CHELTENHAM: Fantastic day as Irish stars break new ground

What another fantastic day of racing at Cheltenham, bringing to an end another magnificent festival.

CHELTENHAM: Fantastic day as Irish stars break new ground

I hope the Government was keeping a close eye on things as it proved to be another stunning success for Irish racing. There are hardly too many better showcases for this country and when you think it comes from a sport that is in fact an industry, employing so many people directly and indirectly, you cannot argue that it doesn’t warrant considerable investment.

Ruby Walsh finished top jockey. Willie Mullins was top trainer. There were a record-breaking 14 Irish-trained winners and plenty more that were bred in this country, including yesterday’s thrilling Gold Cup winner, Bobs Worth.

Nobody can deny that it is a remarkable return. To remain on the top of the racing tree, producing the goods on the biggest stage and provide such a good advertisement for Ireland; you’d have to be happy with that.

Hopefully, they will keep that in mind when it comes to loosening the purse strings once again. There is no arguing with the facts and the benefits are economic as well as sporting.

I was delighted that Nicky won the Gold Cup with Bobs Worth. I said all along that he was the one to beat. Some people were concerned about the horse not having run since the Hennessy on December 1, but I wasn’t and there were no fitness issues as he powered up the hill.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a magnificent training achievement to have a horse fit and ready to win the biggest prize in National Hunt racing after almost four months off the track. But you expect it from Nicky. He is by some distance the most successful trainer at the festival and used to bring See You Then to win his Champion Hurdles without prep runs.

It was great for Barry too. He had Bobs Worth as a yearling and I’m sure he didn’t think he had a future Gold Cup winner on his hands at the time.

Some 14 Irish winners set a new record, and it was left to Alderwood to be forever associated with that record when giving AP and JP a double, having had their first winner of the meeting with At Fishers Cross in the Albert Bartlett.

Bryan Cooper had a day to remember with a double. Ted Veale completed it in the County Hurdle but Our Conor’s spectacular 15-length success in the opening Triumph Hurdle was incredible. I was delighted for Dessie Hughes but Bryan must have been in dreamland, having three winners before AP had managed one.

You had to feel for Jane Mangan in the Foxhunter Chase. Her talents are well known here but they were displayed to a wider audience with the brilliant ride she gave Oscar Delta, trained by her father, Jimmy. They looked certain to win when clear of Salsify jumping the last but the horse looked to go left for another circuit and then jinked, giving Jane no chance of staying on board. It was a real Devon Loch moment and your heart would go out to her.

But I suppose these things are put into perspective by what JT McNamara and his family are going through right now. Our thoughts are with him and you could see from the reactions of Barry, AP and JP after what should have been very happy occasions for them, that they found it difficult to celebrate when such a good friend is in a desperate fight.

I was delighted with how my three runners went. Jetson was very unlucky not to win after getting into trouble in the County Hurdle but he flew home to be third. Jezki was excellent in finishing third in the Supreme Novices’ and Bostons Angel fought like a lion to be fourth in the cross-country.

I have no runners over the weekend apart from one point-to-point entry on Sunday but it won’t be that quiet. The Flat season is almost upon us and I have quite a few that are forward enough so I’m looking forward to that.

It’s hard to believe that Cheltenham is over though.

Only 361 days to go until it comes around again...

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