They are joined by a host of others who might otherwise have been heading to Aintree at the start of next month – including several British hopefuls, despite the fact horses are currently not permitted to travel from overseas to race in Ireland.
Willie Mullins waited a long time to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, having finally got his hands on the prize he craved most last year, he was again the toast of Prestbury Park today after 100-30 favourite Al Boum Photo provided another picture-perfect moment.
When Paul Townend and Rachael Blackmore left the tarmac on the Dublin to Birmingham flight last night, both did so feeling very differently to how they felt taking off on the corresponding flight 12 months earlier.
Willie Mullins is excited about the prospect of Al Boum Photo defending his Cheltenham Gold Cup crown three weeks tomorrow, and feels his charge has a “fantastic chance” of successfully doing so. Whilst he acknowledges history is against Joe Donnelly’s gelding, he doesn’t believe this year’s opposition is any tougher than the field he readily took care of in 2019.
Official handicapper Martin Greenwood is looking forward to what he described as arguably the “highest-quality” Grand National in years after making Tiger Roll and stablemate Delta Work joint top-weight on 11st 10lb for the Aintree spectacular.
By the time the starter calls the field to order for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, just before 3.30pm on Friday, March 13, we may well have downgraded that old conundrum — how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? — to a first-round four-marker.
Willie Mullins has had many great days in racing but, as he debriefed the media in a packed winner’s enclosure, it was hard to escape the sense that few meant quite as much to Ireland’s champion trainer as Faugheen’s epic victory in the Flogas Novice Chase on day two of the Dublin Racing Festival.
Corky Browne left Carrigtwohill for a life in racing, working with legendary trainer Fred Winter, in England, before forging a glorious partnership with five-time champion trainer Nicky Henderson. Browne announced his retirement, at 77, last week, ending a 62-year association with the sport.
It’s hard to recall a more open Cheltenham Gold Cup than the one that will unfold before our eyes at 3.30pm this afternoon. Of the 16 set to go to post in the Magners-sponsored Cheltenham Festival highlight, only four can be dismissed with real confidence – it really is that open.
Shock wasn’t the right word, nor could you say it was a huge surprise, so if anything Thomas Barr’s bronze medal at last night’s European Championships proved a delightful deliverance on his talent, an ode to his outstanding ability at the event they call the man-killer.
In the past 18 months, Jessica Harrington celebrated numerous firsts: A first Irish Gold Cup victory, first Cheltenham Gold Cup success, first Irish Grand National, and became the most successful lady trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival.