The Festival™ supporting WellChild Preview Magazine 2021

SUPPORTING ™ The Festival

PREV I EW MAGAZ INE 

WELCOME

Blue Riband event on Friday 19 March. I hope all enjoy reading about the ups and downs of Paul’s week at The Festival in 2020 as written by his friend and fellow jockey, Patrick Mullins later in this magazine. We are delighted to present The Festival supporting WellChild O’cial Preview Magazine

This time of year is always one lled with great excitement and anticipation for the four incredible days of racing that lie ahead. Although this year is going to look very

dierent to the event that we have become accustomed to, one thing is for certain – the performances out on the track will be as brilliant and breathtaking as ever. We are particularly excited to be working in partnership with WellChild, the national charity for seriously ill children. It is a fantastic charity and one we are honoured to be able to support with their Headquarters based just down the road from Prestbury Park in Cheltenham. More than 100,000 children and young people are living with serious illness or exceptional health needs across the UK. This past year has been incredibly tough for the charity with many of their usual fundraising activities needing to be cancelled, so we hope to be able to build signi€cant awareness and inspire donations for WellChild in the build-up and throughout The Festival™ supporting WellChild. As well as supporting WellChild throughout the week, they will partner the most prestigious prize in Jump racing, the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup. We are all looking forward to seeing if Willie Mullins, Paul Townend and Al Boum Photo can make it three successive wins in the

for 2021. Ahead of the biggest week of the year, we look at each of the day’s racing, as well as how our Festival Ambassador Barry Geraghty will be preparing for his €rst Cheltenham out of the saddle. We caught up with Jonjo Jr. and Jonjo Sr. as they continue to have a fantastic season, as well as look at how we have been working with our local community this year. Finally, thank you to you all for your support over the past few months. We look forward to more quality sport continuing to grace our course. We will miss the familiar Cheltenham roar on the very €rst day, but it will make it all the more special once it is safe to welcome racegoers back to the racecourse. Take care and we hope you enjoy all the magic from home.

Ian Renton Regional Managing Director, The Jockey Club

NEW YEAR ’ S DAY 1st January

4 KALENDAR

CONTENTS

 ALL THE MAGIC FROM HOME You may not be on the course this year but you can still get a real taste of the action – join the build-up from 14 March – online and on TV  PAUL TOWNEND THE STORY OF THE FESTIVAL From the lows and disappointments to the ultimate winning highs, Paul Townend describes his Festival experience of 2020  WELLCHILD One mother shares her experience of the amazing work of our charity partner WellChild and „nd out how you can help  WINNING WAYS After calling time on his career last year, champion jockey Barry Geraghty reveals why Cheltenham is the most special of Festivals  THE FESTIVAL TM SUPPORTING WELLCHILD Highlights of previous years remembered and predictions of what each day has in store for this year’s four-day Festival  THE TWO JONJOS Father and son – Jonjo Sr. and Jonjo Jr. – reveal their special bond and a shared appetite for success and passion for the sport

 SMALL WONDER Tiger Roll has earned his place in the

equestrian hall of fame – but how much more can be achieved over the coming months?  MEET CHANELLE THE REAL MCCOY From running a multi-national business with her father to home-schooling her children Chanelle McCoy is driven by hard work  KIAN'S GOLDEN TICKET Jockeys and racegoers alike gave Kian Burley the warmest of welcomes at last year’s Festival and a day he will never forget  ALL TOGETHER NOW... Revealing the thrills of syndicate ownership and three of its most promising newcomers  A BEACON OF HOPE A look behind the scenes at the hugely

important community work being undertaken by The Jockey Club

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I NFORMAT I ON WHERE TO WATCH

Where and what to watch throughout the week AL L THE MAG I C F ROM HOME

I TV RAC I NG The ITV racing teamwill be back at the Home of Jump Racing with all of the action. For the first time in history ITVwill broadcast all six races of each day of The Festival as a one-off this year bringing you more racing action than ever before! THE J OCKE Y C LUB AP P AND SOC I AL MED I A CHANNE L S Download The Jockey Club App now and follow our social media channels to get all the latest on this year’s Festival. RAC I NG TV For avid racing fans, the Racing TV channel will deliver all the races across all four days. With top racing pundits and analysis, Racing TV is the perfect place to mark your card and hear the most in-depth post-race breakdown. OUR RACEDAY HUB Head online to our Raceday Hub at thejockeyclub.co.uk/ cheltenham and get all the latest news from the course and join in with our LIVE raceday polls, trivia and competitions. Also available from The Jockey Club App.

THE OF F I C I AL CHE LT ENHAM F E S T I VAL TM SUP PORT I NG WE L LCH I LD PREV I EW N I GHT Join Alice Plunkett as she hosts the official Cheltenham Festival 2021 Preview Evening on Sunday 14 March at 8pm. Joined by three previous Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning jockeys Sir Anthony McCoy, Ruby Walsh, and Festival ambassador Barry Geraghty sharing their top tips and ones to watch at this year’s Festival. You can watch live via our social media channels on the night. THE F E S T I VAL N I GHT CAP, BROUGHT TO YOU BY GL ENFARC LAS With highlights and discussion from the day’s racing and a look ahead to the following day, the Nightcap is your one-stop-shop for all things Festival. Including everything from top tips, behind the scenes, gossip, and some special guests tune in from 7pm every night of The Festival including Monday 15 March across our social media channels.

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THE F E S T I VAL 16-19 March 2020 F EATURE PAUL TOWNEND

STORY OF THE FEST I VAL™ Paul regales his friend and fellow jockey, Patrick Mullins, with the tale of the biggest four days of his career. From a first day he had Paul Townend

far from dreamt of, to making history in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, it was a week that left Paul Leading Jockey of The Festival

TUESDAY

Power tight? What if he had done that, ended up in front around the home bend and Blackmore had pounced on him at the last and beaten them? Where was he o‚ to so early, would have been the question. Why did he think an experienced Gold Cup winning jockey would leave a gap the size of the Golden Gate Bridge on his inside at Cheltenham? No. The only way he could have shut the door was to have rolled forward after the second last to cover an eventuality that nobody expected. He rewinds, pauses, fast forwards it over in his head until he is happy that he made the right decisions for the correct reasons in the split seconds they happened. Day one was over but there were three days more to go and Chacun Pour Soi tomorrow. An hour has passed. He gets up and heads into the kitchen, hoping Anna has pizza on. It’s chicken. Three more days to go.

Willie’s banker. A majority of Ireland’s banker. Despite Lady Buttons irritating them for most of the early part of the race – “my instructions are to sit on your girth” her jockey had answered to a question at the start as to whether he was trying to ride both horses – Townend had seen Honeysuckle put into a pocket before the second last and was quietly happy with his view of clear air. Just don’t panic, don’t get there too soon he had told himself. Take a lead into the straight and go then. Copybook. Suddenly, he realises Robert Power is taking the scenic route around the bend and that the blue and white of Honeysuckle is slipping through on the inside. His sense of victory disappears like smoke through his ngers. He takes a breath and rewinds the race in his mind. Should he have committed straight after the second last and kept

“Now Paul Townend should have shoved Robert Power in and closed the door on Honeysuckle there and make her come back around, instead Rachael Blackmore gets a dream run through… Close the door. Worry about it afterwards but close the doors.” Paul Townend walks into his rented house and closes the door behind him. He mumbles something at his beautiful Italian girlfriend Anna and walks out to the garden. She lets him go. He starts replaying the day through his mind. It had started poorly. Asterion Forlonge had jumped drastically right all the way, Cash Back had fallen while Cilaos Emery had run well to nish fourth in the Unibet Champion Hurdle. All three were situations he was happy he couldn’t have in€uenced di‚erently though. Benie Des Dieux was the one that mattered on the day however. His banker.

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WEDNESDAY

string in a race where Mullins has the red hot favourite. With no winner on the board, a Mullins winner for another jockey would turn the screw even more. However he welcomes the change of tactics this allows. Thus far, all his rides have been fancied and banged out the gate handy and close to the pace. Ferny Hollow will have to be ridden cold. They leave the ring last. He lines up in the back row but a false start is called. Ferny Hollow skittles through the array of horses in front of him. Townend decides to line up behind the last line, rather than in it, for the next start. He €nds himself stone wall last but settled and passing between the wings of the second last he is sure he has the favourite, Appreciate It, covered. His thought? Don’t panic, don’t get there too soon, take a lead. As they gallop past the furlong pole he pushes his mount to the front and they pass the post with only clear air ahead, releasing his pressure like a shaken coke can clicked open. One winner on the board, at the stroke of half time and against the run of play, makes all the diˆerence. Walking back in through the Weighing Room door he sees his father and assures him they’ll meet after for dinner. A dinner he was cancelling before the bumper. Suddenly there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Two days to go.

Townend arrives at the weighing room early on Wednesday, gets changed and heads to the open door behind the valets’ noisy washing machines that serves as the unocial jockeys’ area. He’s chatting with Power when the loudspeaker announces, in that quintessential British accent, “ Number three, Chacun Pour Soi, is a non-runner in the fourth race .” He blinks. Benie had got beaten and now Chacun isn’t running. His face washed with a frown and he walks back to his seat. The Big Getaway and Allaho run respectably to both €nish third while Franco de Port pulls too hard and €zzles away his chance. After each race, he returns to his peg and drops down into his seat beside Johnny Burke. Danny Mullins sits across from them in this alcove at the back of the Weighing Room and mischievously lobs the odd incendiary verbal grenade while Burke listens patiently, nodding and smiling, to whatever it is Townend has to get oˆ his chest or out of his mind. By the time of the last race however, Townend wears the face of a man weighing up grim but necessary alternatives. Some people are thermostats, some are thermometers. Some register the temperature in a room, others change it. Townend has always been the latter. Tying up his helmet, he feels frustration that he is going out on the second

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THURSDAY

Walking out on Faugheen, the crowd roar encouragement at the equine equivalent of a phoenix. A slow leap at the crucial third last is a pivotal moment in the race however, as Davy Russell traps them in a pocket as a result. They nish a close third but the ground and position lost at that moment leave Townend feeling this was a race that could have been won. Frustration returns. His main chance for the day though is Min. The race goes to plan and over the second last they strike the front, the race seemingly at their mercy. But as they barrel toward the last, Saint Calvados bulls through on the inside, like Jack Nicholson’s head through the door in The Shining . Min wings the last, while Saint Calvados misses slightly, and this door is closed with a thud. Sheehan changes to the outside and runs on strongly, but goes down by a rapidly diminishing neck. Having to come around made all the di„erence. Townend drinks in the cocktail of relief and joy. To win the feature race on the day, and perhaps more importantly ride a rst winner for owner Rich Ricci at The Festival™, gives him major satisfaction. One day to go. And Al Boum Photo still to come.

The stride is long but with Lostintranslation upsides, it is time to hit or bust

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F EATURE PAUL TOWNEND

FR IDAY

bolting the inside space that Santini had vacated. The winning manoeuvre, as it plays out. They thunder toward the last. The stride is long but with Lostintranslation upsides, it is time to hit or bust. They ‹y it in unison and Al Boum gets away the quicker. The yellow in the corner of his eye begins to recede and Townend feels the excitement of victory within. Then Santini’s grey creeps into his vision. Wide. It’s hard to know exactly where he is. But he’s closer every stride. Closer. Closer. The winning post ‹ies by. Is there anything sadder than happiness lost? Townend pulls up frozen. Were they beaten? Not sure, he mentally kicks himself for allowing himself to believe that he had won. Several jockeys congratulate him but he waits for the big screen to con rm. It does and the icy cold of shock is blown away by the blazing heat of victory. His sister Jody sprints to join him at the top of the hill. The walk back passing in a blur of shouted compliments. He is whisked from weighing in, to presentations, to the interview tent before another stewards enquiry, this time involving De Bonville and Blackmore. Finally, packed into the car by Anna, with a Guinness in hand, he is halfway to the airport when he realises that he has left the Gold Cup behind in his racing bag! An urgent call ensures it is safe before another call tells him the crewwill be ready for him in Kilkenny for celebrations. Waiting at the airport the multiple Gold Cup winning champion nally gets his pizza. He smiles to himself, no more days to go.

be legged up onto Al Boum Photo that a man in a trilby appears at his shoulder. “Are you going to do something similar to last year?” Mullins asks quietly. “I am,” his jockey replies simply. This equates to the full input from the trainer to his jockey. The trainer’s job is done, from here the rider takes responsibility. The start goes well and he is happy with where they are, three quarters of the way back with some light. He can see Kemboy isn’t going as he might and is pleased to see Bristol De Mai moving forward. Al Boum is slow at the last with a circuit to go and then hits the rst down the back like a bird bouncing o a windowpane. Soon after the jockey goes looking for a stride and the horse makes another mistake. He grimaces and takes a breath, imploring himself to stop and start again, to let the horse get back into a rhythm himself. He is rewarded with two fantastic leaps at the sixth and fth last, which land him upsides in front, widest of four heading into the tight left bend at the top of the course. Bristol De Mai folds quickly at the slight injection of pace and Townend slides in one. They pour over the third last and the pace increases. Go with them but don’t commit runs. A yellow ‹ash announces Power on Lostintranslation, while a dash of red unexpectedly reveals Real Steel joining late. The second last rushes to meet them and the stride is tight but Al Boum shortens up swiftly, not always a pleasant experience on him, and lands in front. Santini has dropped back and Townend immediately crosses over onto the rail, locking and

The dierence one day in four can make. Momentum and con dence begin to pick up speed like a boulder down a mountain. In the rst, Burning Victory is running on to be a distant second to Goshen when he stumbles and unseats which leaves Townend in a remarkably similar situation to when Glens Melody ran through the wreckage of Annie Powers infamous departure. Jamie Moore is a bystander as the eld gallop past. Monks sh claws his way to the front of a four-way wrestle for the Albert Bartlett, Townend inching a large chestnut door across Richard Johnson on Thyme Hill. For all of his protestations of not hearing Walsh’s Tuesday words, this was remarkably similar to that particular advice. Take what you want and pay for it. “Paul Townend to the stewards room, please.” With the Gold Cup the next race and the need to weigh in, receive the presentation, do the necessary interviews, weigh out and prepare for the biggest race on the calendar in less than 20 minutes, Townend requests that the enquiry is put back until after. His request is denied. He accepts his two-day suspension for careless riding and hurriedly joins the other jockeys. He nds the circular gold rimmed glasses of Joe Donnelly in the packed Parade Ring and explains that with the absence of genuine pace, he is conscious he needs to be closer than last year but also aware of the fact that if he doesn’t get into a rhythm, he will not win on a horse not known for his jumping ‹uidity. The bell rings. It is only as he is about to

CHAR I TY F EATURE WELLCHILD

This year Cheltenham-based WellChild, the national charity for seriously ill children, is our charity partner for The Festival TM and we are hoping that the whole racing community will help us support its crucial work The Festival SUPPORTING

M ore than 100,000 children and young people are living across the UK with serious or exceptional health needs. Through a nationwide network of almost 50 children’s nurses, training units, home development projects and family support services, WellChild exists to give this growing population of children and young people the best chance to thrive – properly supported at home, together with their families. Dawn Lossau, mother of Maisie (above with Maisie), who has complex health needs, tells in her own words howWellChild and the ever-growing, innovative WellChild Family Tree has helped her family during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Maisie was a normal ten-year-old girl who loved dance and gymnastics and being outdoors. We began to notice a few things that did not seem right and after tests she was diagnosed with a tumour in her brain stem. She had an operation and spent more than nine months in hospital. She was left unable to move, breathes through a ventilator and is unable to eat. “All our lives changed overnight. We have carers twenty-four seven and my husband had to give up work

to help care for Maisie, who is now 15. With hard work and daily physio, Maisie can now move her arms, hands and legs but after nearly five years there is still little strength in these movements. “It is amazing that Maisie has been so positive throughout all this, not only since her diagnosis but especially during 2020. It’s been hard enough for all children during this but for her, being confined to our house has been really hard. “Shielding during Covid-19 has been a real struggle for Maisie as she loves going out but we have been shielding since February 2020. She has complex medical needs, a tracheostomy, and she has had chemotherapy so her immune system is low. Taking her out would just be too risky. “We are fortunate that our care team are amazing – more like family than carers. Some families with complex-needs children have been left without carers, which is exhausting as children like Maisie need round-the-clock care. The WellChild Family Tree network is incredible – it’s great just knowing there is someone there who you can talk to that knows what you are going through.”

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“TheWellChild Family Tree network is incredible – it’s great knowing there is someone there who you can talk to”

WellChild, which has The Duke of Sussex as its Patron, is exceptionally proud of this charity partnership with The Jockey Club for The Festival TM at Cheltenham Racecourse, and the sport’s most prestigious race, the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup. The charity’s Chief Executive, Colin Dyer, said: “This has been a challenging year for our organisation and the families we support, many of whom have felt hidden and isolated more than ever before. However, we have responded at every turn to ensure that families have access to the support and equipment they need to thrive at home. Partnerships like this incredible one with The Jockey Club and The Festival will bring a much-needed boost to our organisation after a challenging period.” Within ten days of the March 2020 lockdown, WellChild had established a Covid-19 Direct Response Service to ensure families had access to food, prescriptions, PPE, and (working with the NHS and others) the best possible guidance.

P L EAS E DONATE TO SUP PORT WE L LCH I LD

£5 could help connect a family to the vital

£20 could fund an hour of a WellChild Nurse’s time working with families in hospitals and communities across the UK.

£10 is enough to provide a two-week supply of PPE for a family to allow them to have carers in their homes.

WellChild Family Tree and its essential practical and emotional support.

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For more options to support WellChild’s work, and to learn how you can make a long-lasting difference for thousands of families across the UK, please visit wellchild.org.uk

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F EATURE BARRY GERAGHTY

Nick Seddon finds out what Cheltenham means to Barry Geraghty, one of The Festival’s most successful competitors, and what he’ll miss most as a spectator this year Winningways

F ew jockeys have enjoyed success at The called time on his career last July. While Geraghty’s time as a jockey might be over, his association with The Festival certainly isn’t. An ambassador for the four-day spectacular in 2021, he is also the latest star to be welcomed into Cheltenham Racecourse’s legendary Hall of Fame, alongside some iconic names. There’s a saying in sport that the very best retire at their peak. For Barry Geraghty, he knew going into last Festival™ supporting WellChild quite like Barry Geraghty. Having ridden 1,920 winners, 43 of them at Jump racing’s ‘Olympics’, he

year’s Cheltenham Festival that it was to be his last, but had no idea he would be going out on such a high. While the father-of-three was never one to celebrate victories wildly, he admits you can spot the extra meaning attached to each one of his ‹ve 2020 Festival winners if you watch the replays. A Unibet Champion Hurdle – with Epatante – is always special, but Geraghty could never have expected to add victories with Champ, Dame De Compagnie, Sire Du Berlais and Saint Roi on the same stage last March. There is a tradition in the CheltenhamWeighing Room that jockeys write their big Festival winners

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F EATURE BARRY GERAGHTY

I think we’re spoiled this year, particularlywith the novice chasers, and I can’t wait to watch!

because of restrictions imposed due to the ongoing pandemic, but for Geraghty it will be the rst time in more than two decades he has not been in the saddle. His victories at last year’s event helped cement his place as the second most successful rider in the history of The Festival, with 43 wins – 16 behind RubyWalsh but 12 ahead of Sir AP McCoy. All three jockeys called time on their careers within ve years of each other. For racing fans that marks the end of an exceptional era, but for Geraghty it shuts the door on a thrill which simply cannot be replicated. He adds: “The whole build-up and the anticipation is a buzz. The season is just built around Cheltenham, and from the time that your winter horses come in after the summer, it’s all roads to that meeting. You’re always looking at whether your horses are good enough and

above their own peg, signing their own name underneath. In 2019 the great RubyWalsh discreetly autographed the wall and added the number ‘59’ to signal – privately at the time – the end of his Festival fairytale and to acknowledge his nal Cheltenhamwinner. Geraghty admits he considered doing the same last year, but wanted to see out the rest of the season before revealing to the world he was retiring. He explains: “I suppose at some stage through mid to late January I was kind of coming around to thinking that this was a good year to nish, and I knew going into Cheltenham that it was my nal one. “I probably showed more emotion riding winners at Cheltenham than I had done for a long time as a consequence, because I knew it was the last one.

which races they’ll go for, so everything is just geared to it, and your season is judged on your success there. “As a jockey you want to get there in one piece beforehand, and the roar you hear at the start of the rst race is just brilliant. All the big Spring festivals are wonderful, but I couldn’t tell you how many winners I’ve had at Aintree, Punchestown

I wanted to enjoy it and I wanted to celebrate, so to bag a big one with Epatante in my nal year, meant the world to me. “I was tempted to sign my name in the weighing room like Ruby did, but with people having copped onto it afterwards, I didn’t want to give the game away!” This year’s Festival will be very diŽerent. Not only

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F EATURE BARRY GERAGHTY

was also one of his last, on board Champ in last year’s Festival Novices’ Chase – a race now known as the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. The nine year old, who is rather fittingly named after the legendary Sir AP McCoy, left it until the very final strides to claimwhat, with a furlong to go at least, looked the most unlikely of victories. Ever since, Champ has been talked about as a genuine contender for the biggest prize of them all – this year’s WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup – and Geraghty believes he has the talent to be a big player on the day. He explains: “Champ hasn’t had the ideal preparation, but he stays really well and when you look at Gold Cup horses over the years that is the main thing. “Bobs Worth wasn’t blessed with speed, particularly at the latter end of his career, so you need to be a strong stayer – a Denman if you like. You need a horse who really sees it out well. Champ does that, and he’s a big player. “I think we’re spoiled this year, particularly with the novice chasers, and I can’t wait to watch!” For the first time in two decades, watching will be all he can do.

or Fairyhouse, but I can tell you how many at Cheltenham – and I can name them!”

Geraghty admits there are too many components that make The Festival so special to hone in on just one, but explains that it is the challenge posed by Cheltenham’s three courses – Old, New and Cross Country – that keeps jockeys, trainers and owners coming back for more. He adds: “The track is unique and it offers a lot of opportunity for improving your position in a race, but by the same token it offers a lot of opportunity for doing the opposite. “There are a lot of calls you have to make through the race that will affect your result and then, when you put the pressure of the occasion on top of that, it’s that combination of the whole thing that makes it so challenging. “If you can get an early winner on the board that brings its own elation, whereas it can become torture if you have to wait until the end of the week – or if you’re unlucky enough to come through it with nothing.” Although he describes choosing a favourite from his 43 Festival winners as like “picking between your children”, one of Geraghty’s most spectacular triumphs

BARRY ’ S FAVOUR I TE F I VE F E S T I VAL WI NNERS MOS COW F LY E 2001 Arkle Trophy BOB S WORTH 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup MORE OF THAT 2014 World Hurdle E PATANT E 2020 Champion Hurdle CHAMP 2020 Festival Novices’ Chase

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THE F E S T I VAL™ SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD 16-19 MARCH 2021

FESTIVAL FESTIVAL THE ESTIVAL hang up their boots on 59 and 31 Festival winners respectively, Barry Geraghty’s retirement last Summer after taking his tally to 43 gives a newwave of jockeys an opportunity to make their mark on the biggest stage of them all. Often described as ‘the Olympics of Jump Racing’, The Festival™ supporting WellChild is an event like no other. Four days of the most extraordinary sport, celebrating equine and human superstars and all culminating in the most prestigious prize – the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday 19 March

M ore than 250,000 racegoers from Britain, Ireland and beyond would usually gather over the four days of The Festival. While the ongoing global pandemic means this year’s Festival will look very di“erent o“ the track, the action on the turf promises to be just as sensational as it always is. There are a total of 28 races to savour across the meeting, including the •ve ‘Championship’ races which headline the four days – the Unibet Champion Hurdle, Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase, Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle, Ryanair Chase and the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup. This year The Festival also welcomes a new race, the Grade Two Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Steeple Chase, to its line-up on the Friday, as the mares’ programme continues to go from strength to strength. As well trying to •nd winning horses, racing fans are also waiting to •nd out who will •ll the huge void left by the retirement of the three most successful jockeys in Cheltenham Festival history. Following the decision of the legendary RubyWalsh and Sir AP McCoy to

This year’s Festival has partnered with the charity WellChild, which will see Jump racing’s ‚agship event support one of the UK’s leading charities. With its headquarters in Cheltenham, WellChild is the national charity for seriously ill children and helps give young people living with serious health needs the best chance to thrive, properly supported at home with their families. The charity lost 60% of its projected income when the COVID-19 crisis took hold, and The Jockey Club is proud to be supporting such an important locally-based charity. This year’s Festival might be missing that famous Cheltenham roar, but the racecourse is ready to stage four more days of extraordinary sport, wherever you’re watching. By Nick Seddon

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L

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THE F E S T I VAL™ SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD 16-19 MARCH 2021 roar when the curtain rises on Tuesday 16 March, The Festival™ supporting WellChild promises to deliver the highest-quality action regardless DAY OTTWNHFEORUERE There really is no sporting arena quite like Cheltenham Racecourse. And while we might be missing the famous

F or many Jump racing fans the nally arrives, Day One kicks o with the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and never looks back, featuring four Grade One contests across the seven-race card. Each of those top-level aairs has a story in its own right, though the feature race is the Unibet Champion Hurdle, a two-mile contest which is the rst of ve ‘Championship’ races to take place over the four days. The race is the ultimate test of speed and grace and any horse with aspirations of winning must be both quick and countdown to The Festival begins the minute the gates close the year before. When this year’s event slick over their hurdles and strong in the nish up that famous Cheltenham Hill. Many components are required to become a champion hurdler and over the past four years only horses carrying the iconic yellow and green silks of owner JP McManus have managed it – Buveur D’Air in 2017 and 2018, Espoir d’Allen 12 months later and then Epatante last

Nicky Henderson has trained more winners of the race than anyone else and two of them – Epatante and Buveur D’Air – are scheduled to return this year. The pair have diering proles and, unlike his seven-year-old stablemate, the ten-year-old Buveur D’Air is in the process of returning from an extended absence o the racecourse. His fans, of which there are many, will be hoping the old adage ‘class is permanent’ rings particularly true at The Festival and an ability to handle the unique undulations of Cheltenham is not in doubt. Run over the same distance as the Champion Hurdle, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is a race which not only sets the tone for The Festival but also regularly produces a star of the future. Last year’s winner Shishkin was no dierent and is now, 12 months later, considered one of the leading contenders for the second race on this year’s card, the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy. Run over two miles,

March. With ve earlier wins, McManus’s total of nine Champion Hurdles makes him the most successful owner ever in the two-mile showpiece. The now-retired Barry Geraghty was on board for the most recent of those and describes “bagging a big one” on the rst day of his nal Festival – even though no one else present knew it would be – as “a huge relief”. With eight successes under his belt, THE RACE ISTHE ULTIMATETEST OF SPEEDAND GRACEANDANY HORSEWITH ASPIRATIONS OF WINNINGMUST BE BOTHQUICK AND SLICKOVER THEIRHURDLES AND STRONG INTHE FINISH

20 THE F E S T I VAL TM SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD PREV I EW MAGAZ I NE

WEMIGHTNOTYETKNOWWHATTHINGSWILL LOOKLIKEOFFTHETRACK, BUTYOU’RE GUARANTEED SPORTINGDRAMAON IT

which would have cost bookmakers in the region of £50 million. And while one such departure on the biggest stage in horseracing would be hard to endure, spare a thought for owner Rich Ricci who watched Benie Des Dieux – also trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh – make the same error in almost identical circumstances four years later. We might not yet know what things will look like off the track, but you’re guaranteed sporting drama on it.

and that’s what good horses tend to do. I think with another summer’s grass Shishkin will grow another hand and fill out as well, so it’s similar to how Altior was. I’m not going to say he is like Altior, but they make that decision for you over the summer.” The final Grade One contest of the day is a race with a knack for producing drama, and The Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle made headlines around the world back in 2015, when Annie Power’s fall at the final flight denied a pay-out

the Arkle regularly serves as an express route to the following year’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. In Shishkin, connections believe they might have a horse to do just that, following in the footsteps of another of Henderson’s stable stars Altior. Speaking after Shishkin’s victory in last year’s Supreme, jockey Nico de Boinville, was quick to draw a comparison of sorts himself, and said: “Everything conspired against him today, but he managed to find a way,

22 THE F E S T I VAL TM SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD PREV I EW MAGAZ I NE

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THE F E S T I VAL™ SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD 16-19 MARCH 2021 sensational sport – at speed DAY

If Day One of The Festival™ supporting WellChild is about setting the scene for four unmissable days of racing, Day Two delivers

OTTWNHEFOROEUER

T he Grade One Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase is over a distance of two miles, the contest requires a special blend of speed and an ability to be inch-perfect when meeting each of the 13 fences at a rapid pace on Cheltenham’s Old Course. This demanding criteria not only means that plenty of talented chasers have tried and failed to win this championship race, but also that multiple winners of the race are not uncommon. All being well, the Nicky Henderson- trained Altior will look to add a third victory in the Betway Champion Chase after winning the 2018 and 2019 renewals but missing last year’s Festival following a set-back. As an 11 year old he might be arguably the most dazzling race in the entire Festival line-up. Run heading into the twilight years of his career, but if he can get himself to the front and stay there he would become only the third horse in history to win a ‰fth Festival race. In Altior’s absence, it was another Festival stalwart who was able to have his day in the sun 12 months ago, when Politologue picked up a deserved success at the meeting at the ‰fth attempt for owner John Hales, trainer Paul Nicholls and jockey Harry Skelton – having been thwarted by Altior in each of the two previous renewals. There were tears of

the week. Speaking after last year’s race, trainer David Cottin said simply: “My horse is a champion. Today he is the best.” Time will tell if the same can be said this year. The Day Two card begins with back-to- back Grade One contests in the form of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase. As well as celebrating talented horses of the here and now, both races play a key part in producing stars of the future. The latter produced almost unrivalled drama 12 months ago when Champ overcame an eight length de‰cit at the ‰nal fence to reel in Minella Indo and Allaho in the shadows of the post to claim the unlikeliest of victories. Regular Festival-goers compared Champ’s incredible comeback to Might Bite’s mesmerising and dramatic victory in the same race in 2017, yet more evidence that Cheltenham produces the kind of drama that just cannot be scripted. More stars of the future are found in the ‰nal race on the card, the Grade One Weatherbys Champion Bumper, and the only one of the week’s 28 races without an obstacle to jump. The 2019 winner was none other than Gordon Elliott-trained Envoi Allen, who is scheduled to return this year for a tilt at a third Festival success on Day Three.

joy in the winners’ enclosure afterwards and it marked something of a watershed moment for Skelton, who described winning his ‰rst ‘Championship’ race as “a dream”. Speaking afterwards, he said: “It’s my ‰rst ride in the Champion Chase, and I owe so much to the Hales family. They have known me since I was a little kid. Pat used to take me around all the shows and they are very, very good supporters of the family. “Me and Dan (Skelton’s trainer brother) grafted at Paul’s (Nicholls) for a long time and we will be ever-grateful for what he has done for our careers. “As a kid you dream of winning these things. He was great all the way round; his ears were ›ickering back and forth the whole way… I am just so thankful to everyone for giving me the opportunity. I cannot believe it.” As it was for Skelton in 2020, Day Two of this year’s Festival will be one of opportunity once again. Along with Altior, Tiger Roll will have the chance to make history himself as victory in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase would be his ‰fth Festival triumph and his third in the race overall. To do so he will have to overcome his conqueror of 12 months ago, the French raider Easysland, in what is shaping up to be one of the clashes of

24 THE F E S T I VAL TM SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD PREV I EW MAGAZ I NE

BALLYMORE NOVICES’ HURDLEANDTHE BROWN ADVISORYNOVICES’ CHASE PLAYAKEYPART INPRODUCING STARS OFTHE FUTURE

THE F E S T I VAL™ SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD

16-19 MARCH 2021 DAY

OTTWNHEFOROEUER Two years ago Day Three of The Festival™ supporting WellChild produced some of the most remarkable racing imaginable. For decades Cheltenham has delivered not only some truly brilliant storylines on the track, but moments of unrivalled emotion too

O wners, trainers, jockeys and racegoers have all shed a tear or two in victory and defeat as success and failure is greeted with raw emotion on horseracing’s biggest stage. Few days of sport, however, have come close to conjuring up the drama, passion and joy of what will forever be known as ‘The Golden Hour’ on Day Three of The Festival in 2019. Thursday of Festival week is the only day that stages two Grade One ‘Championship’ races, with the Ryanair Chase and the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle taking place back-to-back. Two years ago those races produced winners in Frodon and Paisley Park respectively, but it was the nature of their victories and their own unique back-stories that will ensure both horses and their achievements live long in the memory. Frodon’s victory in the Ryanair Chase was particularly signi†cant, as it saw his jockey Bryony Frost become the †rst British female jockey to win a Grade One race at the Cheltenham Festival. Frost’s career had already been on a sharp upward curve and with a gift for describing her emotions and her horses, the interview which followed on ITV Racing is now almost as synonymous with the day as Frodon’s performance itself. She said: “He is Pegasus, he has got wings! My god, he jumps and just at that

moment and he will be joined in this year’s race by Philip Hobbs’ Thyme Hill, with the score standing at 1-1 between the pair this season. Meanwhile connections of Lisnagar Oscar will be hoping their hero can repeat last year’s remarkable feat, although he is on everyone’s radar now after causing a monumental 50-1 upset 12 months ago. Thursday’s theme seems likely to be about returning heroes, and a seven year old who is already building quite the Festival legacy is Envoi Allen. Unbeaten in 11 starts under Rules and with two Festival victories to his name already – in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper in 2019 and last year’s Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle – the sky could well be the limit. He will bid for Festival win number three in the Marsh Novices’ Chase and if our Festival ambassador for 2021, Barry Geraghty, is right then it would be folly to bet against him. Geraghty, with 43 Festival wins to his name, said: “I sat on Envoi Allen at Gordon’s back in November. He would be along the lines of sitting on Sprinter Sacre – he has a similar presence. There is no doubt, he is the real deal.” To be likened to a Festival icon by a Festival icon is no mean feat, and both Cheveley Park Stud and Elliott will be hoping that their rising star can steal all the headlines once again – on a day that is bursting at the seams with talent.

minute when he got overtaken, 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, where are you?’ “Just look at what he’s done there – deny that he just loves racing. He’s unbelievable. He just made the dream come true, it’s just incredible. He will deserve every single high †ve, pat and carrot.” Racing fans, regardless of whether they were at Cheltenham or not that day, had barely got their collective breath back when Paisley Park delivered a perfect performance to complete a fairytale of his own by winning the Stayers’ Hurdle. His owner, Andrew Gemmell, is blind and has an incredible connection with the horse, a story which was well documented before the day and repeated many times later, especially after he shed tears of joy when greeting his hero in the winners’ enclosure. Many believed Paisley Park was on the cusp of creating a legacy and although he lost his crown last year, it is an achievement in itself that he is back on the track and on schedule to run in the race this year, having been found to have been su–ering from an irregular heartbeat. Emma Lavelle’s star is at the forefront of a division which is ™ourishing at the

26 THE F E S T I VAL TM SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD PREV I EW MAGAZ I NE

THE F E S T I VAL™ SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD

16-19 MARCH 2021 DAY

OTTWNHEFOROEUER H orseracing’s Blue Riband event is the Grade One WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup, a race steeped in history and which name into racing folklore and, all being well, the current holder Al Boum Photo will be bidding to create his a good omen for March and pleasing Mullins in the process. Explaining his logic in following the same well-trodden path, he said simply: “Don’t break a winning formula when it works.” It was on Day Four of last year’s Festival Each of the 28 races at The Festival™ supporting WellChild are special in their own right, but Day Four of Jump racing’s ‘Olympics’ is the crescendo towards which – for many – the whole season has been building

own history this year. Victory for Willie Mullins’ horse would ensure he is only the second horse this century, after the great Best Mate, to win the race on three consecutive occasions. Al Boum Photo’s †rst Gold Cup success in 2019 had a special place in Mullins’ heart, as it was a †rst and long-awaited victory in the race for a man who is now the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history. It took a speci†c and well-calculated formula for Al Boum Photo to win and the same route is being followed for a third time this year, having just one preparatory run in the same Grade Three chase at Tramore at New Year’s Day. Al Boum Photo won the same race in Ireland for a third time this year, setting

attracts the attention of casual racing fans and more general sports fans alike. With an ongoing absence of spectators due to the global pandemic, it is impossible for sporting events all over the world to recreate their traditional atmosphere, and Friday’s big race will be no dierent. However, no jockey, trainer or owner winning the Gold Cup this year will give a second thought to the empty stands when their horse crosses the line to win the most prestigious prize of them all. Racing analysts will use the term ‘Championship’ pace when talking about the big races at The Festival and that rings particularly true with the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup, as it tests the mettle of stayers looking to step up to the big leagues by seeing if they can add substance to their stamina over the trip of three and a quarter miles. Winning the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup automatically etches your

that Mullins also secured the leading trainer’s title, helped by victory in the †rst race of the day, the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle. It was Burning Victory who took the trophy back to Closutton for Mullins, but the race will be best remembered for the freakish nature that it was gifted to him. The Gary Moore-trained Goshen was seemingly coasting to victory when he dramatically unseated his rider Jamie Moore at the †nal ™ight. Another race on the Day Four card which holds a special place in Festival- goers hearts is the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’

NO JOCKEY, TRAINEROROWNER WINNINGTHE GOLDCUPTHIS YEARWILL GIVEASECONDTHOUGHT TOTHE EMPTYSTANDSWHENTHEIR HORSE CROSSESTHE LINETOWIN

28 THE F E S T I VAL TM SUPPORT I NG WE L LCH I LD PREV I EW MAGAZ I NE

THE FINAL RUNNERPASSINGTHEWINNINGPOST SIGNALS NOTONLYTHE ENDOFTHE FESTIVAL, BUT ALSO STARTSTHE COUNTDOWNTOTHE NEXTONE

Gold Cup at The November Meeting – go on to record a Festival victory. All good things must come to an end and it is the job of the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle to bring the curtain down on four fantastic days of racing. For racing fans, the final runner passing the winning post signals not only the end of The Festival, but also starts the countdown to the next one.

Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, which will become the penultimate race of The Festival. Its introduction is the latest improvement to a mares’ programme which continues to go from strength to strength. Mares have a habit of endearing themselves to the racing public and we could yet see Kerry Lee’s Cheltenham regular Happy Diva – who won the 2019

Steeple Chase, which is scheduled to be run 35 minutes after the Gold Cup. Known as the ‘Gold Cup for amateur riders’ due to it being run over the exact same distance as the feature race, this year it could be staged with professional jockeys in their place due to COVID-19 restrictions around ‘elite sport’. Another difference to this year’s line-up is the addition of the Grade Two Mrs

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F EATURE JONJO O’NEILL SR. & JONJO O’NEILL JR.

Carrying the name of a horse racing legend brings with it extra attention and expectation. However, there is currently nobody cooler in the saddle than Jonjo O’Neill Jr. The two Jonjos

A proud dad – and now boss – sits with a wry smile when asked to talk about his namesake and son: “We didn’t really think of the potential pressure when we named him! I never really expected he would become a jockey.” Jonjo O’Neill Jr. jumped onto the racing scene in 2015 when, as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, he had his first winner under rules. “The name does bring scrutiny but I have never really felt the pressure. I’m one of five from dad and none of the others, apart from AJ (Anthony Joseph, the youngest child of Jonjo and Jacqui

who assists Jonjo Sr. with the training and holds an amateur licence), are really involved in the sport. So it wasn’t like I was born to follow in my dad’s footsteps so to speak. I was never pushed into it at all. Luckily now that I have had a small bit of success, it’s quite nice that we do have the same name and it’s a privilege to carry it on.” Acknowledged with a chuckle, Jonjo Sr. adds: “There was never any pressure. I am delighted he did choose this path though. All I had ever said to them was whatever you choose to do, make sure you enjoy

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