In a day of disaster and dreams come true, Gold Cup Day of The Festival at Cheltenham lived up to its reputation and saw history made once more.
JCB Triumph Hurdle
The filly Burning Victory was a lucky winner of the G1 JCB Triumph Hurdle, following Goshen’s mistake at the final flight of hurdles which unshipped jockey Jamie Moore.
Burning Victory, a daughter of Nathaniel ridden by Paul Townend and trained by Willie Mullins – for whom it was a 69th victory at The Festival, and a fourth of the 2020 meeting – was a 12/1 chance and won by two and three-quarter lengths from Aspire Tower.
Mullins, who is now the leading trainer of all-time at The Festival, said: “I feel like a bit of an imposter in here [the winner’s enclosure]. I feel very sorry for Jamie and Gary [Moore, who trained Goshen]. It was their one shot of the meeting and they had all the work done. Jamie asked all the right questions coming to the last, asked him to take off and the horse just didn’t take off for him. These things happen unfortunately. I’m delighted to have a winner for my clients, but I feel hugely for Gary and Jamie, a father and son team. The whole year, and down it is.
“Burning Victory isn’t the best jumper in the world. She jumped the first two great and then missed the two down the back; Paul knew his race was over, but was riding maybe to get into the money if he could. But she has a huge engine – like yesterday’s filly Concertista [winner of the G2 Daylesford Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle], she’s by Nathaniel. A lovely, big filly, but needs to brush up her jumping. Hopefully she’ll do that. She’ll go back to Fairyhouse.
“It’s great for Greg [Turley, Burning Victory’s owner, along with his wife Audrey], because he hasn’t had too many horses with me but a few of them have been bad enough, so it’s nice that he’s got a nice one here.”
Horseracing is often described as a game that tames lions and the race was a key example of that when Burning Victory benefitted from the final flight departure of the 5/2 favourite Goshen.
Ridden by Paul Townend, Burning Victory looked booked for second in the two-mile juvenile hurdle, but Goshen’s unseat of Jamie Moore at the final hurdle opened the door for Townend to galvanise the four-year-old to a two and three-quarter length success from 5/1 shot Aspire Tower in second.
Townend was recording his third victory of the week following on from the victories of Ferny Hollow (G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper) and Min (G1 Ryanair Chase) and his 13th success at The Festival in total.
Townend said: “It’s not the nicest way to win a race but I have been on the other end of that, so I know what it feels like. We will take every bit of luck we get.
“I jumped the first two well and Burning Victory improved so much from her first run. I fell out through a couple down the back and I couldn’t rush her then, I had to let her find her feet again.
“When I got her out down the hill, she started to pick up for me and I was lucky enough to have the horse to be in a position to pick up the pieces.”
1.30pm JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)
1 Burning Victory (Audrey Turley) Willie Mullins IRE 4-10-07 Paul Townend 12/1
2 Aspire Tower (Brendan McNeill/Jonathan Maloney) Henry de Bromhead IRE 4-11-00 Rachael Blackmore 5/1
3 Allmankind (Bill & Tim Gredley) Dan Skelton 4-11-00 Harry Skelton 7/2
13 ran 5/2 fav Goshen (unseat at last)
Distances: 2¾, ¾
Tote Win: £13.20 Places: £3.00, £2.00, £1.60 Exacta: £71.50
Willie Mullins – 69th winner at The Festival
Paul Townend – 13th winner at The Festival
Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup
St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
“Gavin [Sheehan] had told me lots about her and Paul had told me lots about her. I knew that, once I passed a few, she might take off and that is what she did. When I was jumping the last, I could see Ben [Jones] in my sights but I didn’t know how well he was going. I didn’t know that I had got there, to be fair, when I passed the line.
“You dream of it but you never think that it is going to happen. It’s amazing. I have just done what every other lad has done – everyone is trying their best – and I am just lucky that I ride for good people and had a bit of luck.”