Cheltenham Festival memories: Five famous day three winners
2004 Stayers Hurdle – Iris’s Gift
A rare occurrence these days is the Anglo/Irish/French battles at the Cheltenham Festival, but in the last decade we became accustomed to Francois Doumen sending over various contenders.
His main one was the JP McManus owned and dual Stayers Hurdle victor Baracouda, who came over regularly to British shores winning multiple Grade One hurdles including this race in 2002 and 2003.
On the latter occasion, he faced Limestone Lad and Iris’s Gift who was then a novice. Whilst Limestone Lad faded after setting the pace, Baracouda had to fight to hold off the novice.
The following year was a similar script. Baracouda turned up a short priced favourite and travelled through the race like the best horse, but Barry Geraghty had other ideas on the Jonjo O’Neill trained grey as he showed tremendous reserves to battle back and deny the French raider the hat-trick.
Sadly for Iris’s Gift, his career never developed as injury problems and issues when novice chasing put pay to a quality horse.
2012 Ryanair Chase – Riverside Theatre
If there is a ride for persistence that deserves a mention, then this goes near the top of any Festival list. Riverside Theatre was always a horse that had a massive amount of talent, but sometimes had his own ideas about the game.
Backers of his in the 2010 Arkle would recall him looking to spit the dummy out before flying up the hill. He missed the following year’s Festival after picking up an injury following his victory in the Ascot Chase, but made it in 2012 via the same race.
Throughout the race, Riverside Theatre didn’t travel at all and tested his jockey Barry Geraghty to the extreme with his patience.
Alberta’s Run and Medermit looked set to fight it out over the final fence, but Geraghty managed to thrust his mount’s head in front on the line.
2014 World Hurdle – More Of That
Last year’s World Hurdle on paper looked to be a match between the veteran and the young pretender; Big Buck’s vs Annie Power. The former had lost his 18 consecutive wins sequence in the Cleeve Hurdle on his return from injury, whilst the latter was bringing a reputation of her unbeaten record.
Early on in the race, Annie Power was quite keen which probably counted against her late on whilst Big Buck’s travelled well enough but, when push came to shove, those around him with their younger legs left him behind.
Going to the last, Annie Power was bang there but got out-battled up the hill by another unbeaten horse at the time in More Of That, who had improved through the handicap ranks throughout the season, culminating in this win on only his fifth start under rules.
2005 Mildmay Of Flete – Liberthine
The name Sam Waley-Cohen is synonymous now with Cheltenham Festival success but, back in 2005 as a university student, he came here as an unknown rider and took the ride on his father Robert’s Liberthine for Nicky Henderson in the Mildmay Of Flete.
For the first three quarters of the race, he was barely sighted as she was dropped out in rear. Slowly but surely, she crept into contention under a cool ride, and picked off long time leader Banker Count at the final fence before scooting clear up the hill.
This Waley-Cohen family win was made all the more emotional as his brother Thomas had recently died from cancer at the age of 20.
2011 Pertemps Final – Buena Vista
For eight consecutive Festivals from the Champion Bumper to the Supreme to the Arkle to the Pertemps Qualifer on several occasions, Buena Vista effectively became part of the Festival furniture.
Sixth in the bumper to Missed That in 2005, he improved on that when third behind Noland in the Supreme the following year. Buena Vista went chasing the following year and turned up in the Arkle; however, jumping fences didn’t prove to be his thing and he was brought back over hurdles.
The Pertemps Final was his most contested race at the meeting with five appearances. Fifth to Ballyfitz in 2008 and then improving three places the following year when second to Kayf Aramis, he finally got off the mark in 2010 when taking the race under Hadden Frost by five lengths having raced handily throughout. Relive that below:
The following year, he returned under Conor O’Farrell and did something that’s extremely rare in a Festival handicap. Buena Vista made every yard of the running under an excellent ride and didn’t see another rival throughout. He returned for one more Festival, but age seemed to have caught up with him when he ran a laboured race behind Cape Tribulation.