Cheltenham: Irish-trained horses take six of seven races on day two
Gordon Elliott enjoys 858-1 treble while Willie Mullins secures double
Jockey Jack Kennedy celebrates after Samcro’s win in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire
Although Nicky Henderson walked away with a second straight feature race, it was the Irish-trained horses that dominated proceedings on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.
Henderson’s Altior showed all its class to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the English trainer will look to do the hat-trick on Friday with Might Bite in the Gold Cup after Buveur D’Air’s win in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday.
But it’s the big guns of Irish training who are dominating overall with Gordon Elliott running up an 858-1 treble on Wednesday, while Willie Mullins added two winsto his opening day hat-trick to lead the trainers’ table on five.
With Galway trainer Pat Kelly securing the RSA Insurance Chase with Presenting Percy , Irish-trained horses have now won nine races to five for British-trained horses.
Elliott was able to breathe a sigh of relief after Samcro landed the odds in the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Unbeaten prior to heading to the Festival, connections had been attempting to play down the hype surrounding the Gigginstown House Stud-owned six-year-old, but plenty of punters made him their banker bet of the week.
Teenager Jack Kennedy made sure there was no hard luck story by keeping out of trouble on the outside on the 8-11 favourite and cruised into contention on the final bend, taking up the running from Vision Des Flos.
While Black Op made good headway to break away from the rest, he never looked like catching Samcro and a mistake at the final flight stopped his momentum.
Next Destination, off the bridle early under Ruby Walsh, flew up the hill to claim third, just ahead of stablemate Scarpeta.
Elliott raised the possibility of a Champion Hurdle tilt next year, but stressed all plans would be discussed in due course.
“It’s a big team effort from everyone at home, and it worked out great today,” he said.
“There was a lot of pressure, for Jack, for me – for everyone, the whole team.”
Gigginstown supremo Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, said: “He was terrific – very good – and was given a great ride by Jack Kennedy.
“He’s done everything that Gordon’s asked him to do. It was great.
“Now the worry is for him to keep fit and well. We’ll see how he gets on.
“Hopefully he’ll be fit and well and head to Punchestown, and then Gordon will make a plan next year for him.
“At least he’s won at Cheltenham so he’s going the right way.”
Elliott went on: “He looks a very exciting horse and we are very lucky to have him. Michael loves his big chasers, but I wouldn’t be afraid to bring him back in trip.
“He has loads of pace. He only comes awake when the race gets going and he is asleep the first half of the race. When he got to the front he pulled up again.”
Elliott drew a blank on the first day, but it had not had much of an affect on stable confidence.
“I’ve had plenty of days like that [yesterday], I went to Navan one day with five favourites and every one of them fell so I am well used to having days like that – you just have to pick your head up and go again,” he said.
“When you have horses like that you are very lucky and for the owners and staff it is great. I’m delighted. The last day showed how good he was and today proved it.”
RaceBets cut Samcro to 7-1 from 12-1 for next year’s Champion Hurdle, and Elliott said: “I will have to speak with Michael and Eddie [O’Leary, racing manager]. Michael loves big chasers, but he has definitely got the class and speed to stay over hurdles.
“He was bought to be a chaser and Colin Bowe, who trained him for his point to point, recommended him strongly to us. He is a very good horse.”
Kennedy, riding his second Festival winner after Labaik in the Supreme last year, said: “That was unreal. He’s just a class horse. I was there way too soon on him, but he kept going.
“The horse is very good. I wasn’t happy with the position I had during the race, but he’s such a good horse that he got me through.”
Tiger Roll won for the third time at the Cheltenham Festival in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase.
With victories in the Triumph Hurdle and four-mile National Hunt Chase under his belt already, he emulated his Elliott-trained stablemate Cause Of Causes – this time unplaced – with three successes to his name.
Always towards the head of affairs, the eight-year-old was settled just behind the pace-setting Beeves and his only real moment of danger was when another stable companion, Bless The Wings, fell early on and nearly brought him down.
His jockey Keith Donoghue took time out of the saddle not too long ago with weight problems, but could always count on the support of Elliott and has been rewarded with a first Festival winner.
Sent off at 7-1, he took up the running before entering the racecourse proper and while French challenger Urgent De Gregaine threw down a good challenge, he could only close to within two lengths. The Last Samuri did his Grand National chances no harm by finishing third.
Donoghue said: “That was brilliant. He jumped brilliant the whole way and travelled well. I thought he would win, my only worry was the ground. He comes alive round here – he loves it.
“If it wasn’t for Gordon I wouldn’t be standing here as I struggle with my weight.”
Tiger Roll handed O’Leary his second win of the day, and a popular one.
O’Leary said: “This is a family pet now. He loved it. He hates everywhere else, but he loves Cheltenham. I wish I had a few more like him. He’s a little rat of a thing, but he’s the heart of a lion.”
Elliott said: “He is a good horse and he has been very lucky for us. To win three races at Cheltenham is brilliant. He has been a great servant so I am absolutely thrilled and delighted. I’m delighted for Keith Donoghue as he had to lose 7lb to ride the horse. Today was his day.
“He is in the National so we will see and I will talk to Eddie and Michael . It’s another winner here and that will keep them going for a while. It would be the Irish National, if any, as that is more prize money.
“He will definitely be back here next year as he is still a young horse. I don’t know what it is about here, but it is brilliant. It is just different horses for courses.”
Of Cause of Causes, he said: “Jamie [Codd] said he was flat out. I was worried about the ground and it never happened today. He is a a bit sore so we will see how is.”
Veneer Of Charm provided Elliott with a third winner on the day as he survived a late wobble to win the Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
Elliott also ran Mitchouka, who appeared to be the yard’s first string, but he lost all chance when badly hampered by the fall of Lisp down the back straight.
Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra hit the front after the second-last and appeared to be going best, but Veneer Of Charm quickened up impressively for Kennedy to claim his second win of the day.
However, on the run to the final flight Veneer Of Charm jinked to his right, only to regain momentum and hold off Style De Garde with Nube Negra third and Paddleyourowncanoe fourth.
Irish-trained horses claimed two more wins on the day, with just Altior’s win in the Queen Mother Champion Chase going the way of the home runners.
Presenting Percy might not have taken the traditional route to the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase but it made no difference as he bolted up.
Having won the Pertemps Final 12 months ago, he has gone on to prove himself much better than a handicapper.
Galway trainer Pat Kelly is never one to shout from the rooftops and he has charted an unconventional path to Cheltenham this year, including a win back over hurdles, but he obviously knew what he had on his hands.
Davy Russell, extending his incredible record at the meeting, switched his mount off at the rear of the field and when he decided to join in towards the end of the back straight, he was absolutely cruising.
Monalee had taken up the running going well, but had no answer as Presenting Percy (5-2 favourite) scooted clear to beat Monalee by seven lengths. Al Boum Photo was booked for third when falling at the second-last, allowing Elegant Escape to snatch a place.
Winning jockey Russell said: “I’ve underestimated this horse all along.
“People have really latched on to him. He’s unimpressive to me, but, by God, he’s some horse.
“Sometimes you’re a fool and sometimes you’re a hero, but it all worked out today.
“I’ve nothing but praise for the man [Kelly], he’s a genius. We’ll enjoy today.”
Similar thoughts were echoed by delighted owner Philip Reynolds, son for former taoiseach Albert, who said: “The man [Kelly] is an absolute genius the way he trains horses.
“I can’t believe it myself. It was so stressful watching it. It’s more relief than anything else.“I love this horse.
“I’m speechless. I’m just delighted he’s shown what he can do – I knew he was a Graded horse.
“It was the hardest four or five minutes I’ve ever put in. It’s been incredible.
“I think Pat deserves all the credit for the route he has taken with the horse. He got a bit of a slagging about the route he had taken, but he’s taken him out of novice company twice and I think it’s toughened him up.
“The man is an absolute genius. How he hasn’t got a yard full of horses is beyond me.
“To have a horse good enough to come to Cheltenham is incredible, but to have a horse to run the way he’s done is unbelievable.”
Asked whether he felt Presenting Percy could develop into a Gold Cup contender, he said: “I’m just delighted to win the RSA. Today is just amazing.”
Mark Walsh was a late replacement on Bleu Berry but it made no difference as he produced his mount perfectly to beat Topofthegame in the Coral Cup and give Willie Mullins a fourth winner of the week.
The 20-1 winner was supposed to be ridden by Paul Townend, but he switched to one of the favourites, Max Dynamite, following Ruby Walsh’s injury in the preceding RSA Insurance Chase.
Walsh came from the rear of the field to deny Sam Twiston-Davies on the giant Topofthegame in the final few strides.
Gordon Elliott’s Barra was another who made late headway to claim third, while William Henry, sent off the 8-1 joint-favourite along with Max Dynamite, was fourth in the hands of teenager James Bowen.
Walsh, who was claiming a first Cheltenham winner, said: “You don’t want to ride winner like that and Paul would have rode him before getting on Ruby’s horse, but I’m just delighted to be called up by Willie to ride him.
“They went a nice gallop and everything went to plan.
“We got the splits, he winged the last, and had enough petrol in the tank.”
Successful owner Luke McMahon said: “Fair play to Mark Walsh, he gave him a brilliant ride.
“We’ve always liked him [Bleu Berry] but he just had a few interruptions at the start of the season.
Relegate came from the clouds to deny stablemate Carefully Selected and provide Mullins with another winner in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper as he once again dominated the race.
It was a ninth win in the event for Ireland’s champion trainer but a first for Katie Walsh, who delivered the mare right on the line.
Her brother Ruby was supposed to be riding the narrow runner-up, but had earlier been taken to hospital for X-rays following a fall.
Danny Mullins had stolen a march at the start on Carefully Selected and right until the dying moments it looked as if it would prove crucial, only for Relegate (25-1), now unbeaten in three starts, to fly up the hill.
Tornado Flyer claimed third to give Mullins a clean sweep.
Walsh said: “This is a fantastic day. I really appreciate it and I’m very lucky to be here to do it.”
But the victorious jockey’s thoughts were dominated by her brother, who will miss the rest of the meeting after aggravating the broken leg that only saw him return to action last week.
She said: “My heart goes out to Ruby. His bad fortune has turned into a marvellous day for me.
“All I can think of is him, to be honest. Once he’s up and he’s talking, that’s the main thing.”
1 Samcro 8-11 fav
2 Black Op 8-1
3 Next Destination 4-1
4 Scarpeta 33-1
1 Presenting Percy 5-2 fav
2 Monalee 10-3
3 Elegant Escape 9-1
4 Ballyoptic 9-1
1 Bleu Berry 20-1
2 Topofthegame 9-1
3 Barra 16-1
4 William Henry 8-1
1 Altior evs fav
2 Min 5-2
3 God's Own 40-1
4 Politologue 12-1
1 Tiger Roll 7-1
2 Urgent De Gregaine 12-1
3 The Last Samuri 11-4 fav
4 Auvergnat 10-1
1 Veneer Of Charm 33-1
2 Style De Garde 12-1
3 Nube Negra 15-2 fav
4 Padleyourowncanoe 33-1
1 Relegate 25-1
2 Carefully Selected 6-1
3 Tornado Flyer 14-1
4 Acey Milan 9-2 fav