Irish horses dominated the Cheltenham Festival again this year and a final tally of 17 winners saw Irish trainers post their second highest tally ever at the Festival.
Gordon Elliott retained his leading trainer’s title with eight winners over the four days, edging out his great rival Willie Mullins who finished with seven, meaning the pair accounted for all but 2 of the Irish-trained winners. Elliott’s tally matches the record number of winners set by Mullins in 2015.
Thirty-nine year old Davy Russell took the leading rider’s crown for the first time with four Cheltenham Festival winners including a spectacular day three treble. He finished level with 18 year old star Jack Kennedy, who also finished with four winners but had fewer placed horses than Russell.
Paul Townend finished the week with two, the same as Ruby Walsh, the top rider at the Festival on 11 previous occasions, who was ruled out of the remainder of the Festival after his fall in the second race on Wednesday.
The 17 Irish-trained winners were spread across 11 different owners and four different trainers with Pat Kelly and Henry De Bromhead also training winners again this year. Half of the races (14) at this year’s Cheltenham Festival were won by Irish-bred horses.
Willie Mullins got off to a flyer with a treble on Tuesday. Footpad was the first Mullins and Irish-trained winner of the week when taking the Racing Post Arkle Chase in the hands of Ruby Walsh, Benie Des Dieux followed up for the same combination in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle before Rathvinden won the National Hunt Novices’ Chase to give top amateur rider Patrick Mullins his fourth Cheltenham Festival success.
On Wednesday, Samcro got Gordon Elliott off the mark when taking the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle with Jack Kennedy the man on board. Elliott was to match Mullins’ opening day exploits with three winners on the day and he also claimed the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase with Tiger Roll, a first Festival success for 24-year-old Dunshaughlin, County Meath jockey Keith Donoghue, and the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle with Veneer Of Charm, a second winner on the day for Jack Kennedy. Tiger Roll, winning at the Cheltenham Festival for the third time, began an unprecedented run of nine successive Irish-trained winners that was only to end in the final race on the following afternoon.
Craughwell, County Galway trainer Pat Kelly made it three winners in successive years for owner Philip Reynolds when Presenting Percy, victorious in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle last year, took the RSA Novices’ Chase in tremendous fashion to give Davy Russell his first winner of the week. Willie Mullins brought his tally to five with a Wednesday double thanks to Bleu Berry, a breakthrough Cheltenham Festival winner for Mark Walsh, in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle and the Katie Walsh-ridden Relegate in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, a third Festival success for the Kill, County Kildare amateur.
For the third year running, Irish trainers captured six of the seven races on Thursday and fell just short of a clean sweep when taking second and third places behind the sole British-trained Missed Approach in the final event on the card.
It was a history making day for Willie Mullins who became the winning-most trainer at the Festival as the Paul Townend-ridden Laurina gave him a 61st winner when routing the opposition in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Mullins had earlier tied Nicky Henderson’s record of 60 winners when Penhill, another ridden by Townend, won the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle.
Gordon Elliott went one better than his great rival with three Thursday winners. Once again, he teamed up with Jack Kennedy to land the JLT Novices’ Chase with Shattered Love while Davy Russell rode both Delta Work and The Storyteller to win the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle and Plate Handicap Chase respectively. It was Russell’s third successive win in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle after partnering Pat Kelly’s Mall Dini in 2016 and Presenting Percy last year.
Michael O’Leary finally got his hands on the trophy for the Ryanair Chase, a race he has sponsored since 2006, when Balko Des Flos, another ridden by Davy Russell, ran out a most comprehensive winner to give Henry De Bromhead a fourth Cheltenham Festival success.
Elliott overhauled Willie Mullins to retain his leading trainer award with a final day double for owners Gigginstown House Stud. Jack Kennedy partnered Farclas to win the JCB Triumph Hurdle while Donagh Meyler, from Kilmacow, County Kilkenny, gained his first Festival success when winning the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle on joint top-weight Blow By Blow.
Irish-Trained winners at Cheltenham Festival 2018
Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – FOOTPAD – Willie Mullins & Ruby Walsh.
OLBG Mares’ Hurdle – BENIE DES DIEUX – Willie Mullins & Ruby Walsh.
National Hunt Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase – RATHVINDEN – Willie Mullins & Patrick Mullins.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – SAMCRO – Gordon Elliott & Jack Kennedy.
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase – PRESENTING PERCY – Pat Kelly & Davy Russell.
Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle – BLEU BERRY – Willie Mullins & Mark Walsh.
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase – TIGER ROLL – Gordon Elliott & Keith Donoghue.
Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – VENEER OF CHARM – Gordon Elliott & Jack Kennedy.
Weatherbys Champion Bumper – RELEGATE – Willie Mullins & Katie Walsh.
JLT Novices’ Chase – SHATTERED LOVE – Gordon Elliott & Jack Kennedy.
Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle – DELTA WORK – Gordon Elliott & Davy Russell.
Ryanair Chase – BALKO DES FLOS – Henry De Bromhead & Davy Russell.
Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle – PENHILL – Willie Mullins & Paul Townend.
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase – THE STORYTELLER – Gordon Elliott & Davy Russell.
Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle – LAURINA – Willie Mullins & Paul Townend.
JCB Triumph Hurdle – FARCLAS – Gordon Elliott & Jack Kennedy.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle – BLOW BY BLOW – Gordon Elliott & Donagh Meyler.