Elliott leads from the front for Ireland at Cheltenham

Gordon Elliott stole the show with a fantastic 101-1 double as Team Ireland claimed six of the seven winners at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday.

Gordon Elliott stole the show with a fantastic 101-1 double as Team Ireland claimed six of the seven winners at the Cheltenham Festival on Wednesday.

The County Meath handler burst on to the scene when saddling Silver Birch to win the 2007 Grand National at Aintree, but a Festival triumph still eluded him.

That all came to an end on a magnificent afternoon as Chicago Grey landed the opening 141st Year Of The National Hunt Chase.

Stablemate Carlito Brigante, owned by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary, then won in the style of a seriously well-handicapped horse in the Coral Cup.

Such an epic achievement was closely matched by the exploits of Elliott’s compatriots, with the O’Leary-owned First Lieutenant, as well as Bostons Angel, What A Charm and new Champion Chase hero Sizing Europe winning their respective heats.

First up for Elliott, however, was Chicago Grey, who was given a splendid waiting ride by Derek O’Connor.

The 5-1 favourite jumped accurately throughout the four-mile National Hunt Chase, but still had plenty of work to do as the field skipped on down the hill for the final time.

Beshabar was the first to commit for home and the two of them approached the final fence as one.

But it was Chicago Grey who got away from it the faster and he charged up the hill to secure a four-and-a-half-length victory.

“It’s probably the biggest day of my training career. We’ve won a Grand National, but this is what it’s all about,” said Elliott.

“Derek gave him a great ride. You have to have these good amateurs in this race – AP couldn’t have given this horse a better ride today.

“I was never really worried all the way through the race and it’s great for the yard.”

Elliott must have thought he had used up all his luck as Jessies Dream was narrowly beaten by Bostons Angel in the RSA Chase, but he was soon back in the winner’s enclosure with 16-1 chance Carlito Brigante.

“It’s been brilliant. The horses have all been running great, but it’s not just down to me, it’s the owners and the staff, it’s everyone,” Elliott said.

“He’s a great horse and it’s the first time he has got his ground.

“He had a wind operation and we thought he was well handicapped.

“When he goes over fences he will be smashing.”

What A Charm gave Paul Townend his first ever Cheltenham Festival success with a narrow victory in a thrilling Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.

Arthur Moore’s smart Flat performer had shown little on her first three outings over obstacles, but she bounced back with a 9-1 triumph over Kumbeshwar.

Moore said: “Her first three runs all went a bit haywire.

“I think we were riding her a bit wrong, and the ground was a bit heavy for her.

“But we entered her for this race and we liked the way she was handicapped so she had to go.

“This has given me as much pleasure as Klairon Davis’ win in the Queen Mother (1996).”

The Irish stranglehold finally relinquished in the finale when the aptly-named Cheltenian, ridden by Richard Johnson, claimed the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Trainer Philip Hobbs said: “He certainly is not a one-race wonder. If he comes back here next year it will almost certainly be in either the Neptune or the Albert Bartlett.

“He definitely wants a trip.”

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