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Irish Shine at Cheltenham

19 March 2020

Cheltenham 2020 - Paul Gold Cup 800 x 600

The Cheltenham Festival 2020 will live long in the memory for the many exceptional achievements of the Irish contingent. Of the 28 winners across the four days 17 were Irish-trained, 16 Irish-sired, 15 Irish-bred, 13 Irish-bought, and 11 were Irish point-to-point graduates. Nine of the Grade One winners were also Irish-trained. Get all the info on our Irish heroes and relive their exploits in the text below.

TUESDAY 10 MARCH 2020

It need not cost the Earth sourcing a winner at the Cheltenham Festival – provided you visit the sales in Ireland! That was the recurring narrative through the opening day of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival as five competitively priced Irish sales graduates dominated on the biggest stage of all.   

The traditional curtain-raiser, the Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, witnessed Irish-sourced horses get off to the perfect start as SHISHKIN (IRE) came out a head better than Abacadabras after the pair singled out well clear of their rivals approaching the final obstacle.

Sired by Sholokhov (IRE), standing for €4,000 at Glenview Stud in County Cork, SHISHKIN (IRE) was bred by Clive Bennett and twice passed through Tattersalls Ireland. He made €40,000 as a foal with Ratbarry Stud acting as agent in the Mixed November Sale and latterly €28,000 as a store at the Derby Sale of 2017. The six-year-old bay raced twice in Irish point to points for Co Meath trainer Virginia Considine, collecting his second start at Lingstown in County Wexford by eight lengths in November 2019.     

An inexpensively found store from the Goffs Land Rover Sale kept the Irish flag flying in the Grade 1 Arkle Chase as €22,000 purchase PUT THE KETTLE ON (IRE), trained by Henry De Bromhead, steamed up the hill to repel the better-fancied Fakir D’Oudairies by a length and a half. Sired by the late Stowaway, the winner was bred in County Kilkenny by Butlersgrove Stud and her Arkle victory, the first by a mare in the race for 40 years, was her fifth win in six starts over fences.   

THE CONDITIONAL (IRE) made it 3-3 for Irish-breds as he defied Kildisart (IRE) by a neck in the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase. Another affordable purchase from an Irish sales ring, he cost just €9,000 at the Tattersalls Ireland August NH Sale in 2015 and is a son of Kalanisi (IRE) who stands at Boardsmill Stud in County Meath.  THE CONDITIONAL (IRE) began his career with Tipperary trainer Martin Hassett and is a winning graduate from the Irish points scene having won at Boulta in Cork.       

HONEYSUCKLE has been one of the stories of the jumps season and 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 in April 2018. Only a few days later she changed hands for €110,000 at the Goffs Punchestown HIT Sale and she remains unbeaten in her career, 8-8 under rules, the last three at Grade 1 level and €380,000 in the kitty.       

Stallion Kalanisi (IRE) supplied another winner in the shape of IMPERIAL AURA (IRE) who bounded clear to land the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase in great style. Continuing the theme of Festival success sourced in Ireland without breaking the bank, he cost just €5,800 as a foal at Tattersalls Ireland November Sale and then €26,000 at the Goffs Land Rover Auction. 

A fine day for P2P graduates was capped when RAVENHILL (IRE) displayed the best stamina in the NH Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase under jockey Jamie Codd for trainer Gordon Elliott and County Down owners the Try Ravenhill Syndicate.    

Cheltenham 2020 - Ferney Hollow 800x 600

WEDNESDAY 11 MARCH 2020

It will be extraordinary If there is a more pulsating finish this week than that edged by CHAMP (IRE) in the G1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase. Quite how the son of the much-missed King’s Theatre (IRE) came back from off the canvas after the last fence, at least six lengths astern of the duelling Minella Indo (IRE) and Allaho, will live long in the memory. His endless reserves stamina proved telling back over three miles as he ground out an improbable length success.

Bred by Philip and Jane Myerscough, it took €40,000 for agent Aiden Murphy to recruit CHAMP (IRE) at the Tattersalls Ireland November Foal Sale in 2012. He now has over €300,000 banked and must be on the shortlist for the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2021 all being well.   

The day began with an Irish-trained 1-2-3 in the G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle as the unbeaten ENVOI ALLEN oozed quality in recording his second Festival success in just eight starts under rules. One of the bankers of the meeting, last year’s G1 Champion Bumper hero, trained by Gordon Elliott, recorded a four-length victory from Easywork and The Big Getaway (IRE). ENVOI ALLEN began his career with County Wexford trainer Colin Bowe and won his only Irish points start at Ballinaboola. 

Prominent owner-breeders Cheveley Park and the Bowes bookended a red-letter day with another major honour, this one courtesy of FERNY HOLLOW (IRE) in the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper to give trainer Willie Mullins a remarkable tenth win in the race. Mullins also saddled the runner-up Appreciate It (IRE) with Queen’s Brook (IRE) completing an Irish-trained trifecta.

The Bowes went to €38,000 for FERNY HOLLOW (IRE) at the Tattersalls Ireland Derby Sale in 2018 and after he won his only points start at Knockanard by 15 lengths there was no shortage of offers for the son of Coolmore NH stallion Westerner.    

Another value purchase from Tattersalls Ireland came to the fore in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase as EASYSLAND lowered the colours of the titleholder Tiger Roll, the most popular horse in training after his two Aintree Grand National triumphs.  

EASYSLAND cost €20,000 at the Derby Sale at Fairyhouse in 2017. While he had won his last five starts in similar races in France, it was his cross-country success at Cheltenham in December that prompted owner JP McManus to make inquiries.

The Limerickman’s famous green and gold colours were carried to victory no less than four times on the day with the quartet completed via ARAMAX, trained by Gordon Elliott, in the G3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle. ARAMAX was a winner at his first Festival runner for sire Maxios who stands at Coolmore’s Castle Hyde Stud at an advertised fee of €6,000. 

Cheltenham 2020 - Lisnagar Oscar - 800 x 600

THURSDAY 12 MARCH 2020

LISNAGAR OSCAR (IRE) delivered the shock of this year’s meeting with a Stayers’ Hurdle victory from two Irish-trained fellow outsiders, Ronald Pump and Bacardys, chasing him home. Sired by the retired Coolmore NH Grange Stud stallion Oscar (IRE), the 50-1 winner was bred and formerly trained by Denis Fitzgerald in County Cork to win between the flags at nearby Liscarroll before switching to his current base in Wales with Rebecca Curtis.         

Just a pixel separated SAMCRO (IRE) from Melon in the G1 Marsh Novices’ Chase, the opener on Day 3 of the Festival in which the gallant veteran Faugheen (IRE) ran third for an Irish-trained sweep of the placings.

This was a second Festival victory for SAMCRO (IRE), trained by Gordon Elliott for Gigginstown, having also lifted the G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle two years ago. Bred by Douglas Taylor, he made €95,000 as a store at the Goffs Land Rover Sale when Bobby O’Ryan signed the ticket before finding his way to the Bowe academy – those guys yet again – in Wexford. He won his only points start up the road at Monksgrange and for a horse who hasn’t always lived up the hyperbole surrounding him, it is hard to crab with two major novice titles at the most important fixture of all.

Persistence was rewarded for MIN in the Ryanair Chase when he gained his first Festival win at the fourth attempt. Only one of the modern-day greats, Altior (IRE), denied him victory in both the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Queen Mother, so the laurels here were richly deserved. MIN is a nine-year-old son of Walk In The Park (IRE) at Grange Stud.   

Elsewhere there was a terrific result for County Wexford’s Arctic Tack Stud when their stallion Arcadio sired SIMPLY THE BETTS (IRE), the hero of the G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase. Three times he passed through the ring at Fairyhouse for a combined €54,000. Twice he went through the Tattersalls Ireland November Sale and latterly the Derby Sale for just €18,000.

Grange Stud brought up a treble on day for three different stallions as MILAN NATIVE (IRE) finished best under Rob James in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Cup for amateur riders. As the name might suggest, the winner was by Milan and he carried the Gigginstown silks for trainer Gordon Elliott.  Bred by Eugene Condon, MILAN NATIVE (IRE) cost only €10,000 as a foal at the Tattersalls Ireland. 

Cheltenham 2020 - Monkfish - 800 x 600

FRIDAY 13 MARCH 2020

The final day of the Festival began with a blizzard of success for Willie Mullins who would become crowned Champion Trainer at the meeting for the seventh time after a countback was required to decide he took the crown from rival Gordon Elliot.

Mullins remarkably won the first four races on Friday, three of them at the highest level, with BURNING VICTORY kicking off the spree in the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle when best positioned to pick up the pieces after Goshen dramatically fell at the last when some 10 lengths clear.

SAINT ROI then followed up for the Closutton handler in the G3 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle in the colours of JP McManus, the owner’s seventh winner at Cheltenham 2020 to ensure he was a clear winner of the Champion Owner title.

A good week for Tattersalls Ireland graduates continued in the G11 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle over 3 miles when MONKFISH (IRE) finished strongest from fellow Irish-trainees Latest Exhibition (IRE) and Fury Road (IRE). A second top-level winner of the week for deceased stallion Stowaway, MONKFISH (IRE), bred by Cyril O’Hara in County Westmeath, realised €12,500 as a foal at the November Sale at Fairyhouse before fetching €36,000 at the Derby Sale at the same venue in 2017. He won his second start in the Point-to-Point realm at Stowlin in County Galway.

Mullins and the Festival’s top jockey Paul Townend reached their zenith with the repeat victory by AL BOUM PHOTO in the Magner’s Gold Cup, clinging on by a neck in the colours of Mrs Joe Donnelly from Santini with Lostintranslation (IRE) in third.

The Mullins juggernaut came to a halt in the St James’s Place Foxhunters Hunters Chase when IT CAME TO PASS (IRE) provided an emotional victory for County Cork trainer Eugene O’Sullivan in the hands of his daughter Maxine. The 10-year-old is a son of Brian Boru (IRE) who stands at Longford House Stud in County Tipperary and he was another to have been sourced at Tattersalls Ireland when breeder Edmond Coleman let him go at the November Sale for €12,000 in 2011.

Well Chosen, standing at Kedrah House Stud near Cahir in County Tipperary, received a terrific boost when CHOSEN MATE (IRE) ran out a stylish winner of the G3 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase to supply Gordon Elliott with his final winner of the Festival.

CHOSEN MATE (IRE) went through Goffs unsold at just €2,000 at the December NH Sale from the draft of breeder Matthew Fogarty. He recorded his only points victory at Loughbrickland in County Down for trainer Colin McKeever prior to switching to his current base.

The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle concluded the four-day meeting with the 15th Irish-bred horse coming home in front, this one being INDEFATIGABLE (IRE) living up to her name with a last-gasp thrust to deny Pileon (IRE). The mare was bred by John O’Connor at Ballykelly Stud near Cashel in County Tipperary.

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