Sunday 24 March 2019

Willie Mullins finishes Cheltenham Festival as leading trainer while Nico de Boinville takes jockey's award

Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile
Trainer Willie Mullins. Photo: Sportsfile

Nick Robson

Nico de Boinville was crowned leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival for the first time.

Nicky Henderson's number one rider drew a blank on the first day, but secured a double on Wednesday, courtesy of the brilliant Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and 28-1 chance William Henry in the Coral Cup. He was also second in the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase on Santini.

His two rides on Thursday were unsuccessful - but a 20-1 win on Pentland Hills in the Triumph Hurdle on Friday was enough to seal the prize.

"Obviously I'm very happy," said De Boinville.

"This is the place everyone wants to ride winners, so to win an award for riding the most is very satisfactory.

"Every winner here gives you the same feeling, whether it's expected from Altior or a 20-1 chance like Pentland Hills.

"All credit must go to the guv'nor (Henderson), he's brought the team here in tip-top shape."

JP McManus took the leading owner title, with the win of Early Doors in the concluding Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle being his fifth of the week.

Willie Mullins was leading trainer for a sixth time, with four winners.

After enjoying a double on day one thanks to the victories of Klassical Dream in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Duc Du Genievres in the Arkle, the Closutton handler had to wait until Thursday to get winner number three on the board when Eglantine Du Seuil struck in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle.

Mullins saved the best until last though, sending out Al Boum Photo to give him a first victory in the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He said: "I'm more than surprised. Lucky enough we got a great start with the first two races, and I just thought that is a brilliant Cheltenham for me with those two if I don't get anything else.

"Then to have the icing on the cake with the Gold Cup, and then to become leading trainer is unbelievable. I couldn't see that at any stage during the week, especially after the last two or three months.

"I wasn't exactly looking forward to Cheltenham with the type of winter we have had. We had a lot less bankers this year, but it is testament to owners who are committed to our yard and the staff. I'm delighted for them."

The scores were tied in the 888Sport Prestbury Cup, with Ireland securing a 14-14 draw after the victory of the Joseph O'Brien-trained Early Doors.

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