Jessica Harrington

Jessica Harrington Jessica Jane Harrington, still known in racing circles as Mrs. John Harrington – her late husband, Johnny, died from cancer in 2014 – was born in London, but trains in Moone, Co. Kildare. Originally a permit holder, Mrs. Harrington first took out a full training licence in 1991 and, nowadays, has the distinction of being the most successful female trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, with 11 winners.

She saddled her first Festival winner, Space Trucker, owned by Mrs. Eileen Queally and ridden by Shay Barry, in the Grand Annual Chase in 1999, but the horse that thrust her into the public eye was Moscow Flyer. Owned by Brian Kearney, Moscow Flyer was a three-time Grade One winner over hurdles in his native land, but became an even better steeplechaser – in fact, with a Timeform Annual Rating of 184, arguably the best to come out of Ireland since the halcyon days of Arkle, Flyingbolt and Mill House – and ran at five consecutive Cheltenham Festivals in that capacity.

On his first appearance, in 2002, he readily won the Arkle Challenge Trophy by 4 lengths from the Martin Pipe-trained favourite, Seebald, and on his second, in 2003, justified favouritism for the Queen Mother Champion Chase with an emphatic, 7-length victory over Native Upmanship, trained by Arthur Moore. Moscow Flyer started odds-on to retain his title in 2004 and was still travelling well within himself when blundering and unseating jockey Barry Geraghty at the fourth last fence. He gained some compensation in 2005, though, when staying on strongly to beat Well Chief, also trained by Martin Pipe, by 2 lengths for a memorable second victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

In 2014, Mrs. Harrington added the Champion Hurdle to her Cheltenham tally, courtesy of Jezki, owned by J.P. McManus and ridden by Barry Geraghty, and has since added the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle with Supasundae, the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Sizing John and the Grand Annual Chase with Rock The World, all in 2017. Of here Gold Cup success, she said, ‘This is the jewel in the crown. I’ve been watching and listening to this for as long as I can remember.’

Long Run

Long Run Originally trained in France, by Guillaume Macaire, Long Run began his racing career in Britain on Boxing Day, 2009, when cruising to victory in the Feltham Novices’ Chase at Kempton Park. Owned by Robert Waley-Cohen, ridden exclusively in Britain and Ireland by his son, Sam, and trained by Nicky Henderson, Long Run would return to Kempton to win the King George VI Chase twice. Nevertheless, as far as the Cheltenham Festival is concerned, Long Run will always be best remembered as the winner of a vintage renewal of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Fresh from an emphatic, 12-length victory over stable companion Riverside Theatre in his first King George VI Chase – delayed until the New Year after the showpiece Christmas meeting was abandoned due to frost – Long Run was sent off 7/2 favourite for the ‘Blue Riband’ event. His rivals included Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander – collectively, the winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup for the previous four years running – but it was the ‘young pretender’, the six-year-old Long Run, who took the accolades, and first place.

Imperial Commander weakened quickly after a blunder at the fourth last fence and, fleetingly, it appeared that the ‘old guard’ of Kauto Star and Denman – both 11-year-olds and veterans of six consecutive Cheltenham Festivals apiece – might once again dominate the finish. However, despite jumping less than fluently on occasions, Long Run headed Denman on the run to the final fence and stayed on strongly up the hill to win by 7 lengths, with a weakening Kauto Star a further 4 lengths behind in third place.

Long Run contested the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice more, finishing third, when favourite, behind Synchronised in 2012 and occupying the same position behind stable companion, and favourite, Bobs Worth in 2013. Even so, his scintillating victory in 2011, completed in course record time, is unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry.

Roger Brookhouse

Roger Brookhouse 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

Charlie Swan 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.