GBI RACING

5 things we learned from day one of the Cheltenham Festival

Gavin Cromwell had much to celebrate at Cheltenham on Tuesday

Cromwell enjoys Champion triumph

Espoir D’Allen and Mark Walsh on their way to Champion Hurdle glory
Espoir D’Allen and Mark Walsh on their way to Champion Hurdle glory (Simon Cooper/PA)

Gavin Cromwell may not have the ammunition enjoyed by many of his counterparts, but once again the former farrier showed he can ready one for the big occasion.

Having tasted Grade One glory in the past with Jer’s Girl for JP McManus, the Meath handler gained the most notable success of his career after Espoir D’Allen provided his prolific owner with another winner in the Unibet Champion Hurdle.

Skelton brothers enjoy first Grade One success

Roksana's victory was a family affair for the Skelton brothers
Roksana’s victory was a family affair for the Skelton brothers (Simon Cooper/PA)

Brothers Dan and Harry Skelton have had to bide their time waiting for their first Grade One winner and after several near-misses the pair finally enjoyed the moment they had longed for on the biggest stage of them all, thanks to the victory of Roksana in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle.

Having endured their fair share of bad luck at the track in the past, the Skeltons enjoyed a slice of good fortune after the seven-year-old took advantage of the final-flight fall of favourite Benie Des Dieux, a carbon copy of former stablemate Annie Power in the 2015 renewal.

Not for Jade

Gordon Elliott will have to wait a little longer for victory in the Champion Hurdle
Gordon Elliott will have to wait a little longer for victory in the Champion Hurdle (Simon Cooper/PA)

Plenty of eyes were on Apple’s Jade in her attempt to land the Champion Hurdle after her runaway victory in the Irish equivalent, as she attempted to put behind her an odds-on defeat in the Mares’ Hurdle at last year’s Festival.

Once again, though, the Gordon Elliott-trained mare suffered more anguish, with the writing on the wall a long way out before she eventually finished a well-held sixth, making it three defeats from four starts at the course and leaving many to wonder if she truly acts on the track.

Blackmore gains first Festival triumph

Rachael Blackmore made her mark at Cheltenham
Rachael Blackmore made her mark at Cheltenham (Simon Cooper/PA)

With her title challenge in the Irish jump jockeys’ championship very much alive, what is already becoming a season to savour for Rachael Blackmore got even better as she enjoyed her first Festival winner on A Plus Tard.

Having partnered the Henry de Bromhead-trained six-year-old in all three of his previous starts this season, they combined to good effect to turn the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase into a one-horse race.

Mullins wastes no time in adding to haul

Klassical Dream and Ruby Walsh helped Willie Mullins get off to a great start at Cheltenham
Klassical Dream and Ruby Walsh helped Willie Mullins get off to a great start at Cheltenham (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Despite his apparent lack of genuine superstars and his numbers at the meeting down on those of recent years, Willie Mullins hit the ground running with a quick-fire Grade One double to enhance his position as the leading trainer at the Festival.

After Klassical Dream handed the Closutton handler a sixth triumph in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, he did not have to wait long to celebrate another Grade One success as Duc De Genievres ran riot in an incident-packed Arkle Trophy.