Philip Reynolds

Philip Reynolds Irish businessman Philip Reynolds is, in fact, the son of the late Albert Reynolds, who served as Taoiseach of Ireland between 1992 and 1994, and freely admits to having inherited his love of horse racing from his father. Reynolds Jnr. has owned racehorses since the Eighties, but what has been described as his “overnight 20-year success story” only came to fruition in 2016, when Mall Dini became his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival.

Trained by Patrick Kelly, in Craughwell, Co. Galway and ridden by Davy Russell, Mall Dini had won comfortably won a maiden hurdle at Thurles the previous December, but, after three subsequent defeats in handicap company, was set off an unheralded 14/1 chance for the Pertemps Network Final. Nevertheless, the six-year-old made headway from midfield approaching the second last flight and, despite hanging left in the closing stages, stayed on strongly up the hill to win by three-quarters of a length. An incredulous, but nonetheless triumphant, Reynolds said afterward, “I’ve wanted to do this all my life. I can go now.”

Lo and behold, though, twelve months later Reynolds’ green and white silks were in the winners’ enclosure at the Cheltenham Festival again, this time courtesy of Presenting Percy, also in the Pertemps Network Final. Trained, once again, by Patrick Kelly – whom Reynolds describes as a ‘genius’ – and ridden, once again, by Davy Russell, Presenting Percy stayed on strongly in the closing stages to win by 3¼ lengths.

Presenting Percy returned to Cheltenham for the Festival in 2018 and, after making a successful transition to fences, justified favouritism in the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, jumping and travelling well throughout to win by 7 lengths. Described by Reynolds as a ‘very special horse’, Presenting Percy has yet to make his seasonal reappearance in 2018/19, but is ante post favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, so the story may yet continue.

Willie Mullins

Willie Mullins Co. Carlow trainer Willie Mullins has won the Irish National Hunt Trainers’ Championship and the Leading Trainer Award at the Cheltenham Festival five times in the last eight years so, hopefully, requires little introduction. Admittedly, Mullins has found life more difficult since Gigginstown Stud, owned by Michael O’Leary, removed all 60 of its horses from his yard in September, 2016, following a dispute over training fees. Nevertheless, when Laurina effortlessly went clear to win the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle by 18 lengths in 2018, to record his seventh success of the week, he officially became the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival with 61 winners, one ahead of Nicky Henderson.

Mullins saddled his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Tourist Attraction, in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 1995 but, despite his impressive total, it hasn’t all been plain sailing in the interim. Between his forty-eighth winner, Limini in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle in 2016 and his forty-ninth, Yorkhill in the JLT Novices’ Chase 2017, he actually racked up 25 consecutive losers although, in typical style, he subsequently saddled the winners of three of the remaining six races on the card.

Mullins has won the Champion Hurdle four times, with Hurricane Fly in 2011 and 2013, Faugheen in 2015 and Annie Power in 2016 and the Stayers’ Hurdle twice, with Nichols Canyon in 2017 and Penhill in 2018. He has yet to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase or the Cheltenham Gold Cup but, in the case of the latter event, has saddled the runner-up six times, including On His Own in 2014, who was beaten a short head after being carried across the course by the eventual winner, Lord Windermere, in the closing stages, but wasn’t awarded the race.

Sir Anthony McCoy

Sir Anthony McCoy Sir Anthony Peter ‘A.P.’ McCoy retired from race riding in April, 2015, having ridden 4,348 winners in Britain and Ireland and won the British National Hunt Jockeys’ Championship 20 years running. At the so-called ‘Olympics of horse racing’, the Cheltenham Festival, McCoy rode 31 winners, making him the third most successful jockey in the history of the March showpiece meeting, behind Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty.

His first Festival winner, Kibreet in the Grand Annual Chase in 1996, was trained by Philip Hobbs, but most of his early winners – including Make A Stand, winner of the Champion Hurdle in 1997 – were trained by Martin Pipe. Indeed, in 1997, McCoy also rode Or Royal to win the Arkle Challenge Trophy and Mr. Mulligan, trained by Noel Chance, to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and become leading jockey at the Festival for the first time, with three winners.

In 1998, McCoy won the Leading Jockey Award, again, with five winners. He won the Arkle Challenge Trophy again, on Champleve, the Pertemps Final on Unsinkable Boxer, the Cathcart Challenge Cup on Cyfor Malta and the County Hurdle on Blowing Wind, all trained by Pipe, and the Grand Annual Chase on Edredon Bleu, trained by Henrietta Knight. Thereafter, McCoy rode at least one Cheltenham Festival winner in every year bar two, 2001 and 2005, of his career, finally signing off with Uxizandre, owned by J.P. McManus and trained by Alan King, in the Ryanair Chase in 2015.

In terms of the main ‘championship’ races, McCoy won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, on Mr. Mulligan and Synchronised, trained by Jonjo O’Neill, in 2012, the Champion Hurdle three times, on Make A Stand, Brave Inca, trained by Colm Murphy, in 2006 and Binocular, trained by Nicky Henderson, in 2010. Perhaps surprisingly, McCoy never won the Stayers’ Hurdle.