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Amazing Week for Irish Bred Horses at Cheltenham Festival

15 March 2013

The Cheltenham Festival is the place where every jump owner, trainer and jockey wants to win and the statistics from this year’s festival would suggest that owning an Irish bred horse gives you the best chance of realising this dream. Irish bred horses won a staggering 20 of the 27 races over the four days including the big two, the Champion Hurdle with HURRICANE FLY (IRE) and the Gold Cup with BOBS WORTH (IRE). On the final day Irish bred horses lead a clean sweep, winning all seven races on the card.

To add further weight to this record, Irish trainers landed a record 14 winners, for the first time eclipsing British trainers who won 13 races. Willie Mullins was the festivals leading trainer with 5 winners and Ruby Walsh clinched the leading jockey award from emerging young talent Bryan Cooper who had a week to remember. Cooper tasted festival success for the first time with BENEFFICIENT (IRE) and tripled that tally with top class rides on OUR CONOR (IRE) and TED VEALE (IRE).

Jim Culloty became a member of the club that have both ridden and trained Cheltenham winners when LORD WINDERMERE (IRE) won the RSA Chase while another Irish trainer to score for the first time was Peter Maher, who saddled BIG SHU(IRE) to win the Cross Country Chase. Both SALSIFY(IRE) and ALDERWOOD (IRE) proved course form is invaluable when they claimed back to back Cheltenham wins for Roger Sweeney and Tom Mullins. Charles Byrnes nursed back SOLWHIT from career threatening injury to win the World Hurdle while Gordon Elliott produced FLAXEN FLARE (IRE) to win the Fred Winter Hurdle. Tony Martin capped a fantastic season with two winner’s courtesy of BENEFFICIENT (IRE) and TED VEALE (IRE).

Every Cheltenham Festival provides it fair share of thrills and spills but all the weeks success was tempered by the horrific fall that left top Irish amateur JT McNamara seriously injured. Racing is a close knit community and it will rally around JT and his family to provide as much support as possible.

Graduates of Irish point to points had a very successful week and this was evident from the very beginning as former pointers CHAMPAGNE FEVER (IRE) and SIMONSIG bagged the first two races, the Supreme Novice Hurdle and Arkle Chase. These two Grade 1 races over two miles prove that it’s not just staying chasers that emerge from Irish point to points but also horses with the speed to win Grade 1 races over the minimum trip. This fact was also borne out by the victories of BRIAR HILL (IRE) in the Champion Bumper, TED VEALE (IRE) in the County Hurdle and BENEFFICIENT (IRE) in the Jewson Chase.

It was also great to see the Irish store sales at Goffs and Tattersalls Ireland produce so many of the week’s winners. From a buyers point of view this is definitely where the value lies. Dual festival winner ALDERWOOD (IRE) and AT FISHERS CROSS (IRE) could both have been bought at Goffs Land Rover Sale for €20,000 or under. THE NEW ONE (IRE) and CHAMPAGNE FEVER (IRE), two top class Grade 1 winners could have been bought at Tattersalls Ireland’s Derby Sale for €25,000 and under.

These are just two examples of many from each sales company and it shows that these sales really must be on every trainer’s radar when sourcing the talent of the future. Without doubt the week’s best value and possibly the most impressive winner was OUR CONOR (IRE). The impressive Triumph Hurdle winner and Champion Hurdler heir apparent was bought for just €4,500 as a yearling at Tattersalls Ireland by Noel Hayes. His sire JEREMY has also begun his first year covering mares at Garryrichard Stud and to have a hurdler of his calibre racing will make him a popular choice with many Irish breeders.

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