Al Boum Photo and Paul Townend wins The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) Cheltenham. Photo: Patrick McCann/Racing Post
Irish trainers sealed another sensational Cheltenham festival with 14 winners across four days including victories in two of the biggest races of the year, the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Unibet Champion Hurdle.
Al Boum Photo won the Festival highlight, the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup, sealing a first win in the race for Willie Mullins, who had seen horses trained by him finish second on six occasions in previous renewals. Owned by Mrs Marie Donnelly and ridden by Paul Townend, Al Boum Photo travelled powerfully through a star-studded Gold Cup field and jumped the last two fences brilliantly to lead home an Irish-trained one-two – Anibale Fly, for Tony Martin, placed in the race for the second successive year.
It was a breakthrough Cheltenham Festival for many, but none more so than Meath trainer Gavin Cromwell who trained the JP McManus-owned five-year-old Espoir D’Allen to win the Unibet Champion Hurdle by a record 15 lengths on day one. Jockey Mark Walsh did the steering.
Racheal Blackmore, trailblazing the leading riders’ title race in Ireland for so long this season, went to Cheltenham seeking her first festival winner and came home with two: A Plus Tard for owners Cheveley Park Stud and trainer Henry De Bromhead on Tuesday, and Minella Indo for the same trainer this afternoon, in the maroon and yellow silks of owner Barry Maloney. Today’s victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle was a first Grade 1 win for Blackmore.
Joseph O’Brien’s first official Cheltenham winner (he is widely credited with the handling of 2016 Triumph Hurdle winner Ivanovich Gorbatov under his father Aidan’s licence) came on Wednesday evening when Band Of Outlaws justified favouritism in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle for owner Justin Carthy.
Mark Walsh was again among the winners on Wednesday when he rode City Island to win the Ballymore Novices Hurdle for Bernadine Mulryan, wife of race sponsor Sean Mulryan. It marked a maiden Cheltenham festival winner for trainer Martin Brassil.
Ireland’s reputation for producing crack amateurs was enhanced further with two of the three amateur-confined race winners piloted by Irish riders – Jamie Codd steered Le Breuil to victory in Tuesday’s National Hunt Challenge Cup, while Derek O’Connor completed the set of amateur race wins at Cheltenham when coaxing Any Second Now to victory in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup for trainer Ted Walsh.
Willie Mullins made an explosive start on day one and took the opening two races of the festival with Klassical Dream, under Ruby Walsh, landing an emotional victory in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle for owner Joanne Coleman in the colours of her late husband John, and Duc De Genievres sauntering to success in the Racing Post Arkle Chase for jockey Paul Townend and owner Jared Sullivan.
Aintree Grand National hero Tiger Roll and his trusted partner Keith Donoghue were the stars of day two with a scintillating 22-length victory stroll in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. It was a back-to-back victory in the race for Gordon Elliott’s stable star and marked his trainer’s opening success of the festival.
Elliott would make it winner number two on Wednesday evening when star bumper horse and sales topper Envoi Allen readily held off the late challenge of the Willie Mullins-trained Blue Sari to impressively take the Weatherbys Champion Bumper. It was a second success in the week for owners Cheveley Park and winning rider Jamie Codd.
Elliott didn’t wait long on day three to add a third winner. Fellow Meathman Barry Geraghty was simply inspired above Sire De Berlais to lift home the JP McManus-owned gelding to victory in the Pertemps Network Final.
It was a hugely successful Festival for JP McManus who closed off the final day with his fifth victory of the week when Early Doors won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle for trainer Joseph O’Brien.
The 14 Irish-trained winners were spread across seven different trainers, and four victories and multiple placed horses was enough for Mullins to also take the leading trainer’s award for the sixth time.
Brian Kavanagh, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, said: “It was an incredibly dramatic week at Cheltenham and Irish trainers, owners and jockeys played a starring role, I would like to congratulate all of those who enjoyed success including Willie Mullins, Paul Townend and Joe and Marie Donnelly for their victory with Al Boum Photo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup; Espoir D’Allen’s connections Gavin Cromwell, Mark Walsh and JP McManus, and Willie too for winning another leading trainer award.
“With 14 winners across seven trainers and nine owners, the reputation of Irish Jumps racing and Irish-bred and produced horses have been enhanced once again. Evidence of that was not just seen on the track this week – it was also confirmed by the continuing strong demand for Irish-produced point-to-pointers, with a record price for a point-to-point mare, achieved at Tattersalls at Cheltenham on Thursday night.”
Irish-Trained winners - Cheltenham Festival 2019
Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle - KLASSICAL DREAM Joanne Coleman Willie Mullins /Ruby Walsh
Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase - DUC DES GENIEVRES Sullivan Bloodstock Limited Willie Mullins /Paul Townend
Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy - ESPOIR D'ALLEN J P McManus Gavin Cromwell /Mark Walsh
Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase - A PLUS TARD Cheveley Park Stud Henry de Bromhead /Rachael Blackmore
Ballymore Novices' Hurdle - CITY ISLAND Bernadine Mulryan Martin Brassil /Mark Walsh
Glenfarclas Chase - TIGER ROLL Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott /Keith Donoghue
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle - BAND OF OUTLAWS Justin Carthy Joseph O'Brien /J. J. Slevin
Weatherbys Champion Bumper - ENVOI ALLEN Cheveley Park Stud Gordon Elliott /Mr Jamie Codd
Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle - SIRE DU BERLAIS J P McManus Gordon Elliott / Barry Geraghty
National Hunt Breeders Supported By Tattersalls Mares' Novices' Hurdle - EGLANTINE DU SEUIL Sullivan Bloodstock Limited Willie Mullins / Noel Fehily
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase - ANY SECOND NOW J P McManus Ted Walsh /Mr Derek O'Connor
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle - MINELLA INDO Barry Maloney Henry De Bromhead /Rachael Blackmore
Bulmers Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase - AL BOUM PHOTO Mrs J Donnelly Willie Mullins /Paul Townend
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle - EARLY DOORS JP McManus Joseph O'Brien /Jonjo O’Neill Jnr