Building on the remarkable success of recent years, Irish trainers took the Cheltenham Festival by storm and ended the four days with a final tally of 14 winners, beating last year’s total by one and equalling the record figure achieved in 2013.
Once again, it was a remarkable week for Willie Mullins who brought his total number of winners at the Festival to seven and was crowned the leading trainer for the fifth time.
For Gordon Elliott, it was also a meeting to savour and by far the highlight of his three winners was the success of the Bryan Cooper-ridden Don Cossack in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup for owners Gigginstown House Stud.
The opening day belonged to Mullins who was responsible for all three Irish winners. He won the Stan James Champion Hurdle for the fourth time with the Ruby Walsh-ridden Annie Power and for good measure, the winning trainer was also responsible for the third horse home, Nichols Canyon. Mullins and Walsh had earlier taken the Racing Post Arkle Chase with Douvan and the pair were back in the winners’ enclosure when Vroum Vroum Mag won the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle later in the day.
Wednesday began with an Irish-trained winner as Yorkhill gave Mullins and Walsh their fourth success of the meeting with a clear-cut victory in the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle. Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell enjoyed their first winner when Diamond King came out on top in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle.
Thursday proved to be an exceptional day for Irish trainers who won six of the seven races compared to just one winner on the corresponding day twelve months ago. Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh landed the JLT Novices’ Chase with Black Hercules and Davy Russell was in the saddle as Mall Dini gave Athenry-based Pat Kelly his first Cheltenham Festival success in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. Vautour gained his third Festival win when taking the Ryanair Chase, again for Mullins and Walsh and Colm Murphy paid his fourth visit to the Cheltenham winners’ enclosure when Empire Of Dirt, ridden by Bryan Cooper, won the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate. The Irish winners kept coming and Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh landed the first running of the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle with Limini. Cause Of Causes added to his win in the National Hunt Chase last year when taking the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase for Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd, a fifth winner at the Cheltenham Festival for the Wexford amateur.
Irish trainers were responsible for the first four horses home in the Timico Gold Cup with the Mullins pair, Djakadam and Don Poli chasing home the Elliott-trained Don Cossack. John Kiely’s Carlingford Lough took the fourth spot. The final day had begun with the success of the Barry Geraghty-ridden Ivanovich Gorbatov in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, a sixth winner at the meeting for Aidan O’Brien and his first since Istabraq won the Champion Hurdle in 2000. On The Fringe gave Enda Bolger a seventh Festival winner and his third in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup where scoring a back-to-back success in the race under Nina Carberry, her sixth Cheltenham Festival winner and her third in the race. Although without a winner on Friday, Ruby Walsh equalled his 2009 record haul of seven winners. He brought his Cheltenham tally to 52 winners and emerged as the leading rider at the festival for the tenth time.
Brian Kavanagh, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland, said, “It is a tremendous achievement for our owners, trainers and jockeys to equal our record for the number of winners at the Cheltenham Festival. Having 14 winners over the four days sets us up perfectly for our home Spring festivals at Fairyhouse and Punchestown”.