Record Irish Haul at Cheltenham
23 March 2021
“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
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.
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
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.
(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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.