Tuesday 23 January 2018

Sizing crowns raiders' record Festival

Trainer Jessica Harrington finished the week with three winners. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Jessica Harrington finished the week with three winners. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny Ward

A record-breaking week for the Irish concluded on St Patrick's Day with a staggering 19 Cheltenham wins, as Gordon Elliott finished top in the Irish Independent-sponsored leading trainer's contest and Ruby Walsh was leading rider for a tenth time.

The main event, the Gold Cup, featured a Jessica Harrington runner for the first time in Sizing John, Co Meath rider Robbie Power's first mount in the race. He prevailed at 7/1, the first half of a double for the duo, as Rock The World won the finale.

Harrington finished the week with three winners, two for English millionaire Alan Potts, who achieved a life-long ambition to win the £575,000 Gold Cup.

Last year's tally of 15 wins for the visitors from the 28 events, one achieved subsequently on a technicality, was blown away as Elliott and Willie Mullins enjoyed six winners each, underlining their dominance of Irish racing and their ascendancy over British trainers.

Especially remarkable about the Irish haul was that bookmakers had made the British heavy favourites to take the majority of the 28 races. Despite the Irish victories, Paddy Power said that the firm had "never had a better Festival".

The powerhouse yard of Paul Nicholls managed just one scorer, Pacha Du Polder taking the Foxhunter Chase yesterday before a crowd of 70,160. Rival Nicky Henderson had three.

Michael O'Leary's Gigginstown operation had a successful week with four winners. After Champagne Classic's victory yesterday, the businessman claimed that he was "without doubt the worst horse I own". O'Leary, who pulled his main horses out of the Aintree Grand National due to a disagreement over weights allotted by the British handicapper, finished leading Cheltenham owner.

This was Elliott's first Cheltenham trainer's award. The victories of Arctic Fire and Penhill brought Willie Mullins' total Cheltenham tally to 54 winners, six behind Henderson. Four of this week's victories were guided home by stable jockey Ruby Walsh. Elliott said of his title success: "I'd have settled for one win at the start of the week."

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