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.

Rupert ‘Ruby’ Walsh

Rupert ‘Ruby’ Walsh Granted his lengthy association with Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls, the fact that Ruby Walsh is, far and away, the most successful jockey in the history of the Cheltenham Festival is no real surprise. Mullins has saddled 61 winners at the March showpiece meeting, Nicholls has saddled 43 and, between them, they have won the leading trainer award 11 times.

Coincidentally, Walsh has also won the leading jockey award 11 times, including five years running between 2013 and 2017. Indeed, he was favourite to do so again in 2018 but, after two early wins – which took his career total to 58 – aggravated a leg injury, sustained at Punchestown the previous November, when Al Boum Photo fell at the penultimate fence in the RSA Chase on the second day, and missed the rest of the Festival.

Walsh rode his first Cheltenham Festival winner, Alexander Banquet, trained by Mullins, in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 1998, as an 18-year-old amateur. Having turned professional, he had to wait a few years for his second, Blowing Wind, trained by Martin Pipe, in the Mildmay of Flete Challenge Cup in 2002 but, thereafter, has ridden at least one winner at every Cheltenham Festival.

His notable successes include the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, on Kauto Star in 2007 and 2009, the Champion Hurdle four times, on Hurricane Fly in 2011 and 2013, Faugheen in 2015 and Annie Power in 2016, the Queen Mother Champion Chase three times, on Azertyuiop in 2004 and Master Minded in 2008 and 2009, and the Stayers’ Hurdle five times, on Big Buck’s in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and Nichols Canyon in 2017. The four ‘championship’ races aside, together Walsh and Mullins have ‘farmed’ the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle, winning all bar three of the eleven renewals – including six in a row between 2009 and 2014, with Quevega – since it was added to the Festival programme in 2008.