14th Mar 2022
The highlight of the National Hunt season is here, and after an unusually quiet time of things behind closed doors over the last two years, the anticipation to hear the famous Cheltenham roar is back.
The Irish National Stud has a number of links to the festival again this year. Whether it be through runners who are representing the farm based on pedigree, or the top level contests won by the Living Legends that continue to enjoy a happy retirement from racing on the farm. We always look forward to enjoying the success of the horses running, as well as reminiscing about the successes of the champions who came before them.
The opening day of the festival always has racegoers brimming with excitement with the prospect of the best of the 2 mile novices over both hurdles and fences followed by the Champion Hurdle. For us at the Irish National Stud, the Champion Hurdle is a race to look back on with fond memories. No fewer than three previous winners live on the farm at present: Hardy Eustace (2005), Hurricane Fly (2011 & 2013) and Faugheen (2015), and they will soon be moved into their summer fields adjacent to the Irish Racehorse Experience giving visitors the chance to interact with some of their all-time favourite racehorses.
The Arkle for the 2 mile novice chasers is a race that will give us a bit of added excitement at the stud, with the son of Elusive Pimpernel, Coeur Sublime, going for Festival glory. Bred by our own head stallion handler, Paul Croke, Coeur Sublime has performed well at the Festival in the past when finishing 2nd in the 2019 Triumph Hurdle. He is not the only son of Elusive Pimpernel entered to run this week, as Exit Poll looks to take his chance in the Grand Annual on Wednesday. 40 minutes later, the Champion Bumper sees a certain 5yo son of Walk In The Park out of 6-time Cheltenham Festival winner Quevega enter the spotlight on the stage that his dam proved so prolific on. Facile Vega (whose full-brother was born on the farm just days ago) looks to give his legendary dam a Festival winner to add to her own remarkable race record. The sight of Facile Vega storming up the Cheltenham hill in the famous red and blue silks worn by Ruby Walsh on Quevega for 6 consecutive victories at the Festival would be a truly heart-warming sight for whole racing community.
By the Friday of the Festival, many of the history books have been rewritten, and all eyes turn to the Gold Cup field for the finale of the week. Our own Gold Cup winning resident, Kicking King, is a hugely popular member of the Living Legends paddock. Visitors to the stud tend to pick out a favourite when it comes to the Legends, either before they visit based on the memories they have of their illustrious racing careers, or once they get here based on the amazing experience they have with them. Kicking King always gets his fair share of attention, everyone loves a Gold Cup winner!
As always we have a great week ahead of us. We would like to wish the very best of luck to everyone involved in the week, and a particular message of good luck to the connections of Coeur Sublime, Exit Poll and Facile Vega who have direct links with the farm.