Cheltenham Gold Cup 2017

The Jessica Harrington trained 7-1 shot, ridden by Robbie Power, powered home to claim the 2017 Timico sponsored Cheltenham Gold Cup in exhilarating fashion as Sizing John held on under pressure from Native River ridden by Noel Fehily and 3-1 favourite Djakadam partnered by Ruby Walsh. It was between these three, until Jonjo O’Neill trained Minella Rocco got up to snatch runner’s up spot at the death.

Double Gold Cup Winner

This wasn’t the first time that Sizing John had tasted Gold Cup success, taking the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown back in February.

Fallers

During this frenetic race, there were two notable fallers, as Lizzie Kelly, the first woman in over 3 decades to compete in the race fell at the 2nd fence on Tea for Two and the fancied 11 year old Cue Card fell at the 3rd from home, for the second year in succession.

First Harrington Gold Cup Win

Sizing John romping first across the line represented not least the the first Cheltenham Gold Cup entry for Jessica Harrington, but also her first major prize since moving to her own yard from Henry de Bromhead’s earlier in the year.

However, Harrington is no stranger to success, as the most successful female trainer in Cheltenham Festival history, she had previously enjoyed a double Queen Mother Champion Chase and Champion Hurdle success.

Harrington was suitably buoyant after the race:

It’s amazing – he has gone from running two miles at Christmas to three miles here

With Jockey, Robbie Power adding:

He jumped like a buck and it was his jumping that got him there. I never seemed to have any stayers before for this race – I can’t believe it.

Power also had a few kind words to say about his trainer:

It’s unbelievable. Jessica Harrington is a genius.

Out of a total of 13 starters, 10 successfully made it round the course and it was another Gold Cup win for an Irish horse. Those from the Emerald Isle will have gone home happy knowing it was one of their own that scooped the title and the £327k prize money.

Jockey Robbie Power summed up his elation perfectly:

I was only 25 when I won the National and I’m 35 now. When you’re 25 you think you can win everything, so this is very special. Down to the last he absolutely pinged it and then it was just a case of seeing it out. It’s what every jockey dreams of and I never thought I would until we got this lad”.

Power stated he was off for a few celebratory drinks afterwards. Nobody would blame him after this amazing triumph.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2016

The pre-race 9-4 favourite, Don Cossack, ridden by Bryan Cooper and owned by W B Connors sprinted away at the last fence, to leave Djakadam 4½ lengths behind in the runner’s up spot for the second year running. Davy Russell, who steered Lord Windermere to 2004 Gold Cup victory came in a distant third on Don Poli, a full 10 lengths behind 2nd place.

 

The horse was part of a clean sweep for Ireland, as the first 4 across the were trained by Gordon Elliott, Willie Mullins and John Kiely respectively.

 

2007 Grand National Winner

This was a maiden Cheltenham Gold Cup for Gordon Elliott who trained the 2007 Grand National winner, Silver Birch

 

Tough Choice

Bryan Cooper, the 23 year old irish jockey from Kerry had a real quandary going into the race, as he had been set to ride 7 year old Don Poli, the mount he is retained to ride for the Gigginstown House Stud. He chose instead to ride 9 year old stablemate, Don Cossack, which it turned out, was a rather savvy move.

Speaking after the race, Cooper spoke affectionately about Gordon Elliott and late trainer Dessie Hughes, the trainer with whom he started his career:

It was a hard decision to make, but there’s a man up there looking out for me, Dessie Hughes.
Fair play to Gordon, he stuck by me. I had the hardest decision and he had him right for today. He never missed a beat.

Horse Fatalities to be Investigated

 

2016 had witnessed a wonderful Cheltenham Festival, but some of the sheen had been taken off it after the unfortunate demise of 7 horses across the 4 days of the meeting. Rezorbi, Pont Alexandre and Govaness had all died on the opening day and No More Heroes had been put to sleep after tendon damage on the Wednesday.

 

Thursday then saw Niceonefrankie perish after a fall in the Stable Plate Race, with Friday seeing Montdragon and Long Dog passing away on the final day of the festival.

 

These fatalities are being looked into by the British HorseRacing Authority, attempting everything they can to avoid a repeat next year.

 

Chief BHA veterinary officer, Jenny Hall spoke on the subject:

 

We will work with Cheltenham to assess all of the incidents that took place this week. We have a good relationship with the RSPCA and World Horse Welfare, and, as always, we will work with them to ensure we continue we do all we can to make racing as safe as possible.”

 

All things considered, it had been a great festival and another wonderful, unpredictable Timico Gold Cup chase. A great festival for the irish for sure and in particular Don Cossack, Bryan Cooper and trainer Gordon Elliott.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2015

Leading right from the off, Nico de Boinville stretched the field and held off a spirited challenge from Ruby Walsh on Djakadam and Bryan Cooper on Road to Riches. The 7-1 shot looked to have missed his chance racing for the line, but experienced counted for nothing as Coneygree found a second win to hold on for a famous win.

Speaking after the race, De Boinville expressed his delight:

It’s unbelievable. Words can’t describe it. He dug deep, but I always knew he had enough left”.

The 8 year old gelding, trained by Mark Bradstock had become the first novice steeplechaser to win the Cheltenham Festival’s blue riband event for over 40 years. Not since Captain Christy had this happened, which was made even more remarkable, due to the fact that Coneygree had not won over fences before the start of the 2015 season.

Soft Ground, a Key Factor

Delighted trainer, Bradstock revealed that if the ground hadn’t been as soft as it was, then he might not even have attempted to race. Fortunately for the novice, there had been overnight rain, making it possible for Coneygree to thrive in only his fourth race over fences.

It was very dependent on the ground” added Bradstock “If we hadn’t had the rain, he could easily have been a non-runner”.

Retirement of A Great

Tony McCoy was vying to retire with a bang, but the 19 time champion jockey was unable to stay in touch with the leaders as the sprint for the line gathered pace, finishing in 7th on the 14-1 shot Carlingford Lough.

McCoy was full of praise for the novice winner:

It was an unbelievable performance from a novice chaser. He got them at it early and stuck at it well”.

Small Operation

All the more remarkable was that Coneygree was trained by Bradstock at a small Oxfordshire stable with only around 10 horses.

He continued:

I’m numb. It’s wonderful. It won’t sink in for a while, but it’s great. We’ve done it before in smaller races and we’ll still keep doing it, but it’s fantastic to do it on the big stage”.

Another thrilling Cheltenham Gold Cup chase and the £313k prize money had gone to a very worthy winner.

A big result for Bradstock and owners The Max Partnership for sure, but it was also a big result for national hunt racing as whole. A sport that prides itself on its amateur roots had seen a very popular result this year, with a horse winning against much more well-funded stables threatening to dominate the sport.

Coneygree, with his modest roots had restored faith in the long term future of national hunt racing and thrilled the prestbury crowd in the process.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2014

gold cup 2014On the 14th of March, 2014, Prestbury Park witnessed the most exciting Gold Cup chase in years and it was Lord Windermere, ridden by Davy Russell, who won by a nose via a photo finish to claim the 2014 prize.

A Decade on from Best Mate

Jim Culloty was celebrating on the winner’s rostrum, this time as trainer, 10 years on from doing the same as jockey of the legendary Best Mate. How sweet it was for him.

Redemption

Irish champion jump jockey Davy Russell achieved this feat, a little under 3 months after losing his job as principal rider for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud. The win came as sweet redemption for Russell, who had been secretly shocked at losing his place.

Controversy

The passage to the completion of this, the 86th running of the famous race, was far from simple or free from contentious moments. The controversy began even before the race, as Last Instalment was allowed to run, despite his trainer Philip Fenton, being the subject of a drugs enquiry.

It was in vain however, as Last Instalment fell 6 from home.

Closing Stages

The race itself had passed uneventfully, at least until the later stages, with eventual winner, Lord Windermere looking like he may be run out of contention, sitting at the rear of the field for as long as he did. It became apparent however, that this was a tactic to stay clear of trouble and when it mattered, the gelding had plenty left to give.

Heading around the final turn, Lord Windermere seemed almost out of it at the back of the leading pack, but shortly after, he started to make his way through the field for a shock 20-1 win a short nose ahead of Willie Mullins’ trained horse, On His Own at 16-1, followed by Silviniaco in third.

Further Controversy

Even after winning post had been passed, there was still confusion as to the result, with a steward’s enquiry raised regarding suspected interference. David Casey on On His Own, who finished 2nd, claimed he would have won without the interference from the winner, who was being forced wide by 7-2 2nd favourite Silviniaco Conti in the final moments of the race.

The stewards upheld the result stood however, and a jubilant crowd had seen one of the most eventful and exciting races in living memory.

The 2014 Cheltenham festival had needed a shot in the arm, after Raya Star’s death earlier in the festival and Jockeys Ruby Walsh and Daryl Jacob in hospital nursing broken bones and boy, did they get it.

There will have been few leaving Prestbury Park following this amazing race, that would feel they hadn’t been entertained. The race had everything and more.

Roll on 2015!

 

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Cheltenham Gold Cup 2012

The 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup was another in a long line of special races, pitting past champions against up and coming stars. This year’s stars included 2 time winner Kauto Star, again partnered by Ruby Walsh and 2011 champion and 7-4 favourite, Long Run.

Early Running

Habitual front runner, Midnight Chase, ridden by Dougie Costello, led the field for the first circuit of Prestbury Park in exactly the same fashion as he had in the 2011 Gold Cup. Kauto Star, 3-1 2nd favourite, made heavy running of the early stages, a fact that was clearly concerning Ruby Walsh and which eventually led him to pull the gelding up at the 10th fence, ending his race.

What a friend, part owned by Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson and ridden by Daryl Jacob had been the first casualty of the race, falling at the 2nd fence.

2nd Circuit

After the initial jostling, the field settled with a clear group of 7 horses vying for the title. At this stage, it could have been any of them. The lead was shared between Midnight Chase and the Irish horse, Time for Rupert, ridden by Paul Webber, with Synchronised at the back of the pack, but still within striking distance.

Over the Last Fence

Giant Bolster, the 50-1 outsider took the lead over the last and was looking well placed for a shock Gold Cup win until Synchronised rallied strongly to take the title by 2 and a quarter lengths.

The Cheltenham crowd had a new champion to cheer and the dream pairing of AP McCoy and trainer Jonjo O’neill were celebrating a famous win ahead of Tom Scudamore on Giant Bolster and last year’s winner, Long Run.

O’Neill added:

He’s an amazing horse and it was an amazing performance. He’s really delivered. He flowered in the last few days and it was spot-on timing. It’s fantastic to win it as a trainer”.

The race marked Tony McCoy’s 2nd Cheltenham Gold Cup triumph and unfortunately, the last time Kauto Star would grace Prestbury Park, as owner Clive Smith admitted that it was “90% certain” that the amazing gelding would be retired.

Another great Cheltenham Festival had had a fitting end with a thrilling finale and another great Irish winner.

 

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