Irish Delight at Cheltenham 2019

19 March 2019

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The 2019 Cheltenham Festival will live long in the memory for the many Irish involved, with headline success being enjoyed by both our big names and smaller industry players. There were 15 Irish-bred winners, 14 Irish-trained winners, 11 Irish-sired winners, 10 Irish-bought winners, and 12 of the 14 Grade 1s were Irish-trained or Irish-bred. Take a look back on Irish-bred success at the Cheltenham Festival 2019 and learn more about the origins of some of national hunt racing’s brightest stars.

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BEWARE THE BEAR (IRE) ran out an impressive winner of the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase, showing grit to take the three-mile contest in a 24-strong field. The Mrs Marilyn Syme-bred gelding is a son of Burgage Stud resident Shantou, out of Native Bid (IRE), herself a high-class mare who won three races including a Listed bumper. Native Bid (IRE) has quite the Cheltenham Festival record as dam of Oscar Nominee (IRE) who placed third in the Martin Pipe in 2012 and Stephaine Kate (IRE) who ran fifth in the Mares’ Hurdle in 2011. BEWARE THE BEAR (IRE), however, is by far the best of Native Bid’s (IRE) runners. Now a nine-year-old, he was sourced at Tattersalls Ireland November National Hunt Sale as a foal for €18,000.

ROKSANA (IRE) prevailed in a dramatic renewal of the Grade 1 David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle. The talented Dan Skelton trainee has been campaigned exclusively in black-type company this season and has never finished out of the money, winning a Grade 2 event at Newbury before running second to the highly regarded Santini in the Grade 1 Doom Bar Sefton Novices' Hurdle at Aintree. Bred in Ireland by John O’Leary, she is out of Talktothetail (IRE) who was a winner of her sole point-to-point before going on to win twice more under rules. 

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CITY ISLAND (IRE) found plenty under strong pressure up the hill in the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle to give owners the Mulryan family victory in their sponsored race.  This was a 100 percent Irish victory right down to Champion Hurdle winning jockey Mark Walsh conjuring the decisive effort from the saddle. Sired by Boardsmill Stud resident Court Cave (IRE), CITY ISLAND (IRE) was bred by Kenneth Parkhill and picked up by County Kildare trainer Martin Brassil as a store at the 2016 Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale for €31,000.    

A neck second at this meeting a year ago in the Coral Cup, TOPOFTHEGAME (IRE) went one better when just outstaying the much-touted Santini by half a length in the Grade 1 RSA Novices’ Chase. Yet another major winner for sire Flemensfirth of The Beeches Stud, this strapping seven-year-old, who went unsold from breeder Patrick Kavanagh at the Tattersalls Ireland November Sale in 2012, fetched €26,000 at the Goffs Land Rover Sale in 2015. A tilt at the Gold Cup seems realistic on this evidence after another year’s maturing.        

The Irish-bred spree carried on in the Coral Cup when WILLIAM HENRY (IRE) led right on the line to deny top-weight Wicklow Brave. Sired by the late King’s Theatre (IRE), WILLIAM HENRY (IRE) twice passed through the November Sale at Tattersalls Ireland, latterly as a yearling when breeder Michael Carroll sold him to Highflyer Bloodstock for €60,000. He is a full brother to Sesenta (IRE), the winner of €350,000 on the flat, with prizes including the 2009 Ebor Handicap at York.          

In the Grade 1 Queen Mother Champion Chase, the banker of the meeting ALTIOR (IRE) looked very much in trouble over the last flanked on either side by Politologue and Sceau Royal, but somehow he found another gear to record an 18th consecutive success – and ninth at the highest level – to leave onlookers reaching for fresh superlatives to describe his potency. Bred in County Laois by Paddy Behan, ALTIOR (IRE) is by the late High Chaparral (IRE) out of the mare Monte Solaro and realised €60,000 at the Goffs Land Rover store sale in 2013. Last year his three-parts brother by Milan made €365,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale when selling to M V Magnier and Aiden Murphy, a record price paid for a store in Ireland.         

And from one legend to another as reigning Grand National hero TIGER ROLL (IRE) recorded his fourth Festival success as if out having a morning canter. A second successive victory in the Cross Country Chase came by a mammoth margin of over 20 lengths and followed on from wins in the NH Chase for amateur riders in 2017 and in the Triumph Hurdle five years ago.

Trainer Joseph O’Brien gained a first Festival winner in his own name when BAND OF OUTLAWS (IRE) proved to have too many guns in the Grade 3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. Rated 93 on the Flat last year over trips of a mile, the son of Kildangan Stud stallion Fast Company (IRE) was purchased by the trainer’s sister Sarah for €11,000 from County Kildare breeders Kilnamoragh Stud at the Tattersalls Ireland September Yearlings in 2019.   

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There were stirring celebrations from owner Andrew Gemmell as PAISLEY PARK (IRE) proved a ready winner of the Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle for Emma Lavelle and Aidan Coleman. Bred by the Conaghan family of Evergreen Stud in Bruff, County Limerick, this son of Grange Stud’s Oscar (IRE) is out of Presenting Shares (IRE) and sold for €12,500 as a foal to Richard E Rohan at Tattersalls Ireland November Sale in 2012. He went through the ring again at Goffs Land Rover Sale 2015, where he sold for €60,000 from Ballincurrig House Stud to Gerry Hogan before entering training with Emma Lavelle. His Stayers’ win made it five consecutive victories for PAISLEY PARK (IRE) this season, a run that included the Grade 1 Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot and the Grade 2 Cleeve Hurdle at Cheltenham.

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Almost exactly a year since winning his only Point to Point start at Dromahane, MINELLA INDO (IRE) belied his relative inexperience to land the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle under Rachael Blackmore. This was just a fourth start under rules for the son of Ballylinch Stud's Beat Hollow and having only placed in each of his previous three outings, he was rated a 50-1 in the betting. But Henry de Bromhead’s six-year-old was always travelling with plenty of zest near the front of the big field and was not for catching up the hill to win by two lengths from Commander Of Fleet (IRE). MINELLA INDO (IRE) was picked up by John Nallen for €24,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland November Sale as a foal from breeders the Lalors of Rathkenty, South Tipperary.  

The Foxhunters Hunters’ Chase was a little easier to predict as the favourite HAZEL HILL (IRE) sealed the deal with a prodigious leap at the last fence to win by four lengths. It is a long time ago since the 11-year-old could not meet his reserve of €10,000 for North Cork breeder Paddy Moakley when passing through the ring at the Tattersalls Ireland August National Hunt Sale in 2012 and he failed to win any of his first four races between the flags in Ireland before switching to race in England. HAZEL HILL (IRE) is by Grange Stud stallion Milan.    

CROCO BAY (IRE) became the oldest winner of the week when the 12-year-old kept finding under in the Grade 3 Grand Annual Chase. He passed through the Tattersalls Ireland November Sale for just €4,200 as a foal when sold by his County Cork breeder Dan Caverley and subsequently made €6,000 at the Goffs Land Rover Sale. His earnings are now nudging €200,000.

Relive all the Irish action across the Festival in our Facebook photo album:

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