Irish count their blessings at Cheltenham on St Patrick's Day

Pirate IRWIN
·3 min read

Tiger Roll and Put The Kettle On were the stars of the show as the Irish took the Cheltenham Festival by storm on St Patrick's day, winning six of the seven races.

Put The Kettle On showed great courage to win the feature race, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and give trainer Henry de Bromhead his second major win in two days victory in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday.

The winner, nicknamed "Polly" at the stables, made history in becoming the first mare to win the two-mile race.

"She's just a bit crackers the whole time, to be honest -- she's just quite wild, but a real character," said De Bromhead.

Two-time Grand National winner Tiger Roll silenced the critics who thought his best years were behind him as he coasted to victory in the Cross Country Chase for the third time.

His achievement in landing his fifth triumph at the Festival is one that only two other horses have managed -- five-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Golden Miller (1932-36) and Quevega, who won the Mares' Hurdle six times between 2009 and 2014.

"If it was not for this horse I would not be riding," said jockey Keith Donoghue, choking back tears.

"Never underestimate the Tiger."

Each Irish winner was greeted with cheers from the stable staff watching in the stand, where they are being housed for the duration of the Festival.

- Blackmore win -

De Bromhead set the tone in the opening race, with Rachael Blackmore guiding home Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.

Blackmore said the horse could be as good as Champion Hurdle winner Honeysuckle, whom she rode to victory on Tuesday.

"His potential is sky-high -- he was phenomenal there," said Blackmore. "He has plenty of big days ahead of him."

The Irish jockey came down to earth with a bang in the Novices' Chase as Eklat De Rire deposited her on the turf -- it was to be one of three falls she took.

Her riderless mount provided the stiffest obstacle to odds-on favourite Monkfish but Paul Townend kept him upright and they won with ease.

"I feel a bit of relief as early on in the race we were not on the same wavelength," said Townend, who was handed a two-day suspension later for his ride in the Champion Chase.

"There is a lot of pressure riding these strong favourites."

Trainer Willie Mullins said it had not made for the most comfortable viewing.

"It was heart-stopping when he made the mistake at the last," said the 64-year-old.

"It is the most nerve-wracking race I have ever watched because at odds-on favourite it is there for you to lose."

The Irish struck again when Richard Condon rode a superb front-running race to bring home 33/1 shot Heaven Help Us in the Handicap Hurdle.

"She (the winner) is my Enable," said Hennessy, referring to the two-time Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner.

Hennessy led Heaven Help Us into the winners' enclosure and the jockeys formed a guard of honour to make up for the lack of a crowd due to coronavirus restrictions.

The one bit of respite for the home side came when Sky Pirate, who trains in England, won the penultimate race -- the Grand Annual Handicap Chase -- though winning trainer Jonjo O'Neill is Irish.

The day ended, though, as it had begun, with the Irish flag flying high and Blackmore back in the winners' enclosure having won the Champion Bumper on Sir Gerhard, but this time for Mullins.