Between 2000/01 and 2007/08, Warwickshire-based engineer Roger Stephen Brookhouse was a moderately successful permit holder in his own right but, more recently, has found fame as a high-profile National Hunt owner on both sides of the Irish Sea. As far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Brookhouse finally broke his duck when the talented, but fragile, Cheltenian won the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2011.
Trained by Philip Hobbs and ridden by Richard Johnson, Cheltenian was ridden clear in the closing stages to win by 5 lengths at odds of 14/1. Cheltenian ran at the next four Cheltenham Festivals, but failed to trouble the judge in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle three times, including when favourite in 2014. In fact, despite a promising start to his career, Cheltenian won just twice over hurdles, a lowly maiden event at Uttoxeter, at odds of 2/7, in 2013 and the Scottish Champion Hurdle at Ayr two years later.
Indeed, it was a few years before Brookhouse saw his light blue and pink silks carried to victory at the Cheltenham Festival again. In 2014, though, former point-to-point winner Western Warhorse, who was having just his second run over regulation fences, gamely beat Champagne Fever – who was chasing a Festival hat-trick, after winning the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2012 and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2013 – in the Arkle Challenge Trophy. Trained by David Pipe and ridden by Tom Scudamore, Western Warhorse produced a strong run from the final fence to wear down the leader in the final hundred yards and led in the last stride for a shock 33/1 victory.
More recently – in fact, as recently as 2018 – Brookhouse enjoyed further Cheltenham Festival success when Summerville Boy, trained by Tom George and ridden by Noel Fehily, won the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Summerville Boy had already beaten the eventual runner-up, Kalashnikov, by 4 lengths in the Tolworth Hurdle at Sandown on his previous start in January, but had to call on all his resources to win by a neck, on identical terms, at Cheltenham.
Charlie Swan, who retired from the saddle in 2003, was Irish National Hunt Champion Jockey nine successive times but, as far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, will always be remembered for his association with Istabraq. An Irish sporting institution in his time, Istabraq was ridden by Swan on all 29 starts over hurdles and won 23 of them, including four at the Cheltenham Festival. In 1997, as a 5-year-old, he won the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle, but returned to Prestbury Park to win the Champion Hurdle in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Swan actually rode his first winner at the Cheltenham Festival, Trapper John, in the Stayers’ Hurdle in 1990. In 1993, he rode four winners – Montelado in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Shawiya in the Triumph Hurdle, Fissure Seal in the Pertemps Network Final and Shuil Ar Aghaidh in the Stayers’ Hurdle – to become leading jockey at the meeting for the first time. When Peter Scudamore retired in April that year, Swan was approached by legendary trainer Martin Pipe about the vacant position as first jockey at Pond House Stables, but opted to stay in Ireland.
At the 1994 Cheltenham Festival, he won the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle on Danoli, the Champion Bumper on Mucklemeg and the Coral Cup on Time For A Run to become leading jockey for the second year running. The following year, he also won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Viking Flagship, trained by David Nicholson, who would have the distinction of being his only winner over fences at the Cheltenham Festival. Swan won the Royal & SunAlliance Novices’ Hurdle again on Urbande in 1996 and, following his fruitful partnership with Istabraq, rode his final winners – Like A Butterfly in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Scolardy in the Triumph Hurdle – in 2002.