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TEARS AND BEERS AT CHELTENHAM

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Magners Cheltenham Festival Roundup

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The Cheltenham Festival never fails to throw up emotion tales but this year set a precedent in the “weep stakes”. The magnificent Al Boum, provided Irish trainer Willie Mullins with a first victory in the G1 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup. Mullins who is the Festival’s most successful trainer with 65 winners over several decades, has made 26 attempts to win the Gold Cup, finishing second six times.

 

“I had resigned myself to never winning a Gold Cup,” said Mullins, whose father Paddy Mullins trained Dawn Run to win in 1986.  It was also a first Gold Cup win for Irish jockey Paul Townend who has ridden for Mullins since he was 17 years old.

 

It was a number of formidable efforts by women which really stirred the souls this year. There was the winning owner of Klassical Dream, Joanne Coleman, whose husband had died from bone marrow cancer just nine months earlier. John Coleman who sadly never lived to see his horse race and had never had a Festival winner was there “in spirit” though. Joanne carried his ashes in her handbag. Another widow is the spotlight was trainer Kayleigh Woollacott, who had taken over her husband’s trainers license after he took his own life last year. Despite being one of the favourites, sadly it was not Lalor’s day to shine but we hope to see him back next year.

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Bryony Frost was our favourite winner of the week and had the crowds in rapturous applause, after making history as the first female jockey to win a Grade 1 (top-level) race over jumps at The Festival. The 23-year-old claimed one of the hardest fought battles to win by little more than a length over Charlie Deutsch and Aso, trained by Venetia Williams.

 

Frost’s reaction to her win was one of humility and empathy and made the front pages of several newspapers. Interviewed after the race, she reflected all the glory on her horse Frodon. “I can’t explain how much I love that horse. He is the most incredible battler. When he got overtaken two out, most horses would quit, but he grabbed me by the hands and said don’t you dare give up, don’t you dare not send me into the last, I want this more than you, now come on!”

 

“He would not lie down. It’s a lesson for us. Sometimes you might go down but you’ve got to get up and get going again, and at the last, he was just magic. Then when he got to the front he did his usual and took it all in. Just like I did.”

 

An hour later, Paisley Park claimed the G1 Sun Racing Stayer’ Hurdle, for female trainer Emma Lavelle and the horse’s owner Andrew Gemmell, who has been blind since birth. The following race of St Patrick’s Thursday was won by a bold front-running performance from Lizzie Kelly who said “I watched Bryony and thought ‘that was my game plan’. When Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore claimed another Grade 1 race, making that her second win of the week, it reminded us that, in the words of leading trainer, Dan Skelton “I think it is about time we stopped talking about lady jockeys and just call them jockeys”.

 

Indeed the sight of Blackmore on the winners podium in Ireland is a weekly one. The 29-year-old has claimed an incredible 84 winners in Ireland and currently sits a close second behind Paul Townend in the stake to become Irish Champion Jockey. Speaking after Blackmore’s victory in the G1Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, the winning trainer Henry de Bromhead said of the jockey; “We’ve been so lucky to have her. She’s a brilliant rider. What can you say- she just wins.”

 

There were record crowds every day for this year’s Festival with 266,779 people attending over four days. Willie Mullins won the Leading Trainers’ title whilst Nico de Boinville finished the week as leading jockey with three wins. Rachael Blackmore finished in an impressive sixth place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amy Murphy Racing

FEMALE FOCUS AT THE FESTIVAL

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We are proud of the fact that Horse Scout is an enterprise run by women. We not only love what we do both in business and in our equestrian pursuits, but we have never seen our gender as a limitation. So you could say that for us, every day is International Women’s Day. We also go to great lengths to provide as much coverage of great female equestrian athletes as we do. This week we will be championing the great female jockeys heading to The Magners Cheltenham Festival. Last year history was made when there were four female winners at The Festival, which really is the Olympics of Jumps Racing. The jockey entries have not yet been confirmed but we are expecting to see more girls on the cards than ever before including Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker who all won last year as well as Bryony Frost, Lucy Alexander and Rachael Blackmore who lies second in the Irish jump jockeys table. Will they go beat last year’s record by scoring even more Festival victories and take a share of the? Can Bryony Frost be the first ever woman to win the Gold Cup?

 

National Hunt Racing has always been a sport contested by men and women. Yet of all equine-related activities, it has been the most challenging for women to make their mark in, over sports like Eventing, Dressage or Showjumping. There have been World Champions in all three Equestrian disciplines but there has never been a female Champion Jockey, in either Flat or National Hunt.   Maybe this is because racing is a sport where the boys massively outnumbered the girls. Some say there have been fewer opportunities for women to excel, with many trainers and owners favouring a male jockey over a female for reasons that include physical strength or because they don’t like seeing girls get hurt. Or maybe the female jockeys have simply not been as good as the men.

 

In the last five years, the tide is has turned and since Lizzie Kelly shot to fame in 2015 when she became the first female jump jockey to win a Grade One race when she won the Novices’ Chase on Tea for Two at Kempton Park in 2015. It is now a regular occurrence to see women first past the post. Furthermore, trainers are giving them rides on good horses and there are more female jockeys turning professional than ever before. It is perhaps significant that 10 time Champion Jumps Trainer, Paul Nicholls employs Bryony Frost as one of his leading stable jockeys.

 

There have been 14 winning female jockeys at The Festival in total but with 23 winners between them. The first woman to win at was Caroline Beasley who won in 1983 on Eliograty and Gee Armytage was the first woman to have two winners in one year. The first professional female jockey was Lizzie Kelly last year on Coo Star Sivola who she plans to ride again this year. Whilst the most successful female jockey to date is Nina Carberry with six winners in total.

 

Female trainers have had their fair share of Festival winners. There have been 27 winning female trainers over the years with 68 winning horses between them. The first was Jackie Brutton who trained Snowdra Queen to win in 1966. The most successful so far has been Irish trainer Jessica Harrington, with 11 winners in total, including training Sizing John to win the Gold Cheltenham Cup in 2017. Jenny Pitman was the first woman to train a Gold Cup winner, when Burrough Hill Lad won in 1984, one of two Gold Cup victories for Pitman. The second success came in 1991 when Garrison Savannah won, ridden by her son Mark Pitman. She was also the first woman to train the winner of the Grand National courtesy of Corbiere in 1983. Once again, an achievement she would repeat when Royal Athlete who in 1995.

 

One of the most popular female trainers of all time has to be Henrietta Knight, who trained the legendary horse, Best Mate to three Gold Cup victories and had seven Festival winners in total and over 700 winners throughout her career.

 

This year, there are a number of female trainers presenting some promising horses to the mix. Emma Lavelle saddles Paisley Park, one of the favourites for the Stayers’ Hurdle and Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae will be a decent contender in the same race. Small time trainer, Kayley Woollacott’s Lalor is a strong hope for the Arkle Trophy. Also seen on the entries list are Venetia Williams, Sue Smith (wife of Harvey Smith), Lucinda Russell, Rebecca Curtis and Horse Scout’s ambassador Amy Murphy.

 

Last year’s Festival really reinforced the Women’s Revolution in racing with so many female winners. You can see three of those Festival winners, Lizzie Kelly, Bridget Andrews and Harriet Tucker on this video, discussing what the sport and the win really means to them.

https://youtu.be/F0NOgtvXPCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Galloping in Style towards the Cheltenham Festival

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Galloping in Style towards the Cheltenham Festival

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“For me the boys winning at Cheltenham was as big a highlight as winning in Rio” Nick Skelton announced after “Superb Story” gave his sons Dan and Harry, their first Cheltenham Festival win.

“It’s the Olympics of the horseracing world” claims leading trainer Dan Skelton

The Cheltenham Festival is so world-famous, it has become known as simply “The Festival”. This year it runs from Tuesday 13th to Friday 18th March and it should be etched in your social calendar. Tickets start at £40 but because we regard our members so highly, Horse Scout will be giving away two pairs of tickets this year. Stay tuned to our Facebook page  and our Twitter for more information.

This four-day spectacular attracts the finest horses, jockeys and trainers in the world of Jump racing and remains one of Europe’s most prestigious sporting events. In fact it is fourth best attended event in the country and the £4.5 million of prize money makes it one of the biggest prize funds in UK sport.

The racing scene is always a cultural melting pot but The Festival epitomises that more than most, attracting the real racing enthusiasts from all walks of life. When you put 260,000 people together with common ground- a passion for horses, the countryside and great sporting action, it can only result in one thing- a fabulous sense of occasion.

The festival commences with Champions Day on Tuesday 13th. It includes a packed seven-race card including the most important 2 mile hurdle race of the entire jumping season, the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Wednesday 14th March is Ladies Day and this year the competition is for ladies only and is all about bringing colour and style to The Festival. There is the chance to win a brand new MINI ONE CAR from W.O. Lewis and Sytner Solihull, as well as other splendid prizes. Whether you want to flash your finest fur, parade your best hat or give a nod to your favourite horse’s colours, get ready to #ColourMeMarch.

St Patrick’s Day on Thursday 15th March draws the luck of the Irish to Cheltenham. The whole of The Festival has a strong Irish flavour to it but on Thursday, it is loud and proud and you can enjoy Irish music around the course throughout the day. As well as the ambience, the racing is top class with the JLT Novices’ Chase, the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Steeple Chase to enjoy.

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The climax of the entire jump racing season is Friday’sTimico Cheltenham Gold Cup. This really is the golden crown of jump racing and never fails to  be the greatest spectacle.  The Timico Gold Cup is a race associated with the elite of the sport and nothing can rival the Cheltenham roar as the horses charge up the famous hill.

The Festival really does offer something for all (erm adult) interests. As a Cheltenham die-hard for a decade or so, I aim to indulge in the whole social landscape. Perhaps what I love best, is weighing up horse flesh in the paddock. Usually I swap notes with one of the many Irish folk, who seem to know more about the nags than their own flesh and blood. We will talk breeding, handicaps and ground conditions, then I’ll head down to the course to throw some bad money after good at the bookmakers. Although rarely the Tote, as a like supporting the little guys who are stationed near the track. There is something quite antiquated and ironically pure about swapping cash for a betting slip with a man in a tweed cap and a cockney accent.

I’ll often try to latch on to someone, to get an invite into to Owners and Trainers for spot of people watching and a great afternoon tea. If I am lucky enough, I’ll be invited to a box for more champagne and the best the views of the course and the race.

You can expect food and drink for every taste. There is a generous scattering of champagne bars and about every ten paces- another Guinness watering hole. So be aware of wobbly drinkers if you’re wearing your best cashmere. That sticky brew could ruin your day as well as your wardrobe.

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The selection of cuisine options, is nothing short of a sensory odyssey. New for this year is The Theatre @Festival, a Pan Asian Theatre restaurant experience situated on the third floor of the course facing suites, giving guests unrivalled views over the final fences of the racecourse and offering a unique culinary and visual feast.  Designed to offer a premium but casual environment, relaxation and attention to detail are the order of the day along with simply exquisite dining influenced from the continents of Asia to the foothills of Cleeve Hill.

Michelin star chef, Albert Roux is back in his popular Chez Roux Restaurant. And there are eleven other top quality restaurants on offer, over The Festival with a range of different packages available to suit all requirements and most budgets.

No sporting event would be the same without the inevitable burgers, pies and chips. Do not knock it when you know it really is the only way to help stave off tomorrow’s hangover.

For many seasoned racegoers, a picnic in the car park is a big part of the day. Cars start to arrive as soon as the gates open at 10.30 and the pop of champagne corks can be heard within minutes. The downside is that you might pull the short straw to become designated driver and the traffic coming into Cheltenham is historically horrendous.

The Cheltenham experience would not be complete without losing your senses- and your savings, in the Shopping Village. There are 70 stands with a unique boutique feel, mainly involving fashion, art and gifts. This is the place to discover exceptional pieces you won’t find on the high street.

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To book tickets visit www.cheltenham.co.uk or call 0344 579 3003.

 

By Ellie Kelly