Racegoers at the Cheltenham Festival were treated to a brilliant Timico Gold Cup race on Friday (March 17th), as Sizing John made it a special 'double'.
The seven-year-old horse had already triumphed in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown, but it was the first time that 70-year-old trainer Jessica Harrington had won a blue riband race in Britain. Jockey Robbie Power enjoyed a superb ride as the horse dismissed any questions over his stamina by leaving the rest of the field trailing. It was the first time a horse had won the British and Irish Gold Cups in the same year since 1996.
Speaking after the race,Harrington said: "It hasn't really sunk in yet. I can't believe it is true. I am sitting here, I am about to wake up and it hasn't happened. This is the jewel in the crown. It is amazing to win the Gold Cup - this is the one I have always wanted to win."
Having never had a runner in the race before, the County Kildare-based trainer attributed her win to "beginner's luck". But while it was tempting in the week of St Patrick's Day to talk about the 'luck of the Irish', the fact that 19 of the 28 winners came from the Emerald Isle is clearly down to rather more than good fortune.
Racing fans who enjoyed Cheltenham can now look forward to several more big events in the calendar over the next few months, with corporate hospitality available for the Epsom Derby Festival in early June.
The Gold Cup was not the only notable event at Cheltenham, as a series of big races produced some major stories. Ruby Walsh won an historic four races on Thursday, ensuring he was the top jockey for the 11th time. Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins trained six winners each, with Gordon finishing top due to having more second places.
While the Irish dominance and the Gold Cup double of Sizing John were among the biggest stories, so too were the shock results, none more so than the victory of Special Tiara in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a race Douvan went into as the hottest of hot favourites only to come seventh.