Cheltenham: Cork's Paul Townend forging ahead as top jockey at the Festival

Lisgoold native nabbed a winner on Tuesday and a double on Wednesday
Cheltenham: Cork's Paul Townend forging ahead as top jockey at the Festival

Energumene and Paul Townend won the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1). Picture: Healy Racing

LISGOOLD’S Paul Townend combined with Energume and Impaire Et Passe for a brilliant double on day two of the Cheltenham Festival.

The driving rain played to the strengths of Energume in the Champion Chase and punters backed him into 5/4 fav.

Townend was always in control and powered up the home straight for back-to-back victories in the race. Elsewhere on the card, the English struck back with The Real Whacker landing the Brown Advisory Novice Chase from the fast-finishing Gerri Colombe, while Langer Dan swooped late in the ultra-competitive Coral Cup. Gordon Elliot won the Cross Country, with Delta Work, after he beat stablemate Galvin and Davy Russell by a few lengths. The conditions at the home of jump racing are expected to deteriorate for the final two days.

Energumene defended his Champion Chase crown in imperious style at Cheltenham, routing the opposition to become the first back-to-back winner of the day-two feature since Altior in 20018 and 2019. He could only finish third in the Clarence House Chase, behind reopposing pair Editeur Du Gite and Edwardstone, but he arrived at the Festival with a point to prove. Mullins said that there had been plenty of confidence in the camp that his charge would reverse the Clarence House form.

“Paul had a very positive frame of mind going out. He said he was going to jump off up there, he thought everyone was going to be very tight, and he wanted to be away fast. That’s the way the race worked out and he had it right. The horse just loved the ground and loved jumping. He was brilliant on the day and Paul was brilliant on him.

“Paul came home from the Clarence House and he said, ‘They won’t beat us again’ and the horse’s work and jumping and everything for the last three weeks has been brilliant, so we just had our fingers crossed for a clear round.”

In the opening race, Townend may have unearthed a real superstar: Impaire Et Passe demolished the field in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, leading home stablemates Gaelic Warrior and Champ Kiely in a 1-2-3 for the all-conquering Willie Mullins yard.

Impaire Et passe and Paul Townend jump the last to win the Ballymore Novice Hurdle. Picture: Healy Racing
Impaire Et passe and Paul Townend jump the last to win the Ballymore Novice Hurdle. Picture: Healy Racing

It was a record-extending sixth victory in the race for Mullins, who may go down the Champion Hurdle route with his latest star. The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned five-year-old is unbeaten in four rules starts and powered home up the hill for a six-and-a-half-length success.

Townend said: “He was a dream ride and it worked out brilliantly. His work has been improving at home and I was hoping to get a response when I asked him to quicken: He didn’t disappoint. He was a dream ride and it worked out brilliant.”

He gained a dream run on the inside, aboard Impaire Et Passe, saving ground and quickening to the front. Gaelic Warrior followed him through and looked the only danger, but there was only going to be one winner. Impaire Et Passe cleared the last and bounded up the run-in.

Mullins said: “He was very impressive. Paul got the break up the inside and when he picked up he flew. He stays well and I’m glad I ran him in this race after that performance.

His change of pace going to the last was impressive and there’s huge improvement in him. 

"Gaelic Warrior took out his earplugs on the way to the start and didn’t settle as well as we’d hoped, but should get three miles.”

Good Land under Michael O’Sullivan had plenty of supporters and was a keeping-on fourth with big-priced outsider Marble Sands finishing fifth and Hermes Allen well beaten in sixth. Despite this win being over 2m5f, William Hill believe Impaire Et Passe will be Constitution Hill’s main danger if both horses target next year’s Champion Hurdle.


Finally, Davy Russell has a couple of massive chances with Mighty Potter and Teahupoo on day three of the Cheltenham Festival. The Youghal man came out of retirement following the injury to Jack Kennedy and his best chances were always going to be here.

Youghal jockey Davy Russell. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Youghal jockey Davy Russell. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Mighty Potter has been so good all season and is being touted as a Gold Cup contender next season. Teahupoo looks a major player in the Stayers and the softer ground conditions will play to his strengths. There will also be massive interest in the fortunes of Home By The Lee who is owned by West Cork businessman Sean O’Driscoll.

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