Cheltenham Day 3: Irish take over on St Patrick’s Thursday

The Cheltenham Festival and St Patrick’s Day don’t always coincide on the calendar, but the organisers know a good thing when they see one. So it is that the third day of this four-day bonanza is always designated as ‘St Patrick’s Thursday’.

Cheltenham Day 3: Irish take over on St Patrick’s Thursday

Naturally enough, there have been years when the greening all felt a tad contrived, and not just because of the abundance of Oirish clichés. The Thursday racing has habitually been something of a disappointment for the visiting entrants. Kinda like the national day itself, you might say.

Not yesterday.

By the time the crowds had dispersed back into town or further away, the day had delivered six winners for the ‘raiders’ with only the main event, a World Hurdle won by the superb Thistlecrack, escaping the Irish net.

It was just the second time in the history of this great gathering that six Irish-trained horses had taken the honours on the same day. The Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh double act took yet another three of them, of course: Black Hercules, Vautour, and Limini came up trumps.

The first of those took Walsh past the 50-winner mark for the festival. He is the first man to do so; he is the first man to come even remotely close to doing so. “Different gravy” is a term Walsh likes to use about special horses. Mullins utilised it here to sum up his star pilot.

“He’s the best jockey I’ve ever had riding for me,” Mullins told the BBC yesterday. “From the first time I saw him as an amateur, he was different gravy. I always knew he’d be going for the top. He just oozed class.”

For once, it wasn’t just the Mullins/Walsh show. Gordon Elliott, the other Irish trainer here with a supersized operation, claimed a win with Cause of Causes. There were successes, too, for the smaller fry: Colm Murphy with Empire of Dirt and Patrick Kelly with Mall Dini.

Kelly’s win was particularly heart-warming. His yard in Craughwell, Co Galway, houses just seven horses. His staff stops at two. “This is a small man’s day,” said his friend and Mall Dini’s owner, Philip Reynolds. Both of them were tasting festival success for the first time.

It has, in fairness, been a superb week of racing thus far.

All three days have delivered performances for the ages and the continuing fine weather has helped organisers to record three straight days of improving attendances. The crowd yesterday was measured at 65,544, about 5,000 up on the previous record last year.

The vast majority of attendees have managed to file in and out without incident, but the odd few miscreants continue to cause offence. Some of them aren’t even footballers. One man was arrested on Wednesday for faking a media pass and stealing a woman’s purse.

Yet most of those misbehaving have been more mischievous than malicious.

Like the two chaps in their twenties who were reportedly picked up by the local constabulary in the town centre on Wednesday night. Their crime? Helping themselves to a golf buggy from the racecourse and proceeding to motor about the place while drunk.

Silly boys.

Everyone knows Cheltenham is a marathon, not a sprint.

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