Day Four of the Cheltenham Festival has been another successful day for the Irish, bringing an end to this year’s event.
Tipperary’s Rachael Blackmore earned the title of leading rider, while Willie Mullins was narrowly crowned leading trainer in an exciting day of racing.
5.08pm: Willie Mullins clinched the leading trainer title from Henry de Bromhead on countback as Galopin Des Champs won the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, the final race of the meeting.
Sent off an 8-1 chance, the five-year-old benefitted from a fine ride by Sean O’Keeffe to foil Langer Dan’s bid for a £50,000 (€58,300) bonus.
Dan Skelton’s runner was in line for the windfall after winning last Saturday’s Imperial Cup, but try as he might, Galopin Des Champs just had too many guns.
The meeting ended with Ireland taking the Prestbury Cup with 23 winners to just five from Britain.
4.51pm: Townend said: “She’s very tough and only a novice, but you wouldn’t think that from the way she jumps.
“She was very keen with me early, so I elected to just let her go on and attack her jumps and I thought myself and Mark (Walsh, on Elimay) were in a good duel from a long way out.
“It was nip and tuck and I felt rounding the home turn that I still had a life. My worry was that we’d gone at it and something was going to come late at us.
“The drop of rain we had last night definitely helped. She’s a Grade One winner in Ireland as well, so she’s a very valuable mare and where she goes will be up to Willie and the owners.”
Of Al Boum Photo, the rider added: “He wore his heart on his sleeve again. We missed a couple of fences this year, which wasn’t ideal, but he’s gone down fighting.”
4.26pm: Jack Kennedy was out of luck aboard Mighty Stowaway in the Hunters’ Chase, with that defeat ensuring Rachael Blackmore will claim the top jockey title at the Festival.
Blackmore is the first woman to be crowned leading rider at the meeting, with the victory sealing a fabulous week that yielded six victories overall.
She was out of luck on her final ride of the meeting as Cabaret Queen pulled up in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase.
The Grade Two heat is a new addition to the Festival this year and Willie Mullins dominated the inaugural running, with Colreevy (9-4) pipping stablemate Elimay (6-5 favourite) to glory.
The pair went toe-to-toe all the way down the straight, with Colreevy finding more for Paul Townend to edge victory.
Shattered Love was back in third.
4.14pm: Biddick added: “I’ve been a bag of nerves all day, I started crying when he was coming up the run in. A big softy. It’s an unbelievable feeling, unbelievable.
“Lorcan gave it an absolute peach, he got a good ride on him at Wincanton and today he’s just jumped and travelled. He had no trouble, he was good enough and he was put in the right position to be finishing it off. He held on.”
4.00pm: Williams said: “I’m very lucky, I’d like to thank Will so much. As soon as he found out amateurs weren’t allowed to ride, I was sat on the sofa and he gave me a call and said ‘we’re going to win the Foxhunter this year’. My god was he right.
“The thing was, he was jumping so well down the back, I was actually in amongst horses turning into the back. I thought ‘he’s a small horse, just give him a bit of light through the back’, and he’s jumped through my hands.
“To be honest, I didn’t want to hit the front too soon at the top of the hill. I was just trying to fill him up before we came up the hill. I can’t believe it.”
3.55pm: Porlock Bay and Billaway fought out a thrilling finish to the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase, with the former just prevailing in a photo.
With amateurs currently unable to ride due to coronavirus restrictions, Lorcan Williams took the mount on Will Biddick’s 10-year-old, who was having just his second start in Britain after previously running in France.
Porlock Bay (16-1) could be spotted travelling supremely well from some way out, but favourite Billaway – who was second to It Came To Pass last year – proved a tough nut to crack, matching strides after jumping the last.
It was nip and tuck all the way to the line, with Porlock Bay just grabbing the glory on the nod, with Staker Wallace back in third and pace-setting Latenightpass in fourth.
3.43pm: De Bromhead said: “It’s unbelievable. I’m delighted for all connections – the Maloneys, Barry and Mike and everyone.
“We’ve had so much fun with this guy, we weren’t beaten by much with Monalee and to go and do it with him, he’s just an incredible horse.
“He comes alive here and I suppose when you saw Allaho winning like he did yesterday, it gave us more confidence with him.
“He’s amazing, he just comes alive. He’s like a different horse, a little bit like (Champion Chase winner) Put The Kettle On.
“I think I’m still in my hotel, it’s Monday evening and I’m about wake up and nothing’s even started yet. That’s where I’m at at the moment, it’s brilliant.
“A Plus Tard was amazing, he ran a cracker for the Thompsons of Cheveley Park. Both jockeys were amazing, it’s just brilliant.”
3.25pm: Kennedy said: “I can’t believe it, this is what I’ve dreamt of since I was a child. I’m just so grateful to Henry and (owner) Barry Maloney for giving me a chance and the opportunity to ride him. I can’t thank them enough, I’ll owe them forever.
“This is what I live for. I just can’t believe this is after happening, I’m delighted.
“I was there very soon on him, but I didn’t want to disappoint him, he carried me into it and I didn’t want to be taking him back.
“I landed over the last and he pricked his ears, he was pulling up, but it wasn’t out of tiredness and when he heard Rachael coming back at him, he took off again. It’s unbelievable stuff.”
3.20pm: Henry de Bromhead claimed a famous one-two in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup as Minella Indo repelled the challenge of A Plus Tard.
With Rachael Blackmore opting to partner A Plus Tard, it was left to Jack Kennedy to steer home the winner in the Festival feature.
It was a straight shootout between the stablemates from the top of the straight, with Minella Indo going for home first.
Blackmore tried to rally her mount after the last in a bid for another historic success, but A Plus Tard just could not catch the 9-1 winner.
Dual champion Al Boum Photo had to settle for third as the 9-4 favourite, with Native River fourth and Frodon fifth.
Leading British hope Champ was pulled up at an early stage after a series of jumping errors.
2.57pm: Cromwell said: “That was fantastic. I wasn’t sure how he’d act on better ground as he’s quite a slow horse, but Mark said he travelled with loads of enthusiasm today.
“He showed an extra gear there he hasn’t shown before and we know he stays well.
“I’m not surprised he won, but I’m surprised how well he won.
“The ground at Christmas at Limerick was knee-deep, but he stayed on well at the finish. He had a small wind op after that, but at the Dublin Racing Festival he ran no race – like all mine there that weekend – and he came back a sick horse. He’s bounced back, though.
“He’ll go chasing next season, he’s a proper staying chaser of the future.”
2.50pm: Walsh was teaming up with Vanillier for the first time as regular rider Jonathan Moore is currently sidelined following a fall.
The winning rider said: “One man’s loss is another man’s gain. Thanks to Gavin for giving me the ride.
“He won well, I watched his second at Limerick and all he seemed to do was stay on. Gavin said to me ‘he can be a bit lazy, keep him to his work’, he was the opposite.
“He was in my hands early for the first circuit, I thought he was doing a bit too much.
“I was always happy with how I was travelling and going, I knew he stayed well.”
2.43pm: Vanillier galloped his rivals into submission in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle.
Representing Gavin Cromwell, who won Thursday’s Stayers’ Hurdle with Flooring Porter, Vanillier kicked for home a long way out under Mark Walsh and powered up the hill.
Oscar Elite, a 40-1 shot for Colin Tizzard, tried his best to get back on terms, but Vanillier had plenty in reserve and kept finding all the way to the line.
Streets Of Doyen took third, with Stattler fourth
2.12pm: Sexton said: “I’m kind of in shock, to be honest. I don’t know what just happened, but it happened.
“It actually went very well. He jumped, he travelled – I was everywhere I wanted to be. When I went for him, he just kept going and I always felt I was going to get there.
“(It’s) unbelievable, to be honest with you. We had the favourite in the mares’ race yesterday (Royal Kahala) and she didn’t run that well, so I kind of thought I was going home without a winner.
“That’s a nice shock.”
2.07pm: Belfast Banter finished with a flourish to lift the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle for Peter Fahey and Kevin Sexton.
Sent off a 33-1 shot, Belfast Banter was settled in midfield, with Sexton happy to let Milkwood and Third Time Lucki launch their challenges up the straight before delivering his mount approaching the last.
Belfast Banter found plenty on the run to line, fending off top-weight Petit Mouchoir, with Milkwood third and Eclair De Beaufeu fourth.
2.09pm: De Bromhead said: “It’s been an incredible week.
“He’s a lovely horse but we’ve only just got him. He’s a gorgeous horse and I’m pleased for Cheveley Park, as they are great supporters of ours.
“All credit to Gordon and his team as he looked amazing on joining us, we’ve done very little with him.
“We knew he jumped really well, and had been really impressive before today and he’s a lovely looking horse. He’ll be a nice chaser in time.
“I wouldn’t know about next year, we’ll have a chat and see what everyone wants to do.”
1.39pm: Quilixios only joined the Henry De Bromhead yard at the start of the month having previously been trained by the suspended Gordon Elliott, and Rachael Blackmore paid tribute to the horse’s former team.
She told ITV Racing: “It’s incredible. Henry’s only had this horse a short time, so all the work went into him at Cullentra stables, so it’s thanks to their work, really.
“Henry just had to get him here on the boat, so big thanks to all them. He’s a smashing horse. And thanks to Cheveley Park for putting me up, it’s brilliant.
Blackmore admitted her parents are thoroughly enjoying her exploits at home in Ireland.
She added: “They’re getting a great kick out of it, so it’s brilliant. I know they’d have loved to have been here today, like a lot of people. I’m just happy I’m here and these horses are here.”
1.32pm: Rachael Blackmore notched a remarkable sixth winner of the week as Quilixios claimed the JCB Triumph Hurdle, the opening event on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival.
Trained by Henry de Bromhead, who is also enjoying an excellent week in the Cotswolds, Quilixios (2-1) was prominent throughout, settling on the heels of the pace-setting Talking About You before moving to the front two flights from home.
Adagio, representing the home team for David Pipe, tried his best to reel in Quilixios up the hill, but Blackmore’s mount galloped all the way to the line, with 20-1 shot Haut En Couleurs in third.
Favourite Zanahiyr and leading British hope Tritonic both failed to sparkle in the Grade One heat.
12.46pm: Here’s today’s race schedule:
Friday March 19th
1.20 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)
1.55 McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle
2.30 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
3.05 WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1)
3.40 St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase
4.15 Mrs Paddy Powers Mares’ Chase
4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle