Friday 22 March 2019

Elliott learns from his master Pipe to reign supreme in week of wonders

Russell and Gigginstown come out on top as Irish tighten stranglehold with more Festival glory

Reynolds: Affectionate. Photo: Sportsfile
Reynolds: Affectionate. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

It was fitting that Gordon Elliott should secure his second Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award by winning a race named after the man who schooled him.

Arm in arm, Elliott stood with his old boss Martin Pipe after the victory of Blow By Blow (11/1) made it eight Festival winners, and 22 in total, as the 40-year-old again edged out Willie Mullins.

Six of those victories came for Gigginstown - who finished leading owners - with Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary making favourable comparisons with Pipe - British champion trainer 15 times - and the all-conquering Meath trainer.

"Gordon learnt at the feet of the master over here and he was well taught. Martin revolutionised training here over many years; clearly Gordon picked it up and he and Willie are doing in Ireland what Martin did here for many years," O'Leary said.

On a day when the British struck back with five winners, Elliott still registered a 119/1 double with Farclas taking the Triumph Hurdle under Jack Kennedy but a fourth winner wasn't enough for the Kerry teenager to usurp Davy Russell, who was crowned leading jockey on count-back.

O'Leary intends to enjoy the remarkable success while it lasts as the wheel will turn. "It's a golden era in Irish racing that we have most of the best horses with very good jockeys and very good trainers but sadly this will turn. I remember 15 years ago, we could only get one winner here."


Katie Walsh was brilliant on Relegate in the Champion Bumper to come from last to first and collar long-time leader Carefully Selected, a horse which she bought and rode to point-to-point success before selling on.


"I love my wife, but I love Pat Kelly even more!" - Owner Philip Reynolds describes his affection for the Galway trainer after Presenting Percy's RSA Chase win handed the team of Kelly, Reynolds and Russell their third Festival victory in a row.


"Thank you for the reception Cue Card received on his way back in after pulling up today. He's in the best hands and what ever decision is made will be the correct one. #CueCard"

- jockey Paddy Brennan (@PaddyBrennan81) after the veteran chaser failed to sparkle on his seventh Festival run.


The home team's confidence was on the floor after a series of Irish raids secured the Prestbury Cup with a day to spare but British trainers hit back yesterday with five winners, including doubles for Paul Nicholls and Colin Tizzard, with the final score left at a respectable 17-11.


Penhill defying 323 days off to take the Stayers' Hurdle was extraordinary but Keith Donoghue's triumphant comeback aboard Tiger Roll in the Cross Country Chase after a constant struggle with his weight - he lost 7lbs to take the ride - was a remarkable change of luck.


"Good horses, good owners, good staff - keep it simple." There's no stopping team Elliott with eight winners ridden by four different jockeys - Russell, Donoghue and Jack Kennedy - in what was a fantastic group effort by the red-hot Cullentra team.


There was a deafening silence when Russell cruised up alongside odds-on favourite Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase before comfortably scoring and bursting the bubble of many punters as Michael O'Leary won the race he sponsors for the first time.


Any punter who got stuck into Laurina could count their money long before the finish as Mullins' exciting mare did handstands en route to victory in the Mares' Novices Hurdle to propel her trainer one ahead of Nicky Henderson as the all-time Festival leading trainer with 61 winners.


After starting off the Festival in familiar style with two winners in another Ruby Tuesday, things took a turn for the worse 24 hours later for Ruby Walsh, who faces a further spell on the sidelines after aggravating his recent leg injury.

Irish Independent

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