Denmania came to town at Cheltenham last Friday. The Cheltenham Gold Cup was billed as a virtual showdown between the Paul Nicholls-trained pair of Denman and Kauto Star. The pair filled the first two places with Denman ultimately coming out on top by some seven lengths.
In truth, the race was over from four out as Kauto Star was already being rousted along by Ruby Walsh to keep tabs on Denman. Sam Thomas on the other hand never really had get overly anxious aboard Denman and, although the towering son of Presenting, wilted somewhat in the closing stages, he still beat Kauto Star by seven lengths. Trainer Nicholls completed a memorable one-two-three as his Neptune Collonges kept on to secure third spot, a further short head adrift of Kauto Star.
It should be divulged that Denman was bred by Colman O’Flynn from Fermoy in Co Cork.
Whilst Walsh was ultimately out of luck in the Gold Cup, the Co Kildare native partnered three winners to win the award for leading jockey at the meeting. He kicked off by guiding the Nicholls-trained Master Minded to a ridiculously easy 19-length success in Thursday’s rescheduled Queen Mother Champion Chase.
On Friday, Walsh won the Ballymore Properties Novices’ Hurdle on Willie Mullins’ grey Fiveforthree and just over an hour later, he brought up his hat-trick by capturing the JCB Triumph Hurdle aboard Nicholls’ Celestial Halo, an initial festival winner for ultra-enthusiastic owner Andy Stewart.
Youghal jockey Davy Russell atoned for several near misses at the meeting by partnering two winners on Friday. Russell, who was cheered on by his father Jerry, sister Eimear and younger brother Sean, got off the mark aboard his former guv’nor Ferdy Murphy’s Nalad du Misselot in the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle. He then won the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, the penultimate race of the festival, with Arthur Moore’s Tiger Cry.
Some are already thinking ahead to next year’s Cheltenham festival and of course the domestic racing scene has already returned to normal.
Clonmel this Thursday
This Thursday, there’s racing at Clonmel with the first of a planned seven-race card getting under way at 2.55 pm. In all probability, Themoonandsixpence represents the best bet of the afternoon in the closing Ardfinnan INH Flat Race.
This Willie Mullins-trained gelding, a former point-to-point winner, has been placed on his two bumper starts to date and on his most recent foray, the son of Presenting finished a fine third to Jaffonien in a competitive Leopoardstown bumper in early February. This event in truth represent a genuine drop down in class and Themoonandsixpence is recommended to get the better of Diklers Bleu.
Boleybawn Quickstar is the clear form choice in the Clonmel Beginners Chase. This Philip Rothwell-trained six-year-old posted arguably one of his best ever performances by coming second to Publican in a two-mile beginners chase at Gowran Park earlier this month. It’s safe to say that Boleybawn Quickstar won’t encounter anything of the calibre of Publian here and he’s therefore selected to account for King Troy.
Monty Blue can continue trainer Adrian Maguire’s purple patch by returning to the coveted number one slot in the Slievenamon Maiden Hurdle. This son of Overbury, a close relation to last week’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Denman, made a most encouraging start to his park career by finishing second to the progressive Sheriussa in a Wexford bumper in late October. Whilst this will be Monty Blue’s first start since then, his fitness is taken on trust and he’s likely to return to the coveted number one slot at the expense of the previous course winner Itsmylife.
Perhaps, Itsmylife’s handler Willie Mullins will go on to complete a double as his recent Punchestown bumper winner Sports Line will surely take all the beating in the Powerstown Maiden Hurdle, an event that’s also likely to concern Anyaab, whilst Theicecreamfellow and The Mighty Miller are a likely pair in the Suir Handicap Hurdle.
The mare Robertstown Rover can supplement last month’s facile Fairyhouse success by excelling from Well Corned in the Lisronagh Handicap Chase and John Queally’s Comedien is marginally preferred to Knocknagow Leader in the Comeragh Beginners Chase.