Michael O’Leary

Michael O’Leary  Not many owners can say that their first success at the Cheltenham Festival came in the blue riband of the National Hunt season, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but one who can is Michael O’Leary, the proprietor of Gigginstown House Stud. His maroon and white colours were first carried to victory by War Of Attrition, trained by Michael “Mouse” Morris, in 2006 and, since then, O’Leary has recorded 25 more wins, making him the second most successful owner in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, behind J.P. McManus.

O’Leary won the Cheltenham Gold Cup again in 2016 with Don Cossack, trained by Gordon Elliott, but it was seven winners at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018 – far and away the best year, so far, for Gigginstown House Stud – that caused him to remark, “When I die, this is the week I’ll remember.”

Despite the defeat of one Irish ‘banker’, Apple’s Jade in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, his seven winners included another, Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and, finally, after 15 years of trying, he won the Ryanair Chase – the race he sponsors, as chief executive of the Irish low-cost airline – with Balko Des Flos, trained by Henry De Bromhead. Unsurprisingly, Gigginstown House Stud won the Leading Owner Award at the Cheltenham Festival, beating J.P. McManus into second place for the second year running.

O’Leary still has some way to go to catch McManus, but Gigginstown House Stud is, undoubtedly, a dominant force in Irish National Hunt racing. Principal trainer Gordon Elliott – who has saddled 11 of the 19 winners owned by Gigginstown House Stud at the last five Cheltenham Festivals and won the Leading Trainer Award in 2017 and 2018 – continues to flourish, so there appears no reason why O’Leary cannot make further inroads into McManus’ lead in the years to come.

Nicky Henderson

Nicky Henderson  On the eve of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, Nicky Henderson was still the most successful trainer in the history of the annual National Hunt showpiece, with 58 winners, and was due to saddle the favourite in three of the four main championship races. Buveur D’Air, of course, defended his title in the Champion Hurdle, Altior was an impressive winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Might Bite failed by 4½ lengths to complete an unprecedented treble in the Cheltenham Gold Cup after an epic duel with Native River. To make matters worse, Henderson was displaced as the most successful Festival trainer by Willie Mullins, whose seven winners took his own career total to 61 successes.

 

Nevertheless, although the Master of Seven Barrows last won the Leading Trainer Award at the Festival in 2012 that was, in fact, his ninth win and he remains one of a handful of big-hitters at Cheltenham when March rolls around. His impressive track record stretches back to the victory of The Tsarevitch, ridden by John White, in the Mildmay of Flete Challenge Cup in 1985 but, since then, his performance in the four main championship races alone would be enough to make him the envy of lesser trainers.

 

Henderson is the leading trainer in the history of the Champion Hurdle, with seven wins, courtesy of See You Then in 1985, 1986 and 1987, Punjabi in 2009, Binocular in 2010 and Buveur D’Air in 2017 and 2018. He has won the Queen Mother Champion Chase five times, with Remittance Man in 1992, Finian’s Rainbow in 2012, Sprinter Sacre 2013 and 2016 and Altior 2018, the Stayers’ Hurdle twice, with Rustle in 1989 and Bacchanal in 2000 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Long Run 2011 and Bobs Worth 2013. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, Henderson is also the leading trainer in the history of the Arkle Challenge Trophy and the Triumph Hurdle, with six wins apiece.

Cheltenham Festival 2019: Gold Cup Thoughts

Cheltenham Festival 2019: Gold Cup Thoughts  It’s certainly come around fast hasn’t it? In fact, we’re now less than a month away from one of the most highly anticipated racing festivals of them all, The Cheltenham Festival. Set over four days in March, this showcase of top tier national hunt racing, is set to once again captivate racing fans up and down the country. From professional gamblers to the casual crowd, we’ll all no doubt be placing our hands in our pocket and putting our money where our mouth is!

The Cheltenham Festival takes place over four days in March, starting Tuesday March 12th 2019 with Champion Day, followed by Ladies Day on Day two, St Patrick Day on Day three and the most popular day of them all, Gold Cup Day on Day four. Some of highlights of the festival include the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and of course the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup alone has prize money of over £600,000. So who’s in the running to win this prestigious race and earn a place in racing history? It’s early days, but it can’t hurt to throw out some early thoughts for tips for 2019 Cheltenham Festival, and the Gold Cup in particular. Could it be last years winner Native River? At 5-1 punters certainly put him in the running, and winning back to back would of course be the kind of result that would tick the fairy tale ending box. In the betting odds though, Clan Des Obeaux is currently slightly favoured over Native River, with Presenting Percy favourite at 3-1.

Colin Tizzard previously confirmed that Native River would skip Ascot’s Denman Chase this time around (after it was rearranged due to the equine flu scare), but that he might get another run elsewhere. As result it’s potentially quite hard to get a good read on the state of play prior to the Gold Cup run.

In his absence Clan Des Obeaux went on to win the race for Paul Nicholls quite handily, which goes some way to explaining the narrowing of his Gold Cup odds. Presenting Percy’s owner Philip Reynolds, is busily singing his praises too. “He’s absolutely terrific – kicking the boards. In great shape.” Says Reynolds. Taking all of this into account. it’s certainly shaping up to be an intriguing race. Hard to call and, I anticipate, exciting to watch!