It has been a record-breaking Cheltenham Festival for Ireland who produced the winners of the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup at the meeting as well as taking 19 of the 28 races.
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Sizing John caused a surprise in the Gold Cup as he was able to get the better of Djakadam, Native River and Cue Card who had all been all popular in the betting for the Blue Riband contest leading up to the meeting. Jessica Harrington was able to win the 3m2f contest for the first time in her career and become the first female trainer to be victorious since Henrietta Knight in 2004. The Irish horse has so often been used to finishing second behind Douvan over 2m but since stepping up in trip he has excelled as he has become only the third horse to do the Irish Gold Cup and Cheltenham Gold Cup double in the same season. Sizing John has been installed in the horse racing betting for the 2018 Gold Cup at 10/1 where he currently has only Thistlecrack ahead of him in the market at 4/1.
Unowhatimeanharry went into the Stayers’ Hurdle on day three of the Festival this year as many people’s banker of the meeting following his success there in the Cleeve Hurdle, however, Harry Fry’s hurdler had to settle for third place as Nichols Canyon was successful for Willie Mullins, with Lil Rockerfella taking the runner-up spot. Ruby Walsh gave the winner plenty of cover in the early stages of the 3m race and had plenty left in the engine jumping the last as he went up the hill better than any of his rivals to prevail for the Irish Champion Trainer.
Douvan’s defeat in the Queen Mother Champion chase was arguably the biggest surprise of the Festival this year. Last season’s Arkle Trophy winner went off at 2/9, the shortest price of any runner at the meeting. He was unable to finish in the placings though as Special Tara came out on top for Henry De Bromhead. The 10-year-old was third in the same race 12 months ago, while in 2015 he also had to settle for third place in the leading 2m chase contest on the national hunt calendar.
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The one Championship success for Great Britain during the 2017 Festival came on day one in Champion Hurdle as Nicky Henderson was successful with Buveur D’Air. Last season’s Supreme Novice Hurdle third-place finisher has been running over fences earlier in the campaign but was switched back to hurdles at the start of this year and has proved to be a very good move following his win at the Festival. The six-year-old, who ran in the JP McManus silks, was successful by four lengths ahead of My Tent or Yours who finished second once again just like he did in 2014 and 2016, while Petit Mouchoir ran on for third.
In the Trainers’ Championship, Gordon Elliott took the price back to Ireland with him as he was able to defeat Mullins who also had six winners on the meeting but missed out on countback.