races at three miles or more, a trifecta of Gold Cups, and is the one to watch going into the new season. Harrington and Power capped a magnificent festival when Rock the World seized the final race of the meeting, and they will be full of confidence going into next year’s contest.

Mullins and Walsh strike back
Willie Mullins had generated tremendous momentum going into Cheltenham 2017 by winning such key tests as the County Hurdle and the Albert Bartlett in the build-up to the Gold Cup, but could only watch as Djakadam blundered in the big race, finishing fourth. There was talk of a crisis for Mullins and Ruby Walsh after they failed to land a winner in the first two days of the festival. Even Douvan, who had so often beaten Sizing John over two miles, lost his unbeaten record as a broken pelvis saw him finish seventh in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. But Mullins and Walsh bounced back with aplomb by landing sensational four-timer on the Thursday: favourite Yorkhill took the JLT, Un De Sceaux romped to victory in the Ryanair Chase, Nichols’ Canyon took the Stayers’ Hurdle and Let’s Dance came in to make Walsh the first jockey to ride four winners in a single day at the Cheltenham festival. It was followed by the disappointment of Djakadam, but overall it was a strong meeting for Mullins, who saddled six winners, while Walsh took his fifth consecutive jockeys’ title.
Elation for Elliott
Gordon Elliott vanquished Mullins, his great rival, to be named the top trainer at the festival after landing a magnificent six winners of his own. They were neck and neck but with no runner in the Grand Annual, Elliott was crowned champion trainer with a race to spare. On the first day Elliott scored a treble when Tiger Roll came in, and he secured his sixth victory of the meeting when 12/1 shot Champagne Classic took the Martin Pipe. He will be in with a chance of winning the title again in 2018, but Mullins will be the one to beat and could be a good option for that market.
Irish assert their dominance
In the same month that Ireland’s rugby team ended England’s world record bid with a dramatic Six Nations victory at the Aviva Stadium, Ireland also asserted its dominance over Great Britain at Cheltenham. The Irish annihilated the British in the Bet Bright Cup, taking 19 winners out of 28 races to Britain’s nine. Sizing John’s victory was the centrepiece as the cup went across the Irish Sea, but the combined 12 winners from Mullins and Elliott sealed the deal. Britain won the title, formerly known as the Prestbury Cup, in 2015 and it finished all square in 2016, leading the British to go into 2017 as the favourites. But the Irish made a mockery of that by claiming an emphatic victory, and they are the frontrunners going into 2018.

Author bio
Martin Green is an experienced horseracing correspondent and tipster.

Cheltenham Festival 2002 - The Festival Returns

The outbreak of foot and mouth disease and subsequent ban on the movement of livestock, including the suspension of racing, put paid to the 2001 Cheltenham Festival in its entirety.

However, it was business as usual in 2002, with Flagship Uberalles supplementing his win in Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown the previous December in the Queen Mother Champion Chase to maintain his 100% record for new trainer Philip Hobbs.

Flagship Uberalles was one of just two winners for Richard Johnson, the other being Rooster Booster in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, but that was enough to make him leading jockey.

Hors La Loi III ran on well to beat Marble Arch by 3 lengths in the Smurfit Champion Hurdle, Best Mate did likewise in the Tote Cheltenham Gold Cup, coming home 1¼ lengths ahead of Commanche Court, and Baracouda just got the better of Bannow Bay in the Bonusprint Stayers’ Hurdle, winning by a neck, albeit a shade cleverly.

In the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, 14/1 chance Pizarro, trained by Edward O’Grady and ridden by Jamie Spencer, was all out to hold 5/2 favourite Rhinestone Cowboy, trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by Norman Williamson.