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CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: What the Owners Have to Say

Monday, March 15, 2021

There’s always something special in the air at Cheltenham, and it turns a special shade of green for one week in March.

The success of Irish-trained horses has risen exponentially since the turn of the century, with the number of winners rising from four in 2000 to 17 last year.

And it’s not just the same names taking home the spoils either, with the glory spread around 12 different owners in 2020, making it one of the most competitive fields in history.

From single owners to syndicates, there will be racing people all over the country with a vested interest in the ongoings in the Cotswolds next week, each dreaming of a winner.

Each Irish contender has their own story to tell, so here are the colours to keep an eye out for during the week as the owners tell us just what Cheltenham means to them.

Mrs J Donnellly

The yellow and black colours have been raised in the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups, with Al Boum Photo storming to victory under Paul Townend last year.

Trained by Willie Mullins, the nine-year-old will be back to defend the crown and will be one of 16 entries that the French-based owners have in the week ahead.

Marie Donnelly said: “When you consider the amount of work, success, disappointments, effort, care, attention, love and passion that goes into bringing the horses to the Cheltenham Festival you have to think how simply brilliant all these wonderful people who care for the champions are.

“From trainers to stable lads and all in between, we are thrilled to have a few contenders and nobody will cheer louder than us.”


syndicates racing

The Syndicates.Racing team will have two entries in this year’s Festival which are also trained by Mullins, with Grangee in Wednesday’s Grade 1 Champion Bumper, and Cabaret Queen in Friday’s Grade 2 Mares’ Chase.

The latter has twice run at Cheltenham in the past, and will be looking to improve on last year’s 15th placed finish in the Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase.

Jack Cantillon of Syndicates.Racing said: “Our syndicate members have surveyors in up and down the country to make sure the foundations of their homes withstand cheering on their horses at Cheltenham from home this year.

“We've two entries this year - Cabaret Queen in the Mares Chase who cost €210 for 1% and Grangee in the Champion Bumper who cost €500 for 1%. What other fun investment in sport gets you as intimately involved in the action on the biggest of stages?

“We can't wait to put the feet up and get the vocal cords prepped for a big week of shouting them home.”


Vivan Healy

Having already tasted victory at Cheltenham in December’s Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase, Chatham Street Lad is back for more, with owner Vivian Healy hoping for more success this time around.

Vivian Healy said: “It's great to have a runner in Cheltenham and to have a trainer like Mick Winters as he is what horse racing is all about.

“People like him and Jimmy Gordon, who picked the horse out for us in the sales are the key to a horses success and it would be fantastic to have a winner there for them and us."


Roaring Water

The Roaringwater Syndicate have their hopes pinned on Blackbow this year, who will feature in Tuesday’s Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase.

The syndicate involves members of the O’Leary family who owned two-time Cheltenham winner Florida Pearl.

Syndicate member Anthony O’Leary said: “I am sure Cheltenham is at the very top of every National Hunt owners wish list but as a family syndicate sporting the Florida Pearl colours, you can appreciate how extra special it is for the O’Leary family. Just to get there is an achievement for any horse and everything else will be a bonus.

“We hope that Blackbow will make the start in the Arkle which, as always, promises to be a highlight of the meeting. He and Danny Mullins look like a handy combination and a small improvement of their debut at Leopardstown will have us in full voice, for sure.”


Put The Kettle On

The orange and black quarters of the One For Luck Racing Syndicate - comprised of family members - made it the winners’ enclosure of Cheltenham last year as Put the Kettle On romped to victory in the Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices' Chase.

And the Henry De Bromhead-trained horse will be back for more this time around in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

John Dermody, One For Luck Racing Syndicate “To have a runner in the Cheltenham festival is very exciting. The weeks really fly after Christmas as you look forward to the event and await entries, news and updates on the well being of our mare and the horses in our race.

“My brother Michael is in California so will be up at 4am to look in and Keith Phelan will be tuned in from home in Coolmeen also.”


Brett Graham

Brett Graham, Ken Sharp and Kemboy syndicate members will have their familiar blue and yellow apparel in the Gold Cup field once again this year, with Kemboy lined up to try and better 2020’s seventh placed finish in the same event.

A three-time Grade 1 winner at Leopardstown, Punchestown and Aintree, the nine-year-old will more than likely be in the mix and US businessman Graham says the Festival is one of the highlights of his year.

Graham said: “Kemboy has taken his owners on a magical ride right up to the summit of the sport.

“To win a Cheltenham Gold Cup is the stuff of dreams and would surely stamp him among the greats. It sets the spine tingling just thinking about it.

 “For me Festival Week has become an annual tradition even though I no longer live in the UK, and is one of the highlights of the year.”



Owners of the heavily-backed Appreciate It - who has won each of his last three outings, including the Grade 1 Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown last month - Margaret and Michael Masterson are quietly confident ahead of the Festival.

Another owner who puts their faith in the tried and tested methods of Willie Mullins, the duo are already beaming before Cheltenham week has even begun.

Margaret & Michael Masterson said: “We are very excited to have two horses running at the Cheltenham festival. It’s every owners dream to have a grade 1 runner at the festival.

“We have had a super season so far and I’m sure Willie and his wonderful team will have the horses in top condition! We love racing but particularly in these times it has been a great way of keeping us entertained and connected with friends and family. We will be glued to the TV for the week!”


Brian Acheson

With a possible eight runners in this year’s festival, the pink, black and white colours of Robcour ownership will be prominent throughout the week.

Bob Olinger is the one to look out for in the week ahead, having won three of four in the past year, and they will be hoping for more success in 2021.

Brian Acheson said: “Personally, our whole year revolves around Cheltenham, planning for the Festival starts on the Monday after the previous one.

“From our point of view, all we want is to have a horse who’s goes there with a serious chance, that they run well and come home safely.

“All you want them to do is do themselves justice and come back home to you but inside whatever they do, you’ll be proud as punch”



Everyone in the Crean family will have their eyes glued to the television screen on Thursday as Skyace’s fairytale continues in the Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

With a string of strong performances throughout 2020, the six-year-old, trained by John Joseph Hanlan, has captured the imagination having been bought for £600 and risen through the ranks to win at graded level.

Kevin Crean from the Birdinthehand Syndicate said: “Skyace has offered immense excitement and escapism for our families throughout what has been a challenging year for all.

“My 93-year-old grandmother along with Brenda Hanlon have nearly drowned the horse in holy water and my sister Rebecca has been busily making Skyace scarves, with the Wexford, Roscommon and Donegal colours.

 “The preparations for the race have been immense. Skyace has been working tremendously on the gallops and up in the Curragh to get ready for the big day.”



The Winning Ways Starlet Syndicate will be hoping Royal Kahala can take the victory in Thursday's Grade 2 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

Syndicate agent Oran Crean has history at the Festival, having been involved with 2006 Champion Hurdle maestro Brave Inca, and will be hoping for a repeat this year.

Three consecutive victories at Fairyhouse over the turn of the year has shown exactly what the filly can produce on her day, and syndicate member Emmet Walsh will be praying his prized possession will be producing the goods in the Cotswolds next week.

Emmet Walsh, Royal Kahala said: “It would have always been the dream to have a runner at Cheltenham, so it’s really exciting that we are in this state now.

“Back when she won her Maiden Hurdle in November, a friend of mine sent me a screenshot of her being quoted at 33/1 for Cheltenham, and at that stage it felt like pie in the sky stuff.

“When she won her bumper, I was moving from foot to foot in front of the telly, so there’ll definitely be butterflies and massive excitement, my wife probably won’t want to be around me.

“I won’t be sleeping between now and then!”


coffey 1coffey 2

The Manverton Limited owned Mrs Milner will also be competing in Thursday’s Grade 3 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle.

Jim Coffey said: “Latest Exhibition is an exciting prospect and we are really looking forward to seeing what he can achieve in the future.

“We are also delighted that Mrs Milner is running in Cheltenham. We bred her ourselves so to run in Cheltenham in the Pertemps is especially exciting for us and we are grateful to everyone in the Nolan yard in Toberona in Wexford.”



What do you get when you combine a carpet specialist and two men who own a pub? Flooring Porter is your answer there, with the six-year-old gelding owned by a four-man syndicate based in Galway.

He heads into Cheltenham after a dream December that saw him take the spoils in Navan and Leopardstown, and will be looking to add to his burgeoning reputation in the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle on Thursday.

Ned Hogarty, syndicate member said: “December was like a dream, initially starting off with the handicap in Navan, that was a massive win for us, then to do what he did in Leopardstown was fantastic,”

“It’s like a dream come true going to Cheltenham with a live chance, getting a horse to Cheltenham is fantastic initially, and to have a chance is magic.

“You’re going into the unknown, hopefully he handles it at Cheltenham, there’s no reason why he won’t, and hopefully he’s there or thereabouts come the finish.

“You dream about leading in a horse in Cheltenham, and imagining if he does win is fantastic.”



Wishing all Owners the very best of luck for the Cheltenham Festival



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