Irish light up Cheltenham 2024

Irish light up Cheltenham 2024 The shortest way to the Cheltenham winners enclosure could well be via Ireland.

Cheltenham 2024 will be remembered as the year trainer Willie Mullins’ domination became immortalised into 100 Festival winners. It was also good for Irish-breds with 12 of the week’s 27 winners carrying the IRE suffix, the most of any nation represented.

Of the week’s 14 Grade 1 races, 12 went to Ireland with eight of those to Mullins who also snared one handicap. Gordon Elliot won three, while Henry De Bromhead and Gavin Cromwell won two apiece. The other Irish trainers to get on the scoresheet were Joseph O’Brien and Emmet Mullins bringing up a total of 18 to Britain’s nine.

Eleven of the week’s winners were recruited at Irish sales, 13 were by Irish sires and eight graduated from Irish point-to-points.


The Festival did not commence with a total greenwash, but it wasn’t far off. All the chat at the previews focused on how many Willie Mullins could win on the first day. Would he go through the card? He didn’t, but still landed three of the four Grade 1 races available.

In the curtain-raiser, the G1 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Mullins fielded six of the 11 runners, but still had no answer to the superior stamina displayed by SLADE STEEL (IRE) when it mattered most.

Trained by Henry de Bromhead for owners Robcour, SLADE STEEL (IRE) was relatively inexpensive at the sales, first as a foal for €12,500 at the Goffs December NH Sale from Cork-based Ballincurrig House for breeders Pollards Stables to renowned judge Gerry Hogan.

Jossestown Farm in Tipperary then got €30,000 for him when selling to Galgystown Stables in Wexford at the Tattersalls Ireland May Store Sale. Within a year he had won his only points start at Dawstown in Cork for trainer Pierce Power.

Next came the Mullins hat-trick, all of them coolly partnered by Paul Townend. It started with GAELIC WARRIOR in the Grade 1 My Pension Expert Arkle Novices’ Chase, a nice boost for Coolmore NH Castlehyde Stud stallion Maxios.

STATE MAN never looked in any trouble en route to a first Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle crown, his ninth success at the highest level. Nor did LOSSIEMOUTH appear overly taxed to collect the Grade 1 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.

For all the Irish domination there is one race the raiders cannot win: the Ultima Handicap Chase. This time local trainer Kim Bailey got on the scoresheet courtesy of CHIANTI CLASSICO (IRE), bred by David O’Connell in Meath. This son of the late Shantou, whose Burgage Stud sold him to agent Kevin Ross for €37,000 at the Goffs December NH Sale, won his only start between the flags at Tipperary before selling to his current base just a few miles from Prestbury Park.

Trainer Joseph O’Brien is always plotting a select band towards the Festival through the winter and he came up with a masterstroke via LARK IN THE MORNIN, a ready winner of the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Back in late August 2022, this horse displayed considerable potential in an Irish EBF Barrier Trial at Dundalk when he emerged as probably the standout performer of that entire session. Who knew he would end up a Cheltenham Festival winner, though?

CORBETTS CROSS (IRE) rounded off the first day with a resounding success in the Maureen Mullins National Hunt Novices’ Chase for trainer Emmet Mullins, grandson of the much-missed matriarch in whose name the race was titled. 

Anyone who had a spare €1,200 could have picked this horse up at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Foals Sale from breeder Gerry Murphy but there were no takers. Sired by Gamut (IRE) at Rosshill Farm in Galway, he began his career with Cork trainer Eugene O’Sullivan, winning points and bumpers and hurdles before switching to Mullins via former owner Paul Byrne.

This time last year he was acquired by owner JP McManus, but dramatically ran through the wing of the final hurdle when challenging for the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett. There was no such drama this time as he careered away by 17 lengths.


More of the same? More or less. Apart from one significant, race-ending stumble by the long odds-on El Fabiolo in the Champion Chase, the Mullins metronome kept ticking over nicely and ended with a stunning landmark. The day, like the meeting as a whole, will also be fondly remembered by Henry De Bromhead and Dan Skelton.

For many, BALLYBURN (IRE) was the good thing of the four days and it was easy to see why in the wake of a 13-length cruise in the Grade 1 Gallagher Novices Hurdle over 2m5f with Closutton responsible for the first five home. Granted a clean bill of health, this horse will be winning many more big races so the €80k it cost to secure him at the Tattersalls Ireland November Foals looks tidy business in retrospect. Bred by the Beeches Stud, who housed his late sire Flemensfirth, he impressed in his only points start for Colin McKeever and switched to his current digs in Carlow.

FACT TO FILE faced more of a battle to take the Grade 1 Brown Advisory Novices Chase, but he became yet another odds-on chance to oblige for Mullins at the elite level. He was first sighted easily winning at Bellharbour for renowned points handler Donnchadh Doyle to prompt a transfer of ownership to JP McManus.

The uncertainty of racing returned in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase with CAPTAIN GUINNESS (IRE) capitalising on the favourite’s exit under a power-packed Rachael Blackmore. Carrying the colours of owner Declan Landy, this was his first success in a Grade 1 at the seventh attempt. Bred by Arthur Fennelly, CAPTAIN GUINNESS (IRE) has been in training with Henry De Bromhead since winning on debut in December 2019.

Victory was proving elusive for home trainers in the biggest races until this juncture, but Dan Skelton restored some pride with a fine handicap double, sparked by LANGER DAN (IRE). Bred by Hugh O’Connor, the first repeat winner of the Coral Cup made €12,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale and is by former Beeches Stud resident Ocovango.

UNEXPECTED PARTY added to the Skelton joy in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase to reward the €155,000 investment in him at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale when consigned by Kilminfoyle House.

History accompanied the Grade 1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper as it provided Mullins with a century of Festival winners via JASMIN DE VAUX, ridden by his son Patrick in the ‘Double Green’ colours of prominent owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. He was sourced at the Goffs Land Rover for €28,000 for Stuart Crawford for whom he easily won his only points outing.


A quieter day for the Irish, even if the day’s feature went to the Away Team. The afternoon was most notable, however, for five home-based victories, a very healthy haul, and all credit to connections.

The British fightback began when GREY DAWNING (IRE), trained by Dan Skelton with his brother Harry in the saddle, lifted the Grade 1 Turners Novices Chase. This dashing grey was the first of two winners on the card for Flemensfirth and he was bred by Grange Stud. Brendan Bashford paid €40,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale.

TEAHUPOO, a close third in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle a year ago, ran out a convincing winner this time around by almost four lengths in the hands of Jack Kennedy. By this stage, trainer Gordon Elliott had saddled seven horses to finish either second or third and he deserved to finally cheer one home.

No stud wielded as much influence over the meeting as The Beeches in Waterford. Stallion master Robert McCarthy was responsible for breeding SHAKEM UP’ARRY (IRE) from his own Flemensfirth and Ben Pauling’s trainee was a popular winner for owner Harry Redknapp. He realised €28,000 when sold as a foal at Tattersalls Ireland November.

JP McManus enjoyed his third winner of the meeting when INOTHEWAYURTHINKIN (IRE) justified favouritism in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir for amateur riders with Derek O’Connor enjoying an eight-length success. Homebred by Noreen McManus and a son of Walk In The Park (IRE) at Grange Stud, this six-year-old, trained by Gavin Cromwell, must have a very bright future.


It was nice of Willie to let a few of his peers have some fun on the Thursday. That didn’t last too long, though. Back he came with a vengeance as Cheltenham 2024 concluded, rattling off a treble, including the biggest prize of the week.

Mullins prepared the first two past the post in the Grade 1 JCB Triumph Hurdle as the strapping MAJBOROUGH just outpointed KARGESE with Mark Walsh in the JP silks. More Mullins magic followed with the rock-hard ABSURDE, winner of the Ebor last summer and seventh in the Melbourne Cup in November, benefitting from an ice-cool Paul Townend steer in the BetMGM County Hurdle.

But best of all came with a reprise by GALOPIN DES CHAMPS in the Grade 1 Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup to become only the third multiple winner of the race this century. It was also his third win at the Festival in four years, having also taken the Martin Pipe in 2021 and the only setback his fall at the last fence of the Turners in 2022 with the race at his mercy. Some going. Mullins ended up with nine winners, with Townend on board for six of those to earn the leading rider honours.

Gordon Elliott knows more than most about the perils of competing with Mullins and it was to his great credit that he saddled a double on the final day, commencing with outsider STELLAR STORY (IRE) in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in the hands of young Sam Ewing.

Another son of Shantou, he sold from breeder Rowena Cotton to the Doyles at Monbeg Stables for €60,000 at the Goffs Arkle Sale of 2020. He changed hands to Gigginstown after he won his point-to-point.

Elliott also landed the Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle for conditional riders with BETTER DAYS AHEAD (IRE), a first success at the meeting for Bective Stud’s Noel and Valerie Moran. The winner was another by a deceased stallion, namely Milan, formerly of Coolmore’s Grange Stud. Bred by the Nagle family in Cork, he was also sourced at the Goffs Arkle Sale by Warren Ewing’s Bernice Stables – it was a good day for the Ewings after his son Sam’s earlier winner – and scored on his only P2P start.

JP McManus ended as the week’s leading owner on five winners. He had one more to cheer home when LIMERICK LACE (IRE) won the Grade 2 Mares’ Chase. Out of Sway and by Coolmore’s Walk In The Park (IRE), she is a full sister to INOTHEWAYURTHINKIN (IRE) who took the Kim Muir a day earlier.

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