Codd’s Festival double
Slevin, O'Neill also shine under Cheltenham spotlight
Jamie Codd kept up his tremendous Cheltenham record with two more wins at last week's Festival bringing his total to nine, a figure not matched by many top professionals whom he had in his wake as he won the Champion bumper for the second time in three years on Wednesday.
He was involved in one of the duels of the week when he held off fellow Wexfordman, Barry O'Neill, in an epic battle in the Amateur Riders' Chase a day earlier, also foiling Davidstown trainer, Paul Nolan.
A third Wexford winner came from Caim jockey, J.J. Slevin, who had a really good week and certainly put his talents in the shop window as he also had two seconds and a fourth.
Seán Flanagan came third in the Ryanair Chase on fancied Road to Respect, with a bad mistake at the third last proving costly, and Daryl Jacob had no winner but picked up big money by being placed in the top races.
Jamie Codd had an emotional success in the Bumper on the unbeaten Envoi Allen (2/1f), trained by Gordon Elliott. He dedicated the race afterwards to his late brother, William, who died tragically a little over a year ago, another man who was deeply ingrained in the racing game.
Their parents, Billy and Mary Frances, who have always been keen horse people, being involved particularly with the Killinick Harriers and the Lingstown point-to-point track, were present to welcome Jamie in on the winner.
'It's an emotional day,' he said afterwards. 'I lost my brother last year and it's been a tough year. William was a big supporter of mine. He was here when I won this two years ago on Fayonagh. He is up there looking down on us today and I hope he is very proud. It's brilliant to have Mam and Dad here today.'
This was a fifth successive win for Envoi Allen who won his debut point-to-point race at Ballinaboola just over a year ago when trained by Colin Bowe and ridden by Barry O'Neill.
He was sold after that for £400,000, and Codd had piloted him to three successive Irish bumper wins.
The icing on the cake was at Cheltenham where horse and jockey had to work hard to repel his main market rival, the Barry Geraghty-ridden, Willie Mullins-trained Blue Sari (7/2), by three-parts of a length after a tough duel up the famous hill.
There was a tremendous finale to day one on Tuesday, with two of Wexford's (and Ireland's) top riders providing an epic battle over the last three furlongs in the gruelling four miles Amateur Riders' Novices Chase, with Jamie Codd holding off Barry O'Neill who was on the Paul Nolan-trained Discorama.
This was a stamina-sapping clash of champions who have ridden over 1,600 winners between them. Codd took it up on Le Breuil (14/1) approaching the third last.
He was joined and then headed at the last by O'Neill who had been hampered several times earlier in the race, but Codd finally got the edge in the final one hundred yards and he got home by half a length.
It was a great effort by him and also by O'Neill and Davidstown trainer, Paul Nolan, who was just denied his third Cheltenham victory, having won with Dabiroun in 2005 with Nina Carberry, and Noble Prince in 2011.
There were only four finishers in a controversial race and there was widespread debate about the stewards who handed out twelve-day suspensions to some of Ireland's top amateur riders for allegedly pushing their horses too hard.
Their actions drew scathing criticism from many major racing figures, including Tony McCoy who said it was the worst decision he had seen in 25 years going to Cheltenham
The hardest hit was Wexford's Rob James, a highly-rated rider who is fourth in the point-to-point championship this year and was third last season.
He fell at the last when in a remote fourth place on Just Your Type (50/1) and was given twelve days 'for continuing contrary to the horse's welfare', though the vet. reported he found no abnormalities when he examined the animal afterwards. James got an additional seven days for use of the whip.
The British stewards have regularly done things like this at the Festival and at other high-profile meetings.
They are acutely aware that their annual highlights are under close scrutiny by TV viewers and are over-sensitive to any likely criticism from people who have little understanding of jumps racing. They tend to make examples of some riders every year, and quite often they are Irish.