FOR the third year in a row the number of victories for Irish point-to-point horses at the Cheltenham Festival broke into double figures as they won over 40% of the races across the four days when the two juvenile races are excluded, to further highlight the impact that the grassroots of the sport continues to have at the very top of National Hunt racing currently.

Accounting for one in every three runners in these races at the festival, no fewer than 32 of them finished in the first three, including three Grade 1 successes headlined by Honeysuckle, who retained her Champion Hurdle crown, to bring her tally of Grade 1 victories to 11 since she had made her debut by winning a four-year-old mares’ maiden at Dromahane by 15 lengths.

Cheltenham Sale

Interestingly, it was another horse who had won a four-year-old mares’ maiden that commanded top billing in the Tattersalls Cheltenham Festival Sale when Kudasheva, a debut winner at Ballycahane for Pat Doyle, was knocked down to Honeysuckle’s trainer Henry de Bromhead for £370,000.

No fewer than 12 recent point-to-pointers were sold for six-figure prices, as the 20 Irish point-to-pointers realised over €3.5 million on the one evening.

It also proved to be an Irish takeover in an ultra-dramatic edition of the Cheltenham Festival hunter chase with a clean sweep of the placings for Irish point-to-pointers for the first time since Tammys Hill, Carsonstown Boy and On The Fringe achieved a similar one-two-three in the 2014 edition.

This year’s renewal proved arguably more dramatic than any of the other 27 races at Prestbury Park when Winged Leader, who had looked booked for the number one spot jumping the last, was collared by Billaway in the very last stride, with Mighty Stowaway back in third.

We may not have to wait long to see a rematch as the Cheltenham trio could renew rivalries in less than a fortnight’s time as they feature among 38 entries for the Randox Aintree Foxhunters, of which nine are Irish trained.

Irish pointing winners at Cheltenham 2022

Grade 1 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

Constitution Hill (Warren Ewing)

Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase

Corach Rambler (John Martin Walsh)

Grade 1 Champion Hurdle

Honeysuckle (Gerry Cosgrave)

Grade 1 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

Sir Gerhard (Ellmarie Holden)

Coral Cup

Commander Of Fleet (Pat Doyle)

Grade 3 Grand Annual

Global Citizen (Willie Murphy)

Grade 1 Turners Novices’ Chase

Bob Olinger (Pat Doyle)

Grade 3 Craft Irish Whiskey Plate

Coole Cody (Jimmy Mangan)

Grade 2 Mares’ Novice Hurdle

Love Envoi (Sean Doyle)

Festival Hunter Chase

Billaway (Tracey Gilmour)

Martin Pipe Hurdle

Banbridge (Colin McKeever)

Rose Of Coolbally centre stage in the

Gain Mares Final

FOLLOWING an absence of two years due to the Covid-19 interruptions that have blighted the past two seasons, the return of the Gain Final takes centre stage at Ballynoe tomorrow Sunday.

The 13-strong entry is headed by Rose Of Coolbally, already a four-time winner this season.

She could have stiff opposition for the €3,000 bonus that the sponsors Gain Equine Nutrition and the Ballynoe point-to-point committee will present to the winning owner.

Ciaran Fennessy’s stable companion’s will undoubtedly be to the fore of that opposition, as Rockanayre and Fiery Brown were only split by last week’s Down Royal hunter chase winner Lawlor’s Choice when first and third at Borris House in their latest outing.

The eye-catching Kildorrery maiden winner Kym Eyre will bid to give James Sheehan another victory in the race, 12 years after Tell Me Rose claimed the 2010 renewal.

Joanne Hurley, Irish Equine Country Manager for Gain Equine Nutrition, said: “We are proud of our longstanding association with the Gain Mares Series that culminates with the final at Ballynoe, which is one of the most prestigious events in the point-to-point season.

“This series aims to give owners of mares a boost and encourages handlers to buy and race mares each season. This partnership demonstrates our commitment and support to the grass roots sector of the industry; we wish all connections the best of luck in the final and thank those who have supported the series to date.”