Slevin’s second win
J.J. enhances his growing reputation
J.J. Slevin from Kiltrea, Caim, picked up his second Cheltenham success since turning professional in the middle of 2016, taking the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on Wednesday on the heavily-backed Band of Outlaws (7/2) for his first cousin, Joseph O'Brien.
It was not a trouble-free run as they had to overcome being hampered a couple of times, but horse and rider showed strength and composure to win by a comfortable two lengths and give O'Brien his first official Cheltenham success.
Two years ago J.J. won the Martin Pipe Hurdle on Gordon Elliott's Champagne Classic.
Slevin had three rides for O'Brien on the opening Tuesday and placed them all, with two seconds and a fourth.
In the Grade 1 Arkle Novices Chase, he picked up a cool £37,700 for second on O'Brien's Us and Them (14), and he was second also in the Close Brothers Novices chase on Tower Bridge (6/1) to add another £15,000 to the coffers.
He showed typical never-say-die spirit on the fancied Fakir D'oudaries (9/2jf) to snatch fourth place by a nose from Seán Flanagan in the opening Supreme Novices, behind Klassical Dream, Ruby Walsh's only winner from 15 rides.
J.J. is son of Shay and Elizabeth and his mother is a sister of the legendary Aidan O'Brien. He began riding point-to-pointers trained by his dad, getting 34 winners before turning professional.
He made a major impact when winning the Boylesport Irish Grand National last Easter on General Principle, trained by Gordon Elliott for Gigginstown.
On Thursday, Seán Flanagan made a brave effort to finish third in a massively competitive Grade 1 Ryanair Chase aboard the Noel Meade-trained Road to Respect (9/2), finishing three lengths behind Byrony Frost and Frodon (9/2). Quite a bad blunder at the third last may have been costly.
Daryl Jacob seemed to have a big book of good rides but he ended up win-less.
He was second of 26 in the County Hurdle on We Have a Dream (14/1) behind Rachael Blackmore on 50/1 shot, Minella Indo, and was second of 22 on the fancied Janika (3/1f) in the two and a half mile handicap chase.
He was third just three lengths behind imperious Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Sceau Royal (16/1), and an excellent third on Bristol De Mai in the highlight, the Gold Cup.
He did pick up over £160,000 in those four races alone, not a bad week's work.
And so Cheltenham is over for another year and almost every race seemed to throw up its own unique story.
That's part of what makes the Cheltenham Festival week so unique. I'm looking forward to next year already!