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The Winners' Enclosure: Irish raiders flaunt their six appeal

It was a historic day at Cheltenham as Irish-trained horses won six of the day’s seven races. Catch up with the best bits of the day’s action here.

ST. PATRICK’S DAY may not be until tomorrow but the good saint was looking down on the Irish horses today as the raiding party won a record-breaking six races on Wednesday’s card.

Add to that the fact that the winner of the Champion Bumper, the Philip Hobbs-trained Cheltenian, was once trained in Wexford by Liz Doyle and it really was an unprecedented success all round.

On a day laden with success, it’s no surprise that victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase once again went to Ireland. Though many felt that Big Zeb had an excellent chance of retaining his crown in the second day’s feature race, it was Henry de Bromhead’s Sizing Europe who stole the show, romping home to a five-length victory over the defending champion with Eddie Harty’s Captain Cee Bee completing an Irish 1-2-3.

Sadly, six Irish winners didn’t necessarily result in an awful lot of smiling Irish punters. Of the six, only one – Gordon Elliot’s Chicago Grey – was sent off as favourite while a large number of heavily-backed Irish contenders fell by the wayside as the day progressed. Backers of So Young, Oscars Well, Jessie’s Dream, Big Zeb, Call The Police and Plan A  know what it feels like to spend their day murmuring into a shredded betting slip as the paddock celebrated yet another Irish victory.

Still, after two day’s of racing, Ireland are ahead where it matters – on the scoreboard. With nine Irish winners to Britain’s six, there is every chance that this will be the country’s most successful year yet at Cheltenham. 2006′s place in Irish racing folklore doesn’t look so certain anymore.

What we learned today

1. It pays to listen to TheScore.ie: We’re not ones to blow our own trumpet (seriously), but we can’t let the opportunity pass without pointing out TheScore‘s impressive showing over the past two days. Yesterday, Niall Kelly advised you to back Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle while our daily columnist Mark Hobbs tipped up Peddlars Cross, giving us an impressive 1-2. Today, the roles were reversed as Mark napped Sizing Europe in the day’s feature while Niall rounded out the top three by advising Big Zeb and Captain Cee Bee. Not bad going, eh?

2. Arkle winners deserve respect: One statistic that was bandied about a lot in the run-up to today’s big race was the fact that Arkle winners have a great record when running in the following year’s Queen Mother. Over the last twenty years, five have gone on to win the 2m feature the following year while a further seven have placed. Sizing Europe continued that very impressive trend today when he became the sixth horse since Remittance Man in 1992 to do the Arkle-Queen Mother double. Looking forward to next year, our good friends in Boylesports have already priced up yesterday’s Arkle winner, Captain Chris, at odds of 12/1 for the 2012 Queen Mother.

3. Ireland’s invincibility in the Champion Bumper may be on the wane: Having won every Champion Bumper from 2004-2009, it seemed as though Ireland might never be beaten in the Champion Bumper which is traditionally the last race on Friday’s card. Although there was no Irish winner last year, the raiders were still well-supported in the betting ring today with PJ Rothwell’s Divine Rhapsody sent off as 13/2 second-favourite. For the second successive year, however, the race went to an English-trained horse and all of a sudden, Ireland find themselves needing to break an English hot-streak in 2012.

4. Back Irish horses: Need I say any more?

Wednesday’s big winner

Ryanair supremo Michael O’Leary. Not only did Davy Russell steer two of his horses home (First Lieutenant and Carlito Brigante), but we’re pretty sure that most of the tens of thousands of Irish punters have used his airline to get to Prestbury Park. The personal and the business accounts  must be looking very healthy indeed.

Wednesday’s big loser

If seeing Master Minded available at odds-against was a strange sight, seeing him almost friendless in the run up to today’s Queen Mother was practically ridiculous. In the end, the money came and came hard for the two-time champion who was backed in from 4/1 this morning to 15/8 in places by the off. A bad blunder at the second-last ruined any chance he might have had however, and Badsworth Boy’s record of three Queen Mother victories (1983-1985) remains the record to beat.

Quote of the Day

“He’s got a whole lot of horse left in him.”

Following on from yesterday’s gem, we’re strongly considering renaming this section of the column as the “Ted Walsh Quote of the Day” just to avoid any confusion.

Tweet of the Day

Looking forward …

All week, people have been searching for reasons as to why Big Buck’s won’t win tomorrow’s World Hurdle (3:20pm). Frankly, we’re yet to hear a good one. Can Ruby captain Paul Nicholls’ stayer to a famous hat-trick? Find out tomorrow afternoon.

Want more? Catch up with the minutiae of today’s action in TheScore.ie’s liveblog >

Check out more of our Cheltenham coverage here >

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Niall Kelly

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