Postcards from Cheltenham

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Another one in the books. The Cheltenham Festival has come and gone, leaving memories and mementos. From the Mullins/Walsh four timer Thursdsay to Jessica Harrington’s three winners including Sizing John’s Cheltenham Gold Cup to Gordon Elliott’s official coming of age to the women’s sweep of the amateur races, this year’s Festival had it all. TIHR’s Sean Clancy penned a few postcards from Cheltenham.

Dear Nichols Canyon,

Hope you enjoyed Nashville last year and we look forward to seeing you there again for the Iroquois Steeplechase in May. Last time, you ran down your fences a bit, of course, you were chasing Rawnaq. There is no Rawnaq this year. Maybe skip a festival this year, jump a little straighter and you’ll be $500,000 richer.

Welcome back,

– American Steeplechasing

Originally published in the Irish Field newspaper of March 25. For the rest of Sean’s postcards, click here or on the image below.




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While we’re here, Cheltenham sent the following statistical recap from the four-day festival. Enjoy. 

The Festival 2017 was staged from Tuesday, March 14 through to Friday, March 17 and, for the second year in succession, saw more than 260,000 racegoers in attendance at the Home of Jump Racing. A number of landmarks were set at The Festival this year:

* There were a record 19 winners trained in Ireland, from the 28 races, enabling Ireland to easily take home the BetBright Cup. Irish-trained horses won six of the seven races on St Patrick’s Thursday, March 16. The previous record number of Irish-trained winners at The Festival was 15, achieved in 2016.
* Nicky Henderson is now the most successful trainer of all time in the Stan James Champion Hurdle, with six victories, after Buveur d’Air came home in front. Henderson’s previous five winners in the two-mile hurdling championship were See You Then (1985, 1986, 1987), Punjabi (2009) and Binocular (2010).
* J P McManus is now the most successful owner in the Stan James Champion Hurdle. In addition to Buveur d’Air, his famous silks were carried to Champion Hurdle success by Istabraq (1998, 1999 & 2000), Binocular (2010) and Jezki (2014). McManus also broke the 50-winner mark for wins at The Festival. His three victories in 2017 mean his total now stands at 52, way ahead of any other current owner.
* This year at The Festival saw the introduction of the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Award for Leading Owner. McManus was narrowly beaten by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud, which enjoyed four winners during the four days.
* For the first time, all three contests for amateur jockeys at The Festival were won by female riders. Lisa O’Neill took the J T McNamara National Hunt Chase on Tiger Roll, Gina Andrews landed the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase on Domesday Book and the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase went to the Bryony Frost-ridden Pacha Du Polder.
* Gordon Elliott won his first Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award, narrowly edging out Willie Mullins having had more placed horses. Both Elliott and Mullins recorded six winners, while Elliott had three second places to Mullins’ two.
* Jessica Harrington is now the most successful female trainer of all-time at The Festival. She started the week level on eight winners with Jenny Pitman but her total grew to 11 over the four days, headed by the victory of Sizing John in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup.
* Ruby Walsh took the Boodles Leading Jockey Award for the 11th time. Walsh drew a blank on the first two days but achieved the first four-timer for a jockey at The Festival on Ladies Day, Thursday, March 16 with a 179/1 accumulator. Robbie Power was second to Walsh with three winners, while six jockeys – Noel Fehily, Bryan Cooper, Nico de Boinville, Richard Johnson, Mr Jamie Codd and Paul Townend – enjoyed two winners each. Walsh increased his lead as the winning-most rider ever at The Festival. He has had 56 successes in total, 22 ahead of Barry Geraghty who missed last week due to injury.
The next racing at Cheltenham is The April Meeting (Thursday & Friday, April 19 and 20) followed by The Hunter Chase Evening (Friday, May 5).