Day 2 of The Festival at Cheltenham 2020 saw one favourite triumph while for another there was an upset.
Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
Some horses can take your breath away and the ‘Irish Banker’ of the meeting Envoi Allen did just that to remain unbeaten following success in the opening contest on day two of the The Festival™ presented by Magners, the £125,000 G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle.
Trained by Gordon Elliott, the 4/7 favourite travelled kindly throughout the contest and was shaken up by rider Davy Russell on the approach to the home straight. The six-year-old showed a decisive turn of foot to power up the Cheltenham hill to secure a devastating four and a quarter-length success over stable companion Easywork (12/1) in second.
Gordon Elliott blew a sigh of relief after Envoi Allen won the race: “He was our best chance of the week and everyone was here to see him.”
Elliott had just been congratulated by his countryman, Colin Bowe, who trained Envoi Allen to win a point-to-point and then sold him for £400,000 at Tattersalls’ Cheltenham February Sale to agent Tom Malone. He was acting for David and Patricia Thompson of Cheveley Park Stud, in whose colours Envoi Allen scored today having won last year’s G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Elliott added: “I was nervous the whole way through the race – I watched it with Colin, who trained him to win a point-to-point. I was asking him the whole way ‘Will he stay? Will he stay?’ and he said that he would definitely stay no bother. If I had picked the wrong race, I was going to blame him.
“This was the big one for the week. He is the people’s horse and everyone wanted him to win. He is eight from eight now. I thought Davy had given them too much lead coming down the hill but he knew the horse well – he does what he has to. The horse jumped and stayed.
“He stays, he jumps and was bought to be a three-mile chaser. I think that is what he is going to be, but we will have to discuss next season with his owners. We have a few nice novices, and this one will go to Punchestown.
“In fairness, Colin recommended the horse strongly and a big shout to Tom Malone, who bought the horse. It’s a big team effort. We are going to enjoy today and see what happens.”
Victorious at last year’s Cheltenham Festival in the G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, Envoi Allen is now unbeaten in eight starts, four of those coming in G1 company.
Russell, registering his first winner of the week and a 23rd victory at The The Festival™ presented by Magners overall, said: “Envoi Allen is just a marvellous horse and I am delighted to be associated with him. He has brilliant owners and a fantastic trainer – he is just a marvellous horse.
“We have always liked him and he was very professional at his hurdles.
“It was very dead ground, probably the worst he has encountered and it tested him. We went a good gallop and The Big Getaway and Easywork put me to the test.
“Today is a wonderful day and you just have to enjoy these. They are hard to come by and we are going to enjoy it.”
Russell was also recording a third success in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle following First Lieutenant (2011) and Windsor Park (2015).
Most trainers would be nervous about running the most famous horse in Jump racing, Tiger Roll, but Elliott was looking calm ahead of that horse’s appearance in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase. He said: “He’s in great order, but the soft ground is a big worry. He’s a stone worse on heavy ground than he is on good ground, but he’s here, everyone wants to see him and he takes his chance.
“We enjoy Tiger. If he never wins another race it won’t matter. He’s a horse of a lifetime and we are here to enjoy him.”
1.30pm Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
1 Envoi Allen (Cheveley Park Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE 6-11-07 Davy Russell 4/7f
2 Easywork (Gigginstown House Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE 6-11-07 Rachael Blackmore 12/1
3 The Big Getaway (Marie Donnelly) Willie Mullins IRE 6-11-07 Paul Townend 9/1
Distances: 4¼, 3¾
Tote Win: £1.40 Places: £1.10, £3.20, £2.50 Exacta: £9.60
Gordon Elliott – 27th winner at The Festival
Davy Russell – 23rd winner at The Festival
RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase
The Nicky Henderson-trained Champ flew up the hill to catch Minella Indo and 5/2 favourite Allaho just before the line in the G1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase, giving the trainer a record 67th winner at The Festival. It was Henderson’s third at the 2020 meeting.
Ridden by Barry Geraghty and owned by JP McManus – for whom it was a 61st Festival triumph – Champ was named after former multiple champion jockey Sir AP McCoy. The King’s Theatre eight-year-old was sent off at odds of 4/1, and won by a length from Minella Indo.
Henderson said: “I thought we had come an honourable third and that was it, and had actually turned to see what was happening up the front – I don’t know where he came from! I was actually stood behind Cheveley Park’s [racing manager] Chris Richardson and thought we had finished third to them. Suddenly Champ came into my sights. I thought, ‘what’s he doing here and how has he got here?’
“He’s a horse with a wonderful temperament and attitude, and to be fair his fall [at Cheltenham on 1st January] didn’t do that much damage. It was a horrible fall though. We really wanted to have another race but there was nowhere to go. He did have a racecourse school, and to be fair Nico [de Boinville] has done a lot of work with him, particularly in the indoor school, even yesterday morning he jumped half a dozen poles. Everyone has worked hard, it goes without saying, but Nico takes a lot of credit with this one.
“If Shishkin was 100/1 at the second-last [in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on Tuesday], what was Champ at the last?
“Not surprisingly, he gets three miles well. They’ve gone hard up front and it just gave him that window of opportunity at the end. This is the first time he has been back to three miles since Aintree last year – I purposely went two and a half all season, and then we had that fall. That really upset plans a bit. But we’ve done a lot of schooling at home – Barry has been over a few times and Nico has done a lot of work; he’s a wonderful schooling jockey.”
Barry Geraghty, retained jockey to owner JP McManus, was registering his second victory of the week following Epatante’s win in the G1 Unibet Champion Hurdle yesterday and his 40th victory at the Cheltenham Festival overall. Geraghty is the most successful current jockey at The Festival.
He said: “I knew I still had a chance on Champ turning in. But after jumping the second-last, I wasn’t making up any ground and was still struggling.
“I knew when I committed to pop the last fence, that the two in front of me had not jumped brilliantly at that fence. On landing on the back of it, I was smelling money again.
“As soon as he picked up, I was about three lengths down by then and I knew it was over.
“He was on the back foot all the way. It’s very tacky ground and hard work – JP rang me at eight o’clock this morning and said it might be a little bit better out a bit wider. So I went that way and he was right. It was all about finding a rhythm and helping him travel, so I didn’t have to ask too many questions.
“Nico has done a lot of work schooling this fella over hurdles and poles with Nicky – they have worked hard to get him to where he is and it has paid dividends today.
“Any G1 is special at The Festival and you long for them. It was a great performance to get back up from an uncompromising position.
“There is a bit of confusion over his name, whether it is AP or Kieran McManus has won a few Dunhill Links, so there is a possible clash there. I’m not sure. This is a great race.”
2.10pm RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
1 Champ (J P McManus) Nicky Henderson 8-11-04 Barry Geraghty 4/1
2 Minella Indo (Barry Maloney) Henry de Bromhead IRE 7-11-04 Rachael Blackmore 3/1
3 Allaho (Cheveley Park Stud) Willie Mullins IRE 6-11-04 Paul Townend 5/2f
Distances: 1, 1
Tote Win: £4.50 Place: £1.90, £1.50, £1.40 Exacta: £18.30
Nicky Henderson – 67th winner at The Festival
Barry Geraghty – 40th winner at The Festival
Two pounds proved decisive for Dame De Compagnie (5/1f) in the £100,000 G3 Coral Cup on day two of The Festival™ presented by Magners 2020.
Those who enjoy the sniff of a plot lapped up the news that Nicky Henderson had successfully appealed the official BHA rating of the mare, reducing the mark she was required to race off for this race by two pounds (142 down to 140).
The Barry Geraghty-ridden winner fended off Davy Russell and Black Tears (12/1) by two and a quarter lengths, with Thosedaysaregone (10/1) a further two and a half lengths back in third.
This was winner number four for the winning trainer at the 2020 Festival and followed the victory of Champ in the G1 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase forty minutes previously. It was a 68th winner in total at The Festival for the master of Seven Barrows.
Henderson said: “We thought we had reasonable grounds to appeal it [official rating] and we did win it. In the end it was probably quite important, but I wouldn’t want that to be the only story here.
“You are getting into the realms of you don’t believe it. You certainly couldn’t believe Champ but this is a lovely mare. It’s always a very competitive race but she was very good. It wasn’t that headlong Coral dash with a lot of horses flat to the boards and anything could have won coming down the hill.
“I could see Burrows Edge was up there and looked to be going well enough and I could just see Barry’s white cap bobbing around behind them, so I guess he was happy enough.
“Barry is riding with such confidence, but you still need the luck to get the breaks. She’s a lovely, big mare, and she’s tough – she could jump a fence.
“The injuries and things that Barry has had over the years and the number of good rides that he has missed. These wise old owls are pretty good guys and I am genuinely thrilled for him because he has been great for the game and he still works. Between him and all the team, it is a bit unreal, really.”
Dame De Compagnie gave jockey Barry Geraghty a second consecutive success at The Festival 2020, and a third in total for the week so far when taking the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle by two and a quarter lengths.
The JP McManus-owned mare, a seven-year-old by Lucarno, was the 5/1 favourite and means that trainer Nicky Henderson now has a total of 68 Festival winners to his name.
Geraghty, enjoying a 41st Festival success, said: “She won well. We didn’t go much of a gallop and I knew that going out – I was happy to be just behind the pace once she was relaxed. I had a lovely tow off Nico [de Boinville, aboard Burrows Edge] all the way through the race and then Dickie [Johnson, riding Honest Vic] from three-out, although I landed a bit on his heels a little bit at the back of the third-last. She picked up well from the back of the last and it was a good performance.
“I have a great job, I ride for a great man in JP and there is no-one better than Nicky – he is just top-class. He trains them for the day, they are fresh and well, and there is no-one better.”
2.50pm Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
1 Dame de Compagnie (J P McManus) Nicky Henderson 7-10-12 Barry Geraghty 5/1f
2 Black Tears (Caren Walsh & John Lightfoot) Gordon Elliott IRE 6-11-02 Davy Russell 12/1
3 Thosedaysaregone (Brynes Bloodstock Ltd) Charles Byrnes IRE 7-10-11 Kevin Brouder (3) 10/1
4 Cracking Smart (Gigginstown House Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE 8-11-11 Gavin Brouder (7) 33/1
Distances: 2¼, 2½, 1¼
Tote Win: £5.40 Place: £2.50, £3.30, £3.90, £7.30 Exacta: £79.10
Nicky Henderson – 68th winner at The Festival
Barry Geraghty – 41st winner at The Festival
Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase
Harry Skelton achieved a lifetime’s dream with the win, after giving the grey a positive, front-running ride, and the chasing pack could never catch up.
Skelton said: “It’s my first ride in the Champion Chase. I owe so much to the Hales family. They have known me since I was a little kid. Pat used to take me around all the shows [they owned showjumpers with Skelton’s father, Nick] and they are very, very good supporters of the family. Me and Dan [Skelton’s trainer brother] grafted at Paul’s for a long time and we will be ever-grateful for what he has done for our careers.
“Paul told me at the start of the season to come back and ride out a little bit. It’s just magic. This is what he can do, he trains them to perfection. I am just so thankful to everyone for giving me the opportunity. I cannot believe it.
“As a kid you dream of winning these things. He was great all the way round; his ears were flickering back and forth the whole way and I thought, ‘there’s always a bit there when I need there to be’, and I thought if I could stretch them from the top of the hill… I didn’t want to go too hard and then completely warp myself, but from three out I landed running and set him alight, and he’s kept going hard all the way up the run-in.
“Paul said to John that he was going to wait and go here fresh; he’s a master. You know his horses from the back of three out they won’t stop. He’s trained them for the day. I spent a long nine years at Paul’s grafting away, and every single day, every minute, every hardship, it’s been worth it. What the Hales family have done for our family – you couldn’t script it. It’s my third ride for them, and the way down to the start I saw two magpies, and thought, perhaps this is it.
“Obviously Harry Cobden can only ride one horse, and last Wednesday John rang me up and said, ‘Harry, you’re riding Politologue in the Champion Chase – you’d better ring Paul and go down and sit on him’. Then you start believing. I sat down and watched every replay of him; you just do your homework. I had a sit on him, he felt great. If Paul tells you he’s good and he believes in him, you can believe. Obviously it’s all worked out perfectly.”
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase
French cross-country star Easysland became the horse who mugged the king today when thwarting the great Tiger Roll’s bid for a fifth victory at The Festival.
Easysland (3/1), who was bought privately by JP McManus after winning a cross-country chase at The International at Cheltenham in December, and has since won a race at Pau in France, returned to land today’s Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, fending off Tiger Roll (8/11f). The double Randox Health Grand National winner tried his best but became tired in the ground and finished second beaten 17 lengths. Third-placed Out Sam (33/1) was another 15 lengths adrift.
The winner completed a 119/1 treble for McManus following victories by his Champ and Domaine De Compagnie.
Winning trainer David Cottin said of six-year-old Easysland: “I was expecting a good run from him. He seemed really well at home, his coat had changed, he was in good form and it was a really big advantage to have come here in December and to know the track. The heavy ground was also in his favour.
“He’s a horse who is extremely well balanced and, while he is only a six-year-old, with a cross-country horse you have to train them when they are young over those jumps. We have been very patient with him as were his former owners. That has paid off.
“I always dreamed of riding a winner here as a jockey, and unfortunately it didn’t happen, but I’m really pleased to be here now, and it’s all down to the team at home who are very motivating. We have a lot of horses and a lot of staff.”
Cottin smiled when it was pointed out that his horse had defeated the public’s favourite, Tiger Roll, and said succinctly: “My horse is a champion. Today he is the best.
“He is still very young and his future is ahead of him. This was his best performance to date and he is still improving. Every race he shows an improvement. He will now have a holiday, but he will stay in this type of racing and come back here next season.”
1 Easysland (J P McManus) David Cottin FR 6-11-04 Jonathan Plouganou 3/1
2 Tiger Roll (Gigginstown House Stud) Gordon Elliott IRE 10-11-04 Keith Donoghue 8/11f
3 Out Sam (Mr D Charlesworth) Gordon Elliott IRE 11-11-04 Mr Jamie Codd 33/1
Distances: 17, 18
Tote Win: £3.50 Place: £1.60, £1.10, £5.00 Exacta: £6.40
David Cottin – 1st winner at The Festival
Jonathan Plouganou – 1st winner at The Festival
Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Aramax (15/2) delivered a 1019/1 four-timer for The Festival’s winning-most owner JP McManus when powering home to win the G3 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle.
It has also been a successful day for trainer Gordon Elliot, who added this victory to that of Envoi Allen in the G1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle earlier in the day.
For good measure Elliot trained the 1-3-4 in this race too. Mark Walsh drove the juvenile home a length clear of Night Edition (16/1, David Pipe/Tom Scudamore), with Elliott’s Saint D’oroux (14/1) a further three lengths back in third.
The County Meath man said: “It was grand. I was worried about the ground for all the horses but they ran well.
“Mark gave the winner a great ride, giving him a lovely bit of room the whole way around and he jumped well. We always thought this was the right race to go for.
“That’s our third winner of the week – the horses are flying.”
For Mark Walsh this was a first winner of the week, and he would have been relieved to join the JP McManus party.
Walsh said: “It was a little bit rough early on over the first three hurdles. I pulled him out down the back for a little bit of light and, once I did that, he travelled a lot smoother and jumped a lot better.
“I got a nice lead into the straight off Daryl and didn’t want to hit the front too soon but I could hear everyone coming behind me, so I had to keep going. Luckily, he winged the last and galloped all the way to the line.
“The second horse gave me a battle and he wanted it out there – he put his head down and galloped all the way to the line, so he is a good, tough horse.”
4.50pm Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
1 Aramax (J P McManus) Gordon Elliott IRE 4-11-08 Mark Walsh 15/2
2 Night Edition (Stuart & Simon Mercer & John Gent) David Pipe 4-11-03 Tom Scudamore 16/1
3 Saint D’oroux (Simon Munir & Isaac Souede) Gordon Elliott IRE 4-11-03 Daryl Jacob 14/1
4 Recent Revelations (Half Married Syndicate) Gordon Elliott IRE 4-11-02 Davy Russell 14/1
22 ran 5/1jfavs Blacko, Palladium (both PU)
Distances: 1, 3, nse
Tote Win: £8.30 Place: £2.70, £5.00, £3.60, £3.40 Exacta: £196.90
Gordon Elliott – 28th winner at The Festival
Mark Walsh – 4th winner at The Festival