Six Irish-trained winners on day two of Cheltenham Festival
Gordon Elliot claims 468-1 hat-trick with Ruby Walsh leg injury not as bad as first feared
Trainer Gordon Elliott and jockey Jack Kennedy after winning the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on Veneer of Charm at Cheltenham Racecourse. Photograph: Tim Goode/PA Wire
Only the Champion Chase winner Altior prevented an Irish clean-sweep of the Day Two Cheltenham action with six winners for the raiders including a 468-1 Gordon Elliott hat-trick.
That included Samcro’s rout in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle while Tiger Roll enjoyed a third festival victory in the Cross-Country event. Samcro’s jockey Jack Kennedy scored too on the 33-1 Veneer Of Charm in the Fred Winter.
Only the 5-2 favourite Presenting Percy interrupted the Elliott-Mullins monopoly in the RSA Chase.
The results keep open a route towards emulating, or possibly eclipsing, last year’s record Irish haul of 19 winners and at the end of the day there was even encouraging news about Ruby Walsh to bolster the visitors morale.
The champion jockey was taken to hospital with a suspected broken leg after his second last fence fall in the RSA. Having returned last week from breaking the same right leg in November, and won twice here on Tuesday, it seemed the festival fates had delivered a particularly cruel blow.
However it was later confirmed Walsh has “aggravated” the leg injury and will see his consultant in Dublin next week for further assessment. He is out of the rest of this week. But as his sister said after guiding Relegate to bumper glory it doesn’t look as bad as initially feared.
”My heart is torn a bit to be honest. I feel sorry for Ruby. But it’s not as bad as first feared so he’ll be back,” Katie Walsh after giving Mullins a remarkable ninth win in the race.
Period on the sidelines
Walsh himself later told the Racing UK channel which sponsors him: “My right leg is in a cast and the fall opened the fracture at the back. I won’t know the full extent until Tuesday.”
Mullins, who now trails Nicky Henderson by just one winner (60-59) to become the festival’s most successful ever trainer, had feared his jockey faced another prolonged period on the sidelines.
However after Relegate’s victory he said: “You hear all that, then five hours later find out the X-rays are clear. But he’s very sore. It’s right on the same spot. He couldn’t get his leg out in time when horse rolled on him.”
It could have been a family finish to remember as Ruby Walsh was originally to ride Carefully Selected. Danny Mullins took over and came within an ace of successfully making all the running only for the 25-1 Relegate to pounce.
Mullins also had a jockey reshuffle on his hands for the Coral Cup and Paul Townend switched from Bleu Berry to Max Dynamite. Mark Walsh stepped in for the first festival victory of his career on the 20-1 discard.
Having finished runner up in the Champion Hurdle, and subsequently filled the same sport on Min in the Champion Chase, Townend too could have been forgiven for pondering the Cheltenham fates.
There seemed something preordained though about Samcro living up to his billing in the Ballymore Properties Novice Hurdle and the giant chestnut looks to leave the racing world at his feet.
Michael likes having chasers. He was bought to be a chaser. But we’ll talk about it.
The unbeaten star’s owner Michael O’Leary praised his winner, shook his head at the hype, and implored everyone to enjoy the moment rather than immediately speculate about Samcro’s future.
The Ryanair boss must have guessed he was involved in a futile exercise as even those closest to the most exciting young horse in the game appear to have differing views.
“He definitely has the class and speed to go over hurdles,” Elliott said. “Michael likes having chasers. He was bought to be a chaser. But we’ll talk about it.”
Big race temperament
If that sounds like a conversation to savour then Jack Kennedy’s contribution will be interesting. The 18-year-old rider, who later partnered Veneer Of Charm, once again proved his big race temperament on the 8-11 favourite.
“I wouldn’t mind what he does in future – but I’d love to ride him over a fence,” Kennedy said, not long after Elliott responded to a query about next year’s Champion Hurdle – “We can dream!”
Tiger Roll may be no Samcro in terms of talent but O’Leary’s stalwart joined an elite group of horses to have won three different festival races by landing the Cross-Country.
As his stable companion Cause Of Causes – another triple hero – floundered in the ground Tiger Roll powered clear to give jockey Keith Donoghue, 24, a first festival success.
“I’ve really struggled with my weight and missed Labaik here last year because I couldn’t do the weight. That was very hard to take but this makes up for it,” he said.
Davy Russell injured his knee in a fall in the Cross Country and will have to pass a doctor to ride on Thursday. The Cork man had earlier enjoyed a brilliant RSA success on Presenting Percy who is as low as 7-1 for next year’s Gold Cup.
It continued Russell’s streak of riding at least one festival winner every years since 2006.