Cheltenham Day Three. Irish Trainers get the Luck

Day three at Cheltenham had as the feature race, The Ryanair Chase, which last year saw Bryony Frost become the first female jockey ever to win a Grade 1 at the festival. She rode again as well as Rachel Blackmore who has had such a successful meeting this week so far. There were eight runners in the race. The other two Grade 1 races of the day were the Marsh Novices Chase and The Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle in which last year’s winner Paisley Park took part again.

Gordon Elliott from Ireland trained three winners today

In the first race, The Marsh Novices Chase (Grade 1) with 12 runners taking on the 2 ½ mile 16 jumping effort contest. One of the favourites was the 12 year old Faugheen, a great age for any racehorse still running at the top level. At the off, Faugheen took the lead with Paul Townend in the saddle went into the lead where he remained for the first five fences. Contesting the lead in the early part of the race with Faugheen was stable mate, Mellon, both trained by Willie Mullins. At fence six, Itchy Feet, one of the fancied runners unseated his jockey. Mellon and Faugheen continued to fight for the lead until the penultimate fence when Samcro, another from the Gordon Elliott yard burst onto the scene. Now the three horses vied for the lead, but the old Faugheen was obviously tiring and fell back a bit allowing Samcro and Mellon to fight it out. It was a pulsating finish with both crossing the line apparently at the same time. In fact the camera was needed to separate the two Irish runners with Samcro declared the winner by literally a whisker. Samcro was ridden by Davy Russell and Melon was ridden by amateur rider Pat Mullins.

In the Ryanair Chase, again over 2 ½ miles, Bryony Frost teamed up once again with Frodon to try to repeat their sensational victory 12 months ago. The pair had 7 runners looking to take their thunder. Cheveley Park Stud who have had an extraordinary meeting since they are really flat race horse specialists, had A Plus Tard running for them, trained by Henry de Bromhead in Ireland.

Willie Mullins also trained two winners today

This may well have been the race of the whole meeting as all the runners in this race have either won or been placed in previous Festivals at Cheltenham. Tactics was bound to play a big part in the running of the race as five of the eight runners were known front runners. Another thing which could make differences was that the going was changed from soft to good to soft, although some of the beaten jockeys reported that the ground was definitely holding. In the event Frodon went into the lead in a true run gallop. The runners ran in a tight bunch throughout with Frodon finding the pace too string so relinquished his lead allowing Min and Saint Calvados to battle at the front with A Plus Tard in third, briefly flattering for a time when in second. In the long haul up the famous Cheltenham hill, Min was able to keep Saint Calvados at bay and the race was won. Paul Townend was the winning jockey for Willie Mullins, who has started to make his mark on the week, and the second was ridden by the Harry Whittington trained Gavin Sheehan. This was the third time that Willie Mullins has trained the winner of the Ryanair.

The Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle was a 15 runner affair over the 3 mile Grade 1 contest. Last year, the race was won by Paisley Park, won by blind but enthusiastic owner Andrew Gemmell, which provided an extraordinarily emotional occasion. Paisley Park, this year was sent off favourite, almost as if he couldn’t loose!!! Well it was not to be! In fact the winner was a 50 to 1 outsider with the second sent off 20 to 1 and the third 33 to 1. If you read this on face book, you may well think that it was ‘fake news’!! The race started with a really fast gallop. An old favourite, Apples Jade, having her last race before retiring went out in front and just kept going. She went at least 15 lengths clear at one stage. Finally, at the second last fence, the filly ran out of steam and was quickly beaten.

Rebecca Curtis – won first race at festival for a few years.

The lead was taken by the Rebecca Curtis trained Lisnagar Oscar with Ronald’s Pump next and Bacardys. The three of them came up the hill well, having conserved some energy earlier in the race and that is how it finished. Rebecca Curtis was delighted as she has had a lean time in the past couple of years, but obviously her luck is changing with a 14 month baby and now she has another Cheltenham winner. The winner was ridden by Adam Wedge, his first Cheltenham winner. Ronald Pump was trained by Mathew Smith and ridden by B.J.Cooper with the third, Bacardys ridden by Pat Mullins and trained by Willie Mullins. An unexpected result, but that’s racing, you think you know who will be the leading horses in a race and can be totally wrong. It also shows how racing does not always favour the well known trainers, jockeys and owners, but the less well known can also shine in the lights as well.

At the end of the day the Irish trainers won five of the seven races with the UK trainers winning two. Gordon Elliott won three of the races and Will Mullins won two.

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