Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero make Cheltenham Festival history

A review of the action from Friday at the Cheltenham Festival where Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero made history when Iroko landed the final race of the meeting.

Lossiemouth lands Triumph Hurdle

Lossiemouth (11/8 favourite) ran out an impressive winner of the JCB Triumph Hurdle with trainer Willie Mullins saddling the first four home in the juvenile Grade One.

A seemingly unlucky loser at the Dublin Racing Festival when hampered by a stablemate there were no such concerns for jockey Paul Townend or favourite backers on this occasion despite a false start and some errant jumping from outsider Hypotenus who raced near the pace.

Lossiemouth travelled ominously well racing down the hill but Townend was able to hold on to his filly before asking her to go and win the race approaching the last. She quickened up in fine style, readily seeing off the challenges of Gala Marceau (the beneficiary at the DRF) and Zenda.

Stablemate Gust Of Wind was a long way back in fourth with Ascending fifth.

Mullins didn’t have it all his own way with Blood Destiny, favourite or joint-favourite in the ante-post markets, failing to fire with jockey Patrick Mullins saying he was beaten at halfway and that the run was ‘too bad to be true’.

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Delighted owner Rich Ricci, celebrating his 20th Festival winner, said: “I felt unlucky on the day after her last run and I’m delighted the one who beat us that day was second as it franks the form. She’s a lovely filly with a lot of scope, she’s National Hunt bred and is very nice.

“Paul said coming down the hill she wanted to crack on, he held on to her just enough, she filled up and she responded to him which is great as it shows maturity. He said when he let him go she was great.

“I am glad for Paul as Willie hammered him the last day. For the record I didn’t think it was Paul’s fault I thought the tactics were wrong so it’s Willie’s fault actually! Willie had his best Jose Mourinho moment and found someone else to blame, but on the day Paul was gutted. Sport is about redemption, I always say that.

“It’s great to be a part of this, Tuesday was such a special day with Honeysuckle and Constitution Hill Hill, then yesterday with Henry (de Bromhead) winning on the day there was a race named after Jack (de Bromhead), it’s a very special week.

“To have a winner is special, it’s our 20th winner but you never take it for granted, we’ve had enough losers.

“She was one from one at Auteuil. I think she has got enough boot to go on the flat but my view would be to go to Punchestown and put her away for next season. She is only four so maybe in two years time she will go for the Champion Hurdle depending on Constitution Hill and the rest of the field. You are asking me the same question that Willie asked me about going to the flat with her and I’m not sure we have to. Vauban is a better question to go on the flat with him because he has some scope on the flat and has a good rating on the flat.

“For the time being Punchestown is the next thing for Lossiemouth and we will take it from there.”

Townend was happy to make amends for the owners, saying: “I think she is very good. She is very professional, even though she hasn’t had a whole lot of racing. Thankfully we were able to make up for the mishap at Dublin for Rich and Susannah.

“It wasn’t ideal at that stage in the race to be honest [that she was pulling my arms out at the top of the hill], but I wasn’t going to fight her too much, she was throwing her head about a bit, she just wanted to get on with it. I didn’t question her stamina, so I just wanted to keep at an even gallop. She was actually, I thought, having a little look around up the straight.”

It was the Closutton handler’s third win in the race in four years, having previously struck with Burning Victory in 2020 and Vauban last year.

Mullins said: “She travelled into the race at maybe the five-furlong marker and rather than fighting her Paul just let her gallop and held onto her as much as he could for a long as he could.

“He thought she was actually idling come up the straight and thinks there is a little bit more in the tank – she looks a star mare.

“But for the traffic problems in Leopardstown she’d be unbeaten for us. I’m very happy with how they all ran, bar Blood Destiny (finished ninth) who was disappointing. I don’t know what happened to him, but all the rest ran their race.

“It’s a nice start to the day.”

Asked whether Lossiemouth could be a candidate for next year’s Champion Hurdle, Mullins added: “She’s a possibility the way she came up that hill there anyway. There’s every possibility that she’ll go down that route.”

Skelton lands another County Hurdle

Dan Skelton had saddled three of the last seven winners of the McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle and was expected to mount a bold bid to make it four with Pembroke sent off the 9/2 favourite.

However, it was 33/1 chance Faivoir who took the spoils, coming through with a well-timed challenge under Bridget Andrews and edging out Pied Piper in a thrilling finish.

The pair pulled clear of Filey Bay in third with Sharjah and Ballyadam finishing fourth and fifth.

Skelton and Andrews had combined to win the 2018 renewal with another 33/1 chance in Mohaayed.

Prairie Dancer and Highway One O Two cut out much of the running and were still in front at the top of the hill. The latter went for home after the second last with the prominently ridden Anna Bunina sent in pursuit but they were soon swamped by the closers and there were half a dozen spread across the track at the last.

Faivoir had the stands’ side rail to help and quickly pulled clear with Pied Piper and the pair were separated by just a head at the line.

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“Dan’s horses generally go for a bit of room and try to get a clear run round, but I actually had a really rough run round,” Andrews said.

“But every time I thought I could switch out, I kind of felt like he was enjoying it – he’s that kind of character; stay in, stay brave, although I wasn’t feeling that brave at the time. He jumped great, and downhill I could just sit for a minute. Turning in it all opened up and I knew he would see it out well, although he can be a bit of a character. Dan would say don’t get there too soon, and I probably did get there too soon, but I was getting plenty of weight, so he could see it through.

“I know the horse is a monkey but I always felt like he was just keeping his nose in front and giving me everything. He’d never be a horse who would go on and go clear, but I always felt like I was just holding. He’s probably not the most natural jumper, but he keeps his head up and is very, very good with his feet. Even when he doesn’t see a lot he can kind of get his way out of trouble. He gave me his all today.

“Dan seems to be mastering them [big handicaps at Cheltenham]. I always felt so lucky that I had one winner here; there are far, far superior jockeys who have had no winners here, so to get a second one is pretty special.”

Skelton, who won this race previously with Superb Story (2016), Mohaayed (2018) and Ch’tibello (2019), said: “I was watching Pembroke the whole way around and for a novice in a field like that when he made the mistake two out that was it. He will have his day as he is a very good horse. Trusting a novice in a big field like this is hard but all power to Bridget.

“Once he went down to the last like that I just felt it was possible. It is pretty good. That was absolutely brilliant Bridget. I was watching Pembroke the whole way round and old Favoir nips in up the straight and pulls out one of them.

“It was a great bit of riding from Bridget. She doesn’t get many dances on the big stage because obviously Harry takes precedence but as you can see she is more than capable and I’m very proud of her. I said on television before he went out there we thought he would win one of those big handicaps this season and he went to Newbury the other day and he said no way not on that ground. She has won a Grade Two on him and she has done plenty on him. He is just a good horse on his day and understands the big fields and that is the one thing I had in the back of my mind about Pembroke, but he is a very good horse and I’ve not lost faith in him.”

Fay wins Albert Bartlett as favourite runs out

Stay Away Fay (18/1) won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle for Harry Cobden and Paul Nicholls but the result may have been different had Corbetts Cross jumped the last.

The winner was always to the fore and had by no means cried enough but Corbetts Cross had travelled well throughout and was alongside heading to the final flight. However, he jinked to his right unseating jockey Mark Walsh who crashed through the wings.

That left Stay Away Fay clear but only by a length or so from Affordable Fury with Sandor Clegane and Letsbeclearboutit in behind.

Affordable Fury, sent off at 150/1, tried hard but couldn’t reel in the winner who had a length in hand at the line.

Sandor Clegane was third, Letsbeclearaboutit fourth with Three Card Brag fifth.

The winner was part-owned by Chris Giles who has enjoyed a brilliant run of success having landed a big race double at Sandown prior to the Cheltenham Festival.

“I did him in an each-way double with Greaneteen and he was third in the Champion Chase. Ladbrokes will be looking at my account asking why is this guy not closed! All round it has been a good seven days,” he said.

“That was fantastic. He jumped well, travelled well and was given a great ride by Harry Cobden. We thought we might get swamped and done for toe but he stays on. Maybe he liked the ground, but we didn’t know if he would. I just thought we want to see how travels and how he would stay against the Irish horses.

“We thought maybe a top five or six finish would be nice but he has exceeded all expectations. It is fantastic as he is a chaser for next season. It is going to head downhill at some point as it always does but that was wonderful.

“He had enough pace and maybe the ground helped as it was his first time on it. He is one to be excited about. You can’t beat it anytime here, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday they are all good. That is what Paul (Nichols) wants to do (go chasing) and he looks that kind of horse. He was revved up for it and he was nervous and you could see the adrenalin pumping in the pre-parade ring. It was a good experience for him today. He has got a bit of filling out today. Am I going to desert Paul Nicholls, no way never. We are looking for more.

“We tried to buy one last night but it is tough in the sales. Yesterday in the Turners that was a nice win (for Stage Star) and it proves Paul is still around and hopefully that maintained it. Don’t worry he will be selling me more. The prize money never stays in the account for long. I love the game so I keep investing for days like today.”

Walsh was injured in the incident at the last and was stood down for the day by the Doctor, therefore missing his ride in the Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard former winner Minella Indo.

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A delighted Nicholls said: “I thought he’d run well as he should have won the last day and he’s taken a step forward since then and he looked fantastic. We were very positive on him today, he jumped really well and it’s only the third run of his life, there’s loads of improvement to come.

“We’ll probably go to Aintree with him if he’s all right, otherwise it will be chasing next year.

“He’s been quite backward, that’s the best he’s jumped today, he’s just a young, improving horse.”

He added: “At home he does all his work with Hermes Allen as they are both a bit one-paced and he has taken a big step forward. He probably should have won at Doncaster, he’s improved since and it’s just fantastic.

“I think Hermes Allen will probably have a wind op but he’ll go chasing too, they are two really nice horses to go chasing with.”

Cobden added: “They went a good even gallop but he is a horse that sits a little bit high in the bridle. Today he travelled very well and jumped great and turning in I thought I had a nice bit left and he was going to stay all the way to the line. He got a good jump at the last but he idled a bit in front.

“He is very tough and obviously a good horse. From a jockey’s point of view it is a long way to be in front from turning in to the last. For an inexperienced horse with the crowd and all the cheering he was pulling up a little bit in front so he did well to keep going. I really fancied him and I thought he had a massive chance coming into this race. First time out he was green and stayed going and he beat a nice horse of Dan Skelton’s. Lorcan (Williams) was a bit unlucky on him at Doncaster after that.

“Paul has put him away and trained him for one day. The only thing that made me fancy him even more was when Kilbricken Storm won the race I thought this horse was a lot better than he was which gave me more confidence on him. He (Thyme White) wouldn’t have won anyway. It is one of those times where there was loads of pressure going into day two when you haven’t got a winner and you want to get one.

“Visually he looked like he was going to win but from where I was sitting he didn’t look like he was going to get up the hill. It is great we have got some nice young horses but we have got to keep going to the sales.”

Meade said of the runner-up: “He was only 150/1 because he virtually pulled up the last day and there were reasons for that. He got a fall when they went too quick in the Monksfield Novice Hurdle at Navan in November – they went a mad gallop and he ended up on the floor.

“He probably would have won that day had he stood up and then we ran him back within four weeks in the Grade One at Naas and it was too soon – he just bombed out. We freshened him up and he is a very, very good horse. I think he’ll be a right good chaser as he’s a good jumper and a good stayer and he got the most brilliant ride today from a young fella (Sam Ewing).”

Paul Nolan was slightly left wondering what might have been with Sandor Clegane.

He said: “It was a big run. We knew he was better than his run in Leopardstown and he had to go to the line better than he did that day. He probably didn’t get the run of the race today. He got hampered at the very first and then he was shuffled back to last and pushed out wide. I’d like to look at the race again, but I think maybe he might have been the unlucky one.

“You’re always happy when you get a cheer at some stage. He ran well and he stays well and he remains an exciting prospect.

“I just thought the way he closed to the line after the distance he had to make up and being wide, we were unlucky, but it is what it is.”

Magic result in Hunter Chase

Premier Magic (66/1) ran out a surprise winner of the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase under trainer / jockey Bradley Gibbs.

The winner came through to challenge two from home and was clear having jumped the last but there was a loose horse in the way on the hill and he began to tie up.

However, the 10-year-old had enough petrol left in the tank to hold on for a famous victory.

Vaucelet, the 9/4 favourite, was always well placed but couldn’t go with the leaders from three out while last year’s winner Billaway fell on the first circuit.

The strong-finishing It’s On The Line finished second with Shantou Flyer third under Olive Nicholls, daughter of Paul, and Rocky’s Howya fourth.

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For Gibbs, who equipped the gelding with cheekpieces, it was a career-high moment, yet it was also slightly bittersweet.

He said: “The worst part about it is my partner and my son aren’t here today. We couldn’t get a babysitter and my dad’s in hospital having a heart operation today. It’s really special but I just wish they could have been here.

“It was unbelievable, my fiancee’s father owns him and we came here last year thinking we had a chance. I rode him down the inside and everything just got a bit tight for him, he just got stage fright really. I rode him wide today and he was a completely different horse.

“The way he’s been winning his point-to-points, we always thought he was good enough to win a big race like this and thank god it’s paid off today.

“This just doesn’t happen to people like me, you know? I’m from a small village in Wales and probably used to train just four, five horses, and built it up and built it up, and thank God we landed on one like this. A good friend of mine from Ireland, Jimmy Kelly, buys all my horses for me and he bought this one four or five years ago and paid £5,000 for him. ‘This is a right one’, he said, and thank God he was right. He’s a very good judge and I’ve had plenty of nice horses off him.

“We put the cheekpieces on today for the first time – Jimmy (Sherriff, owner) and I spoke a few days ago and he said to try them. He jumped and travelled everywhere today, and coming down the hill I was hoping to God I wouldn’t get caught, but I knew he would keep galloping to the line.

“I was having a good run on the first circuit round the outside, and the loose horses just came in and across me and it was just starting to get a bit messy. Down the back to four out one came across me again, and even halfway up the run-in my horse got to it and then stopped, and I thought, oh no, please don’t stop halfway up the run-in, but he got going again and thank God, he stayed there to the line. The run-in felt like about five miles long today!

“This is huge for British point-to-pointing. You’ve got all the top boys here, like Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins, running today, and for a Welshman to win it – that doesn’t happen very often. The bigger trainers normally rule races like these, and we are genuine point-to-point people. It’s good for us to come and be able to win one of these races.

“I’ve ridden 230-odd point-to-point winners. I had a big start off Dad – he just bought me what he could, went through the pony racing and showjumping, then Dad started buying a few pointers for me; we weren’t spending much money, but it got me going, thank God, and we had a good step up when we moved to Claire’s father’s farm in Hertfordshire near Lemsford. It’s our third season training out of there – we had 15 winners the first season and 21 the second season, and now we’ve had a Cheltenham Foxhunters winner!”

Winning owner, Julian Sherriff, was one of the few who made the most of the 10-year-old’s generous odds.

He said: “We bought him four or five years ago in Ireland and he’s done us proud in points and hunter chases but this is absolutely fantastic. Bradley said he had a real chance and so increased my bet, and I got 100/1. He’s got an engine on him, what a horse, it makes everything you put into the game worth it.”

Impervious imperious in Mares’ Chase

Impervious (15/8) stretched her unbeaten record over fences to four with a gallant victory in the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase under Brian Hayes.

The field didn’t get away at the first time of asking and when the starter did raise the flag, Magic Daze planted herself and refused to set off. Without the front-running mare in the field, it was left to Zambella and Pink Legend, second last year, to make the running.

The latter was still in there pitching away two out but the market leaders Impervious and Allegorie De Vassy were in her slipstream. They eased to the front and jumped the last together with Allegorie De Vassy going half a length up but Impervious and Hayes were not to be denied, rallying strongly to run out a deserving winner.

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“She winged the first, winged the second and was always landing running but thankfully Daryl Jacob was keeping her busy on the front end. She’s very quick, she’s pace but she stays very well as well,” said Hayes.

“Paul passed her but pure guts. Head down, ears back, she just wants it you know. She’s a class act, she has scope and power and she commits to it.

“I think I’ve won five races on her now, she’s a smashing mare, and now I’ve got a Festival win on her. This is my first Festival winner, a lot of lads leave here without one but I’ve got one and it’s amazing.”

It was a fifth Festival success for trainer Colm Murphy, but the first since Empire Of Dirt in 2016 for the man who saddled Brave Inca to land the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2004 and the Champion Hurdle two years later.

Murphy said: “I’m absolutely delighted, she was very tough, it’s fantastic. To be stood here again is one of the reasons I came back (after spell away from training), this is why we all do it. I’m just fortunate enough to have another really good one.

“I’ve always really liked her, right through her bumper and hurdle days. You hope and hope that one day they’ll go and do what she’s just done. Looking at that I would agree that she’d get further if we wanted her to, I’d say we’ve got loads of options with her.

“I actually don’t know if she’ll run again this season. I’d say we’ll get her home, give her a few entries and take it from there.

“I was wearing a lucky shamrock, it’s clearly done the trick.”

Landmark success for Greenall and Guerriero

Oliver Greenall and Josh Guerriero have enjoyed a terrific first season as joint-licence holders and became the first to win a race at the Cheltenham Festival when Iroko (6/1) landed plenty of bets in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

The five-year-old looked to be struggling racing down the hill with jockey Aidan Kelly niggling but he stuck to his task very gamely. There was plenty of scrimmaging from the bottom of the hill and Iroko was only in third jumping the last with the strong-travelling No Ordinary Joe – owned, like the winner, by JP McManus – and Buddy One ahead of him.

Iroko, however, was not to be denied and stayed on resolutely up the hill to record a famous success.

The judge had to resort to a photo for the minor places with No Ordinary Joe claiming second from Buddy One with Might I edging out Imagine for fourth.

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Greenall said: “I can’t describe the feeling, really – amazing. We always knew the horse was nice, but we just felt maybe  he’d be tapped for toe a little here. But he managed to hold his position – he came off the bridle early enough and jumped so well, even when off the bridle.

“He’s such an easy horse, so straightforward, just tough, honest. He shows nothing at home,  he’s not a good work horse, but he’s so straightforward, doesn’t take much work – he’s a dream. He toughed it out and winged the last, and it’s just great.

“I rode the winner of the Foxhunters here in 2008 [on Amicelli], so to train one here is amazing. Josh mainly works on the horse side and is there every day, and I do more with the owners. We’ve got 70 in training, with 50 running at any one time, mainly over jumps but some on the Flat too.”

The winning jockey, Kelly, added: “We went a good gallop throughout and my main instructions were to get a good break. We got a lovely breakaway and we were going a good gallop. Going down the back we were struggling a touch and I just had to nudge him along but he’s an out and out stayer. Thank god he handled that hill well. As soon as the gap came he quickened up well and just after jumping the last I thought maybe I will or maybe I won’t but when I got after him he put his head down and galloped really well to the line.

“This is my first time here and I was kind of taking it all in yesterday. To finish second (in yesterday’s Pertemps Final on Salvador Ziggy) was great and having a winner just tops it off. To ride a winner here is amazing and I still can’t believe it. The walk back was amazing, I saw so many people I knew and lots I didn’t and I appreciated them all as they were all cheering for me. It’s every jockey’s dream to ride a winner here. Even to ride a winner is great as it’s very hard to get going in Ireland, that was my 18th winner today and this is one I won’t forget.

“It’s just tough to get on horses who can actually win. This is my fifth or sixth season now and things have seemed to start going well from the start of the season. Hopefully I can top this next year!”

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