Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
©INPHO Paul Townend on Allaho at Cheltenham today.
# Cheltenham
Donn McClean: Brilliant Allaho squeezes rivals into submission to repeat 2021 heroics
The Cheveley Park Stud horse delivered another phenomenal performance on day three at Cheltenham.

ON THIS DAY last year, day three of the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, Allaho won the Ryanair Chase and Flooring Porter won the Stayers’ Hurdle. And on this day this year, day three of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, it was more of the same. Plus ça change.

Allaho was brilliant again. Paul Townend kicked him out of the gate and he quickly settled into that rhythm of his. Willie Mullins’ horse has this ability to race and jump at a relentless pace over two and a half miles that others can’t match, and he has the stamina to sustain it when others have cried enough.

Eldorado Allen raced up on Allaho’s outside over the first fence, over the second fence.  But by the time they had cleared the third fence and turned to their left for the first time, Brendan Powell had accepted that he couldn’t go toe-to-toe with Allaho at that pace through the early stages of the race and hope to have the requisite reserves left in order to get up the hill in the latter stages.

So Allaho rolled along in front. Gallop, gallop, jump. Gallop, gallop, jump. His rhythm took him into a three-length lead as he coasted down the hill and over the third last fence under a motionless Paul Townend, as his rivals rowed away in behind. Conflated made good ground from the rear to challenge for second place around the home turn, but he wasn’t getting any closer to Allaho when he came down at the second last fence.

paul-townend-on-allaho-celebrates-as-he-crosses-the-line-to-win Dan Sheridan / INPHO Paul Townend on Allaho celebrates as he crosses the line to win. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Janidil kept on gamely to just about get the better of the gallant Eldorado Allen for the runner-up spot, but they were all long-since playing for places. 

Allaho got in a little tight to the final fence, but he always looked assured and his momentum took him to the landing side easily. From there, he bounded up the hill, 14 lengths clear of his closest pursuer.

It was another phenomenal performance by the Cheveley Park Stud horse, only not unusual this time, because of the uncanny similarities that it bore the performance that he put up on this day last year. It was a performance of similar quality, with similar qualities: a relentless gallop that pressured and tightened and squeezed his rivals into submission.

And this is his trip, this intermediate distance. He wasn’t fast enough to match his stable companion Chacun Pour Soi in the Champion Chase at Punchestown last year over two miles and, despite the fact that he is a Grade 3 winner over three miles over hurdles, he doesn’t need to go three miles at the highest level. He has raced over three miles or more four times in his life at Grade 1 level, and he has never won.

But he doesn’t need to deviate from the intermediate trip. He has that ideal blend of pace and power than makes him just about unbeatable at present at this discipline.

If it ain’t broke.

Flooring Porter was unbeatable too today at his discipline, the staying hurdlers’ discipline. And his style is not dissimilar to Allaho’s, out in front and run your rivals ragged.

We knew that the start of the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle was important for Flooring Porter today. Gavin Cromwell’s horse didn’t want a repeat of what happened at the start of the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown two and a half months ago, when Klassical Dream got a flyer and Flooring Porter spent the next three miles playing catch-up. As it turned out, the start was as uneventful today as it was important. 

danny-mullins-celebrates-with-flooring-porter-syndicate-after-winning Dan Sheridan / INPHO Danny Mullins celebrates with Flooring Porter Syndicate after winning. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

They walked towards the tape, the starter said go and Flooring Porter was off, two and a half lengths clear of his rivals by the time he rose to the first flight.

They left him alone in front, and that was in his favour, but these things don’t happen by chance. Danny Mullins set the cruise control at a pace that all his rivals were happy to follow. If he wasn’t going to maintain that gallop at that speed, he would have had competition for that lead.

They did close up on him as they raced across the top of the hill, but that was because Danny Mullins was taking a tug, stacking them up behind him, allowing his horse fill his lungs before the descent over the second last flight and on to the home turn. Mullins still sat still as they raced around the home turn, but Paul Townend was similarly motionless in behind on Klassical Dream, stalking.

It is a long run from the crown of the home turn to the final flight on the New Course at Cheltenham, and Klassical Dream got to within two lengths of the leader by the time they reached the wings of the obstacle, but he didn’t get any closer, even though it wasn’t until they landed over the last that Danny Mullins asked his horse for maximum effort.

Flooring Porter went to his left initially, but that’s his way. His quirks are part of the make-up of his talent. Once straightened up by his rider, he went up the hill willingly, winning by almost three lengths in the end and leaving the impression that he had more in hand than that.

As well as showcasing once again the talents of Danny Mullins as a rider, Flooring Porter’s victory was further evidence of Gavin Cromwell’s abilities as a trainer. It can’t be easy, honing Flooring Porter’s aptitude for racing, managing his quirks so that he can realise the full potential of his talent. That’s Gavin Cromwell’s job, and he does it quietly and easily, no fanfare, no trumpet blast. 

The noise was generated by the owners today, justifiably so, the black-and-white scarf-wielding Flooring Porter Syndicate, whose members congregated in the parade ring and watched on the big screen and cheered every time their horse landed over another hurdle.

Their cheers grew louder as the race developed, and they reached a crescendo when Flooring Porter crossed the winning line and Danny Mullins stood up in his irons. They weren’t able to be here last year, but they made up for that this year, and it was fantastic.

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rachael-blackmore-on-bob-olinger-celebrates-after-winning Dan Sheridan / INPHO Rachael Blackmore on Bob Olinger celebrates after winning. Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

There was a dramatic start to the day, with Galopin Des Champs going clear of his main rival Bob Olinger in the Turners Novices’ Chase, before coming down at the final fence with the race in the bag. He didn’t go home with the trophy, but Willie Mullins’ horse had done enough over the first 15 fences to confirm his status as one of the most exciting young steeplechasers in training.

Bob Olinger is top-class, last year’s impressive Ballymore Hurdle winner, and Henry de Bromhead’s horse is unbeaten now in three runs over fences. He was booked for second place here, no question, but this may not have been his true running, and you would love to see these two meet again at some stage before the end of the season. Even if they don’t, it will be exciting to see both of them step up in grade into open competition next season.

So the three Grade 1 winners on the day are trained in Ireland, but the other four races on the day went to British-trained horses, Hughie Morrison and Evan Williams and Harry Fry and Venetia Williams all getting on the scoreboard. That means that, at the end of day three, 21 races into the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, 11 winners were trained in Ireland, 10 were trained in Britain.

Day four and final tomorrow. Gold Cup day. More drama in store. 

Ireland internationals Devin Toner and Lindsay Peat were our guests for The Front Row’s special live event, in partnership with Guinness, this week. The panel chats through Ireland’s championship chances ahead of the final round of Guinness Six Nations matches, and members of the Emerald Warriors – Ireland’s first LGBT+ inclusive rugby team – also join us to talk about breaking down barriers in rugby. Click here to subscribe or listen below:

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