It was another fantastic day for the Irish on Patrick’s Day at Cheltenham – with six races out of seven seeing an Irish-trained horse emerge the victor, meaning 12 wins out of the last 14 runs for the Irish cause.
An excellent day’s racing started off the same way as yesterday – with Shattered Love taking victory in the JLT Novice’s Chase under the guidance of Jack Kennedy, as it was once again a fantastic start to proceedings for he and Gordon Elliott. He saw off the challenge of 3/1 favourite Terrefort with ease – making it three wins in two days for the teenage jockey.
Next up came the Pretempts Network Final Handicap Hurdle, where it was once again a huge coup for Elliott’s yard – landing a 1-2 as Delta Work just about saw off the challenge of the favourite, his stablemate Glencoe. A nose was all there was to separate the duo in one of the great Cheltenham finishes – as Davy Russell’s charge edged the victory. Owners Michael O’Leary and JP McManus shook hands at the result, knowing both of their horses had simply nothing left to give when crossing the finish line.
O’Leary then finally secured a maiden victory in the Ryanair Chase, Russell once again aboard as the Henry De Bromhead trained Balko Des Flos saw off the heavily-fancied Un De Sceaux, as Willie Mullins’ charge could not keep the pace with three to jump. It was De Bromhead’s first winner of the week, adding to the Irish successes of Elliott, Mullins and Gary Kelly among others.
The Sun Bet Stayers’ Hurdle was the most highly-anticipated race of the day, and it was Penhill who saw off the challenge of Supasundae and Wholestone to cross the line first. The first two finishers were neck and neck in a battle up the hill, but it was Penhill who gave Willie Mullins’ a sixth victory of the week – Paul Townend’s ride making the Wexford trainer level with Nicky Henderson in the all-time festival winners list.
The battle for the best trainer of the week again took centre stage at the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Champion Chase, and Elliott drew level with Mullins on six wins apiece – thanks to 5/1 favourite The Storyteller, in a victory which saw Davy Russell maintain his excellent form this week, riding his third winner of the day and fourth of the week. He came with a late burst to snatch victory from the jaws of Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Splash of Ginge, keeping the Irish whitewash well in tact on day three.
But it was in the Mares Novices Hurdle that Mullins would make history going out on his own as the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham festival – as the Townend-Mullins alliance rolled on for a second win of the day, thanks to 4/7 favourite Laurina, holding off Cap Soleil and Champayne Lady with ease as she cantered home to make it six from six for the Irish – in one of the easiest victories of the week.
The perfect day for Irish racing was denied in the last race of the afternoon – with Missed Approach taking victory in the Challenge Cup to secure some form of British pride. Warren Greatrex’s horse saw off the challenge of Mall Dini, as Noel McParlan held on to guide him home, denying a perfect seven for Ireland on Patrick’s Day at Cheltenham.
1.30pm – JLT Novices’ Chase: 1. Shattered Love (4/1)
2. Terrefort (3/1F)
3. Benatar (10/1)
2.10pm – Pretempts Network Final Handicap Hurdle:
1. Delta Work (6/1)
2. Glenloe (9/2F)
3. Connetable (33/1)
4. Taj Badalandabad (40/1)
2.50pm – Ryanair Chase:
1. Balko Des Flos (8/1
2. Un De Sceaux (8/11F)
3. Cloudy Dream (10/1)
3.30 – Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle: 1. Penhill (12/1)
2. Supasundae (6/1)
3. Wholestone (14/1)
4.10pm – The Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase:
1. The Storyteller (5/1F)
2. Splash of Ginge (25/1)
3. King’s Odyssey (14/1)
4. Ballyalton (16/1)
4.50pm – Trull House Stud Mare’s Novices Hurdle: 1. Laurina (4/7F) 2. Cap Soleil (10/1)3. Champayne Lady (80/1)
5.30pm – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup: 1. Missed Approach (8/1) 2. Mall Dini (4/1) 3. Squouateur (5/1) 4. Double Ross (40/1)
It has been a fantastic week for both Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins – and they will both be looking to add Gold Cup victory to cap it off. With Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke the favourite at present, an Irish victory could once again be on the cards, to bring the curtain down on a truly memorable week for Irish racing.
Jordan Norris, Pundit Arena