Winners At Cheltenham 2012

Cheltenham Festival 2012

  • After four days of championship racing the Cheltenham Festival is over for another year. On the face of it 5 Irish trained winners might herald a disappointing year for Ireland but if you delve a little deeper you will uncover a highly successful festival from an Irish perspective.
  • Perhaps the most pleasing aspect was the fact that 12 of the 27 races were won by Irish bred horses and the winners of the Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase were all bred in Ireland.
  • Irish bred horses won six Grade 1 races and Irish born jockeys won an amazing 22 of the 27 races with Barry Geraghty finishing up top jockey for the festival.

Gold Cup

  • The success of Synchronised (IRE) in the Gold Cup was a fantastic result for JP McManus and his family. McManus puts so much into national hunt racing and his commitment was well and truly rewarded last Friday as AP McCoy drove his homebred son of Sadler’s Wells to a famous victory over The Giant Bolster. It was a great training performance from Jonjo O’Neill to produce Synchronised in top form on his first run since winning the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. In fact Jonjo deserves immense credit for not only winning also with Alfie Sherrin and Sunnyhill Boy but also producing the heroic Albertas’s Run to narrowly miss out on a fourth consecutive Festival success in the Ryanair Chase.
  • There is a lot of history to the breeding of Synchronised that must also give great satisfaction to the McManus family. His dam Mayasta (by Bob Back) was bred in north county Dublin by John McLoughlin and was trained for McManus by his current racing manager Frank Berry to win nine races. Mayasta was also the first winner McCoy rode for McManus when winning on the mare at Punchestown in 1996. She has also produced the promising recent winner Cross The Flags and a 2yo filly by Oscar. Despite winning a Grade 1 chase in Ireland on his previous run Synchronised had been slightly underestimated before the race. He may not be everyone’s idea of the ideal mould for a top class staying chaser but his heart and lung capacity coupled with his will to win make him a very special racehorse and one that has nothing left to prove.

Champion Hurdle

  • The opening day highlight the Champion Hurdle was widely expected to produce an Irish winner in Hurricane Fly but it was another Irish bred Rock On Ruby (IRE) that was the strongest on the day to give Paul Nicholls his first Champion Hurdle. Narrowly beaten by First Lieutenant in last years Neptune Hurdle Rock On Ruby has been progressive this season and posted a career best performance to beat Overturn (IRE) and a slightly below par Hurricane Fly (IRE) in third to make it an Irish bred 1-2-3. It was a much deserved success for jockey Noel Fehily who has always been top class but has been plagued by injuries and bad luck in recent seasons.
  • A lot of credit must also go to Harry Fry and Richard Barber who oversee the training of the winner at a satellite yard of Paul Nicholls in Dorset. It was a great achievement and one that will be remembered by them and the Festival Goers Syndicate for years to come. Rock On Ruby was bred by John O’Dwyer who sold him as a foal for €23,000 to Whitehorse Stud. He is by Oscar out of the Tirol mare Stony View who has also bred useful racers Alpine Glade and Bluebyyou.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

  • The success of Finian’s Rainbow (IRE) in the Queen Mother Champion was slightly overshadowed by the awkward passage reigning champion Sizing Europe (IRE) had to chart but nothing should be taken away from the winner who undoubtedly is a top class chaser. A last fence faller when looking likely to win his only point to point start at Inch in 2008 when with Adrian Maguire, Finian’s Rainbow has since only finished out of the frame once in 12 starts for owner Michael Buckley and trainer Nicky Henderson. He is a first Cheltenham winner for his sire Tiraaz who unfortunately died in 2004 leaving only a very small crop of horses on the ground.
  • Bred by James O’Keefe, Finian’s Rainbow was sold by his breeder for €8,000 to Tom Mahony. The runner up Sizing Europe lost nothing in defeat and former champion Big Zeb also ran an honourable race in third and it would be a great spectacle of all three renewed rivalry at Punchestown in April.

Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle

  • Wednesday at Cheltenham was a magic day for the Barry Geraghty / Nicky Henderson partnership and they combined with another former Irish point to pointer Simonsig to win the Grade 1 Neptune Investments Novice Hurdle. Ian Ferguson trained the Simon Tindall bred exciting grey in his formative years and his talent was evident from day one. He won twice between the flags before trouncing his rivals in the Gigginstown House Stud sponsored point to point bumper at Fairyhouse a year ago. There was added excitement following that race as Michael O’Leary as sponsor offered the winning owner €100,000 live on air for the winner with an immediate decision being the caveat, in a deal or no deal scenario. Fair play to Ronnie Bartlett for turning him down and taking his chances with Simonsig. It would take a lot more than €100,000 to buy him now.

Champion Bumper

  • Another stallion to register his first Cheltenham Festival success was Stowaway, when his son Champagne Fever (IRE) made all the running to win the Grade 1 Champion Bumper for Willie and Patrick Mullins. Champagne Fever also became the third Grade 1 winning former Irish point to pointer to win that day. The winner, bred by John Cahill showed great determination to see off the strong travelling New Years Eve up the hill to give the trainer his seventh win in the race. Champagne Fever was bought by Michael O’Mara for €17,500. He won a 4yo Maiden at Quakerstown when trained by Roisin Hickey before being sold to Rich and Susanna Ricci and he has the size and engine to be a formidable chaser. Stowaway’s stock are making giant strides on the racecourse in recent seasons with Hidden Cyclone and Western Leader among his early flagbearers. He covered more mares than any other stallion in Europe in 2011 and is sure to be popular again this year thanks to Champagne Fever. He stands at Ronnie O’Neill’s Whytemount Stud in Kilkenny.

Albert Bartlett Hurdle

  • The loss of Kings Theatre to both Ballylinch Stud and Irish breeders was further emphasised with the fact that he was responsible for three winners at Cheltenham; Riverside Theatre, Balthazar King (IRE) and Brindisi Breeze (IRE). The latter’s brave win in the Grade 1 Albert Bartlett Hurdle on Friday marked him as an exceptional talent and a great success for Lucinda Russell and her partner Peter Scudamore. Brindisi Breeze won a point to point for Pat Doyle at Loughrea only five months ago and thus became the fourth Grade 1 winner at Cheltenham 2012 that began his education in the Irish point to point arena. Brindisi Breeze was bred in Limerick by Annette McMahon and was sold as a foal to the Wade family’s Gatterstown Stud. He didn’t reach his reserve at Goffs Land Rover sale four years later but bloodstock agent Tom Malone saw great potential at Loughrea and quickly did the deal much to the subsequent delight of owner Sandy Seymour.
  • Ballylinch Stud had extra cause for celebration after the very first race of Cheltenham as their rookie stallion Beat Hollow is the sire of Donald McCain’s Grade 1 Supreme Novice Hurdle winner Cinders And Ashes. They could not have expected a better start and the son of Sadlers Wells looks an excellent replacement for Kings Theatre. Beat Hollow’s full brother Court Cave came close to getting a winner when his son Champion Court (IRE) only found Sir Des Champs too good in the Grade 2 Jewson Chase. Sir Des Champs himself was the second winner at the Festival for his sire Robin Des Champs following Quevega in the Mares Hurdle on the Day one. Robin Des Champs stands at Rathbarry Stud’s national hunt division Glenview Stud and his first Irish crop are now two years old.

As seen on ITM