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CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL 2017 DAY 4

20 March 2017

The winning spree continued for the Irish on the final day of the festival with the Willie Mullins-trained ARCTIC FIRE in the colours of Wicklow Bloodstock Ltd. landing the Grade 3 Randox Health County Hurdle, a remarkable performance considering he hadn’t run in over a year. Runner up in the 2015 Champion Hurdle, the eight-year-old carried top weight of 11st 12lb on this occasion, the last time the winner of the County Hurdle carried this weight was in 1960. Paul Townend settled his mount to the rear and came with a perfectly timed run holding off L’Ami Serge (IRE) in second.  Willie Mullins said after the win; “He’s a class horse on his day and even though he was carrying top weight the handicapper gave us a fighting chance on his rating.”

The same winning trainer-jockey combination were in the winner's enclosure 40 minutes later after PENHILL powered up the hill to take the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle for owner Tony Bloom. Held up again by Townend, he took the lead approaching the last going on to win by three and a half lengths with the Henry De Bromhead-trained Monalee (IRE) back in second. By Mount Nelson who has recently joined Boardsmill Stud in County Meath completing a remarkable week for the William Flood-owned stud as this was their third stallion to sire a Grade 1 winner.

Anticipation was building in advance of the Grace 1 Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and yet again it went the way of an Irish trainer with the Jessica Harrington-trained SIZING JOHN stealing the honours. A first runner in the race for Harrington, she now becomes the most successful female trainer in the history of the Festival.  The elated winning trainer said after the win; “It’s unreal. He was absolutely amazing the way he jumped and travelled. Robert said he wasn’t going around the inside, and then he did. He was the first runner I had in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and he won that, and now he’s done it again. It must be beginner’s luck.” SIZING JOHN was purchased by John Bleahen at Tattersalls Ireland November NH Sale for €16,000 and subsequently purchased privately by current owners Ann & Alan Potts.

Gigginstown House Stud and Gordon Elliott claimed the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Leading Owner Award and Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award respectively when CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC (IRE) was a decisive winner of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockey’s Handicap Hurdle. The JJ Slevin-ridden six-year old took the lead from two furlongs out staying all the way to the line. Bred by Ronald O’Neill who also stood his sire the late Stowaway at Whytemount Stud, he was twice a graduate of Goffs having first fetched €20,000 at the Land Rover Sale before winning a point-to-point at Kilworth for Roisin Hickey and  subsequently selling to current connections at Goffs Punchestown Sale for €100,000.  

 

In the 28th and final race of the week, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase Team Ireland struck yet again as ROCK THE WORLD (IRE) improved on his third place in this race last year to take the honours for trainer Jessica Harrington.

An incredible week for Irish trainers with a record 19 winners comfortably bettering last year’s previous best figure of 15. Irish-bred horses accounted for 12 wins including 5 Grade 1 wins. 

 

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