Festival throwback: Relive Irish success in the Champion Chase

Irish talent dominates roll of honour

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Barry Geraghty perfects a flying dismount after winning the 2005 Queen Mother Champion Chase

From Pat Taaffe to Barry Geraghty, Irish jockeys have dominated this race, traditionally one of the Festival's most competitive, to be the top speedy chaser.

Legendary Donaghmore trainer Tom Dreaper was a dominant force in the early days of the race, winning six of the first 12 editions.

But it's still not been won by Willie Mullins, the biggest hole in the Master of Closutton’s Cheltenham resume, despite dramatic near misses with the likes of Min, Un de Sceaux and, more recently, Chacun Pour Soi...

Put The Kettle on, 2021


History was made at last year's Festival as, 12 months on from her Arkle triumph, Put The Kettle On beat the boys once more to become the first mare to land the Champion Chase.

Chacun Pour Soi set off as 8-13 favourite and led over the last, looking set to finally bank Mullins his long-awaited success in this race.

But Aidan Coleman had other ideas and a sprightly turn of pace from Put The Kettle On did the rest, with Henry de Bromhead describing her as a 'mad mare'.

“She’s a bit crackers the whole time, to be honest, she’s just quite wild, but a real character," he said. "She’s nuts, but in a great way.”

Moscow Flyer, 2003 & 2005

Jessica Harrington's status as the Queen of Cheltenham was cemented by the brilliance of Moscow Flyer.

The winner of the Arkle Chase in 2002, he graduated in style to take the Festival's championship two mile race over fences 12 months later.

This grandson of triple crown winner Nijinsky always put fans through a rollercoaster of emotions, falling in his defence in 2004 before regaining the crown in 2005.

He retired with a resume of 26 wins from 44 races with jockey Barry Geraghty paying tribute to one of jump racing's greats, when he died at the National Stud aged 22.

He said: "I was 20 when I got on him and he gave me my first Grade One winner. He was just an incredible horse and tough as anything. He was something special – a superstar."

Flyingbolt, 1966

Officially the second best National Hunt racehorse of all time, after Arkle.

Racing historian John Randall was effusive about Flyingbolt's performance in the 1966 Champion Chase.

"Flyingbolt cantered home at odds of 1-5," he wrote. "Trained by Tom Dreaper, this unsung hero was held up by Pat Taaffe, cruised to the front at the second-last, and triumphed with breathtaking ease by 15 lengths.

Unfortunately he never got the chance to take on stable mate Arkle over the Gold Cup distance, Dreaper denying Taaffe the chance the answer surely the toughest question posed to any jockey.

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Fortria, 1960 & 1961

Fortria's breeding meant Festival success was always destined, with both sire and dam Cheltenham winners.

The first horse to win back-to-back Champion Chase's brought together the brilliant training and riding talents of the brilliant Tom Dreaper and Pat Taaffe.

Although he had proven speed credentials over two miles, Fortria also won the Irish Grand National and was a three-time winner at Cheltenham's November meeting.

The Grade 2 Fortria Chase at Navan is named in his honour and features Moscow Flyer and Native Upmanship among its winners.

READ: Relive Irish success in the Cheltenham Gold Cup

Check out our Road to Cheltenham microsite with the best of the Irish challenge at the Festival

From Pat Taaffe to Barry Geraghty, Irish jockeys have dominated this race, traditionally one of the Festival's most competitive, to be the top speedy chaser.