Harry Fry is excited to see what Gidleigh Park can achieve over fences next season following his sixth-place finish in the Albert Bartlett at the Cheltenham Festival.

Impressive on his racecourse debut in a Chepstow bumper in the spring of last year, the six-year-old this term established himself as one of Britain’s leading novice hurdlers with a hat-trick of victories.

Having claimed Grade Two honours on Festival Trials day at Cheltenham in January, the son of Walk In The Park lost his unbeaten record on his return to the Cotswolds last month, with Fry blaming a combination of three miles and heavy ground for his slightly disappointing effort.

“He’s fine, it just didn’t happen for us on the day,” said the Dorset-based trainer.

“Obviously, the ground went testing from Thursday night into Friday and suddenly we were encountering what we’d been trying to avoid, which was running him over three miles on testing ground.

“It just meant they went steady, sensibly in the conditions, which didn’t suit us and he just overraced through the early and middle part of it and didn’t give himself a chance to really see it out.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I don’t think we’d have beaten Ballyburn in the other race anyway (Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle). Probably the race we should have run in was the Supreme as it turned out, given the conditions.

“He’s fine and he’s been schooling away over fences since Cheltenham, which has gone very well, ahead of a novice chase campaign next season.

“We’ve always had half an eye on the day this horse goes novice chasing and he won’t be the first novice hurdler to get beat at the Festival and go on to better things over fences.”

Nicky Henderson expects to know by Thursday evening whether his horses are over whatever was ailing them during the Cheltenham Festival, with Sir Gino and Shishkin all set for Aintree.

Henderson endured a miserable week in the Cotswolds and after racing on Wednesday of that week decided discretion was the better part of valour, pulling out all of his high-profile runners.

“Rather like before Cheltenham we’ve kept testing them and just like then, everything is fine – that’s the only worry really. It keeps telling us everything is fine,” said Henderson.

“The horses seem really well in themselves, the last work has all been done, they seem bright and perky and we’re looking forward to it.

“We’re going to know our fate pretty quickly. By Thursday night it will either be happening or it won’t be happening. Obviously we go with a fair amount of trepidation, but things seemed to have improved dramatically from the perspective of their work and everything at home.

“We’ve hardly run anything, but the two reasons we haven’t run anything, for instance at Hereford today I couldn’t make an entry on the card – I couldn’t find a horse who was qualified to run in any race, and of course the ground is desperate, so we’ll start at Aintree.”

After a quiet 10 days the Seven Barrows handler has been building them back up to peak fitness and Sir Gino, who had been odds-on for the Triumph Hurdle, will be first to test the water in the Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle.

“He was a horse that I honestly couldn’t find anything wrong with him, but we’d lost all confidence and I couldn’t face running a young horse like him,” Henderson told Sky Sports Racing.

“We’ve made no bones about it, we think he’s seriously good and I just couldn’t risk him. Joe Donnelly was wonderful because we had to take Sir Gino, Shishkin and Shanagh Bob out, all his, but there was no point in running them after the first two days.

“I trust in this fellow and he’s going to go out there carrying the Seven Barrows flag and I’m sure everyone is going to watch him like a hawk – I hope for all the right reasons.

“He won at Auteuil and as everybody knows, if you can handle that you can handle most things, and it was pretty soft on Trials day (at Cheltenham).”

Shishkin will then get his chance to shine in the Aintree Bowl having missed the Gold Cup.

“The last week seems to have been great, Nico (de Boinville) rode him in his last piece of work on Saturday and said he felt fantastic and he’s looked up for it all this week.

“I just think everything has gone right, but he’s had a funny old year. He didn’t start, then he threw away the King George and then he won the Denman. Whatever anybody’s opinion of the King George doesn’t matter, he was still running a great race. The Denman was more than an ideal preparation for the Gold Cup, but here we are in the same place so hopefully all systems go.”

Henderson also runs the mares Luccia and Marie’s Rock in the William Hill Aintree Hurdle.

He said: “Luccia was the one bright light at Cheltenham. The Champion Hurdle had fallen apart as far as we were concerned without Constitution Hill, but Luccia ran a fantastic race when she was a very close third.

“The only thing here is we are going up half a mile. We haven’t thought about it a lot and always felt she wouldn’t stay, but one day you have to try and if she does stay from next season’s point of view it gives her so many more options. The alternative was to wait for Punchestown and walk into Lossiemouth.

“Marie’s Rock is between here and the three-miler, but in this sort of ground two and a half will be plenty for her. She’s got stamina and goes in the soft, but it’s a very tough race.”

Having dominated the Cheltenham Festival, Willie Mullins has set his sights on the Boylesports Irish Grand National on April 1 – with unexposed novice Nick Rockett likely to be all the rage.

The champion trainer is seeking a third win overall in the richest jumps’ race run in Ireland and back-to-back victories after the unlikely success of I Am Maximus 12 months ago.

Nick Rockett has been allotted 10st 13lb in the weights by handicapper Sandy Shaw, with Gordon Elliott’s Galway Plate winner Ash Tree Meadow top of the pile.

Three Cheltenham Festival victors are towards the top in Corbetts Cross (11st 10lb), Inothewayurthinkin (11st 9lb) and Limerick Lace (11st 7lb), but having kept his powder dry, Mullins might just have the ideal candidate.

“Nick Rockett has performed well around Fairyhouse and I love horses for courses,” said Mullins.

“Paul (Townend) was very happy the last day he won around the course and we thought instead of going to Cheltenham that we should maybe aim for Fairyhouse. That’s what we have been doing and we are very happy with how he is.

“He jumps, has won over the track, is a novice coming up the ranks, has a nice weight and Paul is very happy to ride him. That is more than enough and he ticks all the right boxes, I think.

“We have to get him there in the right order and at the moment I am very happy with him.”

Regarding his other entries, Mullins said: “This race comes into play for Stattler now, if he’d run at Cheltenham (Cross Country Chase was abandoned) he would maybe have gone to Aintree, but he’s now in the running to run here.

“Monkfish was disappointing at Cheltenham so wouldn’t come here, Mr Incredible only ran the other day so it’s too close, the same with Adamantly Chosen. Embassy Gardens and James Du Berlais the same.

“Bronn was disappointing in Naas, but if I could get him back right he could go there. Minella Cocooner has run well there, has the credentials, stays all day and has a nice weight as well.

“Ontheropes is 36 (on the ballot) but I think he is more or less in and is our other likely runner.

“It took us a long time to win it. My father had won it four times so it was an itch that needed scratching and then winning it with Burrows Saint for Rich Ricci and with Ruby Walsh, that capped it.

“It gave me as much pleasure as winning any race.”

For Shaw, Mullins’ comments have him “shaking in his boots”.

“An awful lot handicap themselves and it is obviously the novices that we look to as they are the ones that have more improvement in them,” he said.

“The three Cheltenham winners are in but we can reassess them, the difference is that Willie’s Nick Rockett didn’t go – he has me shaking in my boots the way he’s talking!

“He’s been held back and it was certainly the right thing to do, I think. Novices are always hard to rate because you have to rate them on what they have done, not on what we think they might do so there is a chance Nick Rockett could be well handicapped.

“The only thing is he has only run seven times in his life. He’s unexposed as a result, but it will be a question of if he can handle the hurly burly of the race. Other than that he does look the one. He could have a few pounds up his sleeve, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Dan Skelton will be giving it his all to win the trainers’ championship after adding to his brilliant Cheltenham Festival with winners at both Uttoxeter and Kempton on Saturday.

Fresh from being the standout British trainer in the Cotswolds, when saddling a career-best four winners over the four days, he edged ahead of Paul Nicholls in the trainers’ standings when keeping the ball rolling across the cards on Saturday.

However, he is predicting a tough battle to end his former Ditcheat boss’ stranglehold on the trophy and is hoping he has the right horses in reserve to run at the latter end of the season.

“I will give it a good go to win it and Paul will give it a good go to defend it and it will have to be worked for,” said Skelton.

“I will give it a go, but what I won’t be doing is running horses unnecessarily. Horses like the bumper horse, Royal Infantry, it’s correct for him to finish his season now, so I won’t be asking horses it is inappropriate to do so to come out. However, those that are, will.”

Skelton saddled a double at Uttoxeter thanks to the victories of Santos Blue and Gwennie May Boy, while Boombawn made a successful return from 302 days off the track in Kempton’s Read Nicky Henderson’s Exclusive Unibet Blog Handicap Hurdle.

The progressive seven-year-old was once again showing his love for Kempton having struck in Listed company at the Sunbury track in October 2022 and after travelling with real enthusiasm in the hands of Harry Skelton, the 13-2 chance dug deep to hold off the rallying Titan Discovery at the finish.

He told Racing TV: “We had him ready for the Silver Trophy at Chepstow in the autumn, but it was an unusually wet autumn and then we had him ready two weeks later for somewhere that went soft or heavy and in the end I just sent him home to one of his owners, Sarah Faulks, and she just gave him a week off at home and freshened him up.

“We got him back around Christmas time and he’s just been aching for this bit better ground. I know it’s not officially good today, but it’s a lot better (than it has been) and he’s entitled to be progressive – what you saw at Aintree (on his last start) showed you he was going in the right direction.

“He will have Aintree, Ayr and Sandown on the last day of the season on his agenda and we might even consider going over fences with him, depending on the time of year and if there are any races we can get him in.

“If it got to May and he was beyond the rating ceiling to get into a novice chase, we could even take him to France.”

Meanwhile, Skelton is hopeful his quartet of Festival winners will be a part of his arsenal for his title challenge after providing a positive update on their wellbeing.

“They are all really good. Langer Dan just has a little infection in a leg and all the other winners are good. Langer Dan is fine by the way, it is just something that is mentionable,” Skelton added.

“Grey Dawning will probably run (again) at three miles, Protektorat will have the option of two (races) and I would love to step Langer Dan up to Grade One company. Unexpected Party will have a heap of entries and we will see what’s best.”

Nicky Henderson is planning a quiet few days as he tries to get to the bottom of the issue that scuppered his Cheltenham Festival hopes.

With Constitution Hill ruled out of a Champion Hurdle defence the week before the fixture due to a respiratory infection, Henderson’s week got off to an inauspicious start with five of his six runners pulled up on Tuesday.

That prompted the Seven Barrows trainer to rule out a string of leading contenders, with Jonbon missing his Champion Chase date, ante-post favourite Sir Gino sidestepping the Triumph Hurdle and Shishkin ruled out of his Cheltenham Gold Cup assignment due to an unsatisfactory scope.

A handful of Henderson runners did perform with credit at Cheltenham, most notably Champion Hurdle third Luccia, and Persian Time offered a further glimmer of hope when digging deep for a neck verdict in the Try Unibet’s New Acca Boosts Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase at Kempton on Saturday.

Henderson has no entries until Spring Note at Newbury on Friday and will now attempt to establish what has troubled his recent runners.

He told Racing TV: “It has been a difficult 10 days because to be fair, I think we knew before we went there that they hadn’t been running to what you would hope for.

“It’s nice just to sort of close the whole week down, we have nothing else (running) today.

“We probably will have hardly any runners next week and let the whole thing settle down and see if we can get to the bottom of what has been ailing, although it’s difficult to say ailing as they seem to be well, everything checks out right but they certainly checked out wrong at the top of that far hill last week – they couldn’t get over the top of it.

“I think we just take the whole thing apart and try to put it back piece by piece to see if there is a piece missing anywhere. I think there is something missing – there is no doubt about that – they’ve got to keep ticking over and I’d like to go quietly for one week and just let the whole thing die down.

“Everyone has been so incredibly helpful and I really appreciate it. We have just to got to see if there is a piece of the jigsaw missing and I hope it’s as simple as that, but it’s not there in black and white.

“Normally with the blood tests and scopes you can identify a problem – there’s just no sign of an issue. I do think the horses look well, they seem to be well, their work has been good, everything checks out right but they just weren’t performing at all and at the end, we just didn’t run – you were just getting scared to run.

“We will be quiet next week, hopefully we can then kick on to Aintree and Punchestown. There’s a lot still to come and they will come back I am sure. We have got a wonderful team at home and are surrounded by great people and we will get it back on track.

“I think everyone knows what Cheltenham is to nearly all of us and to come out of there like that – we’ve just had some wonderful years but you’re never going to get complacent about it. The amazing thing was the support we have had, everybody has been fantastic and I’m very grateful.”

Persian Time was last seen when pulled up behind Ginny’s Destiny at Cheltenham’s Trials day in January, but after bouncing back to form, a trip to Ayr could now be on the agenda for the gelding, who is owned by the McNeill and Stone families.

Henderson added: “He’s been good at home. On Trials day, he didn’t really want to have a cut at his fences there, then he was much happier today. He was tanking going down to the start and you could tell after the first three fences he was a different horse today.

“He’s a nice fellow and he’s going the right way, so let’s hope we can keep it going. There will be plenty more for him this season I would hope.

“I know Ayr is their (owners) very favourite track so I would think we might be scouring the programme book to see what there is for him there. he ran very well in a novice hurdle up there last year and just got touched off by what’s turned out to be a decent horse – Ayr could be good.”

British Horseracing Authority chief executive Julie Harrington has warned the dominance of Irish trainers at the Cheltenham Festival is “damaging” for the sport.

Irish handlers won 18 of the 27 races across the four days, with 12 of the 14 Grade One contests also going their way and Willie Mullins accounting for eight of those on his own among an overall tally of nine winners for the Closutton team – a total which also took him over 100 Festival winners.

Dan Skelton flew the flag for Britain by sending out four winners, including a memorable top-level double with Ryanair Chase victor Protektorat and Turners Novices’ Chase hero Grey Dawning on Thursday, with Ben Pauling, Paul Nicholls, Kim Bailey, Jeremy Scott and Fiona Needham also getting on the scoresheet.

While Harrington praised those achievements, she feels the Irish supremacy is “becoming more pronounced”.

She said: “I would like to offer my congratulations to every winner this week, and everyone connected with those horses. We again tip our hat to the Irish, and in particular Willie Mullins whose achievement in reaching 100+ Festival winners is truly remarkable.

“Congratulations also go to the British trainers who secured winners this week, in particular Dan Skelton for his impressive haul.

“I have no doubt that the men and women who train horses here in Britain are more than a match for their Irish counterparts. However, they need the ammunition and at present the balance of power and the best horses are going to our colleagues in Ireland, and in particular one yard.

“This is not a new issue. The direction of travel has been set for a number of years now. The sport has been alive to this and taken measures to seek to address it, through attempting to tackle funding issues associated with the sport, seeking increased investment, looking at the race programme, and more recently the delivery of the recommendations of the Quality Jump Racing Review.

“However, the Irish domination of the Grade One races this week has illustrated that the issue is becoming more pronounced and more damaging for the sport on both sides of the Irish sea.”

Following a nightmare Festival for the home side in 2021 which saw just five winners for British trainers, the BHA set up the review group which made a series of recommendations that were unveiled at the start of 2022, with further tweaks to the fixture list this term in an attempt to improve the upper tier of British National Hunt racing.

However, Harrington concedes more now needs to be done and at a faster pace to ensure no further ground is lost.

She said: “Put simply, the rate of decline of jump racing in Britain at the top end has outstripped the measures that have been put in place to tackle it. We must do more, more quickly, and in a more coordinated and decisive manner if we are going to restore British jump racing to the standing at which it belongs.

“Central to this is the delivery of the industry strategy. The strategy is all about growth. At the core of this is investment in the top echelons of our sport, with a view to incentivising the best horses to be bred, owned, trained and raced on these shores. An additional £3.8million in prize-money has already been earmarked for investment in 2024 across the top end of the sport in both codes.

“The strategy is also about much more than just investing in prize money. We need to grow our fanbase by encouraging new fans and retaining existing fans and owners, improve the experience of ownership and attending and viewing racing, and much more besides.

“To achieve this the sport must work together with urgency and clarity of purpose. The times of being reluctant to embrace change or new ideas, lack of transparency and focusing on narrow self-interest must be put firmly behind us.”

Talks are currently ongoing between the BHA and bookmakers on levy reform, which Harrington believes is another key factor in improving British fortunes in the future.

She concluded: “The very visible deterioration in British racing’s competitiveness with our international colleagues has also been at the heart of our discussions with the betting industry and DCMS around the levy, and our representations to Government around the risk of the damaging impact of affordability checks.

“We have seen great progress in the last 18 months and a spirit of collaboration is clearly developing. I am confident that if the sport and its allies work together around this shared goal then it can flourish once again. Not just across four days in March, but across the whole year. Jump racing’s popularity in Britain is immense and its potential limitless.”

Galopin Des Champs’ brilliant Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup double left bookmakers licking their wounds at the end of the Cheltenham Festival.

Willie Mullins’ defending champion was sent off the well-backed 10-11 favourite and barely gave his supporters a moment of worry as he stormed to back-to-back triumphs in the blue riband.

It means that three of the four feature-race favourites obliged over the four days and although the layers received temporary relief on day two when El Fabiolo fluffed his lines in the Champion Chase, Galopin Des Champs’ victory only compounded the misery inflicted by State Man and Teahupoo earlier in the week.

“When the Festival’s leading trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Paul Townend team up on the reigning Gold Cup champion and hot favourite in the biggest betting race of the week, victory for the combination is never going to be anything other than bad news for the bookmakers,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

“Overall it’s been a rollercoaster week for us, but Galopin Des Champ’s Gold Cup double means plenty of punters have ended this huge week on a high.”

BoyleSports were another firm losing on the Gold Cup, with spokesperson Lawrence Lyons adding: “It was already a bruising week with so many Mullins winners going in, but he rubbed salt in our wounds on Friday and Galopin Des Champs was the knockout blow as he was the best backed horse of the week.” 

However, it was not all bad news for the old enemy, with BetVictor relieved to escape relatively unscathed after an up and down week.

Sam Boswell of the firm explained: “After a bruising day one and day two – which could have been much worse if El Fabiolo had obliged for the many multiple bets – days three and four proved fruitful for the bookmakers with only Galopin Des Champs being a significant negative result.

“It is safe to say both bookmakers and punters had lots of fun at this year’s Festival and it is more or less honours even, perhaps a small win for the punters, over the last four days.”

Paddy Power’s Paul Binfield echoed those sentiments adding: “El Fabiolo’s unfortunate defeat in the Queen Mother was the turning point of the week.

“It went downhill from there for punters and the books have come out on top after a rather worrying start.”

An attempt to emulate three-time winners Arkle and Best Mate is uppermost in Willie Mullins’ mind for Galopin Des Champs having watched his stable star smoothly add a second Boodles Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

While last year’s race had its moments of concern before he eventually stamped his class on the contest, this time around it was much more straightforward.

In fact, the biggest worry was when Fastorslow, his nemesis from the Punchestown Festival and the John Durkan Chase earlier in the season, loomed up alongside him – the difference being this time his old foe had unseated earlier in the race and was riderless.

“The loose horse was obviously a worry, I was trying to work out if it was an English or an Irish one! But I could tell by Paul’s body language that he was comfortable throughout,” said Mullins.

For Mullins, the old saying ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’ certainly rings true where the Gold Cup is concerned.

Before Al Boum Photo won the first of his two Gold Cups in 2019, the master trainer had finished second in the blue riband an incredible six times.

“The two horses don’t really compare, Al Boum Photo was more of a galloper who would stay all day while this fellow has a bit of class but he’s still able to pull it out at the end of three and a quarter miles,” said Mullins, who was winning his fourth Gold Cup in six years.

“We’ve been very lucky that after six seconds we’ve now won four in six, we’re also very lucky to have Paul. He’s level with Pat Taaffe now (on four winners), that’s esteemed company.

“To win the 100th Gold Cup is amazing. The horses have been running so well, the jockeys have been riding so well, it’s like a perfect storm, that’s what it is, just the perfect storm.”

Where Al Boum Photo came up short in his bid for a third Gold Cup, Galopin Des Champs’ biggest test may come from within in the shape of Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase winner Fact To File.

“The aim now has got to be to get him back next year and go for a third and I imagine we’ll run a similar type of programme as we did this year,” said Mullins.

“Looking at the amount of horses he’s beaten, he’s probably run more times than most Gold Cup horses but I’m a believer that if you’ve got a good, sound horse and the prize-money is there, run them.

“I’m sure it’s a big help that we got those runs into him early in the season. He took the runs really well and gave us no reason not to run and that enabled us to come with race fitness rather than hope.

“It’s awesome that it looks like we might have other Gold Cup horses coming through, but we know through bitter experience how hard it is to get three-mile chasers back to the track, it’s a tough game. It would be great to bring him back but if he doesn’t, hopefully we have A, B and C as well.”

For Townend, who you sometimes feel would rather be anywhere else than the centre of attention, he has, as Mullins pointed out, matched the Gold Cup record of Arkle’s legendary rider.

“He’s felt stronger this year so we were able to ride him differently, he’s more grown up, he’s tough,” said Townend.

“It was more straightforward this year, last year we sort of had to fight our way through but this was a different race on a different day.

“You obviously never know what a loose horse is going to do, but he actually behaved himself quite well and my horse was very professional. He was also something for me to race with.”

For Mullins, the Gold Cup was his ninth winner of the week in a year he brought up an incredible 100th Festival success and put the seal on yet another remarkable meeting.

“The other morning before we came, we were all in the office and I said to them all ‘is it me or is everything in place this year’. The horses we were running at home were winning and the ones that were coming here were all in tip-top order and that has proved to be the case,” he said.

“It’s hard to say which is bigger, 100 winners or another Gold Cup, but there’s a Gold Cup every year – not many people will train 100 winners. I never dreamt I would and I didn’t aspire to do it, but you hope to have a Gold Cup winner.

“I obviously tried for a lot of years and couldn’t do it, but a few years later here we are with four out of six. You dream it would happen, but you don’t dream what has happened to Closutton in the last 20 or 25 years.

Townend, who had the misfortunate of being compared to Ruby Walsh when he took the top job, has now established himself as the man for the big occasion.

“It’s been an amazing journey and it’s all down to Willie, he gave me a lot of experiences as a young rider behind Ruby and I’m just grateful to be able to repay him with winners this week and every year,” he said.

“He gives you huge confidence riding the horses because if it’s not going to Plan A, you have the confidence to be able to go and do something else. I don’t remember us ever having a row!”

Comparing Townend to Walsh, Mullins said: “Totally different rider, different style of riding and a different way of viewing a race, but it works. I always admire Paul’s style of riding for different reasons – and he’s really settled into the top job hasn’t he.”

Mullins also had a poignant word for his late parents, Paddy and Maureen, the latter having died last month at the age of 94.

“I would have loved to have had my mother and my father here, for the whole week, not just the Gold Cup, but it’s not to be,” he said.

When asked what was left for him to achieve now, Mullins said: “Paul alluded to it coming in after winning on Absurde when he said ‘what the hell were you doing down in Melbourne with him!’.

“We’d like to go back. In the context of Flat racing, we’re never going to win a Guineas so we target the staying races and the Melbourne Cup is the one I’d really like.”

It was deemed a “score draw” between the punters and the layers heading into the final day of the Cheltenham Festival after football encroached heavily on racing’s pitch on day three

The backers got off to a fast start when 5-2 joint -avourite Grey Dawning gave the flying Dan Skelton team victory in the Turners Novices’ Chase, but the bookmakers clawed back some momentum after Sir Alex Ferguson’s pair Monmiral (25-1) and Protektorat (17-2) gave the former Manchester United boss a thrilling day at Prestbury Park.

And although the bookies were able to cheer home Jeremy Scott’s Golden Ace later on the card, victories for well-backed favourites Teahupoo and Inothewayurthinkin ensured many a punter left the Cotswolds track with their pockets bursting at the seams.

“Grey Dawning got punters off to a great start, while Monmiral and Protektorat had their supporters – possibly Manchester United fans – as did Harry Rednkapp’s Shakem Up’Arry, and Teahupoo and Inothewayurthinkin were also very well-backed winning favourites,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

“Golden Ace was our best result of the day, beating the Irish stars in the Mares’ Novice Hurdle, but in footballing terms, it’s a score draw as we head into the biggest betting day of the week.”

Lawrence Lyons, spokesperson for BoyleSports, added: “We were on a rollercoaster ride on Thursday with some big results going in our favour, but Gordon Elliott got in on the act and the favourite in the last race also gave punters plenty to cheer about ahead of a decisive day.

“It’s 2-1 to the punters at this stage, but it’s all to play for on Gold Cup Friday.”  

One football-loving racing fan was in clover on St Patrick’s Thursday as their £5 multiple on three horses owned by famous footballing names returned a whopping £16,195.

After Ferguson’s Monmiral and Protektorat had found the target to kick off the hat-trick bid it was Redknapp’s Shakem Up’Arry who sealed the 3,239-1 treble for the lucky punter.

Betfair’s Barry Orr said: “The punter must not only be a racing fan, but also a big football fan.

“The two ex-bosses are massive racing enthusiasts and Cheltenham is the Champions League of the horseracing world, so for both to score on the biggest stage is a great result.”

Dan Skelton made no bones about Willie Mullins’ unquestionable Cheltenham dominance, but he took the Festival fight to his rival’s door with a thrilling Grade One double on day three.

Wednesday marked Mullins 100th overall success at the National Hunt spectacular, with Skelton admitting it is now less about the home team taking on Ireland and more about everyone trying to remain competitive with Team Mullins.

Recent years have marked a distinct lack of Festival success for British-trained runners, but Skelton is doing his level best to buck the trend, supplementing a day two double with Grade One glory courtesy of Grey Dawning in the Turners Novices’ Chase and Protektorat in the Ryanair Chase.

Grey Dawning had to repel the challenge of the Paul Nicholls-trained Ginny’s Destiny for his win, with Venetia Williams’ Djelo taking third for a rare British clean sweep, while Protektorat was too strong for Henry de Bromhead’s defending champion Envoi Allen over the near two-mile-five-furlong trip of the Ryanair.

Both were partnered by Skelton’s brother Harry, and the trainer could hardly contain his delight after a dual strike on the biggest stage of all.

He said: “This is the place you want to win and when you beat Paul, when you beat Willie, when you beat Nicky (Henderson) and Gordon (Elliott) and Henry, they’re legitimate victories. It’s hard to do and we enjoy doing it.

“It’s remarkable how things are going, I’m very proud of the whole team. This is what you plan to do, but it actually coming off is very, very different.”

A nightmare set of Festival results in 2021 saw just five victories for British trainers, but Skelton’s winners combined with Paul Nicholls’ win in the Pertemps Final with Monmiral and the Kim Bailey-trained Chianti Classico’s verdict in the Ultima on the opening day had ensured no repeat of that disappointment by the middle of the third day.

While Skelton has faith fortunes will turn again in British trainers’ favour eventually, he believes the hard work will be in catching the all-conquering Mullins squad.

He added: “It’s not easy, we’re not having things our own way (in Britain), maybe we were used to having things our own way for so long.

“This is a sport, people have supporters and as trainers we have owners. What we’ve got to do is knuckle down, we all are, and get stuck into it and it’ll turn. I’m not saying it will turn all the way back and it probably wouldn’t be a good thing to have such one-sidedness ever again.

“Willie by his own admission says he seeks competition and all of this England versus Ireland talk, I hate to break it to everyone but it’s everyone versus Willie, so we need a dose of reality on that as well.”

Sir Alex Ferguson had the upper hand when meeting Harry Redknapp’s teams on the football pitch and he outscored his old rival two winners to one on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The big meeting was in danger of becoming more than a bit predictable with Willie Mullins recording a double on each of the first two days – but it was livened in some style up by wins for a couple of celebrity owners.

Ferguson, the former Aberdeen and Manchester United manager, has thrown himself into racing ownership since his retirement and has recently been enjoying great success with a horse he bred himself, Spirit Dancer, winning valuable prizes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia recently.

He has owned horses for a long time with friends Ged Mason and John Hales, and while they have had very good horses and won a host of good races, together they had failed to scale the Cheltenham Festival heights.

That all changed in a magical 40-minute spell on Thursday when first the Paul Nicholls-trained Monmiral caused a big shock in the Pertemps Final and then Protektorat, third in the Gold Cup a few years ago, returned to his best to win the Ryanair Chase on an equally special day for Dan Skelton.

Ferguson – who together with Hales, Mason and Peter Done paid a record €740,000 for Caldwell Potter at the sales in February – said: “I’ve finally had a winner here. Two in 40 minutes! It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? It’s a special place.

“It has been probably 20 years that I’ve wanted to have a winner here, as when I first started I just had Flat horses and no National Hunt ones.

“I got interested in the jumps with Ged and John. It 100 per cent makes it more enjoyable having a winner with friends. Everyone looks forward to Cheltenham, while on the Flat you have the Derby. These two events are unsurpassed.

“It’s special here, it’s like the Derby or the FA Cup final and I’ve waited a while to experience this. A lot of people who buy horses have never had a winner, never mind here. It’s a feeling of elation.

“Of course it’s not the same as winning at football, that was my life, I was immersed in that, this is what I do for pleasure so it’s a different feeling. I don’t have to worry about it, I leave that to the trainer.”

Redknapp echoed Ferguson’s sentiment as he also celebrated his first Festival success after years of trying.

His Shakem Up’Arry, who won the TrustATrader Plate Handicap Chase, got his name from Redknapp’s time at West Ham when a fan used to sit behind him and shout ‘shake ’em up, Arry’.

Redknapp said: “I can’t believe we’ve done it. He travelled so well and jumped the last and I thought ‘please, don’t stop now’. People were saying ‘Go on Harry, he’s won’ and I thought ‘no he ain’t!’.

“Racing has been a big part of my life. I grew up at West Ham as a player where we had a team of punters, that’s how it was back in those days. We all loved a bet, we all loved racing.

“I’ve been lucky to have got into racing as an owner and when you buy horses you dream of having a winner at Cheltenham.”

He went on: “My old nan was a bookie’s runner down our street in the east end and she used to get locked up every day for taking bets! To be here now in this position is incredible.

“My main worry is that they get round safe, I jump every jump with them and think ‘please don’t fall or get hurt’. When they come back safe and sound, especially in front, it’s all the better.

“It’s great for Sir Alex to have a winner as well, we had some great days. Going into his office at Old Trafford at quarter past two when the teams were out and we’d watch a bit of racing for 15 minutes and then we’d go out and I’d do my best to try and pull off a miracle and get a result!

“We both loved the racing and we both loved the football. For him to get two winners today is great and for me to get a winner is fantastic.”

One lucky Betfair punter put all three horses in a £5 accumulator they were calling ‘The Gaffers Treble’. It returned £16,195.

Betfair spokesperson Barry Orr said: “The punter must not only be a racing fan, but also a big football fan. The two ex-bosses are massive racing enthusiasts and Cheltenham is the Champions League of the horseracing world, so for both to score on the biggest stage is a great result.”

Emma Lavelle’s beloved staying hurdler Paisley Park has been retired after finishing down the field at the Cheltenham Festival.

The 12-year-old has been a constant presence in staying hurdle events over the past few seasons, going unbeaten in the 2018-19 season when his campaign culminated in success in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

He has contested the race every season since, finishing third in 2021 and 2022, and alongside a superb record in that race he has three Long Walk Hurdles, three Cleeve Hurdles and a Long Distance Hurdle to his name.

Those victories, amongst 11 on his CV, make him one of the best and most consistent figures in the division and this season he showed he retained plenty of his ability when finishing second by the narrowest of distances in the Long Distance, the Long Walk and the Cleeve.

He lined up as a 14-1 chance in the Stayers’ Hurdle this time around but could only finish 10th, prompting connections to announce his immediate retirement after a stellar career for his loving owner Andrew Gemmell, who was born blind.

Lavelle said: “We have an awful lot to thank him for, we really do.

“I don’t know what is next for him, Andrew would like to keep him in his garden! He’d need to do something, but he’s the sort of horse who will do anything and he’s such a good ride.

“It’s definitely the right thing to do, we said this season would be on a race-by-race basis but he kept running his heart out, it was just a shame he couldn’t get his head in front for one last time.

“Today was the big test and he doesn’t have the same pace that he used to, that turbo button is missing and based on that, Andrew had a discussion as we crossed the line and as he’s done so much for us, he doesn’t need to do any more.

“It’s so emotional because he has done so much for us.”

Gemmell said: “That first win here when he made a ricket at the last and still won has to be my favourite memory.

“We’re retiring him, it was a great race and a great career but it’s time. It’s the right thing to do. He’s been marvellous.”

Harry Redknapp enjoyed a first Cheltenham Festival winner as Shakem Up’Arry found the scoresheet on a football-orientated day three of the Cheltenham Festival.

Having watched his former managerial rival Sir Alex Ferguson notch a double earlier on the card, it was soon the turn of the former West Ham, Portsmouth and Tottenham boss to return to the Prestbury Park winner’s enclosure with his course specialist – who supplemented his New Year’s Day triumph here in great style.

Sent off at 8-1 for the TrustATrader Plate Handicap Chase, the Ben Pauling-trained 10-year-old travelled supremely in the hands of Ben Jones and having jumped the last already looking the winner, he stuck his head down and galloped all the way to the line.

The victory continued Pauling’s fine run of recent form, with the Naunton Downs handler registering a fourth Festival success. However, it was a first victory for 24-year-old Jones at the meeting having only once previously enjoyed success at the Cotswolds track – aboard Shakem Up’Arry on the duo’s previous start.

Protektorat proved dropping back in trip was no issue when producing a brilliant display to claim the Ryanair Chase for the red-hot Dan Skelton team at the Cheltenham Festival.

A Grade One winner over three miles, he was third and fifth when tried in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the past two years and connections resisted taking a third crack at the blue riband to revert to one of the day three features

There was plenty of pace on show with Stage Star and Ahoy Senor leading the field along, with Protektorat among those right on that duo’s tail in the hands of Harry Skelton.

Having travelled menacingly into contention it appeared 9-4 favourite and defending champion Envoi Allen was the one the front-runners had to worry about heading into the straight, but neither Stage Star or Protektorat were ready to give up the fight and although Stage Star faded after two out there was still plenty of fight left in Protektorat.

There was little to separate Protektorat and Henry de Bromhead’s charge jumping the final fence, but it was Protektorat’s stamina reserves which then came to the fore late in the day as the 17-2 chance stormed up the Cheltenham hill to victory.

It was Skelton’s fourth victory at this year’s Festival, and also the second in the space of 40 minutes for the collective of owners that include Sir Alex Ferguson and John Hales – whose famous yellow colours Skelton donned in the saddle.

Grey Dawning continued Dan Skelton’s fabulous Cheltenham Festival with a brilliant victory in the Turners Novices’ Chase.

Paul Nicholls’ Ginny’s Destiny never missed a beat out in front as he attempted to repeat Stage Star’s victory in this race 12 months ago, but Grey Dawning was never far away in the hands of the trainer’s brother, Harry, and as they headed down hill it became clear it would be an all-British shoot-out up the famous hill.

The duo swung the bend locked in unison but having jumped two out matching strides, it was the 5-2 joint-favourite who edged to the front at the last and stayed on strongly to see Skelton oust his former Ditcheat boss and register his third triumph of the week at the showpiece meeting.

Venetia Williams’ Djelo came home in third to complete a one-two-three for the home team, with Zanahiyr the best of the Irish in fourth.

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