Cheltenham: Farclas continues dream week for Elliott and Kennedy
Michael O’Leary’s horse wins Triumph Hurdle on final day of festival
Jack Kennedy celebrates after winning the JCB Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The Apple’s Shakira bubble was burst as Farclas provided Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown House Stud with yet another winner at this year’s Cheltenham Festival in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
Unbeaten in three previous outings at Prestbury Park, the Nicky Henderson-trained Apple’s Shakira was widely considered the Gold Cup day ‘banker’ for many and was backed accordingly before being sent off the 6-5 favourite in the hands of Barry Geraghty.
However, she kicked out in the parade ring beforehand and pulled fiercely for her head during the race itself. Those exertions told as she passed the post a lacklustre fourth.
The front-running Stormy Ireland looked to be in control of the juvenile championship rounding the home turn, but she too began to toil on the run to the final flight and it ended up being a straight clash between last month’s Spring Juvenile Hurdle one-two Mr Adjudicator and Farclas.
The Willie Mullins-trained Mr Adjudicator came out on top on Leopardstown, but this time it was 9-1 shot Farclas who had more to give in the finish and he won the rematch by a length and three-quarters.
Elliott said: “I knew there was just a jump between him and Mr Adjudicator and it shows that was the best form.
“We were disappointed he didn’t win the Grade One in Leopardstown, so it’s great he’s won that.
“We ran him in graded race both times and we said if we were going to lose our novice [status] this year we’d want it to be in a Grade One, so happy days.
“He’s growing the whole time and he’ll go to Punchestown, I would imagine.”
On saddling his seventh winner of the week, the trainer added: “We had six winners last year and coming here I thought if we had one or two it would be great.
“To have seven winners is unbelievable. We’ll enjoy it.”
It was a fourth winner for Jack Kennedy, who was keen to praise his boss.
He said: “Gordon had him spot on today. He [Elliott] has done so well with these horses – it’s unreal. He just leaves no stone unturned, his attention to detail is second to none.”
Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary has been a regular in the winner’s enclosure this week, with this the sixth winner in the Gigginstown silks.
He said: “I was very surprised as I didn’t think the fillies [Apple’s Shakira and Stormy Ireland] would be beaten today, but they both pulled very badly all the way round.
“He’s only run twice and been beaten twice, so it’s one of those nice days where if he hadn’t have won, we’d have kept him a novice for next year, but we’re very, very happy to win the Triumph with him.”
Henderson said of the vanquished Apple’s Shakira: “She was far too keen.
“We will put a hood on her and aim her for Aintree now.”
Bridget Andrews landed her first success at the Cheltenham Festival when driving Mohaayed home in a driving finish to the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.
The 3lb-claiming conditional rider was embraced by her partner Harry Skelton, who rode stablemate Spiritofthegames into sixth place, when the horses pulled up after the line.
Sternrubin and Tigris River took the 24-runner field along until the serious end of the ultra-competitive contest and it was hard to call the winner at the final flight.
Mohaayed (33-1), trained by Skelton’s brother, Dan, produced the best turn of foot to take the spoils by two and three-quarter lengths from Remiluc, with Whiskey Sour third and Chesterfield fourth.
Andrews said: “It’s unbelievable. He’s given me a dream ride. He galloped all the way to the line.
“I couldn’t believe he handled the ground. He’s got some good form in the book, we knew he could do it but sort of wrote him off because of the ground.
“I just can’t believe it.”
A tearful Dan Skelton said: “I’m a professional and I shouldn’t be crying, but Bridget has just won a race at the Festival.
“I’m so pleased for her. She works so hard, she’s the epitome of our sport.
“The English haven’t been doing that well this week, I didn’t think we had any chance.
“I feel like an idiot! I’m a bit speechless.
“I really fancied the horse three weeks ago, but it kept raining and I said to June [Watts, owner] ‘do we run, do we not?’ and June said, ‘let’s run’. I’d probably have pulled him out but it just shows you, sometimes it’s meant to be.
Reflecting on the race, Andrews said: “I jumped off and I think because of the ground, people are just taking their time a bit. I’d lined up to be halfway, but ended up handy. I gave him plenty of daylight and tried to find the better ground.
“To be honest, I think they got quite a soft lead as we ended up going quite slow and he jumped and he travelled.
“I was just waiting for them to swallow me up, but he kept going.
“I always said I would never go conditional – it’s too hard. It’s hard for the boys, it’s hard for anyone to get going, but Dan approached me and asked if I’d like the job and how could I turn it down? I’m biased, but I think I’ve got the best conditional job in the country.”
Andrews’s sister Gina was a winner at the Festival last year and Bridget added: “When I got here, I sent her a picture and hung my stuff up on the peg where she had written her name last year and said and ‘I just pray this gives me some luck’, and thank God it has.”
Harry Skelton said: “I was shouting at her to just go easy. He’s handled the ground today and she’s now realised her dreams.
“The girls have been great this week, they’ve shown they are as good as the men given the chance. I’m just so proud.”
Willie Mullins said of third home Whiskey Sour: “We are very proud of him to run like he did, especially on that ground.”
Kilbricken Storm caused a 33-1 upset as he showed stamina in abundance to win the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
A first winner of the week for trainer Colin Tizzard and a first ever at the Festival for 19-year-old jockey Harry Cobden, Kilbricken Storm powered up the hill after heading long-time leader Fabulous Saga at the final flight.
Although the pack closed near the line, Kilbricken Storm was home and hosed as he scored by three lengths and a length from the Nicky Henderson-trained pair of OK Corral and Santini, who was sent off the 11-4 favourite.
1 Farclas 9-1
2 Mr Adjudicator 8-1
3 Sayo 33-1
4 Apple's Shakira 6-5 fav
1 Mohaayed 33-1
2 Remiluc 50-1
3 Whiskey Sour 7-1
4 Chesterfield 16-1
1 Kilbricken Storm 33-1
2 OK Corral 16-1
3 Santini 11-4 fav
4 Ballyward 20-1