With Day 1 of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival done and dusted, it was time for bookies and punters to catch their breath. Not for long, though, with four Grade 1 races on St. Patrick’s Day lined up with several heavy favourites set to race and Irish eyes set on more prizes. These included Henry de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger and the Willie Mullins pair, Sir Gerhard and Monkfish, both ridden to victory by Rachael Blackmore who made history on Honeysuckle on day one at Prestbury Park. And then there was an unknown horse by the name of Tiger Roll, who reclaimed his Glenfarclas Chase title in storming fashion, proving his class following a dismal season. Ultimately, St. Patrick’s Day was an Irish affair, with Irish trainers claiming 6/7 races.
Monkfish set for 2022 Gold Cup run
The fashion in which Monkfish went about claiming the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase wasn’t the most breathtaking, with the horse not jumping as consistently as jockey Paul Townend would expect and taking additional strides leading up to fences. No matter. The Willie Mullins trained 7 year old still finished 6 ½ lengths clear of nearest rival Fiddlerontheroof to claim the crown. The 1/4 (1.25, -400) favourite is mooted for the 2022 Gold Cup, with bookies like Betfred and Bet365 already posting the horse as the 5/1 (6.0, +500) favourite for that race in just under a year’s time. If he is to take on the likes of Envoi Allen and Al Boum Photo he will need to find greater consistency if he is to land that prize.
Rachael Blackmore boosts hopes of Top Jockey after wins on Bob Olinger and Sir Gerhard
Following her impressive win on Honeysuckle on day one at Prestbury Park, Rachael Blackmore scooped two more wins on the bookend races of the day. Blackmore beat fellow stablemate and race favourite Kilcruit on Sir Gerhard, which went off in the Champion Bumper at 85/40 (3.13, +213). Any questions of whether Sir Gerhard would perform following the switch in yards were quickly allayed, which bodes well for the bets coming in for Envoi Allen ahead of his race in the Marsh Novice Chase tomorrow. In the first race of the day Blackmore rode 6/4 (2.5, +150) favourite Bob Olinger in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle to show his class and make the race look easy, taking the Irish jockey’s win tally to three for the festival so far.
Tiger Roll rolls back the years to win the Glenfarclas Chase
Fans of Tiger Roll were left gnashing their teeth when owner Michael O‘Leary announced that the two time Grand National winner wouldn’t be competing for a third trophy to emulate the late, great Red Rum. The four time Cheltenham winner turned in an impressive performance to beat Easysland into second by an incredible 18 lengths, making this victory a hat trick of Glenfarclas Chase wins. Tiger Roll went off second favourite at 9/2 (5.5, +450) with William Hill behind Easysland, his conqueror in the same race last year, but reversed the bookies’ forecasts with an imperious performance. The pre race favourite looked still in it come the final turn, but jockey Keith Donoghue raced onwards at pace and left plenty of turf between Tiger Roll and his challengers.
Following this performance, O’Leary’s decision not to enter Tiger Roll in the National seems a massive mistake. The decision was made in protest at what the owner describes as “unfair” weight ratings by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), who gave him a mark of 166 when the ratings were announced in March. This handicap is 7lbs higher than when he won the event in 2019, and was deemed unrealistic by owners Gigginstown.