Celestial Halo Makes All in Triumph
1st (3) Celestial Halo 5-1
The red, white and black colours of Andy Stewart have been a familiar sight at the Cheltenham Festival for the past eight years, since Cenkos finished second to Tiutchev in the 2000 Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.
In those eight years, Stewart has had any number of placed horses (including Gwanako, second, and Turko, third, already this week) but it took yet another Paul Nicholls trained improver, Celestial Halo, to break the duck in the JCB Triumph Hurdle.
“We had a tipping competition earlier this week and I tipped Franchoek to win,” said Stewart, who was almost, but not quite, lost for words.
“I’ve always wanted to win any race here, but the Triumph will do very nicely indeed. It’s been absolutely terrific. Alex Ferguson, a good friend of mine, just said well done. It’s been a long time, but well done Francheok too, that’s a gutsy horse. I got champagne and jellybeans all over the place! It’s great for Ruby, for Paul and for the yard.”
It was Alan King, the trainer of the hot favourite and runner-up Franchoek who was among the first to congratulate Stewart. “I’m delighted you have had a Festival winner, but why did you have to pick this one?” he said.
Celestial Halo will not be put away for the season yet and Stewart is keen to take the horse to Liverpool next month. “Today was only his third race since he was gelded and he is a two and a half miler in the making,” the owner said.
Celestial Halo had shown improved form from his last outing at Doncaster, but trainer Paul Nicholls explained why. “We rode him completely wrong that day,” acknowledged the trainer, “It was a complete balls up last time when we ran him at Doncaster. Ruby wasn’t positive enough and I wasn’t positive enough with Ruby and also, the horse hates good ground. But we learnt a lot about how he should be ridden. Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Nicholls was confident before the race that with the adjustments they had made and with the ground in his favour, the horse course make a big impact.
The trainer added added: ““I knew we had it right and I knew we could ride him positively. He jumps, he gallops and that’s the way to do it today.
“He’s a big horse and he loves a bit of cut in the ground. He jumping was perfect today. It’s great for Andy; he’s been such a brilliant supporter and that means an awful lot. Absolutely brilliant. He’s put so much in to it and I am just so chuffed for him.”
Ruby Walsh commented: “He’s a tough little horse. This track helped him with not much jumping in the last part of the race but he’s kept on well and he could do it all himself. We (Paul and myself) both thought about a change in tactics. He was a bit cowardly in behind at Doncaster and we wanted a bit of light jumping.”
NO EXCUSES FOR FRANCHOEK
Trainer Alan King offered no excuses after even-money favourite Franchoek went down by two and a quarter lengths to Celestial Halo in the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle.
The Barbury Castle handler said: “Franchoek has run a smashing race and there are no excuses.
“I thought he might win turning for home and he has given his all.
“I don’t know if he will run again this season.
“We just need to re-group and see where we go from here.
“He knows he has had a race today.”
YOUNG TRAINERS DELIGHTED WITH EXPLOITS OF THEIR PLACED HORSES
Sabrina Harty, trainer of third-placed Won In The Dark, who was her first Cheltenham Festival runner, said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. We’d been hoping for better ground but we knew today it would be too dead for him and I was really worried. But he ran a good race, he’s very genuine and I think he’ll be more of a two-and-a-half mile horse as he stays.”
Sabrina Harty’s cousin Eddie won the Anglo Irish Bank Supreme Novices’ Hurdle with Captain Cee Bee.
The gelding’s owner Gerry Crehan commented: “It was a very good run and we’re very pleased with him. We took on Franchoek before and we’ll beat him on better ground. He was staying on well and ,for a small horse, he’ll probably like a bit of a trip.
“He could go to Punchestown but after that we’ll put him away until October.”
Second-season trainer Charlie Longsdon was thrilled to be in the winner’s enclosure with fourth-placed Songe, who was only his second Festival runner.
He said: “He travelled and really battled. The first two are really serious horses. I’m really happy, this is a really good start and he’s been so consistent. He’s the fourth best juvenile of the season so I can’t complain.
Asked whether the colt will head to Aintree, he replied: “We’ll see. There’s a long way to go with him. We’ll see how he is tomorrow and take it from there.”
Previous results - JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE
CITY 4-11-00 Owner-Terry Warner; Trainer-Philip
Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-7/2 Fav
2005-WINNER-PENZANCE 4-11-00 Owner-Elite Racing Club; Trainer-Alan King;
Jockey-Robert Thornton; SP-9/1
2004-WINNER-MADE IN JAPAN 4-11-00 Owner-Terry Evans; Trainer-Philip
Hobbs; Jockey-Richard Johnson; SP-20/1
2003-WINNER-SPECTROSCOPE 4-11-00 Owner-Gay Smith;
Jockey-Barry Geraghty; SP-20/1
2002-WINNER-SCOLARDY 4-11-00 Owner-David Flynn; Trainer-Willie Mullins
IRE; Jockey-Charlie Swan; SP-16/1
2001 Cancelled (Foot and Mouth Disease)
2000-WINNER-SNOW DROP 4-10-09 Owner-John D Martin; Trainer-Francois
Doumen FR; Jockey-Thierry Doumen; SP-7/1 Fav
1999-WINNER-KATARINO 4-11-00 Owner-Robert Waley-Cohen; Trainer-Nicky
Henderson; Jockey-Mick Fitzgerald; SP-11/4 Fav
1998-WINNER-UPGRADE 4-11-00 Owner-Matt Archer and Jean Broadhurst; Trainer-Nigel
Twiston-Davies; Jockey-Carl Llewellyn; SP-14/1
1997-WINNER-COMMANCHE COURT 4-11-00 Owner-Dermot Desmond; Trainer-Ted
Walsh IRE; Jockey-Norman Williamson; SP-9/1
1996-WINNER-PADDY’S RETURN 4-11-00 Owner-Paddy O’Donnell;
Trainer-Ferdy Murphy; Jockey-Richard Dunwoody; SP-10/1
JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE ROLL OF HONOUR
Year Winner Age/Wt Jockey Trainer Owner SP Ran
JCB TRIUMPH HURDLE FACTS AND FIGURES
2. JCB, which supports the contest for the seventh time this year, is only the race’s third sponsor. The Elite Racing Club was due to back the race for a fifth time in 2001 when The Festival was cancelled, while the Daily Express sponsored from 1965 to 1996. The race was originally run at the April Meeting but was transferred to The Festival in 1968.
3. The JCB Triumph Hurdle has been one of the most competitive races
of The Festival. The 2006 field of 17 was by far the smallest since Connaught
Ranger beat 13 rivals in 1978 - the recent introduction of the Fred Winter
Juvenile Handicap Hurdle has meant that the JCB Triumph Hurdle now attracts
the very best four-year-olds. The race regularly reached the safety factor,
reduced from 28 to 24 in 2004. In fact, the 14 runners in Connaught Ranger's
year probably had more to do with the transfer of the race to April following
the abandonment of racing on Gold Cup day than any loss of its competitive
nature. The smallest field was for its first running at Cheltenham in
1965, when seven runners took part. The largest field was 31 in 1970.
4. Since the race has been at Cheltenham, there has only once been an
odds-on winner of the Triumph Hurdle. This was Attivo, owned by former
BBC TV commentator Sir Peter O'Sullevan, in 1973 at 4/5. The longest-priced
winners were Baron Blakeney, Shiny Copper and Ikdam at 66/1 in 1981,
1982 and 1989.
5. Two horses have gone on from winning the JCB Triumph Hurdle to victory
in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle. Persian War won the Triumph in
1967, and reeled off three Champion Hurdles from 1968-70, while Kribensis
won the Triumph in 1988 and the Champion Hurdle in 1990.
6. The JCB Triumph Hurdle has a good record for home-trained winners.
French-trained raiders won it on four consecutive occasions at Hurst
Park from 1950-53, again in 1955 and with Snow Drop in 2000. There have
only been six Irish successes (1977,1984,1990, 1993, 1997 and 2002).
No trainer has been able to dominate the race and the late Fred Rimell
and Nicky Henderson are the only trainers to have won it three times.
7. Among jockeys, Jimmy Uttley was successful three times. Fred Winter,
Steve Smith Eccles and Richard Dunwoody had two winners as have current
riders Richard Johnson and Robert Thornton, but perhaps the most interesting
name is that of Lester Piggott, who won the race on King Charlemagne
when run at Hurst Park in 1954.
8. The fastest time for the winning horse is 3m 51.20s, recorded in
2006 by Detroit City. The previous best was 3m 52.90s, set by Snow Drop
9. It has a justifiable reputation for being one of the more unpredictable
contests at The Festival - there have been three 66/1 winners and only
eight successful favourites since 1965.
10. It was in the 1981 JCB Triumph Hurdle that Martin Pipe, the 15-time
champion jump trainer who retired at the end of the 2005/06 season, enjoyed
his first Festival success with the 66/1 shot Baron Blakeney.
11. Three fillies have been successful; Snow Drop in 2000, Mysilv in 1994 and Shawiya in 1993.
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