Cheltenham: Home By The Lee a popular choice for Cork punters at the Festival

Owned by businessman Sean O’Driscoll, the gelding will have huge Cork support in the Stayers Hurdle
Cheltenham: Home By The Lee a popular choice for Cork punters at the Festival

Home By The Lee and JJ Slevin win for trainer Joseph O'Brien. Picture: Healy Racing

THE Cheltenham Festival will have racing fans on Leeside enthralled throughout the week with the aptly named Home By The Lee sure to be a popular selection for punters. 

Owned by West Cork businessman Sean O’Driscoll, the Joseph O’Brien-trained gelding is a massive player in the Stayers Hurdle which is one of the big four championship races of the week. Lisgoold’s Paul Townend will ride a stack of favourites including red-hot Gold Cup fancy Galopin Des Champs. His rides will also include Facile Vega, State Man, Energumene, Lossiemouth and a host of runners in the handicaps for the all-conquering Willie Mullins stable. 

Rising star Michael O’Sullivan has two great chances of a first festival winner with Marine Nationale and Good Land while the wily duo of Aidan Coleman and Davy Russell are sure to be among the winners of this week.

Marine Nationale and Michael O'Sullivan win for owner and trainer Barry Connell. Picture: Healy Racing
Marine Nationale and Michael O'Sullivan win for owner and trainer Barry Connell. Picture: Healy Racing

Former jockey and Coppeen native Noel Fehily had many memorable days around Cheltenham and his racing syndicate has gone from strength to strength. 

"We have 27 horses at this stage," he explains, "and it’s been brilliant fun. We had our first-ever Cheltenham winner with Love Envoi last season who was superbly ridden by another Cork man Johnny Burke. She runs in the Mares Hurdle on the opening day and her preparation has gone very smoothly. 

"But it looks a very hot race this season with two former Champion Hurdle winners Honeysuckle and Epatante. People are knocking Honeysuckle, but she finished second in an Irish Champion Hurdle a few weeks ago to a real good horse in State Man. We go there with a good each/way chance, so fingers crossed.

"We run a lovely horse called Tahmuras in the Supreme Novice Hurdle who is trained by Paul Nicholls. It looks an open race and after winning the Tolworth our horse is probably the best of the English challengers. The form of the Nicholls horses has been great so it’s all systems go. 

"We have a horse called Kamsinas who is trained by Fergal O’Brien who will run in the bumper and will be a huge price and might outrun his odds. Our fourth runner is Haxo who is trained by Willie Mullins, and he might get into the Martin Pipe Hurdle. 

"Of our runners Love Envoi and Tahmuras are solid each/way chances."


Leading agent and former jockey Jerry McGrath has enjoyed plenty of success with Nicky Henderson and gave an update on the English challengers. 

"The excitement is certainly building, and the very cold weather has kept everyone focused on getting the horses ready. Obviously, Constitution Hill is a red-hot favourite and he worked really well last Monday. 

"He’s been flawless all season and will take all the beating in the Champion Hurdle. Our old friend Shiskin was magnificent the last day and must have a massive chance of winning the Ryanair Chase. Luccia is an obvious choice for the Mares Novice Hurdle and will take all the beating and is a horse that Nicky Henderson has done some job with. 

"We run Jonbon in the Arkle and the Irish horses look decent with El Fabiola who was very impressive at the Dublin Racing Festival. Marias Rock has entries in two races so it will be a late call. The Mares Hurdle is very hot this year with Honeysuckle and Epatante, but she is a very good mare and won this race last year.” 

Maxine O’Sullivan who enjoyed a never-to-be-forgotten victory on It Came To Pass in the Foxhunters Chase in 2020 will ride Chris’s Dream in the same race for Henry De Bromhead. 

It’s great to go back to ride and I know the horse so well as we had him as a youngster and sold him on to Henry. 

"Unfortunately, Rob James was supposed to ride him, but he got injured. I’ve won twice on him already this season at Killeagh and Askeaton. Hopefully he will run well, I suppose he has always campaigned on heavier ground so we will see what the weather will bring. It looks an open race anyway." 

Finally, the final day of the meeting sees Carrigtwohill handler Terrence O’Brien take his chance with Magnors Glory. 

"He is in great order and his homework is good. Fingers crossed we get there in one piece. It’s hard to win over there and he is an outsider at 25/1. Michael O’Sullivan will ride, and he is a brilliant young rider."

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