On St. Patrick’s Day it was a show of Irish dominance as they won six out of seven races and Tiger Roll rolled back the years on day two to secure his fifth victory at the Cheltenham Festival. In the Glenfarclas Chase, he put in a classic performance to win by an outstanding 18 lengths as he blew the rest of the field away. Away from Tiger, there were also wins for Monkfish and Put The Kettle On in another fantastic day of racing. Here is how day two unfolded.
In the first race of the day, Rachael Blackmore continued her excellent week as she took victory on board favourite Bob Olinger, timing her move to perfection as her horse raced away from the opposition. Gaillard Du Mesnil followed her home in second with Bravemansgame in third but in truth, this one never looked in doubt as Blackmore once again asserted herself as one of the top jockeys at this meeting.
The Brown Advisory Novices Chase came next and although he faced difficulties with some jumps, taking an unnecessary extra step at times, it was heavy favourite Monkfish who got the job done for Willie Mullins, guided by Paul Townend to the finish. He didn’t make life easy for himself and it was a performance with several mistakes, but ultimately he had enough in the tank to beat Fiddlerontheroof and The Big Breakaway who came second and third respectively.
The 14:30 provided one of the shocks of the day as Heaven Help Us, who went off at 33/1 finished with a flourish to pass the finishing post first. From two out, he went to the front and well beat favourite Craigneiche who came home in second.
In the Queen Mother Champion Chase we saw an absolutely exceptional battling finish from the only mare in the race, Put The Kettle On as she fought her way past odds-on favourite Chacun Pour Soi to take the win, with Harry Skelton’s Nube Negra edging him out for second place. Winning jockey Aidan Coleman couldn’t hide his delight on board the winner telling ITV:
“It was testament to her ability. When you are riding a mare like this it is a great buzz. I don't want to take any plaudits, this mare is something else. I don't have to do a lot. She wants it that much. Pulling up, I was really emotional. You can't watch this race and the jumps she put it and not appreciate what they do for us."
In a day of feel-good racing, things were about to get even better as Keith Donoghue climbed on board Tiger Roll, who had been written off by many due to his poor form. The cross country is his race though and he put in a flawless performance, rolling back the years to leave favourite Easysland and the rest of the field in his wake. The most popular winner of the week would have surely drawn huge cheers from the crowd in the stands, but even with nobody in attendance you got a spine-tingling sense of just how special that win was.
Donoghue, who has to work hard to keep his weight down, was emotional as he spoke to BBC 5 Live: "He was better than ever today, with Easysland in the race, that was one of his best ever races. He was unbelievable and I am just speechless. There's no better horse coming up the hill, I knew he was going to stop. I run 80 or 90km a lot, I don't go out too much or eat much, but it is worth it for days like today. That is why I got emotional when I pulled up because it means the world to me.”
As racing fans wiped the tears from their eyes at the great Tiger Roll, Sky Pirate put in a brilliant performance to win the Grand Annual, as he went two lengths clear late on before holding off a fierce challenge from Entoucas who finished strongly.
Then it was left to the day to end how it started, with Rachael Blackmore riding a winner as she, once again, used her supreme talents to ride home Sir Gerhard in a slow race that was there for the taking. She made an early burst for the line and couldn’t be caught, even if pre-race favourite Kilcruit made a big effort late on.
That race brought up not only six Irish winners on St Patrick’s Day, but 75 Cheltenham Festival wins for Willie Mullins. We’ve had amazing performances and stories galore over the first two days of the Festival, let’s see what Thursday and Friday bring. You won’t miss a second of it, here on The Sportsman.