13 March 2018

Irish breeders enjoyed a perfect start to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival as SUMMERVILLE BOY (IRE) battled neck-and-neck with Kalashnikov (IRE) to win the opener, the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. A mistake at the second last put his success in doubt, with reacting to a determined drive by Noel Fehily, the Tom George-trained Tolworth Hurdle winner rallied to win by a neck. 

Irish-bred horses filled the first four places home, with the first two also graduates of Tattersalls Ireland, the winner bought for a mere €4,000 at the venue’s August NH Sale. The Paul Rothwell-bred horse went on to win his sole start for Sam Curling, before being purchased by owner Roger Brookhouse. SUMMERVILLE BOY (IRE), along with Grade 2 performer Black Op (IRE), have shone a spotlight on sire Sandmason this season, who commands a fee of €1,000 at Lacken Stud.

SUMMERVILLE BOY (IRE) was bred out of a half-sister to the dam of Annacotty (IRE) and comes from the family of the Grade 2 winning mare Alasi, as well as two-time Scottish National winner Androma.

The 2017 Festival saw Willie Mullins get off to a rocky start but that was not the case on Tuesday, as the master of Closutton completed a treble on the card, beginning with FOOTPAD’s demolition of his opposition in the Grade 1 Arkle Novices’ Chase. His 14 length victory brought his unbeaten run to four over fences, which now includes three Grade 1 wins, while the six-year-old also has two Grade 1 wins over hurdles.

Bringing up the double was BENIE DES DIEUX in the Grade 1 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, as the Rich Rici-owned mare extended her unbeaten record since joining the stable. Leading with 120 yards to go, she was driven out by Ruby Walsh to beat Midnight Tour by half a length, with a further length back to favourite Apple’s Jade in third.

Completing a memorable day for the Mullins team was the gallant RATHVINDEN (IRE), who battled tooth-and-nail with the chestnut mare Ms Parfois (IRE) to win by half a length under Patrick Mullins. The pair drew 21 lengths clear of the third horse, a testament to their endurance in a four mile contest run on ground described as soft. The RA Bartlett-owned winner was bouncing back from two falls, but had course form over hurdles, including a fine third behind Faugheen (IRE) in the 2014 Neptune Investment Novices Hurdle.

RATHVINDEN (IRE) was bred by Killian Traynor, who sold the bay through Burgage Stud at the Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale for €1,700. Bought by Barron View Stud, his price rose to €100,000 at the venue’s Derby Sale five years later, after an impressive bumper success for Ian Ferguson. By the late Heron Island (IRE) of Arctic Tack Stud, he comes from the family of Grade 1 hurdler Aura About You (IRE) and top-class chase Ashwell Boy (IRE).

Rounding up a terrific day for Tattersalls Ireland graduates in the final race of the day was MISTER WHITAKER (IRE), as the Mick Channon-trained bay landed the Listed Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase. Once again, the leading pair drew well-clear of the third horse and it was left to the stewards to declare the winner, while Theatre Territory (IRE) was relegated to runners-up honours.

The November NH Sale graduate has been remarkably consistent for owner TP Radford, winning two races and placed in another five of nine starts. By Boardsmill Stud sire Court Cave, MISTER WHITAKER (IRE) was bred by Patrick Callinan and is a half-brother to David Pipe’s colourful character Broadway Buffalo (IRE), best known for seconds in the Grand National Trial and at the Festival. Their half-sister, Christdalo (IRE), was also Listed-placed at Cheltenham.

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