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Record Irish Haul at Cheltenham

23 March 2021

01

“I have seen a lot at Cheltenham – but never such total dominance from the Irish.”

 

So wrote the doyen of British Turf writers, Alastair Down, in the Racing Post halfway through the meeting. The theme became increasingly pronounced. Of the 28 winners across the four days, a barely credible 23 were Irish-trained, 20 were Irish-bred, 17 Irish-bought, and 14 were Irish point-to-point graduates. A stunning 12 of the 14 Grade 1 winners over the four days were also Irish-trained. Nine of those carried the (IRE) suffix. The joy was well spread around, too. Ten individual Irish trainers prepared winners for 20 different owners to scoop £2.5m of the total £3.5m on offer. They came in all shapes and sizes, they hailed from every corner of the land, but in the final analysis they came from Ireland.

 

TUESDAY 16 MARCH 2021

 

The evidence came thick and fast during the opening day of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival: horses bred and trained in Ireland would be mighty difficult to beat. Five of Tuesday’s seven winners were foaled on the western shores of the Irish Sea, with the same number trained there. Three of the four Grade 1 races went to those in the Green Corner.     

 

In the traditional curtain-raiser, the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, no credible opposition emerged to the odds-on favourite APPRECIATE IT (IRE), 24 lengths clear of Ballyadam (IRE) at the line following the departure at the last hurdle by the winner’s stablemate Blue Lord, already settling for second best. 

 

Sired by Jeremy - the first of four winners by the deceased sire at the meeting - APPRECIATE IT (IRE) was bred by Barmakin Ltd & South Lodge Stud. Twice he passed through the ring at Tattersalls Ireland, as a foal for €18,500 and then for €60,000 at the Derby Sale of 2017. His third straight Grade 1 win took stakes earned by owner Michael Masterson to €275,000. In one of the strongest point-to-points run in recent times, he finished third to none other than Envoi Allen on his debut between the flags but made no mistake next time at Dromahane for Tipperary trainer Pat Doyle. 

 

SHISHKIN (IRE) had dominated all the talk surrounding the Grade 1 Arkle Novices’ Chase for the entire season and he did not disappoint his legion of fans with a commanding victory by 12 lengths. He was still being unsaddled when the chat on the telly turned to the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2022. Still only a seven-year-old, he must surely be the one to beat a year hence.

 

Bred by Clive Bennett and his late wife Eileen, SHISHKIN (IRE) was raised at Glenview Stud in County Cork where his sire Sholokhov (IRE) resides. He was another to sell twice unraced at Tattersalls Ireland at Fairyhouse, in his case for a combined €68,000. Another graduate of the potent Irish points scene, he won his second start in that realm at Lingstown in Wexford for his former handler Virginia Considine.

 

The Grade 1 Champion Hurdle is the centrepiece of Day One and how Ireland’s favourite mare HONEYSUCKLE delivered as she blasted to a six-length demolition of a strong field in the hands of Rachael Blackmore for trainer Henry De Bromhead.  

 

It only cost €9,500 to secure her talent and courage when found at Part II of the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale in 2017 by Mark O’Hare who would ride her to victory in her only points start, a romp by 15 lengths at Dromahane. Only a few days later she changed hands to owner Kenny Alexander for €110,000 at the Goffs Punchestown HIT Sale and she remains unbeaten in her career, 11-11 under rules, the last six at Grade 1 level and €750,000 in the kitty.      

 

The fourth Grade 1 of the day yielded more Irish influence as BLACK TEARS got up in the last bound under Jack Kennedy to defy Concertista. Trained by Denise ‘Sneezy’ Foster, BLACK TEARS was sourced by renowned judge Bobby O’Ryan for €36,000 at the Derby Sale four years ago.  

 

The old adage ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’ rang true in the Grade 3 Ultima Chase as VINTAGE CLOUDS (IRE) won the race at the fifth consecutive attempt, having placed on two occasions prior. He is a son of Cloudings (IRE), resident at the Old Road Stud in County Waterford.

 

Trained by Noel Meade, JEFF KIDDER (IRE) popped up out of nowhere to win the Grade 3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle at 80-1. Similar odds would probably apply to Australian sprinter-milers producing Cheltenham Festival winners, but that was what eventuated as the son of former Darley Kildangan Stud stallion Hallowed Crown scored by two lengths. He was bred by Jennifer and Evelyn Cullen and made €16,500 at Goffs Foals and €24,000 at Tattersalls Ireland September Yearlings.

 

To cap Day 1, a long-term plan came off in great style as GALVIN (IRE) made it five wins on the spin in the National Hunt Novices’ Chase with trainer Ian Ferguson reunited with the horse he bought at the 2017 Derby Sale for €34,000 from breeder Gabriel O’Gara. Just days before the big meeting, the County Antrim handler was entrusted with applying the finishing touches to the impressive son of the late Gold Well and jockey Jack Kennedy did the rest to secure success by just over a length.

 

02

WEDNESDAY 17 MARCH 2021

 

A golden St Patrick’s Day for the Irish. Six of the seven winners were bred and trained in Ireland. The four Grade 1 winners were foaled and trained the same. The dominance kicked off with BOB OLINGER (IRE) running away with the Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by seven lengths for owners Robcour, trainer Henry De Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore.

 

First sighted in a Turtulla, Tipperary point-to-point towards the end of 2019, BOB OLINGER (IRE) was another big win for Glenview Stud’s sire Sholokhov (IRE). Novice chasing will reportedly be on the agenda next season and the sky is the limit.

 

Next up came one of the bankers of the meeting in the form of MONKFISH (IRE) in the Grade 1 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. One or two hairy moments were posed by a loose horse in between the final two fences, but the Willie Mullins-trained son of Stowaway (IRE) had far too much class for his rivals and came home six lengths to the good. MONKFISH (IRE) was bred by Cyril O’Hara and made €12,500 as a foal at Tattersalls Ireland before returning to same venue to fetch around three times that figure at the Derby Sale from Richard Busher to Cormac Doyle. He won his second points start at Stowlin in County Galway. 

 

Hindsight is a great asset, but it’s remarkable how little attention was paid to the 2020 Arkle winner PUT THE KETTLE ON (IRE) in the run-up to the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Little did she care as she battled best up the hill to reprise Festival glory for trainer Henry De Bromhead.  Sourced for €22,000 from the Goffs Land Rover Sale, PUT THE KETTLE ON (IRE) has now amassed over €450,000 for her owners and was another tip of the hat to the late Stowaway. She was raised in County Kilkenny by Butlersgrove Stud.

 

As stirring as these deeds were, the highlight of the entire meeting arguably arrived when the simply remarkable TIGER ROLL (IRE) won the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase by a chasm of 18 lengths, partnered by Keith Donoghue. What a reception this genuine legend of the sport would have received – and so richly deserved - in conventional non-Covid circumstances, especially having been written off by all and sundry. Now aged 11, TIGER ROLL (IRE) was bred by Jerry O’Brien in County Tipperary. His Teofilo (IRE) half-brother Austrian School (IRE) is now active at Clongiffen Stud in County Meath.

 

The Irish bandwagon kept rolling. Everyone in green had a chance of glory with the way things were going. Even licensed personnel better known for training greyhounds got in on the act as the classy mare HEAVEN HELP US (IRE) maintained a remorseless gallop from go to woah in the Grade 3 Coral Cup under conditional rider Richie Condon. This was the first of four wins at the meeting for Coolmore NH stallion Yeats (IRE) and Kilkenny trainer Paul Hennessy memorably described her afterwards as ‘my Enable.’ 

 

The Grand Annual Handicap Chase over 2m produced a helter-skelter climax with SKY PIRATE just lasting home by a whisker. He was initially located at Tattersalls Ireland for €32,000 and €34,000 at the November Foal and Derby Sales respectively.

 

The day concluded with Rachael Blackmore, the dominant rider of the meeting, dictating terms perfectly from the front on SIR GERHARD (IRE), trained by Willie Mullins, to defeat his much-touted stable companion Kilcruit (IRE). The pair finished six lengths clear of the third home and should develop into super hurdlers next year, all going well. SIR GERHARD (IRE), owned by Cheveley Park Stud, was bred by the late Jonathan Fitzpatrick’s Keatingstown Bloodstock in County Kilkenny. He attracted €17,000 at Goffs Foals and €72,000 as a Land Rover Sale store. He won his only points start at Boulta in County Cork for Ellmarie Holden. 

 

03

THURSDAY 18 MARCH 2021

 

Another day, another bonanza. Again, six of the seven winners were bred and trained in Ireland. However, things didn’t start according to the script in the Grade 1 Marsh Chase. The previously unbeaten Envoi Allen came to grief at the fourth fence, leaving the path clear for CHANTRY HOUSE (IRE) to score in the JP McManus colours.

 

The first of three winners on the day for Coolmore NH stallion Yeats (IRE), CHANTRY HOUSE (IRE) was bred by the Conaghans of Evergreen Stud in County Limerick. They sold him for €12,500 at Tattersalls Ireland Foals and his next visit to Fairyhouse for the Derby Sale yielded a €26,000 result. He landed his second points start at Tattersalls Farm for trainer Cian Hughes.

 

Paul Nolan, based in County Wexford, was the next Irish trainer to bask in Festival glory as MRS MILNER (IRE) galloped five lengths clear in the Grade 3 Pertemps Final.  This was another big winner for the now-retired champion stallion Flemensfirth from Coolmore’s Beeches Stud.

 

Rachael Blackmore’s star ascended ever higher on this day with a double that started with ALLAHO, so dominant in a 12 lengths romp in the Grade 1 Ryanair for Henry De Bromhead and Cheveley Park. Jockey and trainer combined again with TELMESOMETHINGGIRL (IRE) in the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle later in the afternoon. The latter was selected for a paltry €4,500 from Tattersalls Ireland NH Foals in 2015 and returned to the Fairyhouse Derby Sale to realise €39,000 three years later. She began her career winning at Ballinaboola point-to-point for Colin Bowe.  

 

TELMESOMETHINGGIRL (IRE) was one of two winners on the day for late sire Stowaway – joint leading stallion at the meeting with four winners - also responsible for THE SHUNTER (IRE) in the Grade 3 Paddy Power Plate who netted £100k for connections having won the Morebattle Hurdle at Kelso less than two weeks prior. Bred in Wexford by James O’Connor, THE SHUNTER (IRE) is trained by Emmet Mullins for owner Paul Byrne and 7lb claimer Jordan Gainford belied his inexperience with a nerveless ride.  

 

The day’s feature event, the Stayers’ Hurdle, was a one-act affair with FLOORING PORTER (IRE) setting and maintaining a strong gallop throughout to return with three lengths to spare. It was a huge result for trainer Gavin Cromwell and the Flooring Porter Syndicate with jockey Danny Mullins an 11th hour call-up for the luckless Jonathan Moore.  

 

Another major title for Coolmore’s Yeats (IRE), FLOORING PORTER (IRE) required only €6,000 to recruit him at the Goffs December NH Sale of 2015 from Galway-based breeder Sean Murphy. Still only a six-year-old, he has now netted over €300,000 in stakes.  

 

Stallion Yeats brought up the hat-trick when MOUNT IDA (IRE) came from a seemingly impossible position to take the Kim Muir under a never-say-die Jack Kennedy ride for trainer Sneezy Foster and owners the KTDA Syndicate. The winning mare was bred at Philip Hore’s Mount Eaton Stud in Wexford and sold for €16,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale of 2017. She broke her points maiden at Tattersalls Farm late the following year.

 

04

FRIDAY 19 MARCH 2021 

 

Six Irish-trained winners on the final day, three of them bred in Ireland, including the most coveted of all. The Friday began with a familiar refrain: Rachael Blackmore dominant on a Henry De Bromhead trainee in the Cheveley Park Stud colours. QUILIXIOS took his career record to 5-5 with a tidy three length success in the Grade 1 Triumph Hurdle. It provided another Festival winner for Coolmore NH stallion Maxios who stands at Castlehyde Stud.

 

The cavalry charge of the Grade 3 County Hurdle followed. BELFAST BANTER (IRE) pulled out most up the hill for Kevin Sexton to give himself and County Kildare trainer Peter Fahey their first Festival triumphs. Sired by Jeremy, this points graduate, bred by Seamus Cooney, had found buyers at Tattersalls Ireland for €10,000 and the Goffs Landrover for €28,000.

 

One of the recurring patterns of the week was how many Irish-trained horses bounced straight to the lead and were not for catching. VANILLIER was another to make full use of positive tactics in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Hurdle for trainer Gavin Cromwell with Mark Walsh deputising for the indisposed Jonathan Moore. He sold for €40,000 to noted agents Peter & Ross Doyle at the Goffs Landrover of 2018. His first win came at Dromahane point-to-point on New Year’s Eve 2019 for trainer Sam Curling.

 

It was scarcely any surprise that the most valuable race of the week, the Grade 1 Wellchild Cheltenham Gold Cup, was dominated by the Irish. MINELLA INDO (IRE), trained by Henry De Bromhead with Jack Kennedy in the irons for owner Barry Maloney, defeated stable companion A Plus Tard (FR) by just over a length. Al Boum Photo, champion the previous two years, completed the greenwash.

 

Sired by Ballylinch Stud’s pensioned stallion Beat Hollow, MINELLA INDO (IRE) has a particular affinity with Cheltenham having won the Albert Bartlett in 2019 and being touched off by Champ (IRE) in the RSA. The eight-year-old gelding was bred at the Lalor family’s Carrigeen Bloodstock near Clonmel, County Tipperary. Their neighbour John Nallen parted with €24,000 to buy him as a foal at Tattersalls Ireland and prepared him to win his maiden point at Dromahane.

 

COLREEVY (IRE) just edged an absorbing duel with Ellimay in the climax to the Grade 2 Mares’ Chase to further enhance the record of her sire Flemensfirth. This was the fourth straight win for the mare owned and bred by Niall Flynn in Waterford and trained by Willie Mullins.  

 

Mullins needed to win the last race of the meeting to snatch the leading trainer title from Henry De Bromhead and naturally he obliged with GALOPIN DES CHAMPS collecting the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap under Sean O’Keeffe in the colours of Mrs Audrey Turley. 

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